I came across this great article in Salon about The joy of sex writing. I don’t write erotica but I don’t shy away from sex scenes either, so naturally I was curious. The article reviews two books featuring “Best of 2005″ erotic stories. Other than reviewing erotica, the article also makes many statements about writing, and it is these statements that I wish to draw your attention to:
The article explains how most stories in the two collections do not actually present sex as a fun experience, but are rather told in an “anti-erotica” style.
This turns out to be a wise approach, given an unfortunate irony that the best sex, like the happiest families, has a tendency to come off as dull and saccharine on the page. Why? In part, I suspect, it has to do with the nature of writing and reading: They are the least instinctual of activities and therefore less than ideal for expressing our most basic instincts.
Comparing erotica writing to other art forms such as photography and hip-hop, one finds a big difference. While writing sex remains somewhat removed, other art forms can deal with it in much closer terms.
Writing [...] is inherently cerebral, introspective, neurotic, more professorial than prurient. After all, part of what makes “Lolita” so scandalous after 50 years in print is that it remains a great piece of writing that, to the discomfort of many a blushing intellectual, is genuinely arousing. Generally speaking, writing is not about indulging in one’s desires so much as questioning them, over and over, until the onset of vertigo.
Most of what is said in the article applies to all writing, not just erotica. I cannot recall reading a (good) book where everything was happy and fun. I don’t think I myself can write only about joy.
In writing we explore our insecurities, give freedom to our fears, and rely on our idiosyncrasies. We do that to create believable characters and stories.
In writing, we question our own morals and delve into areas of our psyche we probably shouldn’t. That’s what writing is all about, that’s how writing becomes art.