Procreation: Taking All the Fun Out of Sex

Pregnancy_testHE WAITS, WANTS | Sarah Layden.

Fiction Southeast.

⇒This is a really fascinating piece, utilizing a fun gender-reversal strategy that says quite a bit about socialized gender norms, biological expectations toward the individual and his/her significant other, and the incredibly complex psychology behind human procreation. This is a piece with a very humorous premise, but one that doesn’t go out of its way to be funny. It’s absurdist but bleakly serious at the same time. Throughout, the author’s controlled, even tone and close third-person make this piece both beautiful and despairing. It revives the whole nature-versus-nurture debate about why people do the things they do, but it addresses this subject in a way that’s deeply felt rather than clinical.

“He Waits, Wants” is a very short piece. I don’t want to give away too much other then the initial premise, which I’ve already spoiled.Basically, it’s a portrait of a relationship–between “He” and “She”–with all the drives of biology and cultural expectations thrown into reverse. This is like a photographic negative: what’s black is white, what’s male is female, what’s normal is anything but.

The style of this piece is very understated. Lots of short sentences, simple and otherwise, carrying great weight. The story feels, per its subject matter, “pregnant” with implication. And while role-reversal premises often come with that Freaky Friday-esque “See! Now you know what it’s like!”–there’s no preachiness to this piece, no satisfied smirk of vindication now that the other person’s gotten a taste of their own medicine.

I really connected to this piece, and I have a feeling many readers will have a similar experience, regardless of where they are in their lives or whether or not they themselves are trying to have kids. Biology can be cruel, this story suggests, even in the allegedly joyous process of human reproduction. Yeah, sex is fun; but sex conducted strictly for the purpose of reproduction can be a lot of work, a lot of worry.

Read the story over at Fiction Southeast!

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