Bodies Sex, Frogs, and the New Political Order
“If you opened me up you would find no redness, no veins, only a political thunderstorm.”
In only twenty-five of the seven thousand species of frog does the female deliver the mating cry to the male. I think about this one night in a vodka-stained room, when between drinks I deliver what I hope are fuck me eyes to the quiet stranger with the strong, slender wrists. I like the softness of his skin, his stiff dark hair. I want pheromones that say, You look like you’d be a compassionate lover.
It’s a month before the election and the room is gaseous with optimism. Half-acquaintances cluster around phrases like “first female president,” choking periodically on bad hope and worse beer. But the stranger and I are too drunk for the future. Instead, we get down on our knees and knock heads under the bed, where we are told the cat is hiding. But we can’t find him among all the shoes and shirts.
An hour later the stranger’s tongue is in my mouth. When we separate, I feel suddenly exposed, as if at any moment tweezers will come out of the sky to kill us, stuff us, boil us, study us like frogs trapped under rocks. My phone buzzes; the New York Times raving about another scandal, orange hair. I turn off notifications and bring my mouth back to his.
In the dorsal straddle, Male Frog grabs onto Female Frog’s hip and shoulder. He thrusts—once, twice, perhaps many more times, then deposits his semen on her back. It is only after Male Frog departs that she lays her eggs, standing sentinel at the borderlands of bodily fluids. She is alone when the cells begin to divide.
Scientists only recently discovered the dorsal straddle in 2016. This new, inventive addition to the frog Kama Sutra comes with two particular implications:
1. That frogs have been inventing and reinventing themselves, inheriting through generations not only instinct, but boredom. That they experiment with their bodies the same way that you and I might, if we’d been going to bed the same way for lifetimes.
2. That frogs have succeeded in hiding an entire method of fornication from prying, human eyeballs. That they know, somehow, they are being watched, and have decided cumulatively to keep a secret. If there was a surveillance camera in your bedroom and you knew about it, would you only do missionary? Would you perhaps go wild, tie your limbs into knots, break out the cock ring, butt plug, strap-on, reverse cowgirl even though once you saw a Vine where an amateur porn star’s penis snapped with the sound of a starting pistol? Be honest.
I am in a mostly-stranger’s basement, kind of high and kind of drunk, and the mostly-stranger is going down on me while Planet Earth plays with no sound in the background. Is this the mountains episode? I wonder, while he does all the things the internet says you’re supposed to do to a clitoris. The camera floats over a glacier, then zooms into a great gash in the ice. While the mostly-stranger’s head lingers between my thighs, the camera zooms closer and closer, entering the cavern and revealing a waterfall. I think to myself: That glacier is my vagina . And I keep thinking that until icy glacier water splashes on the lens, allowing me to scramble toward release.
“Some crazy shit happened while you were gone,” I tell the mostly-stranger when he comes up for air. Even though this is the wrong thing to say, he laughs. But he laughs at everything.
Whenever I need a good laugh I look at different frog sex positions. In inguinal, the frogs are flat with legs extended slightly, Male Frog’s stomach pushing into the skin of Female Frog’s back. In axillary, Female Frog folds her legs under her stomach while Male Frog clings to her posterior. In cephalic, Male Frog’s body eclipses Female Frog. And in head straddle—head straddle is exactly what it sounds like.
And then there are my favorites: independent and glued.
In independent, the two frogs face away from each other, staring in opposite directions, so that the only tangential parts of their bodies are their soft, prone, reproductive organs. In this position they either keep watch or protect loneliness. He releases the semen, she releases the eggs, and the female stays paralyzed and waits for first life. There is no thrust, no jab, no fiery frog eyes. They are independent. I find this hilarious but puzzling; masturbation is one of nature’s greatest gifts—that we can orgasm as many times as we want without having to speak to another, that we can form a circuit entirely within ourselves. Why ruin that with another person (frog)? Again and again I am forced to remind myself that unlike us, frogs need neither foreplay nor privacy to remind themselves of reproduction.
These great sexual experimenters, both Bombay Night Frogs, were caught by scientists in flagrante delicto. Yet in some ways, they may have seen their discovery as a relief; tweezers are not birds come to snatch them from above, test tubes are not landslides. Latex gloves do not singe their skin like mass extinction or mold. There is a safety, then, in being observed.
Sometimes after I see this man, who was a mostly-stranger but is now more of a sort-of-stranger, I feel a deep calm. It helps that his bedroom is underground, that my phone usually dies halfway through the night, that sometimes there’s a cat who swats away my bra as soon as it hits the floor, and all night long we hear his claws and my bra hooks skittering in the dark. Under the muffled layers of wall and blanket I am only vaguely aware of the headlines blaring in the outside world, the hearings and executive orders, the men who would strip me of my rights (leisurely, like a child picking legs off a centipede). I am trespassing on a man’s life, bed, body, and from my visitor’s perspective it seems very simple. Boy, weed, cat. No danger yet to speak of.
In the glued position, Female Frog is all big and puffy and Male Frog is dwarfed in comparison. It’s funny but it’s also my worst nightmare. He latches on to the cloaca of the female, or wherever his anatomical compass tells him the eggs will emerge. And the whole thing happens like it’s already happened.
Every month for at least a day I become completely convinced that I’m pregnant. I look up rapidly shifting abortion laws in both of my states. I look up cabins in Montana so if nothing works out I can live in the boonies with my wolf child and become part of the countryside lore. Google has started filling in my searches for me.
When the frog is known in her entirety, she emits luminous bulbs of knowledge. These are passed down reverently through citations and presentations, in the hopes that they will transform one day into medicine or Band-Aids or very good news. The knowing of a frog cannot be called evil.
But what of knowing a woman? There are forces out there that want to vivisect me, split open my uterus and broadcast it on CSPAN. These are men who have pried open the suit of knowledge and forced themselves inside, who have cast themselves in the roles of reverse surgeons, un-knowers, the congratulated. If they caught me with a dick they would scold me very firmly. If they caught me with a fetus they would bottle it inside.
Lately I’ve been getting the feeling that there are fake scientists looking for me, white men in red ties who confuse knowledge and control. They seek a single fact to encompass the world, to blot out all the features of our bodies and replace them with blank expanse. They want that fact to be the palest of all colors, very close to nothing.
There are shelves full of books written on me; what women like me like in bed, how to manipulate our pleasure and our pain. There are support groups for parents like my parents, who suffer thoroughly through my willful body. There are things I do in private my mother does not know the words for. For which my grandmothers would be killed. If you opened me up you would find no redness, no veins, only a political thunderstorm. The tired lightning of history.
Deep in the night we think of our bodies. My best friend texts me the address of a man he knows only as “Daddy.” My neighbor wakes up early to intercept before her mother a strap-on she one-click ordered on Amazon. And a dick knocks at my hips asking very politely to be let in. All around are the scientists searching for us, except they’re not scientists, they’re politicians, and we’re not frogs, we’re people. But they’re looking to fill books with us, to make examples by us, to publish or punish us in nationally accredited magazines, to make diagrams of all the ways we love so we can never love those ways again.
The Bombay Night Frog has my puffy cheeks and is listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means she is only at the beginning of her disappearance. The Bombay Night Frog has sex in monsoon season, when visibility is low—this cannot be a coincidence. I have sex when I wake up with bug bites and forget my umbrella and need aspirin. I have sex when the world is cold and I want to remember what skin feels like, because my own skin feels like plastic wrap and nothing. I have sex as an antidote to the world, even though the world is so often against sex, maybe the world is an antidote for sex instead. Yesterday I had an orgasm and felt like laughing afterwards. I thought, Why not?
And I laughed.