Like the well- made narrative, normative sexual activity
issues in climax, from which comes, as it were, quiescence.
—Paul morrison, The Explanation for Everything
“How is it that the anticipated and delightful orgasmic sexual end comes
like the end of a story?” asks Judith Roof in her investigation of the
ideological association between narrative and sexuality. “How is it that
orgasm and the end are taken for one another, conflated in our narrative
expectations?”1 Coming together in a conflation that Roof persuasively
argues is ideological rather than metaphorical, the cultural investments
in narrative and sexuality constitute orgasm as the end of the story, not
the unnarratable but the nonnarratable, that which is incapable of gen-
erating any further narrative.2 The stories we tell ourselves about or-
gasm should give us pause, however, not least because narrative and
orgasm dovetail so closely in the modern period that the cultural forms
that bring events together recognizably as story and those that govern
the way erotic satisfactions are imagined and experienced often enough
take the same formal shape, as evidenced by the fact that a climax refers
to both a sexual and a story payoff. In a study that deserves to be more
1. Roof, Come as You Are, 2, 6.
2. Roof, Come as You Are, 24. My use of the nonnarratable is drawn from Miller,
Narrative and Its Discontents, 5.
orgasm’s end
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