I used to think that sex was fine when it was silent. Well, not silent, but punctuated solely by the usual sounds you’d expect to hear when two people are inexpertly manoeuvring parts of themselves in and out of each other: slapping, squishing, grunting, moaning, whispered apologies for accidentally ramming the other person into the headboard, that sort of thing. It did of course enter my consciousness that not everybody felt the same way – that some had whole Spotify lists dedicated to constructing the right auditory environment for their various shenanigans – but I always felt privately embarrassed for these people, who seemed to want to elevate a blow job to the status of a military homecoming by providing its own accompanying triumphant acoustics. Surely, I reasoned, being that special combination of cripplingly self-conscious and overwhelmingly cynical meant that a sex playlist wasn’t for me.
But if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that I do need a sex playlist. I’ve needed one ever since I lost my virginity to the deeply unsexy soundtrack to David Bowie’s The Labyrinth at the tender age of 16. It’s a wonder that, after such an experience, I managed to go on studiously avoiding the issue for almost an entire decade (I genuinely remember a line about escaping the Bog of Eternal Stench rising up to meet my traumatised ears just as my teenage boyfriend began to climax.) Why was I still depending on the dulcet tones of Hackney Council’s 1am mechanical road sweeper as recently as last month? I was in an extremely long-term cycle of denial.
So, after one discussion with a concerned friend that marked my turning point, I went in search of the best sex music around. Turns out, however, that it’s a lot easier to find the worst. Things that quickly made their way onto the ‘no’ list, all after being suggested by Twitter followers or real life friends: most of Marvin Gaye’s back catalogue (too cheesy), Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing (same issue), Electric Six’s Gay Bar (oddly confrontational), Tom Jones’ Mama Told Me Not To Come (and anything else suitably Oedipal), The Vaccines’ Post-Break Up Sex (self-explanatory), Nine Inch Nails’ Closer (perfect for feeling edgy at university, but those eternal lines ‘I want to fuck you like an animal, I want to feel you from the inside’ just lose their romance once you’re in your mid-twenties), Say Anything’s Alive With The Glory of Love (‘When I watch you, wanna do you right where you’re standing’ has similarly lost its profundity, I found), Eiffel 65’s Blue Da Ba Dee (no idea why this made it into the suggestion box, although my friend helpfully explained that it ‘summed up her feelings towards sex’), anything by Blink 182 (except perhaps All The Small Things. Anybody? No?), anything by Taylor Swift (too twee), and Let It Go from Frozen (creepy. Only made creepier by the knowledge that my friend’s boyfriend has a crush on the cartoon character Elsa.) Additionally, any music that I used to play back when my mother used to refer to my boyfriend and I as ‘the twins’ because we both had badly dyed black hair and wore eyeliner was vetoed because of cringeworthy associations. Interpol, The Killers and Wu Tang Crew were out.
On to those that passed the test. These were obviously much harder to come by, and hampered periodically by questions that sent me spiralling into confusion and self-doubt (‘Does the playlist have to speed up near the end?’ asked Brogan Driscoll on Twitter. This led to hours of agonising.) I settled on Heartbeats by The Knife (not the Jose Gonzalez version, which sounds dangerously like a break-up song), Kalemba and Hangover by Buraka Som Sistema, anything by Sigur Ros (as one friend put it, the musical style is predictable and you’re unlikely to be suddenly wrong-footed by an artless lyric unless you have a good understanding of Icelandic-inspired made up languages), and any French electro (for both of the same reasons as Sigur Ros.) I struggled to find any more genuinely suitable candidates.
In the end, the most important part of compiling my new sex playlist came down to adherence to one essential principle: eliminate all possibility of surprise. Nobody wants a boner-killing banjo solo or a line that reminds them of their ex to suddenly jump out while they’re 69ing on a squeaky mattress. Where sex should be a bastion of spontaneity, its soundtrack should be rigidly planned, constructed and enforced. So, no sticking your gym playlist onto shuffle and hoping for the best. After all, nobody wants to orgasm to Robin Thicke (not even his wife.)