Have you ever gone out with someone even though you know the relationship is doomed? Yeah, us too—and Connie, as it turns out.
She knows that her little affair with Michaelis isn't going anywhere, because he's completely incapable of sustaining a relationship. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but most of them are fish you wouldn't want to bother eating. (Or having sex with, presumably.)
Meanwhile, Clifford is getting rich and famous. His friends come visit him, and, between playing video games and drinking beer, they talk about sex. You know, like guys do.
There are three in particular: astronomer Charles May, officer Tommy Dukes, and writer Arnold Hammond.
All of them agree that what you do in bed is your own business—and maybe the business of the person you're in bed with, but not necessarily. As Hammond puts it: you don't follow someone into the bathroom, so why would you follow him into his bedroom?
Charles gets a little nasty and asks if Hammond wouldn't mind if he started flirting with Hammond's wife, Julia, since it's all supposed to be so private. (Um, Charles actually did flirt with Hammond's wife, so it's not a totally innocent question.) Hammond flatteringly compares Charles flirting with Julia to Charles "urinat[ing] in a corner of [his] drawing-room" (4.9).
Things start to get ugly when Tommy jumps in. He's got ideas from being in the army, and he says that the big problem with the world today is that individuality is over-developed.
Everyone's obsessed with success, and men think that having a nice little wife will help them be successful. (Probably true: if someone else is doing all the housework, you've got a lot more time to write your plays.)
May admits that money makes the world go 'round, but he also thinks that we make way too big a deal out of sex. Really, what's the difference between talking and having sex? (Um, we can think of a few.)
This argument goes on for a while, with May insisting that sex is a normal biological function and he'd no sooner go without—or overdo it—than he'd starve himself or gorge himself on food, and Hammond snidely comparing him to a rabbit.
Tommy Dukes interrupts to point out that sex and talking are at least similar: you can't do one without having some interest in the other person.
May one-ups him with an etiquette lesson:if you're interested in a girl, it's really only polite to sleep with her.
The bickering goes on, and finally they remember Clifford. What does he think?
Clifford thinks that sex "perfects the intimacy" between two people (4.38), and you can practically hear Connie rolling her eyes. She's been sitting there silent the whole time with her sewing, all proper and lady-like and keeping the party from being a big sausage fest. She likes listening to them talk. It's like a big orgy, only with words instead of sex, and it never really gets anywhere.
Of course they don't just talk about sex; sometimes they move on to love. Tommy Dukes really shines on love. He lays into intellectuals for being mean-spirited and turning on each other behind each other's backs—himself most of all.
There's a new guy, Berry, and he makes the mistake of trying to join the conversation. Dukes just laughs at him and keeps going in a long speech.Here's his main point: if you're all brain and no body, you'll wither up and die like a "plucked apple" (4.57).
Berry interrupts again with a total non-sequitur, wanting to know what everyone thinks of Bolshevism (the kind of socialism that had taken power in Russia and made it into the USSR). No one thinks much of socialism. They pretty much agree that Bolshevism turns you into a man-machine so you lose all your individuality in hating the bourgeois.
In other words, modern people might think too much about themselves, but the answer isn't socialism. Berry, who seems to have as much trouble following the conversation as we do, pipes up with another non-sequitur: what about love?
What about it, Tommy asks? No way. He believes in four things: compassion (having a good heart), manliness ("a chirpy penis"), intelligence, and "the courage to say 'shit!' in front of a lady" (4.80). Unfortunately, he's 0 for 4 on that front.
Finally Connie decides to speak up and defend her sex, saying that there are nice women in the world. The men get their turn to roll their eyes, and Dukes insists that the best thing is just to avoid women all together—to stay pure.