Sexual Identity and Eroticism in Writing
Early writing and reading about sexual feelings and adventures can be liberating
Posted Nov 10, 2014
One of my initial journal entries as a young adolescent involved my first sexual encounter. It was truly a mystical experience that I wanted to relive over and over again, and by writing it down, I could do just that. At a young age, I was already in touch with my sexuality. Many years later, I was introduced to the journals of Anais Nin. We had both begun journaling as a result of a loss of loved one—she lost her father and I lost my grandmother to suicide. In her book, A Woman Speaks, Nin claims that writing helped her become more aware of herself. She said that her diary was “not only the confessional, the mirror, it was also the log of the journey.” She goes on to state that writing made her well aware of the difficulties of her journey and how, at times, her life was uncharacteristically stagnant. After reading all six volumes of her journals, it was clear than Nin abhorred the stagnant life and that whenever possible, she would bring sensuality and erotica into her life. Simply stated; sexuality made her feel vibrant and alive.
Years later, I stumbled across Nin’s erotic writings that she crafted in the 1940s as a way to make ends meet. After reading a fair amount of erotica, she became inspired to write in the genre. She found it to be liberating. Nin has always been thought of as a very transparent woman, fearless about sharing her emotions and thoughts on the page. In fact, Nin’s style liberated me and many other women by giving us permission to express our sexual thoughts, realities and fantasies, making us feel comfortable with our own sexuality.
In her essay, “The Uses of the Erotic” Andre Lorde says that the erotic is a way to measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings, (the merging of creative power and harmony). She claims that the erotic is the life force of women and the empowerment of creative energy. By writing about our experiences, we grow in touch with our feelings, and this can be very freeing and empowering.
Some even suggest that freeing your sexual energy runs in conjunction with freeing your creative energy. In her book, The New Diary, my friend and colleague, Tristine Rainer, who, like Nin, has inspired many to chronicle their lives through journaling, says that: “the more you know about your own sexuality, the more likely you are to find sexual satisfaction.” By working with others, she found that most of the erotic material shared in diaries falls into five main categories—sexual memories, sexual complaints, celebrated experiences, erotic dreams/fantasies, and behavioral rehearsals for sexual encounters.
While people choose to use journals for a variety of reasons, most often they turn to journaling during times of difficulty, confusion or during life transitions. When I wrote about my first sexual encounter as a teenager, I was inspired by reading the novels of Jackie Collins in the dark under my covers. Writing about sexual experiences helps us make sense of them, aids in establishing a sexual identity, and assists in helping us come to terms with our sexuality. While journaling, we brainstorm with ourselves, pose questions, and wait for the answers to emerge during stream-of-consciousness writing. Whether writing for oneself or someone else, the process helps us validate our feelings.
Abraham Maslow, a humanist psychologist whom I deeply admire, believes that self-actualized people are more comfortable with their sexuality. While he does not include “sex” on his hierarchy of needs, he believes sex is vital, and that those who are self-actualized are comfortable in admitting their sexual attraction to others. In the same way, they are comfortable playing the role of either passive or active lovers, depending on the situation. In his book, Motivation and Personality, Maslow claims that both the active and passive roles bring pleasure to the self-actualized person. He also says that certain sexual encounters and orgasms can lead to or bring on mystical experiences. These are probably the ones that people write about in their journals, because they can be transformative in the scheme of their sexual lives.
It is my belief that writing allows us to step out of our comfort zones and shake off the restrictions we impose upon ourselves. Before writing erotica and allowing this release to occur, it helps to read the kind of erotica that reveals deep, dark secrets. By reading the work of others who write sensual literature, we get ideas or reminders of where our minds can wander. I have first-hand experience in this realm. After the release of my recent poetry collection, Lust, I was told that many people pulled out their journals to document their own journeys and fantasies. For overall physical, psychological and emotional well-being it is important to tap into these secrets to help us battle our inner demons.