Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the day of the week when we talk about female troubles. And to properly diagnose and treat them, we turn to the musty out-of-print paperbacks of the past for guidance. Because that’s where all the best medical knowledge is.
Let us pity, for a moment, women. They have a lot of problems that men don’t have to worry about. They age terribly, they’re always getting fat, and if they’re not completely careful every second of the day, they have babies. Also, they smell bad (feminine hygiene—learn about it, people). When they sweat it’s just terrible so they need to be extra careful about that, too. If they smile too much they’re creepy, but if they don’t smile enough they need to be shot with tranquilizer darts and put in a zoo.
Then there’s the entire issue of… Down There.
There are a number of pills, aerosols, waxing strips, and tools designed to make Down There less offensive to others, and there is also an entire douching industry devoted to making sure that women don’t get out of control Down There. Added to that is their menstruations, which are dangerous. As we all know, if two women in the same house are going through menarche at the same time they must fight each other until one of them is dead. Even though men have developed a whole host of pads and plugs to help women keep their blood on the inside, we’re still left with what is probably the most dangerous female problem of them all, the medical issue that is a threat to all living creatures, as balky and dangerous as a nuclear bomb on a hairtrigger: the female orgasm. Fortunately, John Coyne has written a horror novel about the source of these deadly spasms, which turn out to be, like we all suspected, caused by evil aliens from beyond the stars.
If anyone is going to know about the dangers of the female orgasm, it’s John Coyne. A longtime author of non-fiction books like The Pentland School of Crafts Book of Pottery (1975), Coyne was growing tired of his rapidly growing stack of unpublished novels. So one day he sat down, studied The Exorcist very carefully, and delivered The Piercing (1979), a carbon copy Catholic thriller except instead of being about demonic possession, it was about stigmata. To make it even juicier, his young Catholic priest is having an affair with a Jewish woman, and it turns out that the young hillbilly girl with stigmata is also possessed by Satan, too, and that it’s the same Satan that once tried to tempt this young Catholic bohunk by posing as his homosexual lover back in seminary. Shock! Horror! Coyne sold his novel, which quickly went to his head and caused him to say things about himself like, “Sex and religion! I am the only ‘horror’ novelist working the ‘religious’ themes.” Which was true if you ignored pretty much every other horror novelist writing in 1979.
Coyne’s publisher didn’t give The Piercing to the world at first. Instead they gave Coyne the plum job of being introduced to readers by writing the novelization of the Sam Elliott/Roger Daltrey horror flick The Legacy which turned out to be a bomb, but a highly-publicized one and Coyne’s novelization sold around two million copies. The Piercing didn’t do that in hardcover, but when it came out in paperback it moved a couple of million copies, and then Coyne decided that the world was ready to learn about the threat of lady orgasms in The Searing.
We begin in 1608 as a doe, a deer, a female deer, has an orgasm for no good reason and dies, thus establishing that female orgasms have been deadly to women of all species for at least 300 years. Cut to: the present day, 1980, as Farmer Delp is forced to auction off his farm equipment because real estate developers have bought up all the farms outside Washington, DC and turned them into a fashionable suburban community called Renaissance Village. It’s filled with a bunch of hotshot DC types (doctors at the NIH, spies at the CIA) and women like Sara who have barely moved in when “the muscles of her rectum contracted” and she has a spontaneous orgasm that makes her fall down. Then it happens again.
“I keep having these orgasms,” she says to a helpful man who agrees to help her with her lady problems. “For no reason, you understand? Without any sex, or even any man around…When I’m alone, I’m suddenly hit by real, violent orgasms. Incredibly strong. What’s happening to me?”
Even worse, at 32, these are the first orgasms she’s ever had. Just when she thought she was safe from the worst thing that could happen to a woman! “I just accepted the idea that I was one of those women who never would.” Even worser, there are so many possible causes of these evil orgasms. It could be the farmer’s daughter, Cindy Delp, a “retarded girl” who is actually autistic but that doesn’t stop people from calling her retarded on every other page, which seems a little cruel. Young Delp doesn’t help her cause by hiding in people’s houses and screaming uncontrollably at them when they find her. There’s also Kevin Volt, CIA agent, who has a mysterious bank of microwave and shortwave computer equipment hidden in his basement. And what about that old Indian burial mound? It could be causing these orgasms, too.
The orgasms get so bad that Sara and the other women in Renaissance Village can barely function and they’re even getting nosebleeds. The Volt baby’s brain explodes, probably from orgasms, and then the dead body of one of their neighbors gets found in the woods by the burial mound. “You know how you can take a hammer to a Halloween jack-o’lantern and smash in the hollow pumpkin with one blow. Well, that’s what happened to this kid. Her brains were all over the fuckin’ forest,” says a sensitive cop. This is what happens when you have too many orgasms!
Finally, Sara gets enough of a break between orgasms to start putting the pieces together (“I’m just saying there might be a connection between the orgasms and the deaths,” she says, like a French person). After some trips to the library the women of Renaissance Village work together and realize that young Delp isn’t screaming because she’s autistic, she’s simply speaking at a speed three times faster than the human ear can comprehend. Using a tape recorder to slow down her screaming, they link her brainwaves to Kevin Volt’s computer and learn that she’s not even human, she’s a remote data bank for an extraterrestrial computer called The Eye of Bel that transmits and receives information through her brain from the very edge of the galaxy. And as for that Indian burial mound…
“Oh, it makes sense. We’re just having a difficult time accepting the truth: that Renaissance Village is built at the exact location where once—sometime between 800 and 100 BC—a Celtic population built that rock chamber to chart the skies and pay homage to their sun god, Bel…This hillside, I’m sure, is another Mystery Hill, full of underground passages, standing monoliths, temple chambers, and Bronze Age inscriptions.”
See? Everything makes sense when you simply stop having too many orgasms and think it through. But the Eye of Bel is full of hate towards female orgasms and it sends balls of light that fly through Renaissance Village causing even more orgasms to melt women’s minds and to burn up hundreds of residents in brain-melting fires until Sara and the rest of the gang use pharmaceuticals to destroy Cindy Delp’s mind and make her a vegetable.
Things end peacefully enough, however, with Sara resigning from the NIH and moving to a small town with her new husband who now supports her so she can stay home. She’s realized that raising Cindy and trying to repair the damage to her mind is more important than any old job a woman could possibly have. It’s even more important than orgasms.
Grady Hendrix has written for publications ranging from Playboy to World Literature Today; his previous novel was Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and his latest novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, is basically Beaches meets The Exorcist.