Last week, Jennifer Stevenson posted a great blog on erotica, pornography, and the reader audience (not to mention a few salient words on the difference in sales and hence revenue from women’s erotica versus men’s pornography). I had some interesting personal responses that I’d like to elaborate on.
The first thing I noticed was that the older I get, the more frankly I am able to talk about sex, sexuality, gender, and all the related issues. Maybe I’ve finally reached the age when I can say “sex” and not have people, men usually but not necessarily, hitting on me. Or if they do, I give ‘em the old grandma glare and that settles it. I’m very private about my personal sexuality and have long since made my peace with my history of having been molested as an adolescent in the late 1950s, with all that entailed. Nice girls don’t talk or think about such things, but they do get them done to them. But thanks to therapy and a very understanding partner, I finally arrived at the place where I not only love sex, I want to talk about it.
Why is it that when a person — a woman in this case — wants to talk about sex, it’s taken as an open invitation to all and sundry? “Oh, she said the S word, so of course she’s willing to sleep with me even though we’ve barely met.”
Not. And not funny.
Most people are interested in sex, or so I believe. It’s such a powerful part of life. It offers us the potential to be rich and complex and saturated-with-ecstasy and simple and earthy and sublime. So how do we talk about sex that isn’t either 1950s prudery or I’m-more-libidinous-than-you or a statement of implied availability? Or sounding like a sex ed class, good, bad, or criminally indifferent? How do we talk about something so personal and yet so universal?
Anonymous environments are certainly one venue, but for me it’s important to not hide, to not pretend I’m not there. (I understand the desirability of using a different pen name when writing porn/erotica, but when I do, you’ll know it’s me.) I vividly remember the first convention panels on sex that I participated in. It’s amazing, given my background, that I didn’t blush the entire time, but I didn’t. I may have stammered and stumbled around, grabbing for latinate terms from my health care background instead of direct four-letter words, but I found I had a lot to say (and that things I’d taken for granted astonished other people). In fact, if you’re ever on a panel and the discussion is lagging, just start talking about sex and things will perk right up.
I mentioned writing the stuff. The other thing I noticed about Jennifer’s blog was that one of my reactions to the current political climate was an impulse to not only read porn/erotica/smut — thereby contributing to the financial well-being of them what writes it — but to jump in and write some myself. Some of that has to do with being “in-your-face” politically and my belief that one aspect of the censure of LGTBQ folks has to do with repression of any sort of sexuality. Some has to do with furthering my own journey. And some — let’s face it, a big part — is that this is just plain fun. It’s juicy and playful, and it speaks to the way we’re hard-wired in the pleasure centers of our brains.
As a final note, the Jewish sages considered it a religious obligation to have a full and joyous sex life (albeit within limitations that depend on the branch of Judaism) — and hence our celebration of life — and that we will be called to account for the healthy pleasures we did not allow ourselves to enjoy.
The painting is Danae by Gustav Klimt, public domain.