Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sex is a Scary Thing

Sex is a scary thing. That’s pretty obvious in the present political climate. But Sex really is a scary thing. I had a conversation once with another writer who wrote cozy crime. It wasn’t actually a conversation so much as it was a rant. She didn’t understand why sex was such a big seller. What was all this erotica stuff about anyway? Why did sex always have to be dragged out in a novel for the whole world to see? Why couldn’t it just stay in the bedroom where it belonged? Surly proper educated, intelligent grown-ups should prefer proper literature. This was in the halcyon days of 50SoG and the resulting erotica boom. The woman was not someone’s grandmother parading out her Victorian sensibilities. This was a person who was a good deal younger than I am. Seriously, sex is scary stuff! 

I don’t want to talk about obvious reasons why sex is scary. STDs, unwanted pregnancies, sex as abuse – sadly the fear of those is a constant. What I want to talk about is why sex is a scary thing just by the nature of being what it is.

Sex makes us vulnerable. We’re quite literally exposing our tender parts, the parts we keep hidden from public view, the parts we sometimes have disturbing dreams of exposing in the super market or the office. More than that physical exposure, we make ourselves vulnerable to another person, and that experience of opening ourselves is something we can never take back, something that permanently changes our perception of each other.

I remember my first view of split beavers and hard cocks in the pages of a dog-eared Hustler magazine that a friend and I had surreptitiously taken from her parents stash. My first response was 'gross!' I remember the little knot in my stomach. I remember the feelings below my stomach that disturbed me and at the same time intrigued me. All these years later having gained a healthy appreciation for the view of the tender bits hard and slippery and ready for action, I often find myself thinking about that first response, that first sense of shock that both disturbs and intrigues.

Sex is governed by something other than our rational mind. Anyone who has ever watched dogs or other animals mating understands that what’s happening is a primal imperative rather than a hot date. That we have a good bit of that primal urge in us just below the surface just waiting to kick aside the rational self and rut like rabbits is pretty scary. That we can somehow convince ourselves that sex among humans is more civilised, more easily controlled is even scarier still. 

Finally sex is scary because it offers an altered state that nothing else can. It feels as though we’ve been transported either to a deeper place in our bodies or someplace beyond.

I was eleven when I had my first orgasm, quite by accident. I was extremely ignorant of what touching my own body could lead to, and I thought I was having some sort of seizure. I was terrified. But then when it passed into little tremors, and I realised I wasn't going to die, I was intrigued enough to wonder, in scientific fashion, of course, if my results could be replicated.

I wish I could say that it was all smooth sailing from there on, but those of us who grew up in the western world all live with the religious and mythological shaping of our civilisation, whether we grow up in a liberal family or not. I had to fight the battles with guilt and shame. I had to fumble and faff about in those first sexual experiences with none of the elegance and aplomb we always read about and imagine. I had to decide for myself what it meant to be a ‘good girl.’ I had to find a way to claim and own my own scary sexuality. That, to me, is the scariest thing of all. Even now female sexuality is shamed and vilified. Even now tremendous lengths are gone to in order control it – efforts that are inadvertently just as damaging to male sexuality.

In many ways, I think, erotica and erotic romance are about rebelling against that control. Mind you I
don’t think erotica is our effort to tame sex and make it safe and toothless. I think it’s our way of walking with the wild beast and never forgetting that it is dangerous, that it is and always will be wild. The written word, story, is a safe place, in essence a container, in which to approach what will never be safe and yet what by our very nature, we long to embrace. Having said that, those of us who have been moved, disturbed, intrigued, changed by what we read or write can vouch for the fact that even in the written word, sex is a scary thing. 


  1. You're so right, KD.

    I think another reason sex is scary is that to truly experience it, you have to stop trying to control it. You let go, not knowing where it's going to take you (which could be some place miraculous, or terrible). It's like a drug, truly - but I guess you've already mentioned the altered state aspect.

    I had my first orgasm when I was four, using my pillow. I had no idea what was going on, only that it felt good. But I still remember feeling vaguely guilty, worried that someone would find out what I had been doing. Even that young, I'd managed to internalize the notion that things related to my vagina were dirty or wrong.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I am working on a "non-erotic" novel with lots of sex and the sexuality is a metaphor for overcoming the (supposed) split between mind and body. It is scary that we have primal impulses. Thanks for the reminder. We want to think of ourselves as our minds but it seems our minds are inextricably linked to our bodies--primal impulses included!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I can relate so much to your own experiences. Sex is a scary thing. For many years I struggled with my own wicked desires and fantasies, erotica and its authors helped me understand and better calm many of my insecurities and confusion.


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