The crowd was shoulder to shoulder in a hotbox of anything and everything erotic. There was skin. There were whipped cream games. Love, humor, and dance; everyone in attendance came to emphatically celebrate Eros.
Poets and burlesque dancers for the fifth “Speaking of Sex” event in Albuquerque, NM were an incredible mixture of artists of all ages, backgrounds and styles. There were words about how parts of a house might feel about sex, how women feel about shaving, removing pants, romance, night, soufflés, and physics.
I am much more comfortable talking about sci-fi than sex. I’m all about encouraging safe spaces, but my sex life has always been my own business, and I don’t really care to know about anyone else’s.
When “Speaking of Sex” (S.o.S) event creator Zachary Kluckman asked me to read erotic poetry at the fifth installment of the event, I was hesitant. While I am a poet, I didn’t have any erotic poetry. I didn’t like the idea of writing about my own experience, but Zack explained erotic poetry could be sensual poetry, love poetry, or whatever else, so long as it was an expression of Eros, 14th century Greek for passionate desire or theia mania: “madness of gods”.
I stumbled into my first erotic poetry reading about a year before in Cambridge, MA, which I recall had a strange and uncomfortable number of Pokemon-themed erotica. After that, I had heard enough.
I thought about it a little too long. My roommate signed us both up.
“We have to do things that scare us,” she said. She’s right. She researched physics for her poem: “Wow, radiation is sexy!”
I asked some of the poets for their insight on writing erotica. I wanted to know what kind of approach other writer’s used for dealing with such an intimate subject. It seemed like the rest of the poets had some kind of amazing secret that allowed them to write such honest, uninhibited, and incredibly sexy poetry.
Rich Boucher, says that apart from familiarizing oneself with the norms of erotic poetry, it is important for the writer to choose an inventive angle on the topic. This allows for humor as well as a story the audience can be part of.
“When I am moved to write a poem…that has an erotic theme to it, my first thought tends to be the following: this…absolutely cannot have any references to peaches or any other fruit…If I ever did allow myself to involve references to fruits in an erotic poem, I know that I would immediately need to try to ruin the reference…”. Boucher’s method of finding humor in erotic topics is a way of providing a comfortable space to individuals who might normally feel uncomfortable.
Another poet, Nate Maxson, geared his work towards exploration of the sensual, not necessarily sexual. He says, “What I am interested in is intimacy in poetry, creating a temporary shared space between a poem and an audience (either listening or reading) so in that way I end up approaching non-erotic subjects in a way that gives them just a hint of the erotic, a non-sexual sensuality.”
But for me, having only experienced Pokemon erotica night in the beer-soaked basement of the incomparable Cantab Lounge, the writing process was rough.
My first attempt at writing erotica was cliché. A little hilarious, a little confused. I realized then that I was in the same predicament as when I’m trying to flirt, dress, or act sexy. I didn’t feel sexy at all while writing it.
After I’ve written a few classic lines so very painful they won’t be published here, I decided I was probably the least erotic poet on this earth. Seriously, I was verging on Sam-Smith-level melodrama, and no poetry-loving person would ever take me seriously or sexily.
I stressed about this for a while. And then I stressed about the rest of my life. If I’m supposed to be a writer, shouldn’t I be able to free think my way right through this boulder? It was oddly demoralizing to realize I could more easily write an essay about the tree-house lifestyle of Wookies on the plant Kashyyyk than sex.
I don’t know why it automatically occurred to me to write about my own experience. I could just as easily write about something embarrassingly not-unlike Pokemon, and divert this train into metaphor. I definitely have the geek credentials for some excellent intergalactic, world-between-worlds erotica, and my personal romances usually segue into some friend-based event horizon of trivia questions or useless facts. Which is certainly a good way to temper most romantic confrontations.
There was something in the challenge of writing erotica that forced me into mode of self-reflection. It hit me that I’d never really thought about the space I personally give Eros. I’ve always been comfortable with my views on sexuality, though my experiences, for many reasons, would be considered nonstandard in the modern rules of dating. I don’t subscribe to the hookup culture or date for the fun of it. I’d much rather have a comfortable, non-pressured friendship. So my main thought about the privacy of relationship experiences is that intimacy is not intimate if it’s something shared with the world.
On the subject of sharing intimacy, I remembered telling an ex-boyfriend once that sometimes he made me think of things like nebulas. He was offended. He said I should have been thinking of him or what we were doing, but I thought of it as something totally strange that only love could bring me. Maybe that’s part of my insecurity? I mean, if kissing me ever made a man think of nebulas? That would be amazing.
I decided to write a love poem, about no one in particular, but about how I felt about expressing love through touch. I realized I am exactly the type of person that Zachary Kluckman and the other S.o.S. participants want to reach: someone who isn’t used to that kind of openness in a community of strangers as well as friends, but is willing to share their own perspectives in a safe environment. The sharing of these experiences provides opportunity to help others achieve a level of comfort or liberation they might not otherwise have access to. The reading didn’t change my perspective or values, but I did feel more comfortable, accepted, and encouraged. I wrote,
And together we are time,I think that speaks for more than sex. This is a kind of intimacy that can come from friendships, conversations, collaborations. It is an expression that allows someone else to have an impact on your life and you to have an impact on theirs, in a way that is beyond your control. I think that is one purpose of erotica: the claim that this kind of intimacy exists.
all of time.
You know this.
Our space is constructed of moments
we find ourselves changing each other.
Here’s to doing things that scare you, and creating safe spaces.
Kristian Ashley Macaron is a Staff Writer at The BAR and spends much of her time adventuring anywhere possible. She received an MFA from Emerson College. Her fiction has appeared in The Winter Tangerine Review. Find her on twitter @Kristianmacaron.