Why Writing About Sex Is So Hard

It's actually all the readers' fault
By Jen Paton,  Newser User
Posted Nov 30, 2009 12:46 PM CST
Why Writing About Sex Is So Hard
Writing about sex is even more awkward than stock photography about sex.   (Shutterstock.com)

Our most august contemporary writers fumble virginally when it comes to writing about sex, and the BBC can't help but wonder why. After all, there have been plenty of renowned writers in the running for Literary Review's annual award for the best bad sex writing: Nominee Philip Roth penned this gem about a woman wearing a strap-on as "wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask…”

The problem, says one critic, is that too much sex writing is like a "biology textbook. When people use similes and metaphors in their anatomical depictions of the sexual organs, it's toe-curling." But this awkwardness is really the readers’ fault, says one novelist: Readers “always assume that I've had the sex I've written about,” so writers censor themselves, afraid we will think it's actually them wearing that weird totem mask. (Read more Salman Rushdie stories.)

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