One lesson firmly instilled in me by my dashing school music tutor was: even if you make a mistake, never stop playing. As I got older, fumbling my way through various sexual encounters, I realised this was a useful refrain in more situations than simply clarinet recitals. Things go wrong in sex all the time; it doesn’t need to mean the music should stop.

For men, particularly, this is often a point of anxiety. I’m used to hearing male lovers share their worries, usually along the lines of: “Will I be hard enough, or not hard at all?”, or “Will I come too soon, or never…!?” Of course, women (myself included) also experience similar anxieties about their body and whether it will respond in the way they’d like during sex.  Kink adds an extra dimension, especially for those just finding their feet. Many of us are nervous about “getting it right” (a problematic term in itself), or managing to maintain the ‘correct’ dominant persona during a scene.

Over the years, and with my music tutor’s refrain still echoing in my mind, I’ve come to realise that, when it comes to sex, none of this really matters at all. The body is a complicated, delicate and highly unpredictable machine. Sometimes we might know why it behaves in a certain way – a particular neurosis, or a distracting thought that can disrupt our flow during sex – sometimes we might not know at all. The unpredictability of the body, and the possibilities of pleasure, is exactly what makes sex so thrilling. In somatic, intimate encounters sometimes simply go a bit awry. To pathologize these moments, or to frame them as failures, is to forget that sex is about the desire to discover something unknown, something beyond our individual physicality. Experiences that don’t go quite to plan are a necessary part of that.

As I’ve matured – and, crucially, as I’ve learned to take myself less seriously – I’ve found laughter during sex can be a particularly positive tool. We are often so invested in pride during these encounters – pride of our body, pride of our performance – that sex can become an unnecessarily serious exchange. Being able to laugh when things go wrong – and, perhaps most importantly, laugh at ourselves when our body decides to do its own thing – is an incredibly empowering mentality. Working to let go of your ego, and not framing your body as a disobedient, provide such a valuable foundation to brilliant fucking.

There’s real connection to be found in the mistakes and fumbles. Levity offers a valuable moment to reset, change pace, switch positions, or take a moment to just rest, touch and be intimate in other ways, before (inevitably) diving back into the bedsheets. Which, years later, the music teacher and I did eventually do, by the way.

2023 — Louisa Knight