Write Sex: Her Little Jewel Box

“[W]riters, by necessity of the truth, need to use the entire English language – at its most coarse, visceral, and blatant – in complete integration with its most tender and delicate forms.

She stepped right over me, naked except for her brassiere, and provided me with a direct shot of her furry cleft. Up until then I’d only heard about these things. My mother had once referred to a woman’s Schmuckkastchen – the little jewel box – in relation to some neighbour who was pregnant. So I naturally thought that females possessed something with a lid which they regularly flipped open to have children. What I saw was decidedly much different, something considerably more alive, forbidden, mysterious – something I wanted to touch. I wanted to know what those puffy banks of hair felt like and where that thin dark crevice disappeared to between her legs.


From C Is for Closet, Crevice and Colossus, by Marianna Beck, in The Best American Erotica 1994


jewel box2

“… Many professional writers … insist that if their words are going to be censored anyway, they might as well be the ones to compose reasonable, more vanilla alternatives. But this is a strategy of self-censorship, and it will defeat your storytelling in more ways than surrendering a word or two will.

Yes, you can choose to make changes in the edit, … [b]ut the first time, write the story the way it demands to be told! Use the words that your authentic characters would use. Don’t play the preacher and write your story for an imaginary offended audience, let alone an offended God. This is your best chance to present your story in all its glory.

… There’s only one wrong way to use profane or carnal language, and that’s out of laziness  … as a way to worm out of stating something more articulately. We are often tempted to use dirty words for emphasis, like very or really, as red flags to tell the reader that we want their urgent attention. But you can never get readers to pay attention by begging them or shocking them, at least not for more than one round.”

From How to Use the Whole (Fucking) English Language in How to Write a Dirty Story by Susie Bright

There is no art without sex

Interviewer: Can literary writers write about sex, or does such an attempt just condemn you to the Guardian Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award?

Susie Bright: They do, all the time. There is no art without sex. I mean, can you imagine asking that question of Nabokov? Or Stein? Or Wilde? Or anyone who writes, seriously? It’s like asking if you can write without drama or comedy. Sex is a part of life. The Guardian’s attempt to make a sniggering contest out of it is ridiculous.

Write Sexercise 1: Make a list of all the words you hesitate to use when writing sex. Words that offend you, scare you, creep you out, embarrass you. Words you think no one should use. A word I cannot abide is masturbate, for example. I also really don’t like orgasm. Just ghastly. Eeuw.

Write Sexercise 2: Make a list of the words you acquired as a child for anything related to sex: acts, body parts, feelings. Trawl your memory for words that came to you from your family, friends, books, graffiti, television, comics. Did you make up words? Include those. Include the words your culture approved of and those that were taboo. In my family, we had no sex words. I learnt winkie and willie from another family. How can that be true? But that is how I recall it. Oh, we had smooch.

Write Sexercise 3: Make a list of the words you use comfortably to talk about sex. Notice how your preferences may have changed over time, or how your lexicon differs in different contexts. List any word that you use or have used with a measure of ease. There may be very few. There may be lots. Maybe there isn’t one. I have tried and tried to get okay with cunt, in that reclaimed feminist way, but I can’t. I’m perfectly okay with penis and balls. Also bottom. I’d love to be able to say snatch, just like that, like shopping trolley or cloud or fingernail.



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