A sex ed blog with more
I was introduced to a wonderful man named Jon via Twitter. We thought we knew some of the same people, but turns out we didn’t. We met up for lunch, and discussed “working in the field.” When I asked Jon to write about editing sex writing, he jumped at the chance, and this is what he came up with! Huge thanks to Jon for being so accessible, approachable, and super lovely to talk to. From the man behind Sex In Words:
It takes a lot to make my jaw drop. It takes a lot to leave me speechless (Julia knows after our recent lunch!). And it takes a lot to sweep me off my feet.
But when Cleis Press offered me the job of editor of the Best Sex Writing series, I nearly lost my faculties. Sure, I like to write about sex on my blog, talk about it on the radio and, apparently, talk about myself talking about sex. But this new editorship meant so much. It was truly the justification of my 15-plus years of indie editing, publishing and writing. However, once I confirmed the gig and signed the contract, reality set in: I will be choosing the best of the best of sex writing. Me. Yes, I was feeling the pressure!
Fortunately, once submissions started rolling in, I settled down and settled in. I received many works from writers I respect and enjoy. At the same time, I met and learned of new writers and those I had somehow missed over time. The groove was there and I was loving it.
So, what makes great sex writing? That question is not easy to answer. So many different factors can go into quality sex writing, with some pieces engaging on many levels while others need just one hook.
Is it terrible to compare sex writing to sex itself? Really, that is how I sometimes think of it. If fifty sex readers got in one room to define the best sex possible, fifty different stories would be told. The same thing goes for sex writing. Some of us like it quick and some of us like it to go on and on and on. Others like plenty of commitment—something you want to experience night after night. Others want something quick and casual. Some of us want to be seduced with beautiful words and others want a blast of dirty, visceral reaction. I think you get the picture. I know I’ve got a few images in my mind…
So when I go out, looking to pick up some really great sex writing, I first have to determine what I am in the mood for. Do I want something that will engage me, make me think, and possibly consider new things? Or do I just want to randomly read and react?
If I am in the mood to learn, I seek out some of my favourite sex educators. If I am in the mood to laugh or have fun, I look for a popular website that features sex-positive humour and satire. These are just two of the many different styles and experiences of reading sex. Really, the world is in your bed with you and there is so much to try and enjoy.
On the other (sticky) hand, writing about sex is a whole different story.
When I try to put fingers to keys to write something about sex, I look to all that I have been reading and experiencing that day, that week, that year. The thing is, I know I can’t write about sex without some sort of attachment to the subject…and I suspect most other sex writers create in much the same way.
Before I go on, let me just say that writers can definitely write about and excel with subjects that are not entirely near to their hearts. A good writer can write about anything. But I do believe that any writer who takes on sexual material will produce mind-blowing content if they have a passion for that sexual topic. As a keen reader, you can see who is into fisting and who isn’t if you compare posts and articles on fisting. Or polyamory. Or condoms. Again, don’t shy away from topics that are new to you, but do consider what you take on very carefully.
The worst thing you can do is try to write about something you have negative feelings about. It is almost impossible to be subjective and engaging if you feel strongly against something. This is where sex writing and other writing may differ slightly. We are all far too attached to sex—whether it involves us or not. Very few writers (there are some) can pull off articles or essays that present a well-rounded picture of a subject they reject.
And frankly, unless you’ve been assigned such a topic by a hard-ass editor, why would you want to write about something you disagree with or find distasteful (op-eds excepted, I love me some op-eds that challenge sexual thinking)? I’m not suggesting your work should always be flowers and kisses and lovely fun—well, unless that’s your thing. What my advice, ultimately, boils down to is that you should write what you are passionate about, what interests you, what you want to learn about and what you want to teach others about.
There is not enough time in this world, in this life, to waste time writing about things you’re not into. Remember, writing is for you. Sure, maybe you’re getting paid, maybe you’re asked to contribute to a magazine or blog, but ultimately, writing—and writing about sex in particular—is a party in your creative bed.