I enjoy politics and political analysis – to a degree – but I am so disgusted with this year’s election politics, I give up. I don’t want to talk about Sarah Palin’s “shuck and jive” nonsense, or The National Overseer, Donald Trump, continuing to ask Obama for his freedom papers. I am so tired of pundits and polls that I don’t even want to talk about being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m going to cast my vote on November 6 and pray for the best.
So instead of politics, I’ve been focused on sex – specifically, writing about sex.
BlogHer is seeking submissions for an e-book on sex. The submission deadline is October 29. If you’re interested in learning more, click on the link.
I submitted a piece for consideration. If it is accepted, you won’t know, because I’ve asked that it be published anonymously, or under a pseudonym. If my piece is accepted, I’ll disclose the truth to a few close friends, as well as agents.
Whether my piece is accepted for the BlogHer sex book or not, the exercise of writing it reminded me that writing about sex is hard. I have long admired my friend and Blog Talk Radio partner-in-crime Michele Grant (@OneChele on Twitter) for her ability to write sex scenes in her novels that are sexy and interesting without being silly, embarrassing or disgusting. If you’re not familiar with her work, check her out on Amazon and at the Black ‘n Bougie blog.
What do I consider bad sex writing? I’m sure many of you would put the “50 Shades” series in that category. I haven’t read “50 Shades” and nothing about the series tempts me. The Literary Review’s Bad Sex Awards gives a “prize” to the worst, most perfunctory sex scene in literature each year; an example can be found here.
For lack of competition if nothing else, when one thinks of erotic fiction written by black writers, the name Zane inevitably comes up. I have never read a Zane book cover to cover, but I do have one in my house – courtesy of my teenage daughter, who liberated it from a family member (no, not me) when she was thirteen. I found it in her room, and simply told her there were better ways to find out about sex than reading Zane. What I did not do, is criticize my daughter for being sexually curious. I have three older brothers, so by the time I was a teenager, I’d read much worse than Zane. (Check out my post Clouds and Panties for the story of one particular book from my brothers’ library that captured my imagination when I was about eight.)
Zane’s sex writing is frustrating – a lot of windup and no pitch. Here’s a fairly safe example, from the book entitled Sex Chronicles II: Gettin’ Buck Wild. “Thomas wasted no time going to town on my…”
Okay, so maybe that’s not quite safe – but what does “going to town” mean? What did he do? Where’s the description?
In a Zane book, a reader will find lots of nasty words, which might be titillating to some, but little detailed action. And the stories are pretty pedestrian. But I cannot knock her hustle. Zane has made millions in book sales; she has two series on Cinemax, including the pioneering Zane’s Sex Chronicles; and she is a publisher in her own right – Strebor Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
While I am not a fan of Zane’s writing, I do appreciate Zane for bringing black women, and a black woman’s perspective, into erotica. Even today, when black women appear in erotic stories or on film, they are simply fetish objects. In Zane’s books, black women appear as real people, with their own stories. Zane’s black women characters tell their own stories, from their perspectives. They enjoy sex on their terms, without shame or reservation.
Unfortunately, despite Zane’s success, it is still rare, in fiction and non-fiction alike, to find good writing about sex from a black woman’s point of view. Women on mainstream sites like XOJane chronicle their sex lives in detail, and no one generally accuses those women of destroying themselves. By contrast, the comments on The Grio’s recent video interview of Zane highlight the backlash black women who write about sex often face: ”Wake up sisters come back to the reality, stop yourself from constantly rotating in sexual fantasies and destroying your and your children life and save yourself.” A once-frequent commenter on this site (now banned) often argued that black women had a particular duty to be even more chaste than other women.
Whether or not the BlogHer sex book accepts my submission, writing about my own sexual fantasies and experiences under cover of anonymity unlocked some areas in my writing that I am eager to explore further. I don’t think there’s any risk I’ll start a “Carolyn Erotique Noire” series, but sex and sexuality are important facets of who I am, and I enjoyed giving voice to a side of myself I often keep hidden behind my professional mask. Stay tuned.