In my 20s, I wasn’t a good lover – and never met men my age who were good lovers either. We were all highly sexed, but mostly immature. Back then, sex was disappointing. Men seemed to enjoy having sex with me, but I didn’t “show up”. My body was a labyrinth of secret crevices and places hidden to me, let alone to my lovers. How did I get to have orgasms like Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks – rolling, thunderous full-bodied spiritual highs? Years went by, and I felt let down. I wasn’t having the sex I thought I was entitled to, the sex modelled by Hollywood.
In my 40s I assigned myself to tantric sex school, took lessons from gifted body workers and tantric masseurs and finally discovered the wondrous variety of orgasms my body had to offer. All women possess a clitoris, g-spot, vagina and anus – all can produce much sexual ecstasy. Only now do I get the sex I dreamed of, and yet it’s nothing like Hollywood sex. Hands-on skill, experience and a lot of showing, asking and giving are part of it, as well as very intimate verbal communication. Good sex is harder to get than I thought – and yet worth all the fuss.
Long-term heterosexual monogamy is still the dominant model: men and women still want to pair for a long period of time. Writing about the emotional complexities involved when, again and again, we copulate with only one other person over many years is rich material for fiction. The boredom, fatigue and frustration, and the joy, relief and loving pleasure shared in this long-haul journey is worth writing about. Sex can either be a non-verbal language that smoothes the other jagged edges, or the biggest edge between a couple. For this kind of up-close realism, I believe those who are well beyond vanilla land are currently leading the way, writing and blogging about sex online.Novelist Monique Forrey writes about why she agrees with Martin Amis: women are better at writing about sex than men
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Legendary novelist Will Self writes about why working at a university with people who pursue knowledge for its intrinsic value is truly liberating:
Here are two contrasting experiences. I read a short story I have written to a group of people, and when I’ve finished I invite questions, stressing that these can be as broad or specific as they wish. The first questioner wants to know how I see meta-fictional conceits in relation to the traditional philosophic novel, and when we’ve discussed this for a while she asks for further reading recommendations. A second questioner asks me how I view my work in relation to naturalistic fiction. A third makes a comparison between my story and a novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (a doyen of Latin American science fiction writing), and it’s my turn to note down this suggestion for further reading.
The following day I speak to someone on the phone who’s read the film script I’ve adapted from the same short story. She asks me this question: “Why did you mention the brand name of a lemon squeezer in your script?” This is not a single bathetic instance – she follows it by asking me questions for a further 20 minutes, none of which suggest any familiarity with my work beyond this script and an article I wrote for the Guardian travel section about Trafalgar Square.
The first group was, of course, comprised of university students, whereas the individual phone caller was a journalist on a national newspaper.