Is the notion of women’s agency over their sexuality still so other that we are shocked that women have an interest in and write about sex?
This Telegraph article about erotic romance author Geraldine O-Hara has the headline “Writing about sex: The last thing you’d expect from this mother of five who knits”
What is it that The Telegraph find surprising? Is it that she is a woman writing about sex? Is it that she is a mother? Is it that she knits? The article in itself, written by Geraldine, talks about the stigma she felt as a writer and her fear of being judged harshly as a woman and a parent, sadly the headline written by the Telegraph only goes to reinforce the prejudice and attitudes that Geraldine writes of.
I’m rather interested in any parenting tips Geraldine can pass my way as a mother of five to a mother of one, but that aside why shouldn’t a mother write about sex? Why is the number of her children relevant and so what if she knits? This headline is a car crash of assumptions about the roles of women and mothers and what they should or shouldn’t be doing to fill their time. Why are mothers still not expected to express our sexuality or be interested in sex? I’ve had men on Twitter asking me not to talk about my daughter on my feed as they found it uncomfortable as I also talk about sex and sexuality, as if I can’t exist as a parent and a sexual person at the same time. I call bullshit. How do you think I got my daughter in the first place?
It is YOUR problem if as my reader you cannot understand that I am a whole person with different parts of my life; my work, my child, my home and family, my writing, my sex.
In my experience of running Eroticon it is predominantly women who write sex blogs, erotica and erotic romance, or to be specific; predominantly women who write sex blogs, erotica and erotic romance and want to attend an event where they can learn new skills and meet other writers in the same genre. There are men that write about sex, but anecdotal evidence suggests that within the erotica, erotic romance genres and sex bloggers women writers outweigh men.
It seems fair to suggest that people tend to write about what interests them and what they care about, they write about what is fun and challenging to them. If women don’t write about sex who will and whose version will inform the world we live in? Why should it be so shocking that women find sex a subject that they want to interrogate, share their experiences of or fictionalise? If we are writing for ourselves and others outside the mainstream press, publishing and media then it might suggest that the established voices talking about sex aren’t doing a very good job of engaging us.
I think there is also an underlying snobbery about taking the romance and erotica genres seriously as if the notion that these genres that appeal predominantly to women are somehow less worthy of respect. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a, “Man writes crime fiction shocker” style headline? (yes I know not all crime writers and readers are male, but I hope you get my point)
Women have always written about sex, it may not have been explicit portrayals of sex but there is always sex within the stories they write; from the Bronte sisters to Jane Austin sex is ever present as an underlying force in the works of fiction that talk about women’s lives and women’s experiences of the world. Vita Sackville West, Radcliffe Hall and Virgina Woolf all speak of the struggles of sex and identity. Nancy Friday collected women’s fantasies and Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper brought us outrageously celebrity soaked sex. More recently Zoe Margolis wrote of her experience as a young woman dating in London in the naughties. Yet the media seem to forget all of these writers and more until Fifty Shades of Grey reminded them that women like sex and like to write about it and read about.
We all have an experience of sex and sexuality and if we chose to write a sex blog about our life or to include suggested or explicit sex into our fictions we should be judged on the merit of our writing not on the number of our children or our crafting hobbies and most of all, no-one should be surprised that as women we find sex interesting.