In 1991, a friend introduced me to Anaïs Nin's second husband. Rupert Pole employed me for five years to work with Nin's manuscripts for A Journal of Love. The friend who made the introduction was also a writer. He told me then when I was just 31, "Don't wait until you are 60 and dying of cancer. Your audience is already out there." I'm now 52. All these years I've wanted to write about sex, and did so in my diaries and journals, which I shared only with a few friends. In the last few years, I've also shared them online -- in an e-book with a pseudonym. As a self-confessed trunk writer, I wrote and hid most manuscripts, even from myself.
In the '70s, Anaïs Nin and Erica Jong had a conversation. Jong was the fresh upstart who wrote about the "zipless fuck" in 1973 and sold 26 million copies of her book, Fear of Flying. Anaïs, slowly dying of cancer while having the writing success she had always dreamed of, would unknowingly become even more famous posthumously, when her husband and editor published her erotica. Nin told Jong, "Women who write about sex are never taken seriously as writers." Jong's response was, "But that's why we must do it." Jong, who recently published Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write about Real Sex, maintained that women must brave the "literary double standard." She wrote that "only our honesty can save us" with regard to changing patterns that both politically and spiritually oppress women. Perhaps this is true about our health as well.
Jong wrote The Devil At Large about her literary relationship with Henry Miller in 1993. In that book, she said that while the male rebel-artist eventually attains hero status, "rebellious women tend to vanish..." I remember how deeply these words affected me at that time, just two years after being encouraged to write freely about sex, which I had secretly wanted to do since I was 19. I remember the quote as being more like "women who write about sex are banished from the planet." On page 202 she says, "If you examine sexy heroines in recent literature you will see that either they lose their lives or their children for expressing their sexuality." I can see now why I was so hesitant. I wasn't willing to die just yet.
Last month, E.L. James sold 50 Shades of Gray at a phenomenal rate. She admits that she basically copied the beginning of Twilight and turned it sexual. This New York Times best-selling trilogy is straight out of her imagination. On Nightline she admitted that she tired of describing the orgasm. I would think if one is imagining what orgasm is like, it would indeed be tedious to imagine that most private of experiences repeatedly. If one hasn't had the experience or if one wishes one had more, I can imagine it would be downright irritating to write about what one wants but doesn't have, or hasn't had. One thing's for sure: E.L. James is laughing all the way to the bank with her seven-figure publishing advance and her five million dollar movie option. But I suspect many women are like my good friend, who bought the first two books but wouldn't buy the third because, "I started skipping through the sex scenes to see if there was ever any character development." Media tells us women are starving for romance, ecstasy and the man who will banish all of our problems. What this tells me is that women are starved for orgasm: true, soul-enhancing orgasm.
It seems that women are starting to write honestly about sex. It's about time. HBO has a show called Girls, which Maureen Ryan said is a female point of view "not filtered or adulterated or otherwise bastardized." She went on to say, "It's not a show in which female characters are neutered, cute-sified or created to please male viewers."
Dr. Brooke Magnanti just came out with her third book after achieving great success with her two previous books about a London call-girl (the books even became a celebrated television series). Her new book, The Sex Myth: Why Everything We're Told Is Wrong "strips away the hype and looks at the science behind sex and the panic behind public policy," according to the Telegraph.
Apparently Lee Aronsohn, co-creator of Two & A Half Men, doesn't like the concept of women, long-repressed, exploring their authentic issues on the small screen and in a number of new comedies that studios have been brave enough to front. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Lee commented on the influx of new shows written about women, by women by saying boob-tube viewers have already reached "peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation."
How funny is that? His show is all about scoring and laughing at women, but when women have a comedic opinion about being a woman, he doesn't think its funny. How sad. The sexes have so much to learn from each other and give to each other. But I guess that point of view isn't funny to those raised to think that bashing or belittling others makes them feel bigger and better about themselves.
I'm grateful humans can now speak freely about gratification and no longer walk around insecure why they aren't as satisfied as they want to be. Lifetime also has a new show coming out tonight, 7 Days of Sex. I say the more conversation about how both men and women can find bliss together, the better.
Even numerous big mega-churches are encouraging their "married" practitioners to have sex every day of the week. Sex is nothing we should be ashamed of. I truly feel if sexuality is allowed to develop naturally, then perversion and dangerous practices don't develop. If sex is as good as nature intended it to be without all the head games that hypocritical and pridefully prudish societies have labeled it to be, then all the extra bells and whistles aren't as necessary to make merging delicious.
I was voted most likely to succeed in both junior high and high school. I felt a heavy mantle on my shoulders that I had to make something of myself. By my twenties, it became obvious to me that most women didn't feel successful in their sex lives for a variety of reasons. By my thirties, I decided what I most wanted to succeed at was the Big O. By my forties, I was succeeding in the experience of sexuality I'd most wanted and I wrote about it obsessively -- but privately.
All these years I've been writing about sex honestly, but have honestly been too frightened to put it out into the world. Diagnosed with cancer, having had one treatment and in remission, I decided it was now or never. What have I got to lose? For me now, it's about compiling what's been written. I'm in the final edit of my book, which I call Courting Men: Navigating Life©. It's exciting to be a part of this ground swell rising up, demanding a voice, desiring an experience and devouring a dream step-by-step, day-by-day.
Follow Lisa Guest on Twitter: www.twitter.com/journalisa