Literary Orphans

Installation Sex
by Rhonda Talbot


Had I known I’d be rigging electrical wires to Franklin Franklin’s scrotum studs I may have reconsidered San Francisco. Yet the trip would prove to be critical in my relationship continuum.

Fixing men was something I was good at, a self-appointed job that gave me an additional sense of accomplishment and validation.

My first success culminated in a pregnancy followed by a Vegas shotgun wedding. Though the marriage was short lived, the boy child was worth my efforts. I had decided the relationship didn’t work out because he was simply too old at 35. Not moldable.

My next efforts were set on a handsome college lad; the plan was to shape him into a presentable young man with enviable potential. Using my hard-won work contacts, he would become highly employable; after which we would marry, perhaps a destination wedding. He also seemed perfect material for a stepfather. Not only was he an enthusiastic collector of Pokémon cards but also skilled at table tennis.

After a few months the boy left me. He apparently had his own ideas and though I thought nothing of our 12-year age difference, his mother took issue. She carried more weight in all matters regarding his future plans. I was stunned, hurt, and nearly lost my will to live.  Somewhere in all of my cultivating endeavors, I had fallen in love with him. This took me by surprise.

My own accomplishments indeed meant nothing. I put no credence into my diligent efforts to make good through education and hard work, to break away, this hauling up of one’s own bootstraps. Loves wounds would override any sense of actual achievement. I blamed all of my self-loathing on my looks, my mother, and her deep gene pool of hillbillies. If only I had been born entitled, beautiful, lithe, the Amazonian kind of girl that grace the pages of Victoria’s Secret. Men would never be an issue. I would be in demand, have endless options, and therefore be free to pursuit my goals without the added relationship angst and the time often involved within the angst matrix.

It was in this state I met Franklin Franklin, a renowned artist, both of us wandering around a chic hotel lobby after a private film screening.  I was wearing a sexy, turquoise Betsy Johnson number I slipped on whenever invited to fancy outings.

We shared a standing table eating cold shrimp on toothpicks. I felt an unexpected surge of lust when I looked into his eyes, shattered emeralds, chaotic and in need of reorganization.

“I have to go to San Francisco tonight. What are you doing?”

Despite all of my work obligations, this was my Holly Golightly moment. This Adonis- like man invited me for the weekend without any prompting on my part, solid markings of a true prospect. This look we shared was not one-sided. He was the real deal. Maybe being overly cautious had been my problem all along. Finding a fixer-upper was not the answer. Here stood a peer, and this is how they acted. Maybe what I lacked in airbrushed beauty could be supplicated with exciting spontaneity.

“Lets do it.”

“I’ll be at the Fairmont. Call me when you get there.”

I raced home, threw my most expensive lingerie into an overnight bag and flew up to San Francisco. Franklin was not in his room. I waited in an adjoining room until after midnight, and then he called.

We strolled the crooked streets of the city, his strong, tattooed arm clutching me with such possession I felt boneless. We spoke in bits and shreds. The cold, icy ground beneath us sounded like grinding teeth as we trudged up a hill.

He had a passion for igloos and frozen oranges but nothing brown or gold.

I told him I liked the words bone saw and superfluous.

He didn’t respond. I soon understood he liked quiet so I stopped talking altogether.

Then he pinned me to a concrete wall; my head went static. Time dissolved and all the things it’s meant to define.

Far away the fiery slit of dawn was poking through the fog.

“Let’s go. Perfect lighting.”

We were in his suite.

“So, take off all your clothes. Wow, you’re so beautiful. This is ideal.”

I was excited, thrilled and cocky all at once. With great flair, I tossed my clothes onto the floor without considering my imperfect thighs or small breasts.

Franklin was lying naked on the bed, tanned, well toned and hairless. Then I saw his scrotum was festooned with silver studs. Dozens of thimble sized studs.

“Like my jewelry?”

I thought it was odd, even creepy.

“Sure. It’s that real silver?”

The best I could do was offer up my metallic-shaded pedicure that I thought was incredibly edgy. But I was not prepared for Franklin. I noticed a camera situated atop a tripod positioned in front of the bed.

“Wow. How many studs do you have? Don’t they hurt?”

“Nah. It does for a second when you do it. But I need you to do something.”

He handed me a bottle of Virgin Olive oil that he pulled from his backpack.

“Slather this all over your fist, then ram it up my rectum as far as it will go.”

He inserted ten electrical wires into each stud, and then fastened them to a nondescript black box that sat on an end table. Ten small hooks lined the exterior of the box.

Franklin attached the wires from his scrotum studs to the hook and eye ordeal on the black box, and then climbed on all fours facing away from the box, so the wires were beneath him.

I noticed the camera has been recording the entire time we were in the room.

“When I say go, ram your fist.”

I was oiling my hand and arm up to the elbow, too scared to say no, still wearing my carefree girl persona.

“Ready, go.”

He body lunged forward, the wires still attached to the box, but now completely taut, then an electrical charge caused the black lid to pop open, revealing a pink cheeked ballerina twirling to the Smith’s song Handsome Devil.

“And cut.”

I was horrified but still smiling.

“That was awesome. Seamless. We got it in one take. Thanks.”

I realized there would be no further sex forthcoming; the foreplay was simply foreplay for whatever the hell Franklin wanted on film. But I needed to keep my fantasy going for fear I would simply fall apart.

I told myself I did this exotic thing, perfect. He was a brilliant artist and I his muse, like Helga Testorf and Andrew Wyeth. No one needed fixing. My nerve and acceptance was his aphrodisiac. I was sure he had fallen for me.

I lay down next to him to cuddle. I needed to shower, but was afraid to pull away.

“That was amazing. I’d love to see more of your work sometime.”


He pulled away to get dressed. I needed him to know I was more than a prop.

“I work with a lot of film people. I bet we have friends in common. For example, I know Julian Schnabel.”

“It’s getting late. I have a show tomorrow. You should probably go. Not to be rude, but I need to sleep.”

Then he jumped on top of me.

“You were so awesome. No way would this have gotten done. It’s part of a bigger installation and I’m on the chain here. No worries, no one will see your face. You’re a cool chick. Most girls won’t do that, babe.”

He kissed me.

My heart sank. I got up and went to the swanky bathroom, turned on the faucet and wept. What the hell was I doing?  His muse? The familiar dread of self-loathing was compromising any further hope of playing Ms. Golightly.  Franklin probably had prostitutes that turned down this deed. I wanted to call my mom. She understood these situations. She was once engaged to Charles Mason’s bi-polar psychiatrist for ten years until he finally tried to suffocate her. She understood men.

After cleaning up and getting dressed, I sat on the edge of the bed watching Franklin put away his gear. It was slightly baffling to understand how he walked around with all that hard wear on his balls, particularly tight jeans.

“So, are you going to call me back in Los Angeles?”

“Of course.”

When he didn’t call, I called him. And called some more, until his wife answered. Yes, it was degrading and you would think this charade would end.

But it didn’t. He would show up at my house unannounced. My jeweled lover and I would play out this grim scene a few more times, ride it down until the rubber burned and the rims scraped the pavement. Then he was gone. And somewhere our actions live on displayed in various installations that culminate in some kind of gender bending sex meets technology meaning.

But the experience was a turning point. I was literally shocked into a state of self-discovery, a journey into finding my own self-worth and respect.

A few months later, I went to one of Franklin’s exhibits with some friends at a local museum, and saw the entire scene unfold on film, climaxing with the sad rosy-cheeked ballerina.

My girlfriends and I by now all had many degrading stories of sexual escapades with men and I told them what had happened. I was the pathetic ballerina spinning and spinning. At first they didn’t believe me; after all, I’m a professional, successful, a mother. You can’t be serious? It hardly made sense, but then how was this different than agreeing to partake in a little S&M or a threesome? We all had our stories. And we all seemed to grow up, right there, in the museum.

My friends:

“I mean I get it. He’s hot. I didn’t understand on any level the artwork though.”

“The ballerina?”

“Dancing to the Smiths?”

“I love Morrissey.”

And that was that. We all knew we had to make our own art, own music and find our destinations that included reclaiming our confidence that somewhere we had thrown away by believing the media, the wolves masquerading as authority, and the fairy tale of everlasting love.

We don’t need to be electrifying, blithe, cool, dark or daring.  We don’t even need to be in a relationship.

My self-confidence grew with time and difficult inner-work and though society will fight against me, it’s unlikely the girl looking for validation will ever return.

O Typekey Divider

Rhonda Talbot is a Los Angeles based author, screenwriter and film executive. Her stories and essays can be seen in The Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, Salon, Oddville Press, The Rusty Nail, Thought Catalogue, Cultural Weekly, among others. Website:


O Typekey Divider

–Art by Natalia Drepina