embodiment: the power and use of writing about sex

heart graffiti with hand and love emerging from the top valves...

image via travelingbeard.com

Good morning!  A morning write, and then it’s off and out into the world — I’ve got spiced decaf this morning instead of tea and why am I telling you this?

This is about getting the words started.  This is about saying whatever will move the fingers across the keyboard so I can get to whatever comes next.  Sometimes you have to write the stuff that will move you to and into what you needed to write — that doesn’t mean that the stuff that you wrote first was bad or  wrong.  In fact, that stuff was necessary: it got you to the other part, the part you most wanted to say.

The people across the street at the concrete place are using a loud mechanical saw already — it’s barely 6:30.  Do they think everyone;s already up and going, or they just don’t care? I think I need more coffee. Funny how I can say that about this little cup of spiced decaf. Today’s spices are cardamom and cloves: add a little sugar (still no milk-like product around the house) and hum.

Ok — if I go with the little  blog-topic calendar I came up with yesterday, that means, since it’s Wednesday, it’s a Declaring Our Erotic (DOE) day. What can I tell you about DOE?  Right now, there’s no erotic writing workshop happening, but this fall, I’m going to be offering the DOE workshop to all queer survivors of sexual trauma — that means folks of many different genders in one room, writing about sexuality and desire, and sharing it aloud with folks who we’ve been trained to believe won’t understand anything about us and our sexuality, because they’re different from us.

It’s not like that belief doesn’t come grounded in some reality or experience for some of us, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.  What I want to talk about is the joy that passes across the room when we open the thickness of ourselves onto the page. What I want to write about is the power and use of writing about sex.

There are times when writing about sex is the only sex I’m having.  Don’t make a sad face for me — that’s often not a bad thing. In fact, it’s often very good: writing has been the way for me to keep hold of at least one thread of my sexuality during times when “real life” sex isn’t possible: when it’s just to triggering, too negative and scary.

Here’s what can be true for me: writing itself is an embodied process. I use my body to do the work, to type the words or move the pen across the page. Writing about sex is rarely triggering for me — and that’s just for me, I know it could be different for others —  but there’s something powerful about the one-step-removed, the I’m just writing this down, I don’t have to do it, the this is someone else’s fantasy and life I’m stepping into right now.

There’s something powerful in writing someone else’s desire, moving into fiction, taking this character and asking, OK, what happens now if we try this? And I get to see what it’s like for her, and wonder (maybe, sometimes, I can let myself wonder), Would it be like this if I did it myself?

Other times I can just write someone else’s story and feel the desire rush through me as I write and not have to move myself into the imagined storyline — it’s enough to let this character have all her desire and her risk and bravery and fear and shame and orgasms (or not) and feel it as I’m writing. Writing sex is sexy, is scary, sometimes, but also powerful and em-power-ing.

If you’re just getting started writing sex, be gentle with yourself — let yourself write into strong sensory detail, what something tastes like, what a certain texture feels like against your or your character’s skin, what a favorite piece of music sounds like or feels like against the ear: that’s all embodied writing.  Erotic writing doesn’t have to be carnal: erotic writing, by my estimation and experience, is embodied writing.  Writing that’s in and of the body — of the character’s body and of the writer’s body.

Here’s one of my favorite exercises to do with a group of writers. Let yourself make a list of first times (and, in this case, I’m thinking about consensual first times) — remember that there are many many erotic/sexual first-times: first crush, their first kiss with a new somebody, their first time with a silk scarf wrapped around their wrists, their first massage, their first time showering with someone, their first time masturbating with a new something or other… let yourself generate this list, and then notice which first is most drawing your attention. It might be a first you’ve experienced or have wanted to experience, or it might be a first you’re curious about but not necessarily something you want to consider outside of fantasy or off the page — for whatever reason, let yourself be drawn to that first and start writing from there. Put your writing in the first person, using I, or in the second, using you, or the third person, using he or she or ze — whatever feels most right to you as you’re writing. Don’t worry about punctuation or verb tense or any grammar stuff: just let the words flow!  Give yourself 10 minutes, say, after you generate your list, to bring this first time out onto the page.  What happens in your body as you write?

Send me your thoughts, if you want to, or leave a comment below (the little captcha thing is weird, I know, but if you click where the text says to click, a cursor will appear above the letters you’re supposed to type, and then you can enter them –)

Thank you for being there, for reading, for doing all the amazing work you do.

3 responses to “embodiment: the power and use of writing about sex

  1. Thanks Jen.

  2. Oh, sure, Eli — thanks for commenting and checking in! I generally only use images that are labeled for reuse — I’m sorry if I made a mistake on this one. Sorry for not contacting you with the link; the image does go directly to your site, so that folks can check out more of your work, and I’ve added your url to the image caption: more visible recognition!

    Best!
    Jen

  3. I do think it’s kinda cool that people enjoy some of my photos enough to include or reference them from their site. This picture in particular I’ve noticed a lot of people like. In the future maybe you could at least contact the source(blog or otherwise), “saying hey I like your picture is it ok if I use it on my site?” or “hey I enjoyed your pictures and I’ve linked to a some of them from my own site.” or “check out my blog, I’ve referenced some of your photos for some of my content.” Some recognition is better than none. Thanks.