My new book, Writing for Bliss, includes a section on writing about sex and intimacy. Basically, I give readers permission to write about this topic without holding back. Many people refrain from writing about sexuality due to embarrassment or a fear of being too open about intimacy issues, but once they do express themselves, they feel liberated. This liberation goes hand in hand with personal transformation—that is, the process of becoming aware of, facing up to, and taking responsibility for one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Intimacy and sexuality is also a way to connect with others and, in my opinion, a healthy sex life inspires creativity.
My first exposure to the importance of sexuality occurred just after my first gynecological visit with my family physician. It was the 1960s, and specialists were rare, so this doctor offered comprehensive medical care. At the end of my visit, Dr. Robbins sat me down at his desk and handed me my first psychology book, which probably led to my interest in the subject. The book was Love and Will, by Rollo May. My doctor told me that I should read it from cover to cover.
At the time, I was only sixteen years old, and in all honesty, I did not understand what May was saying. I shelved the book, and years later pulled it down from my bookshelf and read it, finally realizing what a gem it was. May, as an American humanistic psychologist, believed that Eros was the life force, and the fundamental energy behind Will. He believed that Love directs our Will toward our highest potential. He saw Eros as the spirit of life, not to be confused with sex drive. He believed that sex drive seeks gratification and release of tension, whereas Eros drives us toward self-realization. This sense of Eros has been a major driving force in my own creative life.
The art and power of communication about intimate moments, whether expressed verbally or on the page, cannot be overstated. Body language reveals what is transpiring, both consciously and unconsciously. Watching people’s actions while listening to what they say, and then writing about it, helps you get to know them and also helps identify what is important to them and their relationships.
There are many good books that take a poetic view of intimacy. One of my favorites is Intimate Kisses, edited by Wendy Maltz. Also, in my own recent poetry collection, Lust, I share musings about intimate moments. I believe that each of these moments should be regarded as a profound human experience, a glimpse into the psyche of another person that results in a deeper understanding of who they are and who you are with them. This connection forms the deepest type of desire and joy.
Years ago while wandering through a local bookstore, I stumbled upon Sallie Tisdale’s book Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex. At first glance, the cover looked like a buttock; but on closer examination, I could see that it featured someone holding an apple. The first chapter, called “Desire,” started out: “We talk about sex all the time, we moderns.” It went on to allude to the idea that sexuality and intimacy are communicated in both verbal and nonverbal ways. For example, by putting your arms around someone’s waist while kissing, you express that you want to be drawn in to that person. You want to be one with him or her. If someone tries to kiss you and your arms are crossed, it is surely an indication that you’re not interested in being kissed. Writing about kissing can help you learn about your own preferences and desires.
And, writing about intimate encounters and subjects can be done in any genre, such as poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Writing poetry about sensuality and sexuality can be very powerful, whether you write it for yourself or a loved one. The best poems show that the poets are tuned in to their internal and external landscapes as they share specific details about observations, situations, images, or feelings.
Writing erotic fiction is an option for those who might want to use their imagination when writing. Reading and writing erotic fiction can be liberating, and it can also be stimulating for couples to do together. Examples of coming-of-age erotic fiction include The Story of O and the works of Nancy Friday, such as My Secret Garden. My favorite works of erotic fiction includes the works of Anaïs Nin, such as The Delta of Venus and Little Birds, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.
While these authors were comfortable writing about the subject of sexuality, others might not initially feel that way. That’s why erotic fiction is an option for some people, in that you can fictionalize real-life events, and your imagination can come into play. Desmond Morris, in his book Intimate Behavior identifies twelve stages of the progression of intimate behavior. While these behaviors are geared mainly toward heterosexual Homo sapiens, they definitely can have a broader appeal to many alternative lifestyles:
Maltz, W. Intimate Kisses: The Poetry of Sexual Pleasure. (2001). Boston, MA: New World Library.
May, R. (1969 ). Love and Will. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
Morris, D. (1971). Intimate Behavior. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Raab, D. (2014). Lust. Cincinnati, OH: Word Tech Communications.