I don’t think this is due to mere prudishness. I suppose it could be any number of things, and I do acknowledge that some sex writing is ludicrous and bad. But it irks me. Strictly speaking, I do not write erotica or erotic romance. According to the professional organization Romance Writers of America, this genre is defined as “novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the story line.”
In my books, the explicit sex could easily be removed without damaging the story line or the characterization. But I have sex in my books because I think those passages are fun to read and write, and because, if you’re doing it right, sex is one of life’s great joys.
Let me make this bold statement, as well: Writing about sex from a perspective of female pleasure is an essential thing to do, because women deserve this great joy.
Now some may think, well of course you’re going to say this. You’re a too-big-for-your-britches hack writer trying to make money by appealing to prurient interest. In answer, I’d like to discuss an article by Peggy Orenstein that appeared in the opinion section of New York Times back in March under the headline “When Did Porn become Sex Ed?” goo.gl/DdO1lN
The article starts with good news and a caveat.
And while we are more often telling children that both parties must agree unequivocally to a sexual encounter, we still tend to avoid the biggest taboo of all: women’s capacity for and entitlement to sexual pleasure.
A further point from the Orenstein article? The erasure of the female body’s amazing capacity for pleasure starts young.
When my daughter was a baby, I remember reading somewhere that while labeling infants’ body parts (“here’s your nose,” “here are your toes”), parents often include a boy’s genitals but not a girl’s. Leaving something unnamed, of course, makes it quite literally unspeakable.
And whereas males’ puberty is often characterized in terms of erections, ejaculation and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, females’ is defined by periods. And the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. When do we explain the miraculous nuances of their anatomy? When do we address exploration, self-knowledge?
Ladies, let’s take a moment to thank these French doctors in our heads. Now we understand “how the erectile tissue of the clitoris engorges and surrounds the vagina—a complete breakthrough that explains how what we once considered to be a vaginal orgasm is actually an internal clitoral orgasm.”
It boggles the mind, how little importance has been attached to female pleasure. Inevitably, the result is too many young women indoctrinated into the mindset that their primary job is to pleasure their male partner. Take this passage, from the Orenstein article again. This makes my blood boil. I mean BOIL.
A 2014 study of 16- to 18-year-old heterosexuals — and can we just pause a moment to consider just how young that is? — published in a British medical journal found that it was mainly boys who pushed for [anal sex] approaching it less as a form of intimacy with a partner (who they assumed would both need to be and could be coerced into it) than a competition with other boys. They expected girls to endure the act, which young women in the study consistently reported as painful. Both sexes blamed the girls themselves for the discomfort, calling them “naïve or flawed,” unable to “relax.”
This is what is done to girls and women. We need to assertively pursue our own pleasure, and erotic writing can be a healthy part of it. As for the people who find it distasteful and aver that it is not to be taken seriously, I think you’re “‘naïve or flawed,’ unable to ‘relax.’”