Hello Thursday! Turns out I swapped my blog-topic days: Thursday was supposed to be for VozSutra posts, and Wednesday was to be for DOE posts. (I forgot about the Monday-freewrite agreement I made with myself.)
Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle: a small group and lots of amazing writing — we had kind of a historical theme last night. Not planned, but every piece was a recollecting, a remembering, a recounting of something that had happened in the past, whether memoir or book review or fiction. I love that kind of synchronicity!
Here’s what happens at the ERC. Folks bring something they’re working on that they want to share — it can be a piece you’re getting ready to publish, something you’re writing as a gift or a performance. It also doesn’t have to be something you want to share with the wider world, but maybe you’re starting out writing erotic fiction or memoir or sexuality-related essays or anything that has to do with sexuality or erotics, and you want to put it out before some other people. You want to see if it’s any good. You want to find out how it resonates with folks, what it feels like to read your own words aloud. The folks in the room will receive your work and they’ll give you whatever sort of feedback you ask for — and just note: we talk a lot about what we like and what was hot about the writing!
It’s also a great place to get inspired, I’ve found — if you’re wanting to get back into writing about erotics or sex, this is a great place for that. There’s usually at least one person, sometimes more, who just came to listen, not to read: that’s ok, too!
Yesterday, Jianda suggested to me that I might write more about what happens in the erotic writing workshop. Here’s some of why it can be powerful for surivors of sexual trauma to step into these workshops, as a part (just a part) of their work around reclaiming the breadth of their erotics and desire: we want more than to be trapped into the holes that our perpetrators drive us into. We want more than the body of loss that we become. We want more than to be that body of loss, want more than for our bodies to be the landscape of our terror.
We want our bodies also to encompass joy — and writing it can be one path to our embodying that joy, before we (or instead of, sometimes) try it on off the page.
You know this already but I want to tell you again what Audre Lorde says about erotics, how it’s more than the carnal (not to knockthe carnal: sexual desire and pleasure is necessary. It’s of us as humans):
The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our work, our lives. (from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984. 53-59).
(Just a note: I don’t believe that only women inhabit or hold the erotic; and, what’s it like for those with other genders to find themselves in the paragraph above?)
In the workshop, we can experience erotic-as-play. Sex, off the page, can be struggle. Off the page, maybe, I’m dealing with triggers or the possibility of triggers. But on the page, it can be easier for me to be with sex as play. It can be fun, even if the character gets triggered — I can think about the way she navigates that. I can watch her allow her desire to rise up again and overpower the points of the past, or I can watch her ask for something different. I can notice how the character wants and is scared all at the same time.
And, too, I can write characters who aren’t triggered — who aren’t wrangling with that part of sex. Maybe this character is about to try something I’ve always wanted to do — I can write her through it, and in so doing, I begin to embody the experience: I mean, I begin to take that activity, that kind of sex, into my body. Let’s not forget that writing is a physical act.
There’s a lot of laughter in the Declaring Our Erotic workshops, when folks are reading aloud what they’ve written: sex gets to be funny and fun. We get to talk about the fucked-up-ed-ness and the delightful power, the bad jokes, what goes wrong, and then what goes very (very) right.
The next 8-week Declaring Our Erotic workshop, starting October 7, is going to be open to LGBTIQ/Queer sexual trauma survivors of all genders. Please send me a note if you’ve got questions about the workshop, if you want to know more –and you can register here!
Thank you for being out there, for reading and for your writing, for your powerful presence in the world