How we talk about sex

Right now, I’m working on a series of short stories dealing with sex, and I’m terribly disappointed with the drafts. Why? Because they read like cheap erotica.

I see two possible reasons for this: my generation’s discourse and language of sex, and the nature of the sexual incidents described in this series (#18). Sex is over-discussed and frequently consumed, both the real thing and media depictions of it. It’s such a vital part of our existence that it has become an inevitable topic of our daily conversations as well; and through these dialogues, we have created a common language of sex, one that is rife with overused vocabulary and innuendos that are understood universally, sometimes even across languages.

And when I write about sex, especially sex that is nothing more than pure carnal pleasure (you might call them “one night stands”), which is what #18 explores, most verbs, adverbs, and nouns (there are only so many other things you could call the various body parts involved) start glaring off the page as clichés. The print starts mocking me, Of course, what else would you do with that? How else would he grab it? Where else would it go? Ha. Ha. HA.

An ex-lover has been urging me to write a poem about our good times. I didn’t think I could do it. How would I create something original when everything about sex has become a cliché? Sex is cliché because the human race has tried just about everything there is to try. And it’s everywhere, even hiding behind unrelated subjects, out of context. Why else would “that’s what she said” jokes exist?

If I were to write it, how would I find the right words, the ones that somehow still float above the sea of clichés, and evoke, with their sound, the particular moods and sensations I’ve felt during some of my most pleasurable moments? How would I succeed at using them? And the even harder task: how can I write about meaningless fucks with eloquence and dignity?

One idea occurred. Last week, I went to a LanguageCast meeting, where language enthusiasts and polyglots gather at the same time and place once a week to practice different languages and meet new people. I went mostly because I had nothing better to do, but once I gave my self-introduction in front of the 100+ people crowd in English, Korean, and French, two French men eventually joined my table and tried to get me to speak French with them (you might actually meet them someday in a story; they were quite the comical duo). It was only my first time there and I hadn’t spoken French in a very long time, so I didn’t say much, opting instead to listen in on their conversation.

I think I’ll have to continue attending, because through hearing unfamiliar languages and words, I might escape the limitations of English sex. I want to hear French sex, Spanish sex, Japanese sex… Maybe this way, I can acquire a lexicon full of new possibilities.

The only problem? Approaching strangers and asking them to talk to me about sex might scare them away…or give them the wrong impression.

So if you speak both English and another language and want to help me in this endeavor (and no, it should be strictly conversational!), leave me a comment.




  1. greg said:

    “Of course, what else would you do with that? How else would he grab it? Where else would it go? Ha. Ha. HA … How would I create something original when everything about sex has become a cliché? Sex is cliché because the human race has tried just about everything there is to try.”

    What about another interpretation: that language in the first part of the quoted text is simply an ironic shirking of consideration well due on a deep and almost universally applicable issue? Perhaps that’s the cause of many problems.

    In that light, the complaint of “cliche” builds upon the irony, which itself rejected the applicability/gravity/substance of the consideration in the first place.

    Perhaps if you buy this analysis, you can instead take the perspective of two things:

    1. Serious personal conversations between two persons or an “intimate group”
    2. Views articulated for personal reflection and only private or personal consumption

    I feel these two situations may sidestep some cultural tendencies towards the ironic dismissal of many issues; I personally see this as an unfortunately superficial and shallow consideration of meaning and purpose. Obviously many others will disagree =).

    • n said:

      You’re definitely on to something, greg. I think the problem is that the experiences in these particular stories were not meaningful. Then why did I write about them? Because of the second perspective you offer; I wanted a personal record of them. But I wanted to share the fun with others, too, which is why I attempted to write them for this blog.

      Actually, the experience detailed in one of the stories was meaningful, something I will always cherish, but even that one came out poorly. I suspect there may be entirely different forces at work there, which I’ll have to come to terms with on my own.

      The remaining stories belong in the realm of irony; I had an inkling they would but wanted to take on the challenge of turning them into something more. Maybe that’s not possible, though, because the experiences themselves were clichéd. How has sex become such a cliché?

      I’d like your thoughts on that. 😉

  2. Jingjing said:

    Have you read The Story of O? Perhaps you should read some classic erotica. I’ve always wanted to read Sade’s work.

    • n said:

      No, I haven’t, but I will be soon! Thanks for the recommendation, Jingjing!

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