WoP2

Why I Write Smut: A Manifesto

By

1. Because I’ve devoted perhaps eighty percent of my adult waking hours to thinking about sex, and it seems dishonest to pretend otherwise in my work.

2. Because human beings are never more alive to their own hope and shame and fear than when they are naked and aroused, and because the same must therefore be true of our characters, who are nothing more than poorly disguised versions of ourselves.

3. Because I’m really tired of seeing sex used to sell SUVs and underarm deodorant and crappy light beer, rather than being portrayed as a natural and sometimes even holy human endeavor.

4. Because I have accumulated over the years such a tremendous surplus of sexual humiliation that it seems stingy of me not to re-gift some it to my readers.

5. Because I happen to agree with Freud’s naughtiest disciple, Wilhelm Reich, who argued that a true political revolution would only be possible once sexual repression was overthrown, which pretty much rules out the Tea Party as a true political revolution because, boy, is that a movement that needs to get laid.

6. Because I am now married with two small children and thus writing about sex often constitutes the closest I get to having sex.

7. Because President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did have sexual relations, and while I could care less about the big phony scandal that story became, I am interested in the sweet and deranged version of love that passed between them. Aren’t you?

8. Because I’m really tired of having to listen to well-meaning religious folk misquoting God about how the rest of us should use our genitals.

9. Because both my parents are psychoanalysts – and despite what you are all now thinking, which is basically, Wow, you must be a really crazy person, which is a very interesting thought for you to have, by the way, and something we might want to talk about a bit later in the session – the one lesson my parents managed to impart, as I lay those many afternoons on the analytic couch that was, in fact, the only piece of furniture in our living room, is that our libidinal drives are not some bright new user option, but an essential part of our beings, an inborn riot of wants and counter wants that we can never control entirely. And because, as a writer, I’m interested in the loss of control, in the danger of forbidden thought and feeling, it strikes me as utterly foolish – just from a practical perspective – not to write about sex. Why skip over the part almost guaranteed to teach you something new about yourself?

10. Because I’m tired of living in a culture that allows children to fire make-believe glocks but freaks out at the first sign of a naked boob.

11. I just really love being able to write off lube as a business expense.

12. Because our best writing resides in the senses, and sex invokes all five of our senses—at least if you’re doing it right.

13. Because, though I watch pornography, and am terrifically involved with it for about two and a half minutes, I am most often made sad by pornography. Not simply because it involves the self-exploitation of people who probably have suffered a good deal of misfortune, and not simply because porn stars can perform in manners that often seem like physiological, geometrical, and even gravitational impossibilities (and thus make me feel like the abject sexual nebbish I surely am) but because porn stars are actors being paid, most often, to simulate pleasure. They drain sex of its single most intimate aspect: the vulnerabilities that bring us to the act in the first place, the drama of our imperfect bodies as we seek to make a communion of our desires.

14. Because I believe literature’s central purpose is not to pretend we don’t have bodies and their consequent needs, but to make us feel less alone with these needs.

15. Because the Puritans themselves were—don’t kid yourselves—total horndogs who wanted nothing more than to tear off those black robes and suffer a spiritual crisis. And because when I write about sex I am writing, ultimately, about a dream that begins with the Puritans: that we the people of this violent and troubled kingdom will at last forgive ourselves the lust and loneliness the reddens our blood, and will seek a final remedy in the warm temple of one another’s bodies. Who’s with me?

***

This Manifesto is part of a set of six tiny books called Writs of Passion. They are adult material, stories and essays that have appeared in Tin House, The Normal School, Playboy, Best American Erotica, etc., but are too dirty for prime-time. The covers fit together like a puzzle to form a gorgeous image, created by my DIY partner in crime Brian Stauffer. Limited edition, available until Valentine’s Day.

To order, send $25 per set via Paypal (sbalmond AT earthlink.net) or send an email to stevealmondjoy AT gmail.com.

***

“Why I Write Smut: A Manifesto” originally appeared in The Normal School, Spring 2012.

Art by Brian Stauffer.


Steve Almond is the author of eight books, including Letters from People Who Hate Me. You can order his new collection of stories, "God Bless America," here. More from this author →