1. Because I’ve devoted perhaps eighty percent of my adult waking hours to thinking about sex, and it seems dishonest to pretend otherwise in my work.

2. Because human beings are never more alive to their own hope and shame and fear than when they are naked and aroused, and because the same must therefore be true of our characters, who are nothing more than poorly disguised versions of ourselves.

3. Because I’m really tired of seeing sex used to sell SUVs and underarm deodorant and crappy light beer, rather than being portrayed as a natural and sometimes even holy human endeavour.

4. Because I have accumulated over the years such a tremendous surplus of sexual humiliation that it seems stingy of me not to re-gift some it to my readers.

5. Because I happen to agree with Freud’s naughtiest disciple, Wilhelm Reich, who argued that a true political revolution would only be possible once sexual repression was overthrown, which pretty much rules out the Tea Party as a true political revolution because, boy, is that a movement that needs to get laid.

6. Because I am now married with two small children and thus writing about sex often constitutes the closest I get to having sex.

7. Because President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did have sexual relations, and while I could care less about the big phony scandal that story became, I am interested in the sweet and deranged version of love that passed between them. Aren’t you?

8. Because I’m really tired of having to listen to well-meaning religious folk misquoting God about how the rest of us should use our genitals.

9. Because both my parents are psychoanalysts – and despite what you are all now thinking, which is basically, Wow, you must be a really crazy person, which is a very interesting thought for you to have, by the way, and something we might want to talk about a bit later in the session – the one lesson my parents managed to impart, as I lay those many afternoons on the analytic couch that was, in fact, the only piece of furniture in our living room, is that our libidinal drives are not some bright new user option, but an essential part of our beings, an inborn riot of wants and counter wants that we can never control entirely. And because, as a writer, I’m interested in the loss of control, in the danger of forbidden thought and feeling, it strikes me as utterly foolish – just from a practical perspective – not to write about sex. Why skip over the part almost guaranteed to teach you something new about yourself?

10. Because I’m tired of living in a culture that allows children to fire make-believe Glocks but freaks out at the first sign of a naked boob.

11. I just really love being able to write off lube as a business expense.

12. Because our best writing resides in the senses, and sex invokes all five of our senses — at least if you’re doing it right.

13. Because, though I watch pornography, and am terrifically involved with it for about two and a half minutes, I am most often made sad by pornography. Not simply because it involves the self-exploitation of people who probably have suffered a good deal of misfortune, and not simply because porn stars can perform in manners that often seem like physiological, geometrical, and even gravitational impossibilities (and thus make me feel like the abject sexual nebbish I surely am) but because porn stars are actors being paid, most often, to simulate pleasure. They drain sex of its single most intimate aspect: the vulnerabilities that bring us to the act in the first place, the drama of our imperfect bodies as we seek to make a communion of our desires.

14. Because I believe literature’s central purpose is not to pretend we don’t have bodies and their consequent needs, but to make us feel less alone with these needs.

15. Because the Puritans themselves were — don’t kid yourselves — total horndogs who wanted nothing more than to tear off those black robes and suffer a spiritual crisis. And because when I write about sex I am writing, ultimately, about a dream that begins with the Puritans: that we the people of this violent and troubled kingdom will at last forgive ourselves the lust and loneliness the reddens our blood, and will seek a final remedy in the warm temple of one another’s bodies. Who’s with me?

Steve Almond
Why I Write Smut: A Manifesto

require to be united

July 13, 2020

When I saw the couple get into the taxicab the mind felt as if, after being divided, it had come together again in a natural fusion. The obvious reason would be that it is natural for the sexes to co-operate. One has a profound, if irrational, instinct in favour of the theory that the union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness. But the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness? And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her.

Virginia Woolf
A room of one’s own

the physiology of fear

July 13, 2020

That’s because only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear – the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness.

H.P. Lovecraft
Pickman’s Model

MAFIA CATS

July 12, 2020

We’re the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
We’re crazy for pizza
With hot pepperoni

We run all the rackets
From gambling to vice
On St Valentine’s Day
We massacre mice

We always wear shades
To show that we’re meanies
Big hats and sharp suits
And drive Lamborghinis

We’re the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
Love Sicilian wine
And cheese macaroni

But we have a secret
(And if you dare tell
You’ll end up with the kitten
At the bottom of the well

Or covered in concrete
And thrown into the deep
For this is one secret
You really must keep.)

We’re the Cosa Nostra
Run the scams and the fiddles
But at home we are
Mopsy, Ginger and Tiddles

Roger McGough

I saw a casual lover for a while; his name is Brian.

Before Brian and I had sex, he said to me, “We should have a safe word.”

“How about ‘Stop, I don’t like this,’” I suggested seriously.

He paused, looked unconvinced. “But what if you say that but mean the opposite? How will I know?”

“I will never say ‘no’ and mean ‘yes’” I replied, already getting turned off from what little foreplay we had done. “’No’ never means ‘yes.’ And shame on anybody who thinks otherwise.”

He looked at me with his broad, gooby face. I noticed for the first time that his eyes crossed just slightly.

“But fine,” I said. “How about ‘submarine.’”

He smiled and nodded. “No” was too harsh, too direct; “submarine” was cutely out of place, and therefore fine.

Jen Corrigan
You like that baby? The myth of feminine mystery

Longing

July 12, 2020

The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.

Cornelia Funke
Inkheart

Really…?

July 12, 2020

a magical world

July 12, 2020

Some years ago I had a conversation with a man who thought that writing and editing fantasy books was a rather frivolous job for a grown woman like me. He wasn’t trying to be contentious, but he himself was a probation officer, working with troubled kids from the Indian reservation where he’d been raised. Day in, day out, he dealt in a concrete way with very concrete problems, well aware that his words and deeds could change young lives for good or ill.

I argued that certain stories are also capable of changing lives, addressing some of the same problems and issues he confronted in his daily work: problems of poverty, violence, and alienation, issues of culture, race, gender, and class…

“Stories aren’t real,” he told me shortly. “They don’t feed a kid left home in an empty house. Or keep an abusive relative at bay. Or prevent an unloved child from finding ‘family’ in the nearest gang.”

Sometimes they do, I tried to argue. The right stories, read at the right time, can be as important as shelter or food. They can help us to escape calamity, and heal us in its aftermath. He frowned, dismissing this foolishness, but his wife was more conciliatory. “Write down the names of some books,” she said. “Maybe we’ll read them.”

I wrote some titles on a scrap of paper, and the top three were by Charles de lint – for these are precisely the kind of tales that Charles tells better than anyone. The vital, necessary stories. The ones that can change and heal young lives. Stories that use the power of myth to speak truth to the human heart.

Charles de Lint creates a magical world that’s not off in a distant Neverland but here and now and accessible, formed by the “magic” of friendship, art, community, and social activism. Although most of his books have not been published specifically for adolescents and young adults, nonetheless young readers find them and embrace them with particular passion. I’ve long lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people from troubled backgrounds say that books by Charles saved them in their youth, and kept them going.

Recently I saw that parole officer again, and I asked after his work. “Gets harder every year,” he said. “Or maybe I’m just getting old.” He stopped me as I turned to go. “That writer? That Charles de Lint? My wife got me to read them books…Sometimes I pass them to the kids.”

“Do they like them?” I asked him curiously.

“If I can get them to read, they do. I tell them: Stories are important.”

And then he looked at me and smiled.

Terri Windling
Myth & Moor

Human sexuality is, quite apart from Christian repressions, a highly questionable phenomena, and belongs, at least potentially, among the extreme rather than ordinary experiences of humanity. Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in human consciousness –pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for extinction of one’s consciousness, for death itself. Even on the level of simple physical sensation and mood, making love surely resembles having an epileptic fit at least as much, if not more, than it does eating a meal or conversing with someone. Everyone has felt (at least in fantasy) the erotic glamor of physical cruelty and erotic lure in things that are vile and repulsive. These phenomena form a part of the genuine spectrum of sexuality, and if they are not to be written off as mere neurotic aberrations, the picture looks different from the one promoted by enlightened public opinion, and less simple.

One could plausibly argue that it is for quite sound reasons that the while capacity for sexual ecstasy is inaccessible to most people – given that sexuality is something, like nuclear energy, which may prove amenable to domestication through scruple, but then again may not. That few people regularly, or perhaps ever, experience their sexual capacities at this unsettling pitch doesn’t mean that the extreme is not authentic, or that the possibility of it doesn’t haunt them anyway. (Religion is probably, after sex, the second oldest resource which human beings have available to themselves for blowing their minds. Yet among the multitude of the pious, the number who have ventured very far into that state of consciousness must be fairly small, too) There is, demonstrably, something incorrectly designed and potentially disorientating in the human sexual capacity – at least in the capacities of man-in-civilization. Man, the sick animal, bears within him an appetite which can drive him mad. Such is the understanding of sexuality – as something beyond good and evil, beyond love, beyond sanity; as a resource for ordeal and for breaking through the limits of consciousness – that informs the French literary canon I’ve been discussing.

The Story of O, with its project for completely transcending personality, entirely presumes this dark and complex vision of sexuality so far removed from the hopeful view sponsored American Freudianism and liberal culture. The woman who is given no other name than O progresses simultaneously towards her own extinction as a human being and her fulfilment as a sexual being. It’s hard to imagine how anyone would ascertain whether there exists truly, empirically, anything in “nature” or human consciousness that supports such a split. But it seems understandable that the possibility has always haunted man, as accustomed as he is to decrying such a split. . .

Perhaps the deepest spiritual resonance of the career of pornography in its “modern” Western phase under consideration here is this vast frustration of human passion and seriousness since the old religious imagination, with its secure monopoly on the total imagination, began in the late eighteenth century to crumble. The ludicrousness and lack of skill of most pornographic writing, films, and painting is obvious to everyone who has ever been exposed to them. What is less often remarked about the typical products of the pornographic imagination is their pathos. Most pornography – the books discussed here cannot be excepted – points to something more general than even sexual damage. I mean the traumatic failure of modern capitalist society to provide authentic outlets for the perennial human flair for high-temperature visionary obsessions, to satisfy the appetite for exalted self-transcending modes of concentration and seriousness…The need of human beings to transcend “the personal” is no less profound than to be a person, an individual. But this society serves that need poorly. It provides mainly demonic vocabularies in which to situate that need and from which to initiate action and construct rites of behaviour. One is offered a choice among vocabularies of thought and action which are not merely self-transcending but self-destructive. .

Susan Sontag
The Pornographic Imagination