On Tuesday afternoon, I’m going to get to talk (at UC Davis) about erotic writing as liberatory practice — so I’m thinking about that today. What does it mean, liberatory practice? How can writing enact liberation? How can we be thinking or talking about sex, the erotic, at a time of revolution?
The real question I want to get to is, How can we not talk about the erotic at this time of revolutionary presence and liberatory engagement?
To liberate is to free — a liberatory practice is one that frees us from domination of one form or another. When I talk about writing as a liberatory practice, I mean using an engaged writing practice as a way to free ourselves from oppressive ways of thinking, from old understandings of ourselves, from stories that don’t serve us anymore, maybe never did.
Writers have been an integral part of this current insurrection, and the movements and struggles that have built and worked diligently towards this moment and the ones that will come subsequent to it. Erotic writers have been integral to every one of my own insurrections, and those of the folks I love and respect.
When I speak of erotic writing, I engage with it on a couple of levels. The first is on the level of content: there’re stories that are sensual, sexual, licentious, of the body, of the carnal. We easily recognize those as erotic, most of us. I mean writing that is connected, uses metaphor, say, or sensory detail — even if it’s not explicitly sexual, we can experience this writing as erotic.
I think of Audre Lorde’s definition of the erotic, from “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”
The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
So when I speak of the other meaning of erotic writing,I mean a practice of writing that is embodied — when the writer herself feels fully present to the page, to the flow of words, is engaged with her whole self.
There is liberation possible in engagement with both aspects of erotic writing: of course, the carnal in so many of us is ready for profound release, for a complex and honest truth-telling. And then, too, my experience is that engaging in an embodied erotic writing practice can remind me how to be in my body, how to be in love with small and intimate details, how to notice and respect vulnerability. This practice allows me to find language for need, desire, wish, hope, want — and finding language for it moves it that much closer to actuality. When we, in our embodied, erotic selves, find the words for what we want (carnal desire or long-held dream), we are engaging in an act of insurrection.
They used to say, An army of lovers cannot fail. When we are fully embracing our erotic, our fully-connected selves, we are powerhouses. We are in love with possibility, we are fiercely present, we are moving forward out of a sense of adoration rather than hatred. This force is unstoppable.
There’s more for this topic, but it’s time for dreams now.
Thank you, always, for yours.