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SLEAZE AND SMUT.

November 3, 2010

yeah of course that got your attention! okay, this might be a PG-13 rated post. sorry. not. parents and family members you have been warned, don’t read it and then get upset about it. i’m not going to be crass or crude, but i am going to use (gasp) proper names and terminology for body parts. and really, sex is a human thing and most of the world does it except for the people who identify as asexual. and if we do it as humans, then we have to write about it, because it is part of life. ba HA!

i suggest listening to any of these songs while reading this:

tvc 15 by the inimitable bowie, or lo fidelity allstar’s somebody needs you , or steve miller band’s the stake (which is so hot it blisters my eardrums, seriously, guys, just listen to this song for god’s sake.)

okay where was i. o right. sex..

so some of you may know that i did an undergrad degree in both english and psychology. in my psychology degree, i veered towards the abnormal psychology, the criminal psychology, and the sexual psychology. i took a fantastic class in my third year of university – the psychology of sexuality – and it ended up being my highest mark in university. ever. (well, undergrad.) it was this amazing, open-minded class where we just spoke frankly about sex and sexually transmitted infections and sexual studies, and prostitution and sex workers, and AIDS, and transgendered people, and just all this very interesting subject matter. (god my google search hits are going to go up from this yikes). one of the classes was dedicated to just watching videos of female ejaculation. another was dedicated to the Sexual Health Resource Centre, and its employees, some of whom came into class and showcased every single sex toy that they had for sale at their centre. it was this mature, open discussion about sex, and the mechanics of sex, and the psychology behind sex, and because of that course i am very often blunt about sex, open about sex, clinical about sex, informative about sex. i have a whole bevy of random sex facts, actually, useless things like the average length of the male penis (5.1 inches) or what province is most likely to have extra-marital affairs (quebec.).

sex in writing is a little different, and so many people balk from writing about sex. they don’t want to end up writing smut (which i would define as dirty, gritty pornography on paper), or romance novels (anything that uses the word “member” as a euphemism for penis would fall under this). and i think that people don’t want to be pegged as “one trick ponies” – relying on sex and writing about sex to interest readers. you don’t want to chean yourself by only writing about the sexy. you don’t want to sell out to the sexy. but if you think about it, this is an act that humanity has performed for eons, and our bodies inherently know the biological rhythm of intercourse. we are familiar with this act. it’s present. it’s very present. why does it make us a little itchy, a little blushy, a little uncomfortable to write about it?

does a specific writing form aid the writing of sex scenes? yes maybe. i write sex scenes better in poetry, and i find that a lot of poetry is sexual. i just recently picked up two books of poetry – john steffler’s lookout, and elizabeth bachinsky’s god of missed connections. steffler’s book has titles like “limestone barrens” and “colonial building archives”; bachinsky’s is about being a ukrainian canadian. neither seem remotely sexual at first glance – but in both books, there are slick, sexy poems, poems that bachinsky writes about the specific sex position that she needs to have to orgasm, poems where steffler describes the pubic hair of the girl on the nude beach beside him. it’s there, the sex. it’s in poems. why? there is something rhythmic about poetry, and i think it mimics the rhythm of sex, so that could be why it is easier. also, poetry is a somewhat limited form when it comes to space. poems tend to be shorter than expansive pieces of fiction, and maybe we blush too much to write about sex for pages on end. and poetry is romantic, and lyrical, and after our oxytocin levels have sky-rocketed post-sex i’m sure that lots of people have the urge to write, to put down what just happened to remember forever.

and guess what?? that is what i have to do for my thesis. in fiction. in pages and pages of words. there is a sex scene, a very pivotal sex scene, and it had been so harrowing to write that i am pulling my hair out over here. it’s embarrassing to write a sex scene sometimes, because you know that you have to put some or all of yourself into the scene, go by experience, but you’re mortified because you are putting a sex life out there into the public eye. and what if the scene you’ve written isn’t sexy? what if it’s laughable? what if it’s filthy? man, writing that out and putting it out there is like being naked in public! it is exposure of yourself, down to the rawest level of skin and bone. it’s harrowing, as i said. what kind of reaction do you want? what if you don’t get it? and you can’t skip it, because that is copping out. and you have to be sure not to let it drag on for too long because then you are a pervert or a weirdo or a romance novel writer.

but why are we so skittish to write about sex? the world does this. it’s a constant, like shitting or sleeping or dying. it’s how we populate the world, how we’ve done it for ages. sex hasn’t really changed. methods of protection have changed. childbirth has changed. stigma has changed, but sex hasn’t. it’s still “put Part A in Part B”. think about that for a moment! and yet we are so nervous to write about it sometimes. why? because we are afraid of being labeled a pervert, as i stated above? because reading a sexual poem out loud is embarrassing? (i have done it before, and it was the most liberating. and someone asked for my phone number afterward. and it’s off-putting sometimes, which can be great for unsettling audiences.) is it because we are afraid of putting our own sexual preferences into our writing and being laughed at, or called frigid or boring or impotent? because we don’t want to be called fetishistic if we described bodily functions in exquisite detail? (annabel lyon did this in her book the golden mean, where she described vaginal lubrication as “egg whites” – beautiful.)

or maybe it’s societal. there are a myriad of reasons why writers are sometimes quick to shy away from writing the sexual. i think that honesty is the main one. it’s hard to be honest with oneself about sexual history – the good and the BAD – and it’s harder to get that onto a page. but the best written things are honest and unsettling and real and visceral, and because of that i also think that sex scenes can be the most rewarding and the most beautiful in their realness, their rawness. it’s a release, you know.

anyway. i refuse to be skittish about it. very few people can unsettle me when it comes to sex and talking about sex. one or two come to mind, but that is all. it’s a pledge i’ve made to myself – not to make the act mysterious or dirty, but to write about the beauty that is there in that act. and don’t kid yourselves. the beauty is goddamned there. it’s present.

why else would we have done this for thousands of years?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2010 8:46 pm

    “i have done it before, and it was the most liberating. and someone asked for my phone number afterward.” Are you refering to class, third year? If so, I remember that, and the way he asked was hilarious. If not, then … this has happened more than once?

    “and what if the scene you’ve written isn’t sexy? what if it’s laughable? what if it’s filthy?”
    It’s probably all three, depending of course on the mood of the reader. It’s intrinsic to the act.

    • November 7, 2010 1:41 am

      HA. YES. That was Paul’s response to my imagined masturbation poem – the most sexual poem I have ever workshopped or read out loud to people.

      I know. It’s all dependent on the reader. Which is the most terrifying of all.

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