By Lisabet Sarai

Most people have crappy sex lives.

All right, I will admit that is an
overstatement, intended to get your attention. Furthermore, I suspect
it is less true for the readers of the ERWA blog than for the
population in general. However, the claim is not too far from the
truth. The Durex Sexual Well-being Survey for 2007-2008 found that of
nearly 19,000 sexually active adults from 26 countries, only 44%
reported that they were fully satisfied with their sex lives. 38% of
women surveyed experienced orgasm “only sometimes”, “rarely”
or “never”. Although more than 60% of all respondents reported
having sex at least weekly, the average time for foreplay plus
intercourse was less than 20 minutes. Almost half of the respondents
said they would like to engage in some sort of sexual activity other
than their current practices (though the reported interest in
specific activities such as oral sex, anal sex or BDSM tends to be
around 10% per practice – supporting the old adage about different

The statistics above tend to confirm
what I’ve heard over the years from friends and lovers. Men feel as
though they never get the sex they need. They’re amazed and delighted
when they meet a woman who’s sexually relaxed, assertive and
experimental (like me). Women report that men are selfish or
incompetent lovers who leave them feeling frustrated and used.

Personally I’ve been extremely
fortunate. Through a combination of luck and courage, I’ve had a
wonderful sex life – exciting, diverse and enlightening. I’ve been
blessed with intelligent, sensitive, adventurous partners who weren’t
hung up on the virgin/whore dichotomy, who respected me even when I
shared – or acted on – the filthiest of my desires. I’ve tried
everything on the Durex list of “other” activities, and quite a
lot of other items not on their menu.

On the flip side, I’ve had very few
really bad sexual experiences. Of course I’ve had ho-hum sex, and
I’ve had my heart broken once or twice, but I’ve never been raped or
abused. On the occasions when I’ve ended up with a bastard in my bed,
I’ve known enough to walk away.

For me, sex has been a path not only to
pleasure but also to self-knowledge. Some of my liaisons, of course,
were no more than hot and heavy romps with few metaphysical
implications. What I remember, though, are the encounters that
changed me – experiences of communion, insights into who I was and
what I really wanted, glimpses of spirit peeking through the veil of
flesh. As C. Sanchez-Garcia wrote a few days ago, sex is more than
just instinct or entertainment. The urge to couple and connect is a
fundamental aspect of our humanity.

Because of my personal history, I tend
write erotica that focuses on good sex – joyful, fulfilling,
empowering, and transformative sex. The underlying message in much of
my work is simply that sex can be good for you – both for your body
and for your soul. I want my readers to know and believe that the
sort of experiences I describe are not just some fantasy ideal. They
too can enjoy their sexuality, not just vicariously by reading my
stories, but by being willing to reach out and grab some of that
goodness for themselves.

Earlier this month, Remittance Girl
suggested that both porn and romance are in some sense damaging to
their consumers because they “ultimately leave people constantly
yearning for a reality that cannot exist”. Although I appreciate
her point (as well as its elegant expression), sexual and emotional
happy endings do in fact exist in the real world – not
forever after, of course, but for longer than the brief moment of

My erotica frequently explores this
territory of sexual fulfillment. It’s a far more complex landscape
than one might imagine. Perhaps the critical difference between my
work and the more stereotyped instantiations of either porn or
romance is that satisfaction is never guaranteed. It is, however,
possible. I fervently want to convey that truth.

Remittance Girl notes that refusing to
definitively choose either side of the Apollonian/Dionysian dialectic
is a revolutionary act. I agree. One should not compromise truth for

On the other hand, I personally think
that writing about good sex that ends well is also a revolutionary
act. Many forces in society broadcast the message that if you have
sex, you’ll suffer later, partly because giving in to lust can in
fact undermine the stability that is the “civilized” ideal. A
number of past posts on this blog have commented that for a book to
be categorized as “literature”, sex must be portrayed in a
negative light. Those who indulge in carnality must be punished, by
misfortune or ostracism.

Well, guess what? In the real world, it
doesn’t necessarily work that way. My own life demonstrates that
fact. Considering the way I behaved in my twenties and thirties, I
should be totally miserable – damned, ruined, ravaged by disease,
saddled with feeble illegitimate children, scorned by society.
Instead, I’m solvent, healthy, childless by choice, moderately
productive, a respected member of my community, and in a loving
relationship. Oh, and I’m still close friends with a number of my
former lovers. My mother told me I was destined for hell, and perhaps
she was right, but in the meantime, I have no complaints.

I do write darker erotica sometimes.
Some encounters are destined for tragedy. A number of my stories
conclude with the deaths of the protagonists. A woman is burned at
the stake as a witch. Star-crossed lovers commit suicide rather than
be parted. A jaded sex addict is consumed by an exquisite tentacled
monster. I have played in the interstices between Eros and Thanatos.
Even in those tales, though, there’s some sense of transcendence. On
the verge of death, there’s a weird joy that comes from surrender and
acceptance – a kind of afterglow. I don’t think any of my tales are
likely to leave you feeling depressed.

I enjoy thinking about sex, writing
about sex, dreaming about sex. I suspect this shows in my work.

If the people who read my stories come
to believe that sexual happiness is possible, I’m delighted. If they
want more for themselves – all the better. Maybe that will stir
them to try something new, to move past their fears, to be more
honest with their partners.

That would be the sort of revolution
I’d be proud to support.