Why Women Write About Sex – and Men Don’t (?)

I must admit the person who wrote the following article has not been to the Erotic Literary Salon. Grateful the Salon men defy the stereotypical memoir writers.

Why women write about sex – and men don’t

Catherine Deveuve in Belle De Jour, which inspired a blog of the same name.
Women like to write about sex. In the last 10 years alone, women have written books about spanking, anal sex, prostitution, swinging, body fluids, S&M, casual sex, tantric sex and sex over the age of 50.
These can be emotionally honest as well as oblique; they are always sexually graphic, often funny and feminist in their politics. From chick-lit to high-end literary works, they are written by ex-ballerinas, (Toni Bentley, The Surrender), TV presenters, (Charlotte Roche, Wetlands) and academics (Catherine Millet, The Secret Life of Catherine M). Whether as novels, diaries, blogs, manuals and yes, memoirs like my own, With the Kisses of His Mouth, they are written by women who have ventured beyond the norms of heterosexual society and behaved like reporters, returning from their adventures in underground worlds to recount their stories.
Personally I’m glad of these books; they are valuable social documents and they show that the times are a changing. Yet sex is still riddled with social stigma and taboo. Church and state still patrol what is deemed OK, moral, loving and safe. Anyone who chooses to write about sex will attract stinging criticism from the moral right and so, relatively speaking, sexual memoirs are still rare.
And they are mostly written by women.
Men, by and large, leave this subject alone. Somewhere, it’s a given that men don’t have anything too reflective to say about sex, or they feel silenced by feminists. Where is the male Suzanne Portnoy, the male Melissa P? What men will write honestly about their highs and lows, their triumphs, their sexual sorrows? What man is brave enough to express himself freely about his desires? Few.
My guess is that male sexuality has been so heavily associated with violence that men suffer an even stronger taboo than woman. Best keep quiet. Male sex writers do exist, but in much fewer numbers.
I met a shy man once, Karl Webster, who made a humorous reply to Belle de Jour. But his Bete de Jour, the Intimate Adventures of an Ugly Man, didn’t have comparable sales figures. Similar attempts seem to create less buzz. It’s as if no one cares about what men do, think or get up to sexually. We all know what men are like. While women are coming out on the subject, men choose to stay quiet.
Mostly, men write about sex in novels. In fiction we see flashes and glimpses of male sexual fantasy life: mostly, male writers hide behind their characters. I also note that so far no literary editor has given my book to a man to review. It’s as if sexuality is indeed a women’s issue.
How would a male reviewer read my memoir? Would he be interested, find it at all engaging, or could a male reviewer get away with flaying me? In my memoir I have exposed myself – not just sexually but emotionally. I’ve shown myself as weak, sometimes naive, and written about sexual rejection. A reviewer says she finds my emotional candour more shocking than the sex. I find this fascinating. The British are very squeamish about emotions too. Is owning up to rejection a bigger taboo than sex?
I have written from the point of view of making what I thought was a colossal error: sex, I say, ruined my life. We have been given a formula for a ”valid” relationship: it must combine sexual and platonic love. If a relationship isn’t sexual, it isn’t the real thing. Yet love affairs come in every size and shape.
Whether a person lives in passionate celibacy with another, or in a blaze of erotic desire with someone they find annoying, there are hundreds of flavours and mixtures of love. I made myself unhappy measuring my love against a given norm. The truth is, we make ourselves happy in among a wide variety of loves; all count.
Monique Roffey is author of the memoir With the Kisses of his Mouth.
Guardian News & Media


Female Orgasm – Unlocking the Neuroscientific Mysteries

Recently Brain Blogger featured an article entitled Your Brain on Sex and Love. While it delineated a few recent studies that focused on what goes on in the brain during sex, few recognize how little is known about human sexuality, particularly the neural and psychological responses that stem from it. Logistically, it is difficult to study human sex in a lab setting, simply because it is difficult for test subjects to engage in intercourse, or even to self-stimulate, in an fMRI scanner. MindHacks explains how the alternative use of PET scanners is still problematic:

[The test subjects] still had some considerable problems to overcome though, not least of which was timing an orgasm to occur during a predefined time-slot, during which brain activity could be monitored. PET requires a radioactive tracer to be injected into the bloodstream, and although the radiation is very weak, it’s best to use only as much as necessary. This means the intuitive approach of continuous scanning and waiting for the pop of the cork is just not feasible.

Female sexuality is particularly enigmatic, simply because the sex function in women is so much more complex than that of their male counterparts. A study conducted by Dutch scientist Gert Holstege and featured in a BigThink article showed that while the areas in male brains activated during orgasm were not surprising, the activated areas in the female brains were slightly different. For one, the female brain becomes noticeably silent in certain areas, like in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, two areas in the brain that process feelings and thoughts associated with self-control and social judgement. Holstege noted that “at the moment of orgasm, women do not have any emotional feelings.”

New Scientist published a piece late last year featuring an experiment that revealed that pain processing centers in the brain also activate during female orgasm. Dr. Kamisaruk of Rutgers University, who is an early pioneer of neuroscieintific sex studies of the female orgasm, noted that at the moment of climax, women’s pain threshold drops drastically, and that “the fact that these areas are both active during pain and intense pleasure suggests that they may be involved in the analgesic effects of orgasm.”

While of course the study of men’s sexual response is important, it may be more important from a medical standpoint to delve into the female brain considering the much higher numbers of sexual dysfunction in women. Even women in good health have a difficult time achieving climax. Reportedly, 10% of women have never had an orgasm, and as many as 50% of women have trouble being aroused.

One interesting ability that Kamisaruk found is unique to women is that some women he worked with were able to “think themselves” to orgasm. Without using any external stimulation, women closed their eyes and, using only sometimes erotic imagery but just as commonly very random and abstract thought processes, achieved an orgasm that was indistinguishable from orgasms achieved through self-stimulation. Kamisaruk also observed that when some women visualize a certain part of the body, that part of the body becomes sensitive. Kamisaruk believes that further study on this phenomenon could be helpful beyond simply treating sexual dysfunction, but could aid in pain management and the prevention of obesity, among other common health concerns.

In the final analysis, however, as pointed out in Brain Blogger and the New York Times, sexual dysfunction can be understood on a cultural level as well. Stifled sexual pleasure, particularly in women, can result from cultural taboos and poor relationships. As such, the relatively recent excitement about so-called “women’s Viagra” is still as yet a pipe dream, and would it behoove both the scientist and the average person to understand human sexuality through as many lenses as possible.

By Donna Reish


Komisaruk BR, & Whipple B (2005). Functional MRI of the brain during orgasm in women. Annual review of sex research, 16, 62-86 PMID: 16913288


Worst Sex Ever – Stories at the Erotic Literary Salon

I would like to encourage attendees of the Erotic Literary Salon to bring their ‘worst sex ever’ stories to the next Salon, July 19th. We’ve all been there, horrible sex, the kind that makes you want to rethink your sex life, perhaps even try celibacy for awhile. If you’re nowhere near Philadelphia, or just cannot possibly attend, please send me your story and I’ll publish on this site.

If you have the feeling you have read this before, you have. I’m running a test. Need to know why my stats jumped on a specific day. Was it the content of my post or the specific day that sent stats sky rocketing.

What does “Queer” mean?

“In short, “queer” means infinite possibilities for love, pleasure, and self-expression. To me, that is everything I ever wanted, everything I never dared to want, and more.” Asher Bauer

I have heard this word used in so many contexts recently, and was searching for a definition when this one appeared.

What Queerness Means To Me

By Asher Bauer

I remember playing pretend games with my brother when he was really little. For a happy ending to one epic struggle of good versus evil, he wanted all the dolls/“action figures” to “all get married together”—boys, girls, witches, dragons, demons, whatever, united in a big happy pansexual polygamous clusterfuck. I remember explaining to him that you couldn’t do that, that marriage was between two people, usually a man and a woman.

Forgive me. I was twelve, I didn’t know any better. On the other hand he was about five, and apparently he already did.

The innocence of children with regard to love, romance, gender, friendship and relationships is truly beautiful. They are basically open to all kinds of gender expressions and all sorts of relationships, including the queer, the polyamorous, the platonic. Best friends in preschool get engaged and even married all the time, regardless of gender (or prior mock-marital status). I remember that innocence.

I lost it. First I was a girl, then I was heterosexual, then I was bisexual, then I was wondering if maybe I wasn’t kind of just a lesbian. Then I was polyamorous, then I was kinky, then I was pansexual. I was submissive, then a switch. Then I was gender questioning, then FTM, and gay. I was a transman, and then a trans man. I was homoflexible, or just a faggot. I was transsexual then transgender then transsexual again and finally just trans. Today I’m a trans fem/androgynous male who uses he/him/his pronouns and doesn’t like being called a man but guesses it’s better than being called a boy by strangers and who isn’t really genderqueer. I think. I may be something else tomorrow. And if you think that sounds complicated you should talk to some of my friends.

But my own angsty odyssey of identity isn’t really what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the word queer and the world of possibility it represents to me. Queer is a term which for me recaptures the unconstrained innocence of childhood, when best friends could all get married together and we could all be fairy princesses one day and firefighters the next.

Isn’t it weird that we’re all supposed to feel one way about friends, another about family, and another about lovers? Isn’t it strange that family is only determined by biology or sanctified by marriage and sealed with reproduction? Isn’t it odd that romance is supposed to be doomed without sex, and sex is considered pointless without romance? Isn’t it strange that we’re only supposed to feel one way about one person until death do us part?

Queerness, to me, is about far more than homosexual attraction. It’s about a willingness to see all other taboos broken down. Sure, many of us start on this path when we first feel “same sex” or “same gender” attraction (though what is sex? And what is gender? And does anyone really have the same sex or gender as anyone else?). But queerness doesn’t stop there.

This is a somewhat controversial stance, but to me queer means something completely different than “gay” or “lesbian” or “bisexual.” A queer person is usually someone who has come to a non-binary view of gender, who recognizes the validity of all trans identities, and who, given this understanding of infinite gender possibilities, finds it hard to define their sexuality any longer in a gender-based way. Queer people understand and support non-monogamy even if they do not engage in it themselves. They can grok being asexual or aromantic. (What does sex have to do with love, or love with sex, necessarily?) A queer can view promiscuous (protected) public bathhouse sex with strangers and complete abstinence as equally healthy.

Queers understand that people have different relationships to their bodies. We get what it means to be stone. We know what body dysphoria is about. We understand that not everyone likes to get touched the same way or to get touched at all. We realize that people with disabilities may have different sexual needs, and that people with survivor histories often have sexual triggers. We can negotiate safe and creative ways to be intimate with people with HIV/AIDs and other STIs.

Queers understand the range of power and sensation and the diversity of sexual dynamics. We are tops and bottoms, doms and subs, sadists and masochists and sadomasochists, versatiles and switches. We know what we like and don’t like in bed.

We embrace a wide range of relationship types. We can be partners, lovers, friends with benefits, platonic sweethearts, chosen family. We can have very different dynamics with different people, often all at once. We don’t expect one person to be able to fulfill all our diverse needs, fantasies and ideals indefinitely.

Because our views on relationships, sex, gender, love, bodies, and family are so unconventional, we are of necessity anti-assimilationist. Because under the kyriarchy we suffer, and watch the people we love suffering, we are political. Because we want to survive, we fight. We only want the freedom to be ourselves, love ourselves, love each other, and live together. Because we are routinely denied that, we are pissed.

Queer doesn’t mean “don’t label me,” it means “I am naming myself.” It means “ask me more questions if you curious” and in the same breath means “fuck off.”

At least, that is what it means to me.

At 21 going on 22, I have done a little bit of living, maybe more than a lot of my cishetero peers, probably less than many of my queer friends. I have been disappointed in many things, have suffered great pain, and have had many illusions shattered. But I have also learned that human relationships are deeper, wider, more mysterious, more diverse, more perverse, more intense, more free, less definable and infinitely more beautiful than I was ever taught that they could be. The word queer sums up that hope for me, the hope that there is more than one kind of sex, more than one kind of meaning to romance, and far more than two genders.

In short, “queer” means infinite possibilities for love, pleasure, and self-expression. To me, that is everything I ever wanted, everything I never dared to want, and more.

Queers and queerness are my hope for humanity.