What's so funny about fake sex?

The Air Sex Championships tours the country with its crotch thrusting and grotesque O-faces -- and people love it

Published May 5, 2011 10:02PM (EDT)

Spring is in the air, and so are a bunch of wagging tongues, thrusting crotches and naughty hand gestures. That's because it's time for the annual Air Sex Championships, which tours the country giving people the opportunity to compete at humping nothing at all. Basically, it's a dirty version of air guitar. It's also grown beyond the official competition, inspiring teenagers to post videos to YouTube of what I can only describe as air sex gang bangs. (Oh, America.) I've been aware of the phenomenon for a while now, but I've never really understood what it's all about. What, pray tell, is the Air Sex Championships' raison d'être?

In a show of journalistic selflessness, I decided to subject myself to every air sex video I could find -- and I can now report that I've never less wanted to have sex. The event attracts the sort of man who relishes opportunities to appear in front of a crowd in a skimpy thong and then engage in a series of revealing bodily contortions. There is a lot of jackrabbit pounding, grotesque O-faces and silly string ejaculations. It's sex as a horrifying and -- so long as you're into the Will Ferrell shtick -- hilarious spectacle. Then there are the women, who seem partial to literal tongue-in-cheek blow jobs, often performed on cartoonishly large imaginary penises. (Another running theme: Penises that are so small they're rejected.) It's amusing -- for 30 seconds or so. But the floor grinding, hand jobs and fake orgasms that make Meg Ryan look like a prude quickly become tiresome.

What's most interesting about the spectacle is the fact that it exists in the first place and has for five years running. The event portrays sex as absurd, embarrassing and funny -- and it is all of those things, right? Great sex often involves laughter and even moments of clumsiness. These performances just make it seem more so. The whole exercise is oddly honest: Underneath all the comically awful technique and premature ejaculation is totally relatable vulnerability and insecurity. Instead of sitting in a circle, holding hands and talking about all our squishy feelings about doing the deed, we go to a bar, down a couple of beers and watch strangers make a mockery of this silly little thing called sex.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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