Growing up in New Jersey, one is bound sooner or later to be told about the legend of the “Jersey Devil.” The creature dwells deep within the scorched terrain of the Pine Barrens, and has been there for centuries. It is strangely amorphous, taking on physical traits of any number of animals. One time I read that it started its life as a mutant baby of sorts, who had legs where its arms should have been and arms where its legs should have been.
No one has definitively seen the Jersey Devil, though it’s not for lack of trying. Scores of would-be ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, and cryptozoologists flood into the forbidden region to be the first to confirm or clarify—never to deny, mind you—the precise dimensions and our state’s beloved monster.
I will save everyone some time by stating right out that the Jersey Devil is not real. Manufactured, no doubt, by the Pinies for the purpose of repelling outsiders from entering their cherished abode. Clearly they should not have bothered, but I understand the impulse.
The human world is teeming with Jersey Devils: wholly phantasmal concepts which we collectively uphold for this or that reason. If you’re a stupid person desperate to sound approximately smart, you’d call them “noble lies.” This should not come as a particular shock, such lies are useful and sometimes fun, provided that we can keep them in some kind of control. Lately that seems less and less possible.
The Jersey Devil is a very helpful reference when thinking about sex. As with the Jersey Devil, you are bound to hear of its existence sooner or later. You will be told of its superhuman, otherworldly abilities and of the seemingly limitless forms it can take. You will be told of the great lengths taken to go in search of it and of the near-successful sightings in the process. They are always half-glanced: an echo in the dark, a flutter in the corner of the eye, or a pungent aroma somewhere between death and afterlife that emanates from nowhere in particular. Some will be bolder and claim evidence of a direct encounter. Of course it is never from the claimant, but from someone the claimant knows well enough; if not his roommate then his roommate’s cousin, who went out to 7-Eleven for some milk one night but was deferred into an obscure plane by sex, and it was quite something, he was never the same again. On and on the stories go, often in greater detail but never much closer to any sense of truth.
I suppose it is a credit to our species that we’ve been able to maintain the sex hoax for as long as we have. It seems as though we’ve been telling it to ourselves for a millennium at least. And yet we can only maintain it for so long. Soon enough its internal logic will begin to corrode and its structure will collapse not long after. Even in so progressive an age, this has not seemed to occur to anyone; to wit, it would appear that, by and large, sex is a genuine phenomenon that happens routinely and to considerable merriment.
This is indeed a perplexing and distressing situation. It leaves three questions in need of answering: why is this so? How is this so? And through what means can this be made not to be so?
The first question is perhaps the easiest to answer. Human life is nothing if not devoid of any coherent point, rooted in total absurdity, and perpetuated to no particular end. It is a manifestly tragic bent, more tragic because humans take no pleasure in this truth. Rather than exalt the freedom of pure obsolescence, humanity is ever grasping for anything that will divert it and bestow meaning. Sex was probably not the first diversion attempted, but it is the most enduring. Unlike other diversions—religion, ideology, culture, etc.—it is tangible, giving sense as much to the body as it does to the mind. Sex is pleasurable and purposeful all at once. There is accomplishment in having achieved it and often mutual rather than isolated satisfaction. But herein lies certain challenges. Sex must also be kept at a distance. The closer you get to sex, the less enchanting it is. The diversion is temporary and the satisfaction soon dissipates until it is totally forgotten. Anyone who experiences sex is likely to be much worse off than those who have not. The mind must forever be on sex. Humans must be bedeviled and fixated; they must seek it fruitlessly yet still proselytize it wildly.
Maintaining this equilibrium requires incredible mastery of discipline and a comfort in deception. But how that is done is not so simple to uncover. It lends to considerable speculation. Obviously sex is orchestrated by an intricate network of dedicated actors. There is no one source but several acting in unison for the greater good of soothing the troubled masses. It’s a mind-bending conspiracy of staggering proportions. Everyone is in on it: the schools, the advertisers, the Instagram influencers. That pornography you’re watching? Just one of several thousand “moon landings” being daily—even hourly—produced to fool you. Not even so-called “parents” are exempt from this charade. And sure, you might ask “What about babies? They don’t come from the fucking stork, do they?” Of course not, you idiot. They come from China! Chinese factories, that is. All it takes is a blacklight to the bottom of an infant’s foot or the back of its neck and you’ll easily see the barcode and serial number. If that doesn’t convince you, you need only unscrew its head, much as you would open a wine bottle, to reveal the intricate synthetics from within. Press under its jaw and you hit the master switch allowing you to disassemble and reassemble its interchangeable extremities at your whim. (Perhaps the Jersey Devil does exist after all. Curiouser and curiouser!)
At one time, manufacturing sex was probably an honorable endeavor, and its present nefariousness may not have been the initial intention. But nefarious is as nefarious does, and it must be nipped in the bud so that humanity might see its truth and be made free once more. But how this is done is harder to answer. Experience has taught me this.
I’m nothing if not a crusader at heart. If there’s a cause in which I firmly believe or a wrong that needs to be righted, I don’t shirk from advocating or confronting it with all my strength and intellect. I thought that unveiling the sex hoax would be no different. I decided to go grassroots: to redress it from the bottom-up, finding individual actors and rooting them out. Couples were high on my list of suspects, their happiness clearly being in direct proportion to their complicity. I singled out one couple and tailed them for a few weeks. Then I knocked on their door posing as a census taker … whose car broke down … and whose phone was dead. They exuding all manner of middle-class kindness let me in to call AAA. While we wait, they make me coffee. We get to talking and I commence ensnaring them.
I start with the clinical census jargon, then segue into more casual talk as they break out the wine. Me? I have a girlfriend, yes. A steady, serious very long-term relationship—engaged to be engaged and all that. I compliment their compatibility and ask them what’s their “secret”? They chuckle discretely, then I’m basically in. We talk leisure activities, intimacy, vulnerability, favorite positions, safe words, where this is all going, what are their real names, etc. Things get a bit heated. “That’s none of your beeswax, sir!” or “That’s disgusting, who does that?” They suggest that I leave but I’m not backing down. We’re just getting started. The man gets rough and shoves me. Then I hear a cry coming from the other room. Their baby is awake. An opportunity I’d not planned on! “We’ll get to the bottom of this,” I declare as I move toward its crib. But lo, I am tackled, left with two black eyes, a busted lip, and an uncorked baby.
History is full of alleged “mad men”; searchers for truth who get a little too close and who must endure a lifetime and then some of censure, ridicule, and suppression before ultimate vindication. They have many more names for me, alas: home invader, assaulter, attempted kidnapper and murderer. Attempted! Even when throwing the book at you they must remind you of your failure. Fine, I plead guilty to your “charges” if it means that much to you. But my true crimes are lack of patience and lack of finesse. I was wrong in my crusading approach. Combatting the sex hoax requires a far more subversive attitude than I am able to muster. My hope as that as I write these words that the subversives may already be at work, dismantling sex piece by piece until it is just another faulty, implausible myth of a superstitious age.