04 August 2009

The Power of Erotica

The school bus ride home serves as the modern day watering hole for adolescent children in America, the fertile ground where rumour, tall tales, and urban mythology are excitedly dispensed and skeptically believed. Here, a particular kind of teenage subversive wisdom converges from an an equal balance of naïveté and precociousness. The ride to school is too depressed, the schoolyard is an unsafe panopticon, and friendships in time become too inculcated. Only on the bus ride home can an outsider looking for troubled attention find a ready audience.

I must admit at first my interest in erotica was purely prurient. The hormonal 13 year old raged on unapologetically. Upon hearing that such a thing existed, from the resident troublemaker on my 8th grade bus, I became obsessed with experiencing it for myself. Jeff had a strong weaselly quality about him, so I scoffed when he told me about a salacious story involving a brother and a sister he had downloaded off an IRC the night before. When he promised he'd bring me, and three other skeptics, copies the next day we prepared ourselves to cut him down when he wouldn't deliver, but deep down, I think we all wanted for Jeff's lurid claim to be true.

Amazingly, the old boy came through. And the next day he had four fresh copies of the filthiest 10 pages I'd ever read. The shock to my system was substantial. Of course I was aware of pornography, I'd even stolen a few peeks here and there, but I had never imagined that someone would be perverted enough to verbalise carnal knowledge. In many ways, it was a revelation.

I began to insatiably scour endless networks, IRCs, and BBSs, for my own special kind of contraband. And indeed it was contraband. When some of my hidden stories were unearthed underneath my mattress, a confrontation ended with a stern warning for such a mutually embarrassing discovery to never repeat itself. This slight deterrence was just a speed bump in my burgeoning sexual education. In just a few weeks, I learned more about the physical enaction of love from these lust filled tales than any porno or health class.

In my post-adolescence my fascination gradually waned. I had essentially abandoned erotica for the last decade until recently when I decided to read
Delta of Venus: Erotica by Anaïs Nin. Thinking my sordid history precluded me from any sort of affectation, I was shocked to find myself blushing at Nin's graphic yet beautiful descriptions. I couldn't understand the source of my uneasiness. After all, we are bombarded by sexual imagery on a daily basis to the point of complete desensitisation. Yet here I was needing to turn up the AC whilst reading a book!

What had happened to me? Had I grown soft in my dotage? Was I pulling a Wordsworth and turning - gasp - conservative? Impossible, an explanation simply required some intensive pondering. Slowly I realized the strength of Nin's writing was her poetic characterisations. She forces you to invest in the narrative and care about its outcome, and when the more kinky elements are introduced it results in a visceral reaction.

Nin's work reminded me of the cosmic joys of emotional and physical attraction, of the awesome potential of the libido, and of the humbling power women and men exert over each other.

One final impression: sure glad I wasn't part of a carpool growing up.

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