And the first one tore a picture
Of a dead and hanging man
Who was kissing foreign fishes
That flew right out from this hands
And when I put my arms around him
I felt the blushing blood run through my cheeks
And an eeriness surrounded when his tongue began to speak
And he said...Oh boy you are so pretty
Enough to wrap tight in rice-paper string.
And when I finally kissed him the whole world began to ring
Lost like a bell that's tipping over
With two cracks along both sides
And I knew the world was over so I took a look outside
And watched the fires that were reaching
Up to the weather vane and the tops of trees
And the waiting scene and the Sunday dream
They're all waiting here for me

Deli markets with their flower stands
And pretty girls and the burning men
Hanging out on the hooks next to the window displays
And I took out my tongue twice removed from my face
Across a bridge and across the mountains
Threw a nickel in a fountain
To save my soul from all these troubled times
And all the drugs that I don't have the guts to take
To soothe my mind so I'm always sober
Always aching, always heading towards
Mass suicide, occult figurines
And wasted gas-station attendants
Attending to their jobs
And a nice drive in the country
Finds a nice cliff to drop off
Oh when this life just gets so grating
All the grittiness of life
But don't take those pills your boyfriend gave you
You're too wonderful to die

And the last one tore a picture
From the pornographic page
When all the pleasure points attacking
All the looks of love were staged
And it's a lie that you've been given
That just hurts you every day
So why should i lay here naked
When it's just too far away
From anything we could call loving
Any love worth living for
So I'll sleep out in the gutter
You can sleep here on the floor
And when I wake up in the morning
I won't forget to lock the door
Because with a match that's mean and some gasoline
You won't see me anymore


Lyrics submitted by PLANES

Song Against Sex Lyrics as written by Jeff Mangum

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Song Against Sex song meanings
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  • +16
    General Comment

    Woah, I don't know if I think the same as anyone else, but I'm pretty sure that I'm right just by looking at the title of this very song... SONG AGAINST SEX! People call it an anti-drug song, and maybe there are a few anti-drug lines ("don't take those pills your boyfriend gave you" and "all the drugs that I don't have the guts to take to free my mind") but MAINLY it is against sex...it's not against making love or ALL sex, he's against loveless sex for the pure purpose of pleasure...he's against everything that is a facade and everything that isn't real (which could include drug induced feelings)

    Look at the first stanza...it's about losing your virginity. One of the best lines in this is "Lost like a bell that's tipping over with two cracks along the side" Can a bell that's cracked ever ring again? No! Can you get your virginity back after you lose it? No! Wonderful metaphor. Anyway, so at first (as seen in the first verse) it's all young and it's the loss of innocence.

    "And the first one tore a picture of a dead and hanging man Who was kissing foreign fishes who flew right out from his hands"

    AND WHO IS IS A FISHERMEN OF FOREIGN FISHES? WHO WOULD BE KISSING THEM? WHO IS DEAD AND HANGING AND WHY WOULD ANYONE HAVE A PICTURE OF A DEAD AND HANGING MAN?"

    Simple...it's Jesus. And Christianity is clearly against pre-marital sex, so the tearing of the picture of Jesus is an act of rebellion against that. The fished flying right out from his hands is the idea that even though Jesus cared about everyone, he has no control over them, and like the person in this song, whose act of rebelion is sex, they're just flying away.

    So the next few lines are all about the lust and "crush" and "attraction" of the lost of virginity, and sometimes the possesiveness it creates "enough to wrap tight in rice paper string" and that the possessiveness is the first sign that this isn't actually love...

    The second verse is coming to terms with two disapointments that paralel each other. Love and Life. First this "love" that was so exciting, isn't really and isn't carrying through. It's all a show "flower stands" "pretty girls and their burning men hanging out on the hooks in the window display" and life is the same way...everything that was thought to be real, if it's not real it just won't carry through, and it's a dissapointment that can be so overwhelming, there's no reason to live.

    The third verse brings it full circle with the parrallels between the first lines of the first verse and the first lines of the third.

    "And the last one tore a pictures from a pornographic page And all the pleasure points attacking All the looks of love were stage"

    You can get to a point where you have sex as much as you want...you know how to stimulate a person so that they have the most physical pleasure, but with out love that's ALL you have. You can have the best sex in the world...but it ends there.

    The looks of love were staged is the way some people my try to have sex to convince themselves that they are in love. And the more you try to convince yourself of something that isn't true (the reoccuring underlying theme here is against fakeness) the more it hurts you and the deeper you get in to a lie the harder it is to get out.

    "So why should I lie here naked when it's just too far away from anything we could call loving any love worth living for so I'll sleep out in the gutter you can sleep here on the floor"

    Once it's realized that the "love" or meaning you gave something is fake, it's natural to after enough contemplation want nothing to do with it. It hurts. This lie of sex as love is so far away from real love that once you get too far you can't go back, and when one sees this it's so disturbing that sleeping out in the gutter is worth it just to be far away from it.

    And eventually all fake things will end.

    This is a song against sex...or maybe to be a little more clear...

    This is a song against fucking. This song is saying that fucking is not the same as love.

    Everyone saying it's an anti-drug song...first and foremost it's against sex, you might be able to claim it's indirectly an anti-drug song or secondly it's an anti drug song (because it's against fake things that people try to convince themselves are real) but the ironic thing is that I finally figured out what this song was about after smoking a crucial amoung of marijuana.

    Ciao, Mary

    RainSongon December 14, 2004   Link
  • +8
    General Comment

    this one's fun to memorize and sing along to.

    typoon January 08, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I've been very fond of Neutral Milk Hotel for a few years now, but I had never gotten around to downloading their discography until a few days ago.

    The first time I heard this song in its entirety (and really listened) was yesterday. I think it was extremely (and hauntingly) appropriate for me to wait that long to hear this song.

    Oddly, there had been a huge fire in my apartment building early yesterday. As I entertained the possibility of the fire reaching my apartment, I realized I probably wouldn't have left if it came to that (it didn't).

    Oh and the lines about setting yourself on fire remind me of this really disturbing photographic documentary I saw recently. It showed a burn victim unit where Afghani women were recovering. The women had suffered sexual abuse so brutal that they collectively decided to burn themselves alive in order to free themselves from their husbands.

    I like the lines about mass suicide. They remind me of the Jonestown massacre. "But don't take those pills your boyfriend gave you/ You're too wonderful to die " sounds like "Don't drink the kool-aid" to me. I don't know if my interpretation of that verse has anything to do with the song's intended meaning (probably not). But I understand the notion of wanting to end your life because you realize how the idea of sex as a manifestation of love (rather than a carnal ritual usually accompanied by excessive drinking/drug taking and a desire to release pent up frustration) is completely dead for most of humanity. Like the people who killed themselves at Jonestown, I realize so much of what I live by has been completely and irreversibly destroyed. I suppose sometimes that makes me feel a bit like dropping off a cliff.

    "And the last one tore a picture From the pornographic page And all the pleasure points attacking All the looks of love were staged And it's a lie that you've been given That just hurts you every day So why should I lie here naked When it's just too far away From anything we could call loving Any love worth living for So I'll sleep out in the gutter You can sleep here on the floor And when I wake up in the morning I won't forget to lock the door Because with a match that's mean and some gasoline You won't see me anymore"

    This whole verse has a personal-mythology-type meaning for me that would be embarrassing (and take way too long) to explain here, but I find it eerie how perfectly these words describe an odd situation I got myself into. Anyways last night I kind of came to the conclusion that sex has been ruined for me. I can't enjoy it anymore, mainly because I was so young and jaded when I lost my virginity. I spent almost 3 years chasing after "hot" hook ups who ultimately destroyed my faith in love and my trust in people. I wish I had waited longer.

    Woah ramble.

    nefairyouson March 19, 2010   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation

    just my interpretation, but I think the title is a kind of a joke. the song isn't against sex. it's a story about a young man who's been pressured into sex before he's ready by an older man, and doesn't get what he's expecting out of it. The entire song takes place over one night. let me show you what I mean.

    We have two characters in the first verse, the speaker and the man. The song starts with the man showing the speaker pornographic images, but they are just kind of alien to him, he doesn't really get the implication of what he's being shown. But he knows he wants to feel loved, so he embraces the man. Thing's start to turn sour when "an eeriness surrounded". The man says he wants to wrap him in rice paper string, an implication of force if he doesn't get what he wants from the speaker willingly. the speaker is reluctant, but can either "willingly" submit or be the victim of physical violence. so he "finally" kisses him.

    This is when things start to get a little more out there. Disassociation is a common reaction in instances of rape. The speaker knows he's lost control of the situation, and during the actually act of sex, he imagines himself walking through the town outside the mans window. He projects the horror of his first sexual encounter on this landscape, even a mundane gas station is a road to a "nice cliff to drop off". we get the impression from his stance on drugs that he's an innocent person, that he thought this was a place he could find something real and valuable, and has found the opposite. He rallies towards the end of the encounter, he realizes he's been conned by a charismatic but self serving man, a cult leader type of personality. At the end of the verse he tells himself not to "take the pills your boyfriend gave you" as in to not let this person drive him to suicide.

    In the third verse the images from the first verse come into focus, he realizes he was being shown pornography, and it's disgusting to him. He was expecting something pure, but instead he gets something gritty and mundane. He thinks about leaving to "sleep out in the gutter", while the man "sleeps here on the floor". The implication is that the man is either drunk and passed out on the floor after the act of sex, or at the very least didn't fall asleep next to the speaker. He doesn't leave though, and the last few lines are in the future tense. he thinks about locking the man in his home and burning the place down with him in it for revenge, but the future tense tells us it's just a thought.

    I was lucky enough to lose my virginity with someone I trusted deeply who I had a long, fulfilling relationship with, but I know plenty of people who's first times echo the feelings in this song. I know it's a dark interpretation, but hey, they aren't exactly a chipper band.

    Sportelloon May 18, 2017   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I agree with oaferten about this one. i also read a Jeff Mangum interview where he says that he wrote this song not against sex in general but sex with people you hardly know.

    vespaon April 29, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Personally, I think the greatest part of the lyrics of this song are the parts describing massive conflagration.

    Janoson May 05, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i agree

    mis_g_modularon April 25, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    hmm, something about sex and death, I can't quite understand if he's serious or not anyway

    MDMasteron June 21, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    "That flew right out from this hands" should be "That flew right out from his hands" . . . besides that, this is one of my first favorite NMH songs. it's Mangum's anti-drug song, believe it or not -- the lyrics are so dense you can find so much more to look at, though.

    freejoe76on August 22, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    And I took out my tongue twice removed from my face

    i wish i was as good as him

    OurLastGoodbyeon August 22, 2002   Link

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