(Today’s post comes from the book project writing I’m doing, and was inspired by an article I shared on our Facebook page yesterday. Consider this your prompt: how would your “why I write” or “why I write ___” manifesto read?)
First things first — when we write the stories of our bodies, we are writing sensory detail, we are developing character (on the page and off), we create dialogue, we write about place and time — that is to say, we are using all the tools of our craft. This is not merely an exercise in navel-gazing (as though sometimes navel-gazing isn’t exactly and only the right thing to be doing): this is developing our skill as writers.
Also: this writing makes us fearless. When we have written into the most frightening places in our hearts, into the places in our body that moan and sob without words, what can we not do?
And what about when we write the delicious body stories, the stories of our gorgeous desire, deep longing, sex that is wanted and complicated? What could that do for us?
Let’s make a list. This is what writing about sex can do:
1) Writing about sex can bring you back in touch with your bodily experience through the process of imagining and writing it out.
2) Writing about sex invites us to use everything as material — making even that terrible first date at the Power Exchange worthwhile.
3) Writing about sex can remind you how much fun the words of the body are.
4) Writing about sex, because sex is our birthright, can be way to offer tribute, thanks, and mourning, all at once.
5) Writing about sex is fun; it can turn you on while you’re writing (always a good sign) and can encourage you to explore in words something you had only imagined previously — or had not even allowed yourself to imagine.
6) Writing about sex can help you get more comfortable with the words of sex, making it more possible to say what you mean when discussing or negotiating play/sex or describe (in detail) just what sex you are consenting to — it can also make it easier to discuss sex, without or at least with less shame and embarrassment, with kids when they have questions, thereby breaking the cycle of silence and making it easier for them to talk to you and others in the future. We learn to model the kinds of conversation we want to be able to have.
7) In writing about sex, we learn to find language for our joy as well as for our struggle, learn to describe what feels good and why and how — in writing sex, we go to our own bodily experience first for reference and detail, even when we are writing about bodies different from our own. We start with our sensation and where it combines with our imagination. We use what we know and what we could know. We deepen those neurosynaptic grooves.
I also think this gets us paying closer attention to sex when we’re having (which is double-edged, of course, if we are paying closer attention just to get the words right for the next time we’re writing. A useful exercise for a moment, but, for me at least, the larger goal is to be fully present in the moment. Still, as writers, we often just can’t help ourselves).
8) Let me go back to joy: we are given much encouragement in this trauma-porn culture– in a society much more comfortable with violence than sex (and that often conflates the two and teaches us to do the same)– to find language for what hurts and what we have suffered. We can generally find a friend willing to listen to our struggles, and often find it ardor to get someone to sit down with us and talk with us about the really great sex we had last night. We are not supposed to put words to this joy. Why is this?
This is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we who are survivors of sexual trauma know what a wonder it is that we even had the hot sex; we know all the chips stacked against the possibility of us ever having hot sex. We know what work we’ve done to be able to be in our body enough, and out of the flashbacks and negative body memory enough, to pick someone(s) who are present and kind and generous enough to make hot sex possible. We know what a wonder it is and we deserve for that wonder to be celebrated.
Our culture needs more joy, more sex, not less — not sex as advertisement or sex as product, but sex as embodiment, connection (including with ourselves), as creative manifestation, as transformative practice. What if more of us got to talk about that with our friends? To have more of the language of joy in our mouths?
9) Writing about sex can help develop our empathy for others.
10) We have heard about the power of writing what’s hard. We have heard about the power of writing envisionings, desires, affirmations — of finding deep, energetic and specific language for what we want. We have heard about the power of gratitude practice. Writing sex can be all of these things, and then some.
Writing sex is writing our trauma and our joy. It’s writing our gratitude and writing what we hope and long for. It’s finding our way into our own language of our body, finding the particular grammar and linguistics of our own skin and bones. It’s finding our tongue’s breath and breadth. It can be affirmation and revelation all at once.
That sounds like an overstatement, but I have been there and I have seen. I have seen how we soften and smile when we find and share the language of our longings, as fiction or poetry or declaration. I have heard that laughter
that is both embarrassed and brazen. I have felt the edges of us begin to crenelate. I have watched as we drop into our bellies, intense our arms, let our thighs fall open just a little: I have seen us find our center of gravity, touch more fully into what roots us now.