Sex and travel: in one model, what they might be considered to have in common is a kind of invisibility. You emerge from sex with, at most, a few scratches and bite marks. You return from your travels with a suntan. Sooner or later they all fade away. But not everyone wants this kind of invisibility. When sex and travel are over, you may still wish to have a keepsake -- a ring, a locket, a tattoo in the case of a sex partner; a model of the Eiffel Tower or a pack of lewd playing cards bought at the Musée de l'Érotisme as a souvenir of your travels. And very likely you will have photographs: pictures of the loved one, pictures of what you did on your holidays. These are ways of preserving the traces of a potentially all-too-traceless experience.
Overcome, I wrote in the margin, "Only a man could write this paragraph."
I generally enjoy Geoff Nicholson's writing, but for me this really underscored a key difference between male and female sexual experience. As a woman, unless I'm having lesbian sex, the idea of pregnancy is always looming. The sentence, "You emerge from sex with, at most, a few scratches and bite marks" seems absurd to me, because, at most, you emerge with a baby nine months later. Now, I spent my teen years in the South, and there were probably a lot of good conservative dollars put into educating me about the dangers of being a slut and the permanent life consequences thereof.
Let's also not forget about STDs, because you could emerge from sex with a life-threatening illness, too -- and that's something that also affects men.
To be fair, I understand where Nicholson is coming from. I've had the urge to mark someone, to claim that person, or to be marked by them. I've been aware of how only air held us together, some series of choices that could easily be revoked. I know what he's talking about.
But for me, this experience has always been fraught with tension, because on the other hand I'm aware of what a high-stakes game sex can be. How many times after a one-night stand did I simultaneously wish I could hang onto the person and worry that I'd collected some permanent and unwanted souvenir of the event.
I've never had a child, but I'm aware of the sexual allure of the idea of producing a life from a sex act -- in fact, a key part of the heterosexual sexual experience. It's stunning to me that Nicholson could forget that.