"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why Not Write About Sex?

Well, because it might be crass:

First, that not all writing about sex is meant to titillate. There are other reasons to describe what people do in bed. Not all of these reasons are vulgar or crass. To my mind, a conventional sex scene, say in an airplane novel (“as she raised her hips and guided him into the hot wet center of her,” etc., etc.), is indeed crass. But is it crass—is it meretricious—to write honestly about the mess and complexity of the individual libido? Not to me. What’s vulgar is an airbrush. What’s really vulgar is a sex scene in borrowed language, where the characters are stripped of individuality and the situation has no moral depth. I hope we don’t publish anything like that.
The Paris Review blog.

This reminded me of Mario Vargas Llosa's indictment of porn in The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto. I'm paraphrasing, but his point is that it's so non-individual, so off-the-rack, that it really isn't interesting. So, writing about sex, to transcend the crass and pornographic, has to have original language, well-written individuals, moral depth, and honesty as far as messiness and complexity. It has to be recognizably about the people involved. Okay. I get that. No thinly disguised wish-fulfilling, no use of sexual conquest just to pump up two-dimensional male characters or diminish two-dimensional female ones. Or vice-versa, altho it's usually not the case, anyway.

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