Bang for Your Words: Exploring Our Sexuality Helps Us Write More

Literature is all, or mostly, about sex. ―Anthony Burgess, English writer and composer

Art and sexuality share a commonality. They're both expressive manifestations of our humanity. Both are ways we can connect with others and our wilderness. Both are often considered provocative. Bad sexual experiences can be frustrating and even traumatizing. The same goes for bad artistic experiences. And great sex, like great art can be stirring and stimulating.

Looking back, sex has been a favorite subject of artists throughout history and the media from ancient Greek painters to Shakespeare to Nicki Minaj. Creative minds are fascinated by sex. (And rightly so.) I mean, who doesn't enjoy a little whoopee here and there?

But how does exploring our sexuality help us write more? Create more? Nadine Thornhill, actor/playwright turned sexuality educator, says that "gaining a deeper understanding of my sexuality is part of getting to know myself. The better I know myself, the more authentic I'm able to be with everything I do, including my writing."

From a practical standpoint, knowing what works for you sexually makes it easier to have the type of sex you want. "Sexual satisfaction is beneficial for our bodies and our brains...In my experience, it's much easier to write when I feel good and having good sex definitely helps that happen," adds Thornhill.

And as for sexual exploration increasing our writerly output... There's some wonderful and beautiful erotic writing out there, but as writers, "unless we're specifically seeking out different stuff," says Thornhill, "a lot of our exposure to sexual writing is going to be pretty mainstream" such as heteronormative, cis-centric, youth and orgasm focused. It's sort of like: Here's sex, and it's six acts performed by four types of people. But the range of actual human sexual expression and experience is limitless.

I think writers, like most people, might run into concerns if what they want sexually isn't normal. Except there is no normal. It's just a myth, and the popularized version of sex is the only time we get to see (or hear) about other people doing it. But there are ways sexual exploration can influence your writing. Thornhil recommends the following:

  1. Take some time and explore some alternative depictions of sexuality. Read books where people do it in ways that seem a little strange to you. Find erotic material that describes things you aren't familiar with. You may find some of it arousing, or you may not. But I think it can help us as writers and as people learn a bit about all the weird and wonderful ways that people like to fool around.
  • Don't worry about whether what you're doing sexually is normal or matches what you've read or written. Thornhill recommends concentrating on what feels good, what works for you and whoever else may be involved in your sex life. "It's easier said than done -- I'm still working on it myself--but it's totally worth the effort to figure out who you are sexually!"
  • Now, there's a difference between healthy and unhealthy sexual manifestations. But my guess is that everyone has very personal ideas about what healthy and unhealthy mean in terms of sexuality. For Thornhill, healthy or positive sexual experiences include: pleasurable emotions (happiness, satisfaction, pride, excitement, etc.); if a partner is involved, honest communication and a willingness to negotiate; and always, always consent. Negative sexual experiences happen when there's the presence of consistent unpleasant feelings (fear, sadness, shame, anger, etc.) or when there's a great deal of difficulty communicating with a partner. Coerced or non-consensual sex has no place in a healthy sexual relationship and is completely unacceptable.

    I think those of us in relationships can try to be aware of what we need sexually. As writers, language is our skin, and we can harness our skills of verbosity to keep open communication with our partners. We can talk about what we want and need sexually and negotiate so we can figure how best to fulfill the desires of everyone in the relationship. "It may not necessarily lead to more sex," says Thornhil, "but hopefully it can help us have better sex, which will hopefully make us happier and lead to better writing."



    To learn more about Nadine Thornhill you can usually find her kicking around her hometown of Toronto, Ontario or being on the Internet lots. Check out her site, Tweet her at @NadineThornhill or follow her on Facebook.