Either everything is sexual, or nothing is. Take this flock of poppies


smoke-green stems brandishing buds the size of green plums, swathed

            in a testicular fur. Even those costumed in the burlesque of red crepe

                         petals have cocks under their skirts, powdered with indigo-black pollen,


staining everything they touch. Either the whole world is New Orleans

            at 3 a.m. and a saxophone like a drill bit or it’s all clinical sunlight and sad

                         elementary school architecture, circa 1962, no broom closets opening into escape


hatches, no cowpokes with globs of sap skewered on hickory sticks. Either

            it’s all New York in 1977, the Pan Am building lit up like a honey hive and erecting

                         itself out of the fog, and one of us is a junkie and one of us is naked under a gold


skirt safety pinned at the waist and the material melts in the rain, either Kinky

            is playing the Lone Star and Earth is the women’s john at the tail end of the bar

                         and the stall doors have been blow-torched at the hinges and dragged away


by horses, either cunnilingus is an ocean salting every alleyway and lifting

            every veil or the French teacher did not masturbate beneath the desk as he taught

                         the subjunctive, and lightning did not cleave the cherry tree and pleasure


its timbers. Either straitjacket, or shock treatment orgasm igniting the dinner theatre,

            the actors cradling and hair-pulling, kissing each other so deep some might call it

                         brain surgery, the wigs slipping, chintz curtains aflame, codpieces bursting


into flower, or what’s left is a book of wet matches, my dear,

            and it’s all been for nothing, for didn’t Jesus say you are either

                         with me or against me, from out of his blossom of bloodshot dust?


 Diane Seuss


July 5, 2020

I really like sucking men’s cocks.

Catherine Millet
The Sexual Life of Catherine M

[T]he emphasis on sexuality as the root of all evil served to subordinate all women. The ancient Roman world was rife with flesh-hating spiritualities — Stoicism, Manichaeism, Neoplatonism — and they influenced Christian thinking just as it was gelling into “doctrine.” Thus the need to disempower the figure of Mary Magdalene, so that her succeeding sisters in the church would not compete with men for power, meshed with the impulse to discredit women generally. This was most efficiently done by reducing them to their sexuality, even as sexuality itself was reduced to the realm of temptation, the source of human unworthiness. All of this — from the sexualizing of Mary Magdalene, to the emphatic veneration of the virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the embrace of celibacy as a clerical ideal, to the marginalizing of female devotion, to the recasting of piety as self-denial, particularly through penitential cults — came to a kind of defining climax at the end of the sixth century. It was then that all the philosophical, theological and ecclesiastical impulses curved back to Scripture, seeking an ultimate imprimatur for what by then was a firm cultural prejudice. It was then that the rails along which the church — and the Western imagination — would run were set.

James Carroll
Who Was Mary Magdalene?

Every foolish drunken poet,
boorish vanity without ceasing,
(never may I warrant it,
I of great noble stock,)
has always declaimed fruitless praise
in song of the girls of the lands
all day long, certain gift,
most incompletely, by God the Father:
praising the hair, gown of fine love,
and every such living girl,
and lower down praising merrily
the brows above the eyes;
praising also, lovely shape,
the smoothness of the soft breasts,
and the beauty’s arms, bright drape,
she deserved honour, and the girl’s hands.
Then with his finest wizardry
before night he did sing,
he pays homage to God’s greatness,
fruitless eulogy with his tongue:
leaving the middle without praise
and the place where children are conceived,
and the warm quim, clear excellence,
tender and fat, bright fervent broken circle,
where I loved, in perfect health,
the quim below the smock.
You are a body of boundless strength,
a faultless court of fat’s plumage.
I declare, the quim is fair,
circle of broad-edged lips,
it is a valley longer than a spoon or a hand,
a ditch to hold a penis two hands long;
cunt there by the swelling arse,
song’s table with its double in red.
And the bright saints, men of the church,
when they get the chance, perfect gift,
don’t fail, highest blessing,
by Beuno, to give it a good feel.
For this reason, thorough rebuke,
all you proud poets,
let songs to the quim circulate
without fail to gain reward.
Sultan of an ode, it is silk,
little seam, curtain on a fine bright cunt,
flaps in a place of greeting,
the sour grove, it is full of love,
very proud forest, faultless gift,
tender frieze, fur of a fine pair of testicles,
a girl’s thick grove, circle of precious greeting,
lovely bush, God save it.

Gwerful Mechain
Translated from the original Welsh by Dafydd Johnston

[The poet Gwerful Mechain was the most celebrated Welsh female poet in the 15th Century. In this poem she criticises males for praising all parts of the female anatomy – but never the genitalia]

Sex Writing –

June 30, 2020

The changing room in Macy’s. A rest area bathroom. The hood of a sports car.

If there’s a chance to get caught, I’ve probably fucked there.

Like sex, writing is both public and private. Like an exhibitionist, a writer gets off in private by exposing her work to the public…Writers are natural pleasure seekers, hedonists. I don’t know of anything more satisfying than laying on the hood of a car, staring into the black night sky, and watching cold breath float slow from my lips like I’m lying at the bottom of the ocean, like the stars are shimmers of sun from the top side of waves. I love the ashy, flat taste of Cabernet a whole bottle in. I love the thoughtless, cliff-wobbling moment before an orgasm better than the orgasm itself. But this is not enough. A writer must push her pleasure into risk, expose herself publicly to strangers with no knowledge of how she might be received, and become something that must be seen. The best kind of writing lives at this intersection…

There are many ways to expose yourself, if willing. I find pleasure in sharing my sexual exploits with friends, just as I do writing about the experiences. “I’m a very physically needy person,” I always start. Then, after some perverse account over coffee, I stir my cup and shrug as if I’ve merely recited the weather forecast. This makes me feel powerful for a moment: because the stories are unforgettable, I feel that I have become unforgettable. Sometimes, I bring my friends’ shocked reactions to the bedroom and share them with my partners, if for nothing else than to extend the pleasure of being seen…

One summer, I dated a married woman whose husband agreed to her seeing other women. He was a nurse who sometimes worked night shifts, which is when I would sleep over. The morning I met him, I woke up on his side of the bed, rolled on top of his wife, and woke her up by going down on her. She was in the middle of a loud orgasm when we heard her husband unlock the front door. She finished as he knocked on the bedroom door, then I wiped my mouth on their sheets and dressed quickly. I left their bedroom and held out my hand for his.

“Nice to meet you,” I wanted to say. “I just fucked your wife.” Instead, I shook his hand and sat next to him at the breakfast bar while his wife made us pancakes.

Emily Smith
Radical Vulnerability: The Writer as Exhibitionist

A major part of what Clare taught me about film I learned in bed – and I don’t mean in relaxed postcoital conversation, but in active process. At first, until I grasped that this was Clare’s preferred style of instruction, I found myself dumbfounded. When, in the act of love, she began to murmur a stream-of-consciousness lecture on Russian Formalism in my ear, I felt certain I should pause and take respectful note. But no. With a pelvic shove and a slap to my buttocks, she bullied me on, almost angrily. I continued; I accelerated the rhythm of our intercourse; her words flowed more rapidly, her voice grew stronger. Spread luxuriously beneath me, with eyes closed, sweat beaded across her upper lip, she became more articulate by the moment, even as her breath caught and raced. That was the first session in what would become a frenzied cerebral-genital curriculum. In the nights that followed, the theories of Arnheim, Munsterberg, Mitry lathered from her like prepared lectures. What was more surprising – I was taking it all in! The ideas were registering vividly. It was as if my body, totally preoccupied with pouring its libidinous energy into Clare, transformed my brain into a tabula rasa on which every word could be imprinted.

Theodore Roszac

(Catherine Millet) was born in 1948. Twenty years later, student revolutionaries mounted the barricades gaily chanting “Merde au chagrin!” They piously believed that desire sets one free, and many still do. Catherine M. thinks of herself as a “libertine” philosopher (“My backside is the other side of who I am”); as an evangelist of sexual liberation theology; as a “valiant warrior” waging a class struggle against the “gentrification” of her erotic life; and as a mystic searching for the “grail” of “fornicatory communion,” though her more obvious goal seems to be inclusion in the record books for various Olympic feats of endurance and agility. Over the years (her chronology is vague), she has been what the French call a partouzeuse—an orgiast. Orgies, mostly of the gourmet, mate-swapping variety, have taken place in luxurious Parisian salons and specialized clubs for centuries, though they were particularly popular in the nineteen-seventies, when Millet was young. Within weeks of losing her virginity and running away from home, she discovered group sex, and her gymnastics in the garden and bedrooms of a borrowed villa outside Lyons with a band of contemporaries led to progressively more heterogeneous and less well-upholstered sessions of consensual gang-banging on benches in the Bois de Boulogne, on the games table of a louche swingers’ club, on the corrugated-metal slats of a truck parked outside the Soviet Embassy, in the cabs of semis, under the stands at a soccer stadium, sitting up in a sauna, supine in the grotto of a mansion, in stairwells, offices, back seats, cemeteries, bathtubs, peep-show cubicles, a three-star restaurant, museum storerooms, and on the hoods of cars in parking lots on the outskirts of Paris, where throngs of frenzied anonymous strangers would, for hours at a go, serially or several at a time, take their pleasure in all of her willingly proffered orifices. “I was completely available,” she writes (her favourite orgy being a brag-fest), “at all times and in all places, without hesitation or regret . . . and with a totally clear conscience.”

The “quality” of an experience, Catherine M. says, was unimportant to her. She preferred to keep the genteel preliminaries — coquetry, foreplay, drinks, a friendly hello — as brief as possible. She didn’t mind, and even welcomed, filth, rudeness, haste, uncomeliness, and bumbling in her partners: “To fuck above and beyond any sense of disgust was not just a way of lowering oneself, it was, in a diametrically opposite move, to raise yourself above all prejudice.” She prided herself, rather like a sled dog mushing through a blizzard with a vial of life-saving vaccine, on never begging off, despite a raging migraine or an excruciating case of “the clap . . . the shared fate of those who fuck a lot.” (It is striking, though, that Millet ignores that other shared fate of so many who fornicated as recklessly as she did without protection — death. There isn’t a single reference to aids, not to mention what must have been intensely bothersome chronic cases of herpes and cystitis. One has to wonder if she hasn’t exaggerated her exploits or possibly invented some of them. Anal intercourse with forty men in a night calls for an exceptionally hardy specimen.)

Judith Thurman
Doing it in the road

A woman of forty enters the cluttered bedroom of a girl half her age. She begins to passionately caress the girl. Using her hand between the girl’s legs, she brings her near to orgasm – then slides away.

‘Don’t stop,’ the girl says. ‘Please don’t. I was so near -’

The older woman lays back on the bed, legs spread wide, and pulls the girl towards her.

‘If you want me to finish you,’ she said breathlessly. ‘You must be a good girl and eat me out first -’

Caesar is one of the cult heroes of this country. He was a queer customer and ushered in a new order of sensibility. He was the complete bisexual without shame or false vainglory, “husband to all women and wife to all men”, as the chroniclers record it. Seen from our own vantage-point in time it would seem to us that he owned his magnificent control to an overwhelming psychic frigidity. This lent a strange peculiarity to the affair with Cleopatra. The fact that both parties were homosexual led to a strange inversion; he played with her the role of the woman who has intercourse with a man. This bound them together very closely. It was their secret.

Lawrence Durrell
Caesar’s Vast Ghost

These meetings were always at an ungodly hour for anyone trying to carry on professional activities that were just a tad dependent on office hours: between eleven o’clock and midday, between half past three and four o’clock in the afternoon … the day before I could already feel the nervous tension in my snatch subjected to the vibrating of the seat on the Metro while I looked forward to our reunion. The feeling could be so maddening that I sometimes preferred to get off a few stops before my destination, to calm myself down by walking. That man could lick my snatch indefinitely.

Catherine Millet
The Sexual Life of Catherine M