In one of the bedrooms upstairs, Ella is vexed by Robert’s hesitance. Robert reflects on what he’s heard about prostitutes in the past compared with his current unglamorous surroundings. Frustrated, Ella urges him to have sex with her, reminding him that she will only get paid if she makes him “happy.”
Ella asks Robert if he wants to touch her, and he thinks that he both does and does not. Ella puts her hand down Robert’s pants, and he remembers how inept he felt when Heather Lawson laid her hand on his thigh one night. Realizing that Robert has prematurely ejaculated, Ella removes her hand and cleans him up. Though she is kind, Robert is humiliated and refuses to respond as she speaks to him, frustrating Ella again.
Robert’s mishap is mortifying, as his inexperience with women is put on display. The contrast of this moment with Robert’s memory of Heather Lawson shows how much his life has changed during the few months he has been away from home, as he has gone from innocent dates to spending the night with a prostitute.
Robert and Ella hear thumps coming from the next room, and she beckons him over to look through a spy hole cut into the wall. He sees two men having intercourse, role-playing as a horse and a rider. Robert looks away in horror, realizing that the man being ridden is Taffler and the rider is the Swede.
The sight of Taffler having sex with a man disrupts Robert’s sense of innocence, as this role-playing is presumably his first real-life exposure to sex. It also challenges Robert’s preconceived notions about Taffler as a heroic masculine figure, as his sexual orientation goes against their era’s societal standards of masculinity.