By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I inherited my more-than-10-year-old mattress in 1994, after being kicked out of my sublet on East 21st Street; it was a consolation prize from the guy who rented me the apartment, for all the aggravation. The queen-size Stearns & Foster from Bloomingdale's comforted me through six apartments, five full-time jobs, three serious relationships, and one genital piercing. The box spring sustained the most traumatic injury when movers couldn't get it up the stairs; they sawed it in half magician-style, then nailed it back together in my one-bedroom near the Williamsburg Bridge. The mattress had plenty of battle scars too. There were the faded spots on the bottom corner from candle wax dripped in error and scraped off in vain. A tear in the satiny off-white fabric from a girl with sharp nails who screamed when I fucked her. Black ink pools with feathered edges made by pens lost or left mid-sentence between the sheets when I used to write late at night. Stains from non-staining lube, coffee, and Snapple iced tea. And, of course, the ghost residue of cum, invisible but not forgotten, from dozens of lovers. I can say with confidence that I had some of the best sex of my life on that bed. I fucked and got fucked, cried and cuddled, earned money and sold my soul. The coils and foam absorbed not just the weight and shock of bodies in motion, but ejaculatory fluid of many different-gendered bodies.
As it seemed to sag in exhaustion beneath me and the metal coils yelped louder, I knew that my well-worn mattress had seen its last spontaneous orgy. She had to go. There was no ceremony or eulogy to mark the end, just rigorous compliance with New York City's sanitation rules ("Bulk items must be placed curbside between 6 p.m. and midnight the night before your regular garbage collection day") as my boy and I lugged it down the stairs and onto the iced-over sidewalk in front of our house. Funny that mattresses can only go out on the street at night.
Letting go of the old girl has raised some issues. It's like losing my most intimate piece of furniture and beginning a new chapter in my erotic and unconscious (as in sleeping) life. I realized that I'd seen and sampled an impressive collection of fornication furniture in the past year, which leads me to wonder whether all the really hip people are having sex everywhere but in bed. Is being a part of the fitted-and-flat set totally five minutes ago? Has the mattress been relegated to REM-only, with new gear replacing it as the chosen site for bumping and grinding?
Some sex entrepreneurs have taken a cue from the sling, a staple at gay male bathhouses and s/m clubs. A transformation from the whips-and-chains aesthetic into a softer, more innocuous look, the leather sling became the nylon swing, aimed toward adventurous couples with strong beams (swings, like slings, usually hang from the ceiling or from a freestanding frame). The Compass Institute went less Peter Pan, more Arnold Schwarzenegger with its latest creation, the LuvSeat (luvseat.com). It looks like a cross between a workout bench (stick with that when your parents see it in your bedroom) and an OB-GYN table (hide the optional ankle strap attachments that give away its true purpose). The trick is that the steel-and-vinyl chair has two legs of different heights, both of which are hydraulic, so it adjusts to dozens of positions. It's got a round handlebar thing to grab onto for support or leverage, and a lever within reach to quickly switch from rear-entry to woman on top. The seat goes from 90 to 200 degrees so that one partner can be sitting, lying, kneeling, or standing, and you can subtly control the angle of entry and penetration, which is especially good for G-spot stimulation. Plus, no more sore knees or back strain, since you can straddle this chair and get much better thrusting ability than with a mattress.
Marketed with the tagline "End mattress monotony!" Liberator Shapes are firm foam pieces covered in washable, non-slipping material and designed specifically to facilitate better positions (liberatorshapes.com, available through my website, puckerup. com, as well). There are four different shapes: one that looks like a large firm dog bed (although, interestingly, no one at OneUp Innovations has thought to market it to people who do puppy play), a cube meant to improve upon ottoman sex (which I, for one, didn't even know was in trouble), and two triangular ones. More supportive than mere pillows, they also make porn positions like pile driver (think legs all the way over your shoulders) much easier for ordinary people to achieve.
Picture this: I am lying on my back and the person doing me is standing. Normally, the height of whatever I'm sprawled out on has to be exactly right or it just doesn't work for penis or dildo penetration. Even when the height is perfect, I've got to use pillows to get the angle just right, and they slip around, sink down, and generally aren't with the program. This time, I slide the Liberator Shape called the Ramp to the end of one side of the bed (which sits against a wall), then pull the bed out from the wall enough for my partner (a/k/a the Doer) to slip in between the end of the bed and the wall. With me on the Ramp, the low end of it at the end of the bed, and the higher end farther away from the Doer, I plant my feet firmly on the wall. Standing up, the Doer's got plenty of leverage to thrust, and I've got leverage, too, to rock into the Doer with my hips. Voilà! It makes the angle 100 times better for me, making a usually elusive orgasm (it's harder for me to come on my back, easier to on my belly) a piece of cakeand really intense, to boot. But as you've probably figured out by now, the mattress is still part of the game.
All this equipment promises difficult positions made easy, increased gymnastic ability with less exertion, and support for people with chronic pain or disabilities; each one also touts its own unique qualityfrom space-age weightlessness to a two-in-one fucking/weight-lifting bench. Will it surpass the bed as our favorite copulation spot? Not likely. I just got my new Sealy queen; she's firm, she's got a pillow top, and she sits several inches higher than the old one in my bed frame (think about it). She's clean and unblemished. She requires no assembly, instructions, or adjustments. More importantly, she's neutral territory, free of emotional baggage and sexual energy. And she's waiting for me to take her virginity . . .
Please visit my website, puckerup.com.