4x4th Estate: Let’s Talk About Sex


In honour of Lena Dunham’s admirable frankness about her own sex life, 4th Estate brings you some of our very favourite, very alternative sex scenes:

Consumed by David Cronenberg


Consumed was hailed as ‘eye-opening’ by Stephen King. And we defy your eyes not to stretch a little wider at the number of thighs opening in the director’s debut novel. During one bout of “theme sex”, the hero Nathan recalls ‘those photos he had found with the safe filter off, photos you didn’t want to see because they adhered to the inside of your skull and lacerated your brain’. This isn’t a bad description of some of Cronenberg’s own erotic snapshots.


Wrecked by Charlotte Roche


I read the first chapter of Wrecked in the office, sitting in silence, going progressively more red – feeling like a 12 year old reading Judy Blume on a family holiday, keeping my fingers desperately crossed that I hadn’t ‘wrecked’ my own chances at a permanent contract. Wrecked introduces us to Elizabeth Kiehl, devoted mother of a seven-year-old, and great advocate of marital sex. ‘It’s easier to give a blow job than to make coffee,’ she states – a lesson I thankfully ignored as a lowly intern, but one that – along with forty-page descriptions of marital sex, details of worms, and ‘the best anal sex ever’, has to justify Wrecked’s place on this list.


The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

The Valley of Amazement

Amy Tan reveals the hidden world of Chinese courtesans in The Valley of Amazement, and with it shows that Cronenberg and Roche could have learnt a lot from Magic Gourd, an expert in ‘the erotic pleasures’. ‘Everyone knows them’, she comments in her particular etiquette guide, before introducing us to the ‘Swimming with Goldfish, Tasting the Watermelon, Climbing Higher on the Peach Tree’, ‘upward, backward, seated, standing, feet pressed on his stomach, legs in the air, the Bucking Horse, the Swaying Bamboo Shoots, Tigress Meets the Dragon, Oysters in the Turtle Shell – all the ways that five thousand years of lovemaking, excitement and boredom have devised.’ There’s some weekend homework…


How to be a Husband by Tim Dowling

How to Be a Husband

And to end with a very different – but probably more useful – erotic etiquette guide. Those of you a little startled by Magic Gourd’s top tips, might find comfort in Tim Dowling’s ‘highly informative sexual bullet points’, which include the following gems:

  • The basic strategies for maintaining a healthy sex life are not, in themselves, sexy. It has a lot more to do with emptying the dishwasher without being asked than you think. I’m sorry about this.
  • If you can’t do it with the cat watching, you’re probably not as interested as you think you are.
  • Young men: your talent for being able to get sex over and done with really quickly is probably not much prized at the moment, but it will come in handy down the road, so don’t forget how. It may be hard to believe at your age, but one day you’ll reach a stage in your relationship where ‘Honestly – you’ll hardly know I was here’ becomes a surprisingly successful chat-up line, especially if your spouse knows you can deliver on the promise.


Words by Anonymous 

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