CAT COHEN on Orgasms and Anxiety.
Comedian Cat Cohen reflects on what’s more important during a pandemic: good mental health or sexual fulfillment.
I LOVE FUCKING. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the ground breaking. Yes, I love fucking and even, say it with me, cumming. (It’s only spelled “coming” if you’re seducing a virgin near a moor with your quill.) The rumors are true—I like sex and I like to cum because it feels good instead of bad. Life can be so bad. Things fall from the sky. Everyone you know and love will one day pass away. People younger than you can say they’re proud of you. And sex—much like the famous drug alcohol or that popular festival where people wear sequins near sand—is an escape. As someone who suffers from anxiety and once had a therapist who was bad at their job call her “gently bipolar,” I’m always looking for an escape. So when the world-renowned Pandemic hit, sex was there for me.
At the beginning of quarantine, my boyfriend (brag) and I went upstate (brag ² ) to watch the interminable yet exquisite reality program Love Island and have what critics and fans alike are calling near constant sex. My “lover” and I have deemed ourselves the horniest people in America. We are base and vile creatures whose main interests include slamming our soft, hairy bodies together and eating gas station cuisine. When my boyf turned 29 in isolation, I split an Oreo in two and wore both halves as pasties on my nipples while singing “Happy Birthday”—a performance for which I deserve to EGOT.
Our first few weeks upstate were bizarrely idyllic. I had spent most of 2019 traveling and was eager to get home and cozy up to my lover so he wouldn’t leave me for someone who could ostensibly pull off low-rise jeans. Plus we had just stopped using condoms, so sex felt like a new video game we were dying to get home and play. Video game??? Okay…I’m a guy’s girl. If you don’t hate me yet, I also need to share that I’ve always prided myself on cumming quite easily, something I learned while wearing too-tight Abercrombie jeans on a bicycle in 2004.
I’ve also been blessed with perfect eyebrows and a penchant for worrying about the same four things on repeat until the sweet release of death: that my body is bad according to society, that I won’t become successful enough to have a perfume, that my boyfriend will fall out of romantic love with me, and that I, or a family member, have a rare, fatal, and oft-misdiagnosed disease. While I normally shift from one fear to the next every few months, during quarantine the endless unscheduled time gave my anxieties free rein to rapidly cycle at an unmanageable rate.
It soon became clear that #quar was not a cute three-week vacation, and as the fabric of society furiously unraveled, a return to normalcy felt unfathomable. I drove home to Texas to spend some time with my family and fell into my first true depressive episode. I couldn’t eat, which obviously had never happened to me before. Have you tried food? It’s so good. I couldn’t get out of bed, but wasn’t sleeping—more like Manic Pixie Awake Girl! I started having the urge to hurt myself, which I thought was just for teens. Trix-are-not-just-for-kids vibes! I started drinking to numb the pain, and worst of all, I started painting abstract portraits of “a tree I had seen.”
My parents kept saying I was acting like a child. I was like…yeah, that’s my role here… I’m your child. I didn’t recognize myself, either, but I was too lazy to reach out to my psychiatrist, who, like so many doctors, insists on speaking to me only through a portal. But one night, when I found myself staying up till 4 a.m. listening to Fevers and Mirrors– era Bright Eyes and asking my boyfriend if we should have a baby just to have “something to do,” I decided it was time to send my psychiatrist a message.
When I told my doctor what I had been going through, she, in full-blown The Simple Life vocal fry, replied, “Yaaa everyone kind of feels like that right now.” She also wrote me a Prozac prescription.
As the pills took their sweet time kicking in, I spent the summer “getting into natural wine”—a.k.a. “diving headfirst into
I was pissed. I wanted to feel normal, not nothing.
alcoholism”—and screaming, “Let’s reboot The Graduate but make it girl” while wrestling a pool noodle into submission. After a few sexless weeks, I reunited with my boyfriend and we had sex (nice!!!). I immediately noticed that it took me longer to cum, while he noticed that I hadn’t had one of my famous “hourly meltdowns” in a few days.
On our road trip back to NYC, we stayed at an Airbnb that my boyfriend recognized from “a porn he likes,” so obviously we were psyched to express our love physically in the tradition of the pioneers who came before us. (I love porn if my boyfriend says the girl looks like me—otherwise it’s bad for women.) But when we made love in that sacred space, I couldn’t cum at all. I was pissed. I wanted to feel normal, not nothing. It felt silly to be so preoccupied with my own little death when the whole word was grappling with real death on an alarming scale, and I am mortified to be complaining about something so trivial, but I think we all deserve a bit of familiar pleasure when our new lives are unrecognizable.
I would love for this essay to have a romantic ending. I wish I could take a drag of a cigarette, bashfully look down at my chestnut Ugg minis, and tell you that my venture into medication made sex even better, that the slow burn of delayed pleasure brought me and my partner closer together. That we take our time, inhaling every inch of each other, making eye contact for hours until I finally arch my back up toward the heavens. And while that’s true sometimes (though I’ve never arched my back while orgasming—if anything, I curl inward like a salted snail with tits), it’s not my truth. We still have good sex, but in general, the situation is, for lack of a better term, very annoying.
I’ve always liked extremes. Moderation? Who is she? But in the wake of 2020’s endless chaos, I longed for something to cling to. I found myself, for the first time, choosing some semblance of stability over the rush of getting thrown o≠ my axis by a hearty, grassfed, organic orgasm. What’s preferable: feeling okay all the time or really good for a little bit of time? I (drumroll, please) don’t know! I guess for now I’ll keep tinkering with my pharmaceutical cocktail and hope that doctors will soon make an antidepressant without the wretched side e≠ects. After they give us all the vaccine, of course. I want to complain about this to a friend in a crowded bar!!!
In the meantime, I’ve found solace in things I previously considered facets of a boring life: regular therapy, medication, waking up early, experimenting with not drinking every night, doing fucking yoga. Confronting the things I had been avoiding isn’t fun, but it’s the only way to stay afloat. Ugh, it’s so inconvenient when something is character-building.