David Cunningham: No Orifice is a Window to the Soul
Hi. I’m Maeve Mardsen and you’re listening to Queerstories- the podcast for the LGBTQIA storytelling night I host and programme in Sydney and Melbourne. This story was recorded at Giant Dwarf, as part of my monthly Sydney event. Next up – David Cunningham is a writer and researcher on ABC TV’s The Checkout, who occasionally plays large men in top hats, togas, and so on. He is a frequent performer at Story Club, also at Giant Dwarf, and for leisure, he is in his ninth year of a not-quite-failing history PhD about tensions in cultural representation of naval officers who were also Members of Parliament between the glorious revolution and the fall of the Walpole Ministry. This is David’s second Queerstories after his very excellent story last year, The Mayor of Biggercity or RU Chub?
Good evening. Thank you for welcoming me to this plenary session, the prestigious Queerstories Academy; Sydney’s leading cultural research institute into the queer experience. I am honoured to have been invited to read into your august transactions, my latest socio-anthropological paper, The Anatomy of a Fuck Buddy.
To be, to have, a Fuck Buddy is a curious thing. It’s a very different creature to enjoying a friend with benefits, in which the greatest benefit should probably be friendship. You would likely call a friend in an emergency, but almost certainly not a Fuck Buddy unless it was a sexy emergency. Yet, nor is it just the sum total of repeated one-night stands, for that would merely be a series of common or garden fucks. No, it’s the “buddy” part that’s odd. A buddy – that glib and shallow word somewhere between “acquaintance” and “friendship” whose prime characteristic is providing the certainty of not being alone. A tennis buddy saves you from serving ball after ball into the distant nowhere.
You should’ve played squash.
A drinking buddy excuses an amount of alcohol that would be worrying if consumed alone. We raise our children by the buddy system. Look at a primary school class, snaking out a gate safely in double-file through the perils beyond the playground to the library, or a public swimming pool, or maybe even all the way to Questacon.
When they venture forth, they do so holding hands, perhaps as friends, perhaps not, but definitely as buddies, that they might with greater assurance face the world together. Why, even in our very selves, when the ardent sperm meets the fecund egg, our chromosomes join hands between along the double helix, buddies spinning together the thread of life itself. Aw.
So much for the buddy. Let us proceed to the fucks. What is sex?
I have extensively reviewed the archival record, preferably in HD, and conducted practical fieldwork assaying my own body as the most proper object of study – a sort of wanking Montaigne. There have even been occasions, albeit infrequently, when volunteers saw the value of my research and joined me in my work. I have concluded that the necessary ingredients of sex may be described in the simple figure of the Fuck Triangle: Moisture, friction, warmth. All three must be present for a sex to be good.
*Audience laughs and claps*
If one corner of the Fuck Triangle should be missing, you’re welcome to try, but according to Cunningham’s Law of Fucks, you are unlikely to have a good time.
Synthesis. To combine the fuck and the buddy is to create, in theory, a profoundly humane institution. After all, it was only because Eleanor Roosevelt was hustled from the room that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights did not enshrine an inalienable birthright to seek and share reliable fucks.
Recall again to your minds Cunningham’s Fuck Triangle. How you arrange your Fuck Triangles is entirely up to you. Some people are happy for theirs to be adjacent, congruent, tessellating like the trellised panes in the windows of a Tudor or Elizabethan house. Through these latticed Fuck Triangles, the light of physical pleasure, with each successive partner, shines pure and clear as pre-cum in the spring.
Others – most? – certainly me, prefer to concentrate their triangles with just one person, fuck by fuck, laid one behind the other to build up a Fuck Prism. Of course, this prism also shines with that shimmering sensuous white light of pleasure given and received, of honest joy shared in lusty frenzy or languid comfort, of bodies meeting, melding with mutual enthusiasm, striving together towards the dazzling oblivion of orgasm. Of course. But, align your fucks into a prism, and something else happens.
I base the following parenthesis on Sir Isaac Newton’s groundbreaking book, 1704, called RomantOpticks, or, a Treatise on the Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Fucking. It is a work at once visionary, acute, and extremely horny.
Newton, himself single and almost certainly a virgin to the grave, nevertheless had the clarity to see that light passed through a prism does not emerge unchanged as through a window, however, variegated its panes. No, through a prism, that first light of pure sex is refracted into its constituent parts, and fans out in the full spectrum of the rainbow, beaming-
*An audience member starts clapping alone, prompting laughter*
.. beaming an infinity of colours, of richness unimaginable when considering the white light that shone straight through that first, flat Fuck Triangle. And what are these many colours? A dream coat, if you please, that combines commitment and compassion, humour and humility, sex and security… Well, the Emperor Constantine declared on the Milvian Bridge that there is no palladium without a Palestine.
But let us go further. What else is the rainbow standard around which we rally, than, dare I say, that many-splendored thing: love? Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.
*Audience whoops and claps*
Love, as I have observed, though not experienced…
*Audience “Aw” in unison*
I’m great at the theory.
.. is a dynamic, changeable state. On a long enough time scale, the glass of our Fuck Prisms acts like a liquid. The soaring windows of a medieval cathedral are imperceptibly pooling at the bottom through the centuries. You may recall from your school days this phenomenon demonstrated with a viscous synthetic rubber in the Slow Flow exhibit on one of your long walks to Questacon.
So, too, with the prism of loving monogamy, or more, though let’s keep tonight’s prism triangular for simplicity’s sake. It becomes a very complicated optical thing. It works, but I don’t think I have time to explain it.
The Prism may or may not shatter under the impact of events. Dear boy, events. However, it is guaranteed to slowly change shape over time, so that every couple’s rainbow will diverge from the simple fairytale of Happily Ever After. But, the rainbow is richer for its hues being refracted in an admixture utterly unlike any other relationship, its colours in proportions that make each love unique and irreplaceable. If you prefer, think of it as tree rings for feelings.
That’s enough holiday from all this prism shit. Back to the optics.
A metaphor pushed too far becomes a conceit.
Now, between the flat two-dimensional window panes of casual sex, through which light glitters with simple, some might say meretricious brilliance, and the prism of romantic love steadily deepening into a third dimension – depth – we finally arrive at the middle state: The Fuck Buddy, amphibious between sex and love. The freedoms of the unalloyed Fuck Triangle mingled with the intimacy of the Love Prism. In some respects, it even imitates a full-blown relationship. It can be mundane. I would run little errands for mine, like picking up Fuck Groceries of amyl and-
.. amyl and lube on the way home. His home, naturally. My bed is a fortress of clean sheets.
Fuck Buddies partake of the compromise and frustrations of a relationship. For example, “He wouldn’t rim my fresh and wholesome bottom despite it being my favourite, even though my tongue traced the dizzy rounds of his anus like a 20-cent piece racing down a money-spinner charity coin-vortex…
*Audience laughs and claps*
.. of the kind found in suburban shopping centres. Between my Fuck Buddy and I, arguments and reconciliations were wordlessly navigated through the nature, intensity and frequency of our sex, sans rimming.
And yet, there is a lurking imperfection in the Prism made with a Fuck Buddy, at least for mine. The glass of our Fuck Triangles had not the pellucid clarity of either fling or forever. It harboured blemishes, bubbles of ignorance that refracted the light from its true course into unsettling distortions.
While the repeated knowing of a Fuck Buddy provides a simulacrum of a relationship’s intimacy, yet ultimately that intimacy remains an illusion…
*Imitates ghoulish voice* An illusion!
.. intoxicated by that phantom mirage, I was slowly coaxed towards the very real physical intimacy of too much bareback sex. We both said that we were the only one with whom the other enjoyed that mingling of cum and mucus in an ambrosial cocktail best admired, not drunk. But, what assurance had we? Truth or lie, we had none. No orifice is a window to the soul.
This was of course before PrEP, back when the only true prophylaxis was exposure to risk and shame. The darkness of ignorance bred in me doubt; doubt about other men in the vast world of his life beyond that one bedroom where we knew each other. Doubt that occluded the fair warm light of hearty, honest lust into something pale and wintry. Dim, feeble, faltering on my part were the refractions it cast through our Fuck Prism. Sunset deepened behind the darkening clouds of my mistrust and slowly passed into night. Haunted by the spectre of his dick re-imagined as a death syringe…
It turns out fine. Don’t worry.
.. I broke it off, and the flawed, fragile prism we built together out of those crystal, then clouded, fuck-triangles shattered, for me irrevocably.
The STI test afterwards revealed that both he and I had been telling the truth and that the canker gnawing in my head and heart and butt had been of my own imagining, yet no less real for that. Given the abject failure of my Kickstarter, there is no drone covered in sequins that can surveille with impunity gays of interest into any nightclub. Therefore, I have concluded that it all comes down to trust, for now… Pending the drone.
You may be interested to learn that I did go on to contract a Byronic dose of syphilis – what they used to call being an incurable romantic.
Even though I’ve never since sexed without being scrupulously rubbered up to the armpits, I’m almost sure it was from the fuck-nonagon of that lacklustre threesome (maths) – two tops, one versatile – I’m the only hole in town. Jump in, boys, the water’s fine!
The handful of non-infectious spirochetes swimming in my blood, my doubts will always be specks in my Fuck Triangles, but no longer a fault in the brittle glass of Fuck Buddies. I hope one day to share the joyous mutual project of forming a truly beautiful Fuck Prism, Love Prism, with someone special, wherein those flaws will leave only the smallest ripples in the rainbow we shine forth together.
Colleagues of this learned society, I would truly welcome your serious-minded collaboration in this important experiment. Thank you.