We've found the people penning the best sex writing, from transgender studies to lesbianism and blogs
How lucky we are to be living and reading in the first sex-aware century. Credit where it’s due to the twentieth: that century wrestled us all the way from prudish Victorianism to All Saints videos. But being anything other than straight and normy was a bit of a struggle. Who can know what books went unwritten, then? In Y2K, thankfully, a new millennium dawned over a world which already knew the difference between gender, sex and sexuality. That has been important for culture: literature has changed because of it, and continues to change. There are no hard and fast (lol) genres or definitions to contemporary sex writing, because we as a culture are getting over the idea that there are any genres or definitions to human sexuality. Well done us. In celebration, here are ten of the most interesting voices writing about sex today.
CHELSEA G. SUMMERS
Chelsea G. Summers’ newsletter will set fire to your inbox, corrupt your graphics card, and melt your heart. They are like little postcards from a beautiful body and mind that, after 50-odd years on earth, refuse to finish learning about sex. If you’ve caught her work in Adult you are probably already all over this babe like a seagull on spilled chips. Her writing is florid, sometimes so overworked and dense that you can get lost in it, like a maze – but don’t rescue us just yet.
Confused about why fisting was among the sex acts recently banned in British pornography? Well, use that confusion as an excuse to visit Jiz Lee’s website, where the outrageously sexy genderqueer porn performer gives a lucid, personal and fascinating breakdown of the issues at stake for queer screen representation. The word “sapiosexual” is a bit nauseating, but there’s no denying that Jiz’s evident wisdom amps up their sheer physical appeal.
If you don’t know about Mehron, you need to tune the heck into Midnight Zero (co-hosted by the divine Elspeth Walker) and hear this spiritually wise princess talk you through culture, the body, and the sweet language of technology. Or, go request access to his MA thesis, Generous Narcissism. No better theorisation of the way our bodies perform on the ever-fracturing screen world exists:
Generous narcissism is an insistent antonymy. It operates on speed and heat, the velocity of Internet and the friction of generosity and self-obsession, of the you I see in me. It is a generous practice of mutual and excessive attention that worries excess. It is a becoming-self, a care for the self that recognises and celebrates the strength of the slippage between self, image, and other. It is fashioning from the refuse of culture tools with which to navigate the crippling distance between one's sense of self and the vehicle of self, the body. Generous narcissism is what happens when Narcissus, reaching out to touch his image, soft, impossible, feels something, someone, touching back.
You may know Stoya from her work as a mainstream adult performer, from last summer’s States of Independence Dazed head-to-head with fellow author Melissa Gira Grant, or her fine writing for outlets from the New York Times to her own excellent blog. To all she does, Stoya brings a sense of commitment and sincerity. Her style is direct and narrative, closer to that of a reporter than a self-indulgent ruminator. She speaks with the force of knowledge and it is a privilege to listen.
JEFFREY Q. MCCUNE, JR.
McCune’s 2014 book Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing examines the African-American men who pass as straight but have sex with men down-low. Ranging from the details of Oprah shows and R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet to the great cultural arcs of expectations for male racialised sexualities, Sexual Discretion is highly readable but also as new and exciting as scholarly writing on sex can be.
Okay, so Jane Bowles is far from contemporary. She only wrote one book, Two Serious Ladies, and it came out in 1943. Any self-respecting sex-haver, however, should own it. Bowles’ tale of debauchery and hard-partying lesbianism tallied with her own extraordinary life – she used to swan about Greenwich Village calling herself the “Kike Dyke.” She had amazing hair, dated Libby Holman and died glamorously young. You owe it to yourself to read this.
MARGO NATALIE CRAWFORD
Think you’re too cool for academic books? Think you’re smart enough to know how to navigate this insane sexual plane of existence without their help? You’re completely wrong and should go and apply for a library card. You could do much worse than to start with Margo Natalie Crawford’s 2008 book Dilution Anxiety and the Black Phallus, an expert dissection of the fetishisation of blackness, with a focus on the differing treatment of lighter and darker skins by the discourse on race in the twentieth century. Sex: it is behind everything, but in a system so intricate that you can never grasp its patterning without a good teacher.
TITS AND SASS
If there’s a rule to reading about sex work, it is that workers themselves should always go straight to the top of the syllabus. Tits and Sass is “a group blog run by sex workers who saw a void when it came to witty commentary on the public image of our industry.” On one level, it is just that – funny, readable, smart. On another, it is a seriously remarkable collection of testimonies. These voices have not been gathered under the well-intentioned auspices of concerned do-gooders or politicians or researchers or any other kind of ventriloquist: Tits and Sass is just a bunch of people speaking for themselves, clearly.
Stryker earned her place in the history books by naming her first book Gay by the Bay: a true stroke of genius. But we recommend her in the highest terms for her 2008 volume Transgender History, an historical survey of American transgender culture in the later twentieth century. This book isn’t sex writing so much as writing that encompasses the meanings of sex. Gender is so indivisibly a part of our conception of sexuality that we all have a duty to learn about its past.
Weise’s books The Amputee’s Guide to Sex (2007), The Colony (2010) and The Book of Goodbyes (2013) are not to be chosen between—read them all. Weise has written about her computerized leg and identification as a cyborg for the New York Times and other places, but poetry and fiction are her true platform. You can read a very fine sex scene—a relentless internal monologue, really—excerpted from the The Colony over at Salon.