I still panic, sometimes, talking about the fact that I lead both erotic writing and sexual trauma survivors writing workshops; there’s still that ingrained sense, for me, that these two things just don’t go together. I don’t think I probably need to explain this as often as I think I need to – and yet, every now and again, I dive back into the why.
Why sexuality and sexual trauma writing together, in the same ‘house’? Restorying our sexuality lets us come back here, into our bodies, the site of trauma, the site of violence against us if we are survivors of sexual trauma. Restorying, writing our desire, our history and too our now longing, re-embodies us in a safe-ish way (writing’s not completely without risk, of course: if the writing is to carry and convey the depth and breadth and truth of a story, an experience or possibility and that means the writing needs to be embodied and that’s a big fucking deal for sexual trauma survivors – embodiment). Writing is a way to settle into ourselves, slow back inside our skin – not the only way. One way.
When we write desire – any desire: fantasy or fiction or what just happened this afternoon – we are back in our skin, we experience the want, we feel its flesh and tingle and joy, and, too, struggle and ache and loss and fear. We can write, and so we can feel, a body free of flashbacks – and, too, we are deeply familiar with the truth of an erotic desire riddled with holes and loss and so we can describe it fully, gorgeously, achingly real and hot.
We who are sexual trauma survivors know how to embody another’s ostensible desire, because that was our job. What erotic writing can allow us to do is come into ourselves, our own wonders and imaginings – allows us to smell and taste ourselves again, or for the first time.
That’s where these two – sexual trauma and erotic writing – come together for me, are necessary together for me. In writing about sexual trauma, we can forget – we can wish to forget – about the weight of erotic desire. We can want to wipe it from our skin because that very desire sends blood pulsing through the body that was raped, makes flush the landscape of loss and terror, and who wouldn’t want to forget that place?
But we inhabit the scene of the crime. We can’t ever fully vacate this place, this body, not while we’re living: and an embodied erotics, a deeply creative lust for the world, was our birthright, long before we were born. We deserve to settle back fully into our bodies again. One way I’ve worked myself back up to the edges of my skin and beyond is through writing it.
We can claim now the heavy trail of longing, bent or shaped by our survival, we can eroticize shame, if we need to, we can claim a chosen pain because consent changes everything. We can write exactly the sex we want and deserve, and when we write it we embody it, and when we embody it, that’s a reclamation. That’s a restorying. That’s a restoration. What was slashed and burned can always take new life again, given time and space from the trauma. We tend this wound, this body, this site. Erotic writing can be damn joyful – and that joy is the tilling, the rainwater, the harvest