I Try To Write About Sex Honestly
The challenge and joy of writing about sex as it is, not the fantasy version
I wrote a book about sex — specifically, about my own sex life — and yet I’ve put off writing an essay about it. Though I have so much more to say, I know how difficult it is to write about sex. I found it challenging, almost unbearably so, to write the sex scenes in my memoir, stumbling to articulate the act of sex in a way that made it appealing but not tawdry, sexy but not crude.
I wouldn't want to read a sex memoir that described sex as the sloppy, ungainly act it sometimes is, nor would I want to write a sex memoir that suggested it was purely a glorious, orgasmic experience. How to marry the two to portray an honest accounting of sex: transporting but also embarrassing, blissful but often bumbling? So many accounts of sex are pornographic, a fantasy version, but I see that as being akin to perusing the junk food aisle: You know the Devil Dogs are going to taste delicious, but that not one ingredient is natural; ultimately, they’ll leave you with an off-putting slickness in your mouth. Still, you probably won’t be sorry you ate it.
I want readers to find my sex writing in every aisle of the grocery store, especially the produce section, where items are authentic, pure, and sometimes alive. I see readers rolling their eyes already. Few of us fantasize about things that are good for us; no one would describe a fantasy with the puritanical word wholesome. I’m not here to convince you that a fresh apple is more satisfying than a Double Stuf Oreo because I’m not sold on that suggestion myself; nor am I here to sell you on the amazing variety of herbs and vegetables available at most supermarkets. I’m merely suggesting that we talk and write about sex as the many things it can be: sugary cereal, organic kale, raw steak, vanilla frosting, freshly ground coffee, cayenne pepper — and not limit it to one aisle only. Sex can be fantasy, sure, but it can also be comforting, raw, nourishing, sweet, empty, painful, exhausting, lonely, heartbreaking.
I ponder other activities I participate in that are full-bodied and physically vigorous; if I’m being honest, I can’t come up with much. I am not terribly adventurous; I don’t…