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Lusty Lady

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Monday, July 23, 2007

"How much confession can one read before becoming uncomfortably numb?"

Someone asked this in the comments on Ed Champion's blog. I don't profess to know the answer, believe me. And I think some of this goes to the internal/external validation issue I was talking about below, because I was about to refer to my essay "Where Sluts Fear to Tread" (partly up on YouTube) in the forthcoming Desire: Women Write About Wanting and say, well, I got paid for that, so some people do want to read it. But is that really the right measure? Of course not! Editors and publishing houses can make mistakes, too. To me, the measure of that essay, what sets it apart from being just about blowjobs or sex, is the questions it brings up, ones that, for me, far transcend that relationship. It's reading it at Grace Reading Series and having people call it "spiritual." It's that it resonates for me on so many levels, ones that travel into other relationships. It's exploring the quandary of feeling "too slutty" in a relationship, and my uncertainty about how to handle that.

I explore sex in fiction and non-fiction, and I guess overall my feeling is that I know it's not the type of material for everyone. I am actually shocked when people do want to read it, and that, again, probably goes to my own uncertainties. But I've been trying really, really hard of late to check myself from having to "apologize" or downplay that, yes, I do, write about sex. It's easy as pie (or cupcakes) to fall into the trap of seeing writing about sex as lesser: less valuable, less challenging, less worthwhile. Of seeing all writing about sex as simply exhibitionistic without any greater purpose. I do it all the time and am learning to rethink those assumptions, not just for peace of mind about what I do, but because it makes the writing that much harder if you only half believe in its worth.

My conundrum in talking about this is that I don't believe there inherently should be a greater purpose. I'm sickened by the current way we define obscenity legally, that every other value (scientific, artistic) comes first, that "prurient" is such an epithet. There's nothing wrong with prurient, people, and clearly, material that gets people aroused is popular for a reason. I obviously support and produce writing that is designed simply to arouse people. But that's more in the fiction realm. In non-fiction, I think it's possibly to simply write about "I did this, and I did this," but I think it's also possible to go deeper. It's why out of all the anthologies the ones I'm most proud of are Russ Kick's Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong and Desire. It's why I'm looking forward to reading Pepper Schwartz's Prime (see interesting Seattle Post-Intelligencer review: "There is serious purpose behind her revelations. "Prime" delivers copious titillation, but it also provides insight, especially for women in their 50s who are beginning to suffer the societal invisibility of advancing years."). I also think the whole controversy over Abby Lee was in part because she doesn't, ultimately, have only a one track mind. She has a life, like we all do, and while I wholeheartedly support the sex blogosphere, I think it's unrealistic to assume, or perhaps promulgate the idea that, we don't have a life outside of sex. I'm not saying we all have to share the rest of that life, though I am saying that I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about my sex life without also writing about other parts of my life, but to my mind her outing only serves to create a more well-rounded picture of who she is (not to mention a warning to anyone that, well, anonymity is fleeting and can always be revealed). Or, for example, I wrote about a sexual encounter wtih Betty Dodson's much-younger boyfriend, and followed it up with an interview with Dodson. It was about the sex (part 1), but also the politics and the polyamory (part 2).

Ultimately, though, we choose what to read and not read. That's the great thing about having a blog, to me: the people who want to read your writing find you, the ones who don't, read one of the umpteen million other blogs. Because one person's "uncomfortably numb" is another's "insatiably curious." Me, I am rereading Jill Nagle's Whores and Other Feminists, because my perspectives have shifted since the first time I read it. Because I think it's one of the best feminist books ever put out. Because there's so much there. Because, like most everyone else I read, I can interlace it with reading Nagle's blog and read about her child and parenting, which is what I'm largely interested in these days. I think there is, indeed, a surplus of sexual writing, but I also think it's clearly something we want to "confess" about. Not all of us, certainly, but there continues to be so much confusion about sex, over what is "reasonable" (see Steinbuch v. Cutler), over what is "normal," over what, even "sex" is (see Our Monica, Ourselves). I certainly don't profess to have the answers, which is perhaps why I no longer write a sex column, but I can bring up questions. Ultimately, though, I'm no Pepper Schwartz or whoever. I don't want that burden of being responsible for "helping" anyone but myself when it comes to figuring all this out. But I do find the sharing cathartic. I find it heartening and that I meet people who've gone though similar things, and those discussions are ones I value tremendously. Not the horny, annoying MySpace people who want to assume I'm just some 24/7 slut, which couldn't be further from the truth (and even if it was I wouldn't be interested in some faceless stranger on the internet, though plenty of people are, and that's totally cool), but real, actual, interesting, intelligent people, for whom sex is one part of their lives, but a part worth exploring.

For a taste of what I mean, visit the blog and the links at Viviane's Sex (probably NSFW).

I also highly recommend the podcast Polyamory Weekly.

To me, Heather Corinna's blog, where she has shared everything from erotic photos of herself to very revealing personal details, about sex and other aspects of her life, is a very welcome counterpart to the rest of her work.

And, of course, Susie Bright, who I look forward to hearing at BlogHer this weekend

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At July 23, 2007, Blogger Viviane said...

Thanks so much for the mention!

BTW I sent out an email. The site has a new home:

Have a safe trip and see you soon.

At July 23, 2007, Blogger riese said...

That's a great book: Whores and Other Feminists. I loved it.

And I feel like the point of writing, art, whatever, etc. in general is to help someone somewhere feel understood, or less alone. Which doesn't have to be as dramatic as the language of that sentence implies: it can be feeling like you're not the only girl on earth who likes to have sex, or finding someone who puts your emotions into words in a way you can't on any topic of any level of tragedy or comedy. That's what makes the blogosphere such magic!

(That might not make sense. Sometimes I make even less sense at 11:23 am as I do at 3am).

At July 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of everything I've read on your site - which I find terrific - I find the idea of you as being celibate for six months to be absolutely shocking! In a fascinatingly, curious sort of way. We're you petitioning for sainthood!?

It made me think of my own sex life where I have not been celibate for more than perhaps two weeks since I began having sex - at 17 just before I turned 18 if anyone is curious - till now at age 27, nearly 28, where I find myself shocked at my own lack OF celibacy!

I can't imagine it! Have you written on celibacy for its own sake as a counterpoint or even a reflection of sexuality? I would be interested to read it.

Please keep your great writing coming.


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