Archive for January, 2010
…I find this song ridiculously hot:
Emerald “And I just can’t resist the urge to stand here in the light…I get off on you getting off on me…”
-Halestorm “I Get Off”
A couple weeks ago I read an article in the New York Times that I considered blogging about but ultimately did not find compelling enough to inspire doing so. This is not because I didn’t find the article interesting but rather because I had not read enough of the work the author referenced to relate to what she was postulating.
The article was about sex writing by male fiction authors of today’s and the immediately prior generation. Today I read three pages of letters to the editor in response to it, and those I have found compelling (enough to blog about, obviously). With the qualifier that I have still not read all or even many of the works the author references in her article or the ones mentioned in many of the responses, a consistent theme struck me, and a response began to emerge as I read more and more of the letters.
The summary of the article, written by Katie Roiphe and titled “The Naked and the Conflicted,” reads,
“We denounce the Great Male Novelists of the last century for their sexism. But something has been lost now that innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex.”
The article’s general thesis seems to be that the current generation of male fiction authors are shying away from sex in their work, penning ambivalent, self-conscious sex scenes as contrasted with the previous generation’s works by authors such as John Updike, Norman Mailer, and Philip Roth, about which she says, for example, “There is in these scenes rage, revenge and some garden-variety sexism, but they are—in their force, in their gale winds, in their intelligence—charismatic, a celebration of the virility of their bookish, yet oddly irresistible, protagonists.”
She later laments things like, “But our new batch of young or youngish male novelists are not dreaming up Portnoys or Rabbits. The current sexual style is more childlike; innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex,” and “Gone the familiar swagger, the straightforward artistic reveling in the sexual act itself,” concluding that regarding the previous generation’s work, ” [...] there is in these old paperbacks an abiding interest in the sexual connection.”
The letters to the editor in response are varied, of course, but again, as I read them, a similar theme seemed evident to me.
This is an example of one of the responses:
Katie Roiphe’s essay has confirmed my suspicion that I’m not the only one to lament the disappearance of straight male sexual bravado in literature. I’m a feminist, but I still want to see inside the head of a man’s animal lust. Why must every roll in the hay be so ironic and self-conscious that it’s somehow castrated?
Other responses countered Ms. Roiphe’s proposition, but I also saw a few that introduced the idea that the trend she postulated may be resultant of a perceived “hypersexualized” culture and bombardment of messaging, expressed with lines such as, “In a world in which sex has become entirely ironic, and thus detached from real emotion, they find that the most emotional moments are no longer sexual,” and “A passing glance at Internet porn should explain why sexual candor no longer seems like much of a touchstone for artistic ambition.”
Whether the writers of the letters were agreeing with Ms. Roiphe’s hypothesis or expressing disgust or frustration with a “hypersexualized” culture in which explicit sex does not seem a “touchstone for artistic ambition,” the same response arose in me. This isn’t so much a response to Ms. Roiphe’s literary critique of past and contemporary treatment of sex by male authors (nor is it meant to be a discouragement of interpretive critique of literary trends and related societal implications) as it is a practical offering to what so many of the responders (and perhaps Ms. Roiphe herself) seem to be seeking, either overtly or between the lines:
Read erotica. If you’re not finding the authenticity, sincerity, directness, fearlessness, nuance, integration, and variety of sexual exploration and articulation you want to see in mainstream literature, read erotica. Read erotica published by Cleis Press, Black Lace (what will have to be already-published erotica now), Pretty Things Press, and any number of publishers listed on various erotica writers’ websites. That’s what the genre is here for, and if you think it won’t be “literary” enough, I am delighted to take the opportunity to direct you to evidence to the contrary.
For starters, pick up Donna George Storey‘s novel Amorous Woman, Charlotte Stein‘s short story collection The Things That Make Me Give In, erotic short stories written by Shanna Germain, Craig Sorensen, Alana Noel Voth, Nikki Magennis, P. S. Haven, to name a very few. That is a wholly non-exhaustive list, of course, but once you’ve delved into such things, you will likely discover a network or references with much more you may find of interest. Because that’s what this is—literary work that doesn’t hide sex, fearfully peeking at it from behind mainstream standards that demand either rebellion against or acquiescence to them. Just integrating sexuality into the work of writing fiction, the same way it is integrated into life.
“Sexual male bravado” and “a man’s animal lust” are not writable only by males, as the above examples readily evidence.* Further, there are such things as female sexual bravado and a woman’s animal lust that do not seem to be mentioned in either the context of the “traditional male greats” or the supposed watered-down sexual description plaguing contemporary fiction. They are a part of sexuality, however, and may also be found in abundance in the above-cited works.
I have not read all of the referenced authors or work in either Katie Roiphe’s article or the responses to the editor. But I have read the list presented above. And I offer it very sincerely as an antidote to what Ms. Roiphe and her responders seem to lament—from whatever perspective they may do so.
“‘Cause the good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems…”
-Billy Joel “Keepin’ the Faith”
Several months ago I posted a letter and response to it, neither written by me, that related to openness about sexuality and an elder’s view and experience of sexuality. I did this because I appreciated the original letter and felt extraordinarily moved by the response.
The original letter was from A Pause for Beauty, the email newsletter of Heron Dance, a literary arts and wilderness publication to which I have subscribed for a few years. The founding artist of Heron Dance, Rod MacIver, is currently embarking on a new, additional venture in support of his nude and erotic watercolors (the picture accompanying this post is one of them) which is to include the publishing of an electronic newsletter with short erotic written pieces to accompany his paintings.
The newsletter has been named The Other Dance, and submissions for it are now being sought. The full call and contact information is on ERWA’s Call for Submissions page (note: they are accepting submissions from female authors only), and the website of the project, which showcases some of the paintings that are the impetus for The Other Dance, is EroticWatercolors.com.
Since I am familiar with this venture and have been a fan of Heron Dance for a few years, I wanted to pass the word along. When I posted last year the previously referenced letter Rod wrote for A Pause for Beauty (and the response it received from an 80-year-old woman), I did so because I appreciated the straightforward introduction of the subject of sexuality into the writing he was presenting. The Other Dance seems a continuation of that, and in wholehearted support of open and integrative recognition of sexuality, I wish it all the best.
-Bright Eyes “Bowl of Oranges”
Today my fabulous friend and fellow erotic writer Jeremy Edwards is hosting a release party at his blog for the official release of his first novel, Rock My Socks Off! This of course is very exciting news for Jeremy, and I am thrilled for him as well as delighted to help him celebrate and spread the word about the release of his novel.
Rock My Socks Off is published by UK-based publisher Xcite Books, so today’s release date is for the UK and points east, though they will ship worldwide. The release date in North America will be coming later this year — I can hardly wait!
As host of the party, Jeremy has thrown out a topic to invite his guests to discuss. I won’t give it away, but the picture of me to the right, taken on New Year’s Eve, alludes to it, lol.
In my experience Jeremy has been an exquisite blog party host, so I highly recommend heading over there whenever you have a moment. Any time is fine — we’ll be there around the clock. ;)
-Mr. Jeremy Edwards on his novel, Rock My Socks Off