Sex, if you’ll forgive the pun, is a hard thing to write about. Even great authors have failed at it. How does one even begin to describe an act that’s so universal yet also so personal beyond the most basic (or base) level in a way that’s not only revealing but relevant and necessary? I’ve tried in my own writing several times and have come to the conclusion that the best way to write about sex has less to do with the act itself than what’s going on around it. But for those still inclined to try their hand, One Story author Steve Almond has a few helpful tips for you over at the Rumpus.
Interestingly, the article neglects to give us any evidence of a successful literary sex scene. There are of course the legendary heavyweights of old like D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and his gal pal Anais Nin. Almond himself is certainly good at capturing the male’s perspective on the act (see his web site for evidence of that). Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ still remains a cultural touchstone for curious young adults. And Erica Jong got a lot of mileage out of showing women could be just as sexually free as men. Then there are the writers like Nabakov and Nicholson Baker, who take our concepts of “normalized” sexual behavior and turn them against us, revealing uncomfortable psychological truths as we find ourselves identifying with their perverts and fiends. But are any of these writers and books actually sexy? I ask you, One Story readers and fans, what literary sex scenes have successfully turned you on? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to check out Steve’s book of hilarious essays (Not That You Asked), which features the article linked above.