Write Sex: Tralala

Tralala, in your snatch fits pleasure, broom-shaped pleasure …

This is alt-J‘s 2012 song Fitzpleasure, inspired by Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr’s 1964 novel.

These are images from Uli Edel’s 1989 film adaptation.

Read Tralala’s chapter here: Part IV Tralala

Write Sexercise: Write a religious sermon on any aspect of these three representations of a life. Or write a prayer. Take 50 minutes, no more no less. Before you start writing, imagine your finished piece of work. What does your sermon or prayer feel like? How big is it? Is it dense or empty? Is it loud or breezy? Is it heavy? Can you hold it? How? Does it roar across the sky like a storm? What would you like your reader’s body to feel like while they’re reading? What would you like them never to forget when they’ve read the last line and resting in the blank? Now write.


Write Sex: To Taste Life Twice

“I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me. I had to create a world of my own: like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living.”

Why I Write

Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me: the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own: like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living.

That I believe is the reason for every work of art. The artist is the only one who knows the world is a subjective creation, that there is a choice to be made, a selection of elements. It is a materialisation, an incarnation of his inner world.


Then he hopes to attract others into it. He hopes to impose his particular vision and share it with others. And when the second stage is not reached, the brave artist continues nevertheless. The few moments of communion with the world are worth the pain, for it is a world for others, an inheritance for others, a gift to others in the end.

We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospection.

Anais Nin

Writing for an Audience of One

Your authentic sexual expression is a prerequisite for erotic publishing. If you can’t get that far, you’re never going to write successfully for the masses. But the opposite is not true: You don’t need to publish in order to write well, and writing well for oneself is perhaps the sweetest thing of all. In personal writing… [y]ou become articulate to yourself, you compose your own sexual philosophy, and your writing practice is your divining rod.

Professional writers need personal writing to remember who they are, away from the critics and the crowd. Solo writers, who write for their own private benefit, have the key to open that secret garden anytime they want. They may be perfectly and justifiably satisfied to keep it all to themselves.

From How to Write a Dirty Story by Susie Bright.

Write Sexercise: Write sex for only you. Take 50 minutes. Write a love letter you will never send. Write a sexual memory you will never share. Write the sexual fantasy you want to live before you die but can’t ask for. Write your sex nightmare. Write a poem to your own or someone else’s hands. Write what your lover said, or didn’t say. Write to someone you desire but can’t have. Anything. Later, in 6 full grammatical sentences, tell us what the writing experience was like. Don’t share your writing. It’s for you, beloved you, only.

I am a male, age 23, and I am lactating. My breasts have never been so sore. Not even after receiving titty twisters from bully school mates. They had hair down there long before I stopped playing with dolls. I haven’t stopped playing with dolls. I havent masturbated in months, because I’ve lost my imagination. I close my eyes, and I see my father, little girls, german shepards, and TV news commentators, but no voluptuous, pouty-lipped, naked female sex kittens, wincing in ecstasy from the illusory positions I’ve conjured up in my mind. No, when I close my eyes I see lizards & flipper babies, the ones who were born deformed because their mothers took bad birth control pills. I am seriously afraid to touch myself.

From Kurt Cobain’s journals


Write Sex: Listen

From the chirping of crickets to the roar of a rocket engine, sound waves are collected by the external ear and funneled to the eardrum to make it vibrate. Attached to the eardrum, the hammer transmits the vibration to the anvil, which passes the vibration on to the stirrup. The stirrup pushes on the oval window which separates the air-filled middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear to produce pressure waves in the inner ear’s snail-shaped cochlea.

The separation of frequencies occurs in the cochlea, which is tuned along its length to different frequencies, so that a high note causes one region of the cochlea’s membrane to vibrate, while a lower note has the same effect on a different region. Riding on the vibrating membrane are hair cells which convert the mechanical vibration to electrical signals, which in turn excite the 30,000 fibers of the auditory nerve. Because each hair cell rides on a different part of the membrane, each responds to a different frequency, and so each nerve fiber carries information about a different frequency. Auditory information is analyzed by multiple brain centers as it flows to the auditory cortex, the part of the brain involved in perceiving sound.


In the auditory cortex, adjacent neurons tend to respond to tones of similar frequency. However, they specialize in different combinations of tones. Some respond to pure tones, such as those produced by a flute, and some to complex sounds like those made by a violin. Some respond to long sounds and some to short, and some to sounds that rise or fall in frequency. Other neurons might combine information from these specialist neurons to recognize a word or an instrument.

Like the visual system, our hearing system picks up several qualities in the signals it detects (for example, a sound’s location, its loudness, and its pitch). But our hearing system does not blend the frequencies of different sounds, as the visual system does when different wavelengths of light are mixed to produce color. Instead, it separates complex sounds into their component tones or frequencies so that we can follow different voices or instruments as we listen to conversations or to music.
From BrainFacts.org

Write Sexercise: Write a sex scene that can’t you see. Separate out the strands of sound. Describe the sounds. Write the sounds. Take 50 minutes.

Nicholson Baker’s Vox is a novel made up entirely of the exchanges between a man and a woman having phone sex.

This was 1990, when it felt like there was a mini-sexual revolution going on after the real sexual revolution. And I felt that by starting the book with that phrase, ‘What are you wearing,’ it just tilted everything forward. It seemed like literary novels then had a very set sexual pattern: four or five sex scenes among some literary-sounding writing. So I said to myself: ‘Just do it. Stay with the sex. Accept that you’re reading and writing this with mixed motives.’

The novel ends with the woman on the one end of the line crying out: “Oh! Nnnnnnnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn! Nnn!”

From Nicholson Baker: The Mad Scientist of Smut by Charles McGrath


Write Sex Intensive: Day Studio

Last call for bookings for Write Sex Intensive, Highveld’s day studio at Welgelegen Manor, Balfour, an easy hour’s drive from Joburg.

Wednesday 16 December 2015
10am to 4pm
R600 including lunch and refreshments

Photos by Diane Sanderson Photography

Facebook event here.

Email highveldreadingandwriting@gmail.com.

Write Sex: Sensation Dim Rationality

We are comic, vulgar, odd, grotesque freakish and shocking in sex, Thomas Moore reminds us in The Soul of Sex. Priapus, a minor Classical god, represents these unpretty aspects of our humanness, Moore explains, as do Coyote and Kokopelli in North America.


The Priapeia is a collection of the sorts of poems that were posted on statues of Priapus, which stood in gardens to protect what was growing  and promote the garden’s fertility. The statues were often crude carvings made from tree trunks, roughly resembling a man with a huge penis.

Here’s one poem:

Altho’ you see that part of me to be wet by which I’m signified to be Priapus, ’tis not dew, believe me, nor hoarfrost, but what is wont to gush forth spontaneously when my mind recalls a pathic girl [catamite].

Here’s another:

So long as thou snatchest nothing from me with audacious hand, thou mayst be chaster than Vesta herself. But, if thou dost, these belly-weapons of mine will so stretch thee that thou wilt be able to slip through thy own anus.

Moore says:

If Priapus offends you … then you may be sensing the edge of your capacity for life. People talk lightly and eagerly about personal growth, but the expansion of soul entails a stretching of sensibilities that may be painful and disturbing. Under the aegis of Priapus, personal growth has no sentimentality, and it may be focused on enlarging life at the bottom, not at the top. Imagine growing by becoming less certain and less informed, getting in touch with your ignorance and foolishness rather than your intelligence, and allowing sensation to dim rationality.

Here is an hilarious excerpt from The Miller’s Tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Alison, the carpenter’s wife, has her lover, Nicholas, with her at home while her husband isn’t there. Absolom, believing Alison to be alone, sets out to woo her.

When the first cock had crowed, up rose this frisky lover, and arrayed him in his gayest with all nicety. But first he chewed cardamoms and licorice to smell sweetly, before he had combed his hair, and put a true-love charm under his tongue, for by this he hoped to find favor. He rambled to the carpenter’s house, and stood still under the casement, which was so low it reached to his breast. He gave a soft half-cough, “What do you, sweet Alison, honeycomb? My fair bird, my darling! Awake, sweet cinnamon, and speak to me. You think right little upon my sorrow, who sweat for your love wherever I go! No wonder though I languish and sweat! I mourn like a lamb after the dug. In faith, darling, I have such love-longing that I mourn like the true turtle-dove. I cannot eat, no more than a maiden.”

“Go from the window, Jack-fool,” she said. “On my soul, there will be no singing ‘Come kiss me now.’ I love another better than you, by heaven, Absalom, and else I were at fault. Go your ways, or I will cast a stone at you, and let me sleep, in the Devil’s name!”

“Alas!” he said. “Alackaday that true love was ever so ill bestowed! Then kiss me, since it may be no better, for Jesus’ love, and for the love of me.”

“Will you then go your way with that?” she said.

“Yes, surely, sweetheart,” said this Absolom.

“Then make yourself ready,” she said, “I am coming now.”

And to Nicholas she said silently, “Now hush, and you shall laugh your fill.”

This Absolom set himself down on his knees and said, “I am a lord of the highest degree; for after this I hope there will come more. Sweetheart, your grace, and sweet bird, your favor!”

She unlatches the window, and does so in haste. “Take this,” she said, “come now, and move quickly, lest our neighbors see you.”

This Absolom wiped his mouth dry. Dark as pitch, or as coal, was the night, and at the window she put out her hole, and Absolom, who knew no better or worse but with his mouth he kissed her naked ass so sweetly, before he was aware of this. He started aback, and thought something was amiss, for well he knew a woman has no beard. He felt something all rough and long-haired, and said, “Fy! alas! What have I done?”

“Tee hee!” she said, and shut the window, and Absolom went forth with troubled steps.

“A beard! A beard!” said handy Nicholas, “By God’s body, this goes fair and well.”

This foolish Absolom heard every bit, and on his lips he began to bite angrily, and said to himself, “I shall pay you back.”Who rubs now, and who chafes now, his lips with dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips, but Absolom, who says over and over, “Alas! I commend my soul unto Satan”? But I would rather be revenged for this insult” he said, “than own this entire town. Alas,” he said, “alas, that I did not turn aside!” His hot love was now cold and entirely quenched; for from that moment that he had kissed her ass, he cared not a straw for things of love, for he was healed of his sickness. Often the things of love he defied, and wept as does a child that is beaten.

miller's tale


This Absalom walked slowly across the street to a smith called Master Gervase, who forged plough-instruments at his forge. He was busily sharpening coulter and share when Absalom knocked very gently and said, “Unlock the door, Gervase, and do it quickly.”

“What! Who are you?”

“It is me, Absalom.”

“What, Absalom! By the cross, why are you up so early? Eh, God bless! What ails you? Some pretty girl, God knows, has brought you to stir so early. By Saint Neot, you know well what I mean!”

This Absalom cared not a peascod for all his mocking, and returned not a word in kind. He had more wool on his distaff than Gervase knew, and said, “Dear friend, that hot coulter in the chimney–lend it to me. I have something to do with it; and I will bring it you again right away.

“Surely,” answered Gervase, “even if it were gold or nobles in a bag all uncounted, you should have it, as I am a faithful smith! Eh, the Devil, what do you want to do with it?”

“That is as it may be,” said Absalom. I shall tell you tomorrow;” and he took up the coulter by the cool handle. Softly he went out the door and went to the wall of the carpenter’s house. He coughed first, and knocked withal upon the window, as he did before.

“Who is there that knocks so?” Alison answered. “I warrant it a thief!”

“Why nay,” he said, “God knows, my sweet, I am your Absalom, my sweetheart. I have brought you a ring of gold; my mother gave it me, on my life! It is very fine and nicely engraved. I will give you this, if you kiss me!”

This Nicholas had risen to take a piss, and he thought he would contribute to the joke; he should kiss him before he ran off! And he threw up the window in haste and quietly put his ass out–past the buttocks, all the way to the thigh-bone. Thereupon spoke this clerk Absalom, “Speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art.” This Nicholas then let fly a fart as great as a thunder-clap, so much so that with the stroke Absalom was almost blinded; and he was ready with his hot iron and smote Nicholas on the ass. Off went the skin, about a hands-breadth around, the hot coulter burned his rump so, and for the pain he thought he would die. “Help! Water, water! Help, help, for God’s sake!” he cried like a madman.

Translated and edited by Gerard NeCastro © 2007

Catch Alison, Nicholas and Absolom in these scenes from Pasolini’s 1972 movie.

Write Sexercise: Write a sex scene that offends you. Make it 19 sentences. You may want to introduce the scene briefly if it’s part of a larger story. But concentrate your writing on the vulgarity of the scene itself. Work with both offensive content and offensive language. Don’t just use base language to describe an otherwise ordinary encounter. As Moore advises, allow yourself to be disturbed, stretch your sensibilities. Become less certain, less informed. Get in touch with your ignorance and foolishness rather than your intelligence. And allow sensation to dim rationality.



Write Sex: You Have to Find a Way

Melt. ‘I have to find a way to show you that I am yours and have no wish apart from yours, and the thought caused my body to find a way, which later on we made a name for. We called it melting.’ (Isabel Miller, Patience and Sarah, Large Country, First Continent, Glorious Age)

Hair. The glorious fleece covering legs, arms, armpits, pubes, and the face is called hair. Some admire the design it forms. Some admire the colour of the hairs, their consistency or their length. Some admire the way it divides the body. For numerous companion lovers the most admired are those who have vigorous and black hair. They cut their hair in order to have it grow stronger and thicker.

Long Live Gomorrha. Morning greeting of the companion lovers in the Glorious Age. When a companion lover meets another in the morning, she greets her by saying, ‘Long live Gomorrha.’ The reply is, ‘Thank you, you too.’

sande zei and monique wittig

Torpor. Torpor is a state of idleness widely practiced by companion lovers. One lets herself hang in a tree sack or she swings in an egg for idleness until torpid. It seems that in this state all kinds of colours, of dreams, of shapes, of visions are perceived without the intervention of any drug. Some arboreal colonies of companion lovers experience a very profound type of torpor. ‘They reach torpor and hardly hold onto the trees, either by a hand or a leg. But a finger is sufficient. Sometimes one or another is seen falling on the ground all curled up in a ball. But she does not hurt herself even when she comes from the top of the tree.’ (Sseu Tchouan, The Book of Idleness, China, Glorious Age.)

Cyprine. Secretion produced by the companion lovers when they are in a state of love. Therefore, it is also called the ‘love secretion.’

Cyprinery. Place where the cyprine harvesters gather to taste and compare the different kinds of perfumes collected. N on is unaware that cyprine is different in taste depending upon the climate where it is produced and the diet of its producer.

From Lesbian Peoples: Materials for a Dictionary, by Monique Wittig and Sande Zeig

With wit and verbal magic, these two amazing women present a fascinating fictional world where women are the sole inhabitants, weaving words and wonders of their own. Their delightful dictionary redefines selected historical and mythical persons, places, countries, flowers and animals, and celebrates the primitive, cerebral, exotic and sexual capacities of women.

Writing Sexercise: With with and verbal magic, define the words in the lists you made in Her Little Jewel Box. Choose 20. If you don’t have 20, make the rest up. What would you like each word to mean in your delightful dictionary? Think about how each word relates to the other. Think about how these words and the meanings you give them make the fascinating world you want to write.

They say that there is no reality before it has been given shape by words rules regulations. They say that in what concerns them everything has to be remade starting from basic principles. They say that in the first place the vocabulary of every language is to be examined, modified, turned upside down, that every word must be screened.
From Les Guerilleres by Monique Wittig

Write Sex: Trembling Like the Sky

‘Where is your pass?’ A mixture of deodorant smells and paper, tobacco, old furniture, turned into a single smell, which characterises all the places whose functions are proclaimed by notices. Where warnings burden walls, counters and filing cabinets, where the sweat, tears, vomit and blood of many many people, who came and went, who never made it out of the doors, leave their spirits hanging in the air, which can never be cleaned. All these seemed to sing, seemed to whisper, seemed to warn us about where we were, and said something about our fate. The fluorescent lights seemed dim, and in rhythm with the voices they seemed determined to penetrate, destroy, and hung over our head so delicately, it was our lives hanging on them. There was going to be a display of power. All the eyes, the movements, the faces, the silence in the room, even the way those lights issued their light, everything was about power. Now I was standing astride, my head bent over the counter, my neck held firmly by a hand which felt as huge as the treacherous heavens. I was struggling to breathe, to see, to say something about my discomfort, and I could hear a loud voice, which I knew so well, tearing the silence, tearing the faint fluorescent lights, tearing through the huge anger that dangled over us. It hid its power and pierced straight into the heart, painfully, slowly, deliberately. I felt hands touch my legs and rise up to my thighs, almost between my buttocks. I tried to lift my head, but my forehead was banged against the wooden counter, so hard it was like the bone in it was melting, giving in to the anger that now filled the room. The huge hand, with vicious flexibility and an unnerving agility, got hold of my balls. I felt the grip tighten, hold, squeeze and pull. I could still hear the shouting, or was it a scream, I could hear feet shuffling, struggling, and bodies banging against the furniture in the police station. Lights went out of me. Thin stars took over. I tried to stand up, to lift my head once more, and again, with a terrible force, it crashed against the counter.

I felt my face become wet, my knees shake, tremble, and now it was my body, trembling, trembling like the sky shaken by thunder. Then, at first, it felt like a relief, right inside my penis, piercing, and I knew I had to hold, hold with all my might. I held on. It was like everything, all the muscles in my body, the shoulders, the stomach, the muscles which close the eyes, even the way my mouth was tight, all seemed to be a power, urging, urging me to release. And now I knew that I was holding with all my strength, I was holding the scream from escaping my lips. I felt my wet hands tighten on the wooden counter, they held so tight they began to hurt. My feet, trembling, wet, seemed to want to assure me that they were still on the ground. Everything now was hurting, was like a huge terror, unleashed, wanting my penis to let go. The scream, stuck somewhere inside my mouth, seemed to have mighty strength all of which fell on the lips, pushing, pushing, wanting them to let go. It was the penis and the mouth. Then the arsehole too joined, the muscles around it seemed to dance, mocking me, daring me, wanting to know if I had any control over them, and the air, that terrible-smelling air, kept escaping in tiny bits. I thought of my grandmother, there was no way that I could call her name, and not lose, fall, lie down in shame, there was no way. I thought of how she would hold my hand, call my name and tell me that I should know that on this earth, I have a journey to make, and the journey has to be made with and among other people, and I was the only one who would know which people I could make the journey with. And what that means, she would say, is that if on my journey, I met people who could not sing, or who did not take with them their guitars, their drums, and their songs, who, when they tried to sing, their voices became hoarse, mine too would be hoarse, we would never make the journey. I thought of her saying to me, ‘Child you must know, in the darkness of your past, where you come from, and in the faint future where you are going, that you were issued by loins which bathed in the fire that made the lightning, that dared the clouds to join and curl into the blood of man, that you were like the plants, so merged with the soil, and water, and wind, and the sun and the moon, that your past is scattered, nothing could hold it, that have a future to build.’ She would say, ‘You choose how you do it, we are going, we are on our way. We tried to show you everything, we loved you, took your hand and walked with you. One day you will have to remember that you are alone, among other people, and that you have a journey to make.’
A voice snatched my grandmother’s face and voice away from me, from the darkness that the pain had put me into. I felt the hand around my neck, wet, shaking in anger, dig its nails into the flesh. I felt as though the bag of my balls was going to be torn off. I felt the air in my arse escaping. I heard its sound, desperate, I tried to hold, I saw the light, and it was then that everything happened: first, something warm ran down my shoes, then my legs had this cold feeling running down them, into my shoes. And then my trousers too were cold, my penis felt as if it was shrinking into oblivion, as the huge hand let go. Tears came to my eyes, and ran down my cheeks, pouring as if forever. The air from the arsehole seemed to sing in laughter, then I felt as if the whole sky had fallen on the back of my neck, something snapped.

‘You fucking farting …’ the voice said, and broke into terrible laughter. That was when I began to weep, and scream, and I fell down, tired, wet all over my body, ashamed. I wept on the floor, feeling shadows hovering over me, footsteps, coming and going away. I lay on the cold floor, tears running away from me, feeling my urine all over me, the smell of my arsehole. I remember saying, ‘Grandmother, grandmother,’ calling and calling and getting no reply.

From To Every Birth Its Blood, by Mongane Serote

Write Sexercise 1: Analyse this masterful representation/evocation of an extreme experience in the body.What does Serote, a poet writing a novel, do with language? Look at everything: punctuation, sentence length, word choice, paragraphing. Feel how Serote controls time on the page: When does time move slowly, when does it flash by? Watch how he moves the narration between interiority and setting: the body becomes a space within a space. List the metaphors, and give a name to this collection of images. List the words for body parts. List the words for emotions. List the objects in the room. List the verbs.

Write Sexercise 2: Write a sex scene using the strategies Serote used to describe torture, including a flashback. It’s not important what kind of sex you write, but how you write it. Don’t write a sex torture scene. Use Serote’s techniques for intense, visceral writing, and use a flashback.

to every birth-3

Here are two other scenes from To Every Birth Its Blood which you may find useful:

So, when she and I walked into the house after we had been in the street so long, I knew that another time was coming when we would to be in the street again. That moment, as she went about the house opening the windows, taking off her shoes, unbuttoning her blouse, looking calm and more friendly, I wanted to weep. I did not know how I was going to tell her, ‘Baby, most things about this earth want you to run, want to make you weary, want you to faint.’
So I sat back on the chair. I said, ‘Honey, why don’t you play Nina Simone?’
She was smiling as she came softly towards me and, hugging me, asked whether I wanted tea or whether she must send a kid to the shebeen for beer. I said beer. Beer makes things easy, I thought to myself. ‘Streets full of people all alone,’ Nina was saying.
Yes, when Lily and I were walking, coming home, I was in a good, loving mood. I felt very close to her. I knew she was one person I could say I knew. Lily can enjoy a person like child enjoys a peach. You see the juice flowing down her tender, strong fingers, towards her smooth arms. Her teeth dig in, right into the flesh; you can see her thick, warm lips embrace the peach, tasting its flesh. Something about her laughter, when she really laughs, not when she laughs instead of crying, has made me discover many things, even about myself.
I was looking at her legs. Long legs which give her a tall, steady gait as her thigh muscles thrust and relax. I watched her walk from the wardrobe to the table, where she took out the money form her bag. Then she moved to the door. I heard her call our little friend’s name. My mother has called me that way, so many times, that long dragging way, as if my name were spaghetti threads. Her lips tasting the name, something about the voice becoming tender. They spoke at the door, I heard the little footsteps run and fade. Lily, almost talking to herself, said, ‘While you have your beer I will have my tea.’
I took off my shoes. I took off my socks. I unbuttoned my shirt and sat back. It felt so good, really, so good to know I was not going to faint. I had been running, oh, I was weary, but now I knew I was not going to faint. The noise of the Primus stove started. She put the kettle on, placed a glass and a cup on the table, and came over to sit next to me and enjoy me.
‘Do you feel good about the theatre now?’
‘I do not know, Baby,’ I said.
‘What do you think is going to happen?’
‘The worst,’ I said, ‘is that we could all get arrested. At the least, we could be banned.’ There was silence. I could feel her thinking, and her mind fidgeting with the future.
‘Don’t faint Baby, please child, don’t faint,’ I said.
‘No, I won’t,’ she said. Our eyes met. I waited for her to kiss me. But I could feel her waiting for me to her. I was not about to do that. Her eyes were digging into mine. There was silence. I thought, God, something is going to break. I waited.

When I opened my eyes, the dog was barking viciously. Then I heard voices. It was like my door was falling off its hinges. I felt my heart leap. Lily held me tight.
‘Sleep, sleep,’ she whispered in my ear. ‘Sleep, sleep.’ She held my chest. I heard her heart beating, as if its flesh was right against my shoulder. I heard voices. ‘Tsi, Tsi Molope,’ the voice said and went on about breaking down the door. I wanted to turn on the bed because my one side was tired. I held back because the bed would make a noise. I felt sweat from Lily’s arms. My head was pounding, pounding, pounding. I thought of Boykie. ‘You can’t be drunk and be alert at the same time,’ he had said. Why, why, why? Even before I completed the question I knew how ridiculous it was. Why can’t they leave us alone, in peace? Shit, how could I ask a question like that? Moeskond! I thought of Nomsisi. Suddenly, I felt something wet on my shoulder. I thought God, Lily’s heart is bleeding, the red flesh on my shoulder oozing blood. I was about to turn. She held me tight, not to turn. My hand went to my shoulder, my eyes on the hand. It was only sweat from Lily’s breast. I remember shaking. Trembling. Anger. Fear. Despair. Combined. And then the door rattled. Shook. A loud bang, like thunder, continuous, hit the door. ‘Hey, Tsi Molope, Tsi Molope, I will break this door down!’ I thought fuck, fuck it, break it. I am not going to open it.
‘Tsi is not here, and his wife is not here, we have not seen them for a long time, maybe a week,’ a voice said. I felt weary and feeble. Someone said something in Afrikaans. Then someone said something in Setswana.
I felt Lily lie back and sigh. And then there was deep silence. I turned to feel her breath brush past my neck. My head, God, my head was pounding and it was as if the pain would soon jump out through the eyes, just pop out and fall on the bed. A splitting headache. I felt Lily’s warm hand touch my terrible muscle, which soon shot up as if it were a spring. It suddenly felt packed and about to burst. She held my head and kissed me full on the mouth. Dazed in her grip, lost in her strength, I gave in to her. I was groping with my hands when I felt her withdraw. In no time, she was in the distance. She went out of the bed and I heard the sound of the Primus stove. I lay there in bed, my muscle aching and throbbing. I could feel the heat at its tip.
‘When are you going to pay the permit?’ Lily said at last. She shot her eyes at me, looking at me, and at the same time, beyond me.
‘Why do you run out of bed like that?’
‘You fool!’ She came over. For a minute I did not know where she was going. I was still dazed in her imaginary arms, her perfume still lingered somewhere next to me in bed. Suddenly I felt her nails dig into my arm, and then a slap on the face. That woke me up.
‘What the fuck?’ I said, jumping up.
‘The fuck is you, you fool,’ she said laughing childishly and victoriously. ‘Sometimes you make me feel like I should bash your head,’ she said.
Then she began to cry. …
Everything became so heavy. Silence. Talk. The Primus stove sound. Lily’s footsteps as she moved around the house. Everything, all, was so heavy. There was nothing I could say to her now that would reach her. So I lay in bed and gave my life to her. Everything that I was was there with me in bed. My bad breath, probably smelling like shit, form beer last night or that morning; my pounding, aching head; my fear, because my heart was still jumping; my recollection of the banging on the door; my helplessness, my despair, my anger; my limp muscle, which lay looped as if it were ashamed to have ever erected; I lay there and gave my life to Lily. I lay in silence, while she lashed with tongue, tears and terrible silence. Everyt time she wept, I thought something was going to snap, and snap forever. I lay there, while her voice joined in on the rhythmic pounding ache in my head. My eyes were blurred.


JM Coetzee, writing in the New York Times in 1986, discusses torture as a subject for South African writers.

The fact that the torture room is a site of extreme human experience, accessible to no one save the participants, is a … reason why the novelist in particular should be fascinated by it ….


“It is precisely because [he] stands outside the dark door, wanting to enter the dark room but unable to, that he is a novelist, that he must imagine what takes place beyond the door. Indeed, it is just that tension toward the dark room that he cannot enter that makes that room the source of all his imaginings – the womb of art.” John T. Irwin in Doubling and Incest/Repetition and Revenge: A Speculative Reading of Faulkner


In creating an obscenity, in enveloping it in mystery, the state creates the preconditions for the novel to set about its work of representation. … Yet there is something tawdry about following the state in this way, making its vile mysteries the occasion of fantasy. For the writer the deeper problem is not to allow himself to be impaled on the dilemma proposed by the state, namely, either to ignore its obscenities or else to produce representations of them. The true challenge is how not to play the game by the rules of the state, how to establish one’s own authority, how to imagine torture and death on one’s own terms.

Our work in Write Sex is:

  • not to play the sexual representation game by the rules
  • to establish our own authority as artists
  • to imagine sex on our own terms.

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.


Write Sex: Mysterious Conjunctions

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed by the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill, he holds her helpless breast upon his breast. How can those terrified vague fingers push the feathered glory from her loosening thighs? And how can body, laid in that white rush, but feel the strange heart beating where it lies? From Leda and the Swan, by William Butler Yeats

Write Sexercise: Here are 12 images. Describe in 6 full, grammatical sentences what you see in each image. So you will generate 12 sets of 6 sentences. It’s hard work. Do it. Don’t try to tell a story. Don’t give us the before and after of the moment captured here. Don’t get fancy. Just record what you see. Do not start any sentence with “There is …” or “I see …” For instance: There is a blue curtain. No. Try: The curtain is blue. Or: Is that blue curtain a curtain or a tent? The sentences don’t have to follow on from one another. You are a scientist making observations, not a storyteller. You are talking to yourself, not to a reader. You are curious. You understand some of what you can see, but there’s a great deal you don’t understand. All you can do is describe what you see.

Write Sexercise 2: Watch Kim Brandstrup’s ballet. It’s in 2 parts. “The film offers two different accounts of the meeting between Leda and the swan.” Which account do you prefer and why?  Or do you like them both? For different reasons? Or do you like that they are offered together? How do they influence your experience of each? Of the ballet as a whole? Write not more than 5 sentences or so for discussion.