Getting naked on the page about my sex life in 2015

18 Dec

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I wrote more published words this year than I ever have in my life, so taking stock of my sex writing in 2015 feels a little daunting. But when I do, a theme emerges: radical honesty.

Since my teen years in high school, when I was still a virgin, I’ve always written about myself, and felt no shame in doing so. When I started having sex and, a few years later, using sex toys, writing about that seemed like a natural segue. That hasn’t changed even though I’m now 40.

I will admit that over the last just-about-four years of dating my current boyfriend, I’ve had to reconsider my commitment to writing about my sexuality, because most of the time, that involves writing about him too. It’s a tricky balance, especially when one person (me!) pretty much doesn’t believe in TMI (too much information) and the other is extremely private. In such a situation, of course there have to be compromises.

For instance: my guy did a photo shoot with me on my birthday for a New York Post article on couples who sleep in separate bedrooms. I think he may have even enjoyed it, but when we got the full-color printed version of the newspaper, he could hardly stand to see himself in it. It’s not his thing, but he did it for me anyway. Yes, he’s a keeper.

newyorkpostseparatebeds

One of the reasons I fell in love with him and remain both in love with him and proud to have him as my partner is that my guy gives me carte blanche to write about my life, even the parts of it he’d rather I kept to myself, and that includes our sex life. The freedom to explore and learn and grow and, yes, further my writing career, has meant the world to me. The way my mind works is that I can’t really know myself until I’ve written down whatever I’m thinking. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, and I don’t think that will change.

When I teach workshops about how to write about your sex life, I try to instill in my students the belief that they own their story. That doesn’t mean that you should be using someone else’s full name and extremely detailed description, but that you shouldn’t feel guilty for telling your truth. I also ask them to think about why they are writing; what purpose do they want their intimate tale to serve?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself often over the years, and what I’ve discovered is that it’s not just about being an exhibitionist via words. It’s about connecting with other people, sharing something that, while it may not be explicitly educational, makes them feel as if they know a little bit about me and perhaps, in turn, know, or find out through introspection, a little more about themselves. I write about my sex life because I want to demystify sex and because I gain insights into my own life.

One reason knowing why you’re writing is so important is that then you know how to separate yourself, as a person, from who you see on the page. For example, I wrote a short essay about my sex life for the October 2015 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, about how my boyfriend and I schedule sex, and that we do it in one main position. This felt risky for me, because even though I still identify as kinky and put out a new book of BDSM erotica, Dirty Dates, this year, I felt like I was implying that I’m as basic as you can get in the bedroom.

Then I pushed myself a little bit more: why exactly did I care what anyone else thinks about my sex life, which exists only between my boyfriend and me? Yes, I may have admitted that I use lube every single time I have sex and detailed exactly how we use a Liberator wedge pillow during sex, but that doesn’t take away the specialness of what we do in bed.

sexpillowwedgeliberator

photo via Liberator.com (no, I don’t look quite like that when I’m using one of these)

I’m not arguing that everyone should or wants to be as transparent about their sexuality as I am. Many of us channel aspects of our personal lives into our fiction (though please, please, please don’t ever assume when you’re reading romance or erotica that it’s based on real life; if you wouldn’t make those assumptions about a murder mystery, don’t make them about sex in fiction). But I think some people were simply born to be literary exhibitionists. For some of us, writing about our naked, raw, unfiltered sexuality is as natural as breathing.

The trick, I’ve found, is that no matter how personal I get, it doesn’t mean that I’ve revealed 100% of myself for anyone else. I haven’t even revealed 100% of myself to myself, which is why life remains interesting and I have new things to write about. What’s “too personal” to one writer might be no big deal to another. For instance, writing about trying to get pregnant feels more revealing to me than the mechanics of how I fuck. Yet that article on baby-making sex is one of the ones I’m most proud of from 2015, because I got to talk to people about a topic that is often shrouded in mystery. It’s assumed that, well, you know what to do, and you just do more of it at the right time and voila, you’re parents. For some of us, that’s not so easy, and can cause strain in a relationship. That’s perhaps the less “sexy” side of sex, but still an interesting one. I’d love to read about that in a romance (if you know of romances that deal with fertility issues in a tasteful way, I’d love to hear about them!).

On a less personal and more political note, I wrote about why the whole “dad bod” notion leaves out sexy fat guys, and why that’s a problem. I’m tired of the equation of “thin” with “sexy,” when it comes to both men and women. Yes, Fashion Santa, the 51-year-old male model who’s posing for selfies at a Canadian mall, has caused a sensation this Christmas season, but when we only fetishize thin men or women, we leave so many people out of the equation.

In case you missed them, here at Lady Smut, I wrote about why silver foxes are sexy (and that it’s okay to have the hots for someone literally twice your age), the human side of sex dolls, and offered up a moving-themed erotica story inspired by the fact that in January, I’ll have moved four times in four years!

My “getting naked” in this post’s title isn’t just about sex writing, though. It’s about being true to ourselves. This year, I discovered podcasts (I know, what took me so long, right?) and they have become a major part of my life. One of my favorite podcasters, Tiffany Han of Raise Your Hand. Say Yes., asked some very important questions in a recent blog post, including, “What would happen if you honored yourself and your own opinions as much as you honor everyone else’s?”

What does that have to do with sex, and romance, and writing? Everything. You don’t have to agree with me, or any other writer, or your friends, family, lover(s), coworkers, etc., in order to contribute to the conversation. Your words don’t have to look like anyone else’s or conform to known categories or types or fetishes. You might be inspired by role models or mentors, or you might choose to strike out on your own path. My 2015 takeaway: whatever route you choose, go for it wholeheartedly. Believe in your vision, your dream, your talent, yourself. If I’ve learned anything about the world, it’s that people will appreciate you offering a version of you that’s real.

One Response to “Getting naked on the page about my sex life in 2015”

  1. Madeline Iva December 18, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    It’s so fascinating to hear how it feels from your perspective, Rachel. From my perspective I always read your work and feel like you’re giving me/us permission to be brave, to put it out there without shame, to just own our sexual, sophisticated, multi-faceted, vulnerable selves.

    For me, the most moving personal writing you’ve done has been about hoarding recovery. I don’t know why these articles moved me so much, but whenever you talk about it, I’m there and I’m in such a raw vulnerable state myself afterwards. I guess there is something so very human and touching about admitting to our secret flaws and the people who support us in helpful ways as we try to be gentle with ourselves. It’s raw and beautiful to me (but I may be strange for saying so.) Anyway — so glad you’ve been a part of the LadySmut world this year. 🙂 http://the-toast.net/2013/08/01/on-hoarding/
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/02/03/for-love-of-stuff-how-hoarding-shaped-my-relationship-for-better-and-for-worse/

    Like

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