I’ve been surprised by the questions I’ve received at readings and from friends about what is considered my overt treatment of sex in my novels. All of the characters, male and female, experience complications because of it.
From the time I was four until I was eight, I lived on a farm on the Canadian prairies where animals were constantly going at it. The act seemed a normal and essential ingredient of not just being human but also of being part of the natural world. As Annie sings in Annie Get Your Gun, it’s “Doin’ what comes naturally,” and I loved to perform that song as a girl, along with my sister. I don’t think then we knew the suggestiveness of what we were singing, but the words still resonate for me:
Folks are dumb where I come from,
They ain’t had any learning.
Still they’re happy as can be
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).
I’m reminded of the 93-year-old character Bubbles in my novel Fling! who also is doing what comes naturally. As one reviewer wrote in The California Journal of Woman Writers, “the idea of a ninety year old woman even being interested in sex, let alone looking for a fling in Mexico as the premise of Fling! goes, struck my cynical twenty-three year old self as improbable.”
Later she says, “While the novel is full of rollicking flings and short bursts of mini-climaxes, the healing effects of Bubbles’ and Feather’s experiences are clearly long-lasting. Indeed, the novel seems to resolve (or come close to resolving) some of the most age-old tensions between eternity and transience, life and death. While the experience of reading Fling! for the first time was a fleeting one (as all our experiences are), its lessons and magic have stayed with me and will continue to do so as with all of our more meaningful flings.”
People who are alive in their sexuality and not embarrassed by it seem to be more animated—more vigorous. So, yes, the characters in all of my novels, are doin’ what comes naturally. Though sex may often be hidden, it is an essential aspect of what it means to be human. Most cultures have given men more leeway to be public in embracing this act. But if a woman shares the same interest, she has been pegged as loose or immoral. I would like to move beyond that attitude. In fact, I’ve created a totally amoral character in Curva Peligrosa, the main character in my my novel Curva Peligrosa.
Sex is a big factor in my books because it’s such a major drive in all of us, whether we follow it or not. In some sources, the god Eros is described as involved in the coming into being of the cosmos. Later sources claim, “Eros is the son of Aphrodite, whose mischievous interventions in the affairs of gods and mortals cause bonds of love to form, often illicitly.” The first depiction of Eros suggest just how embedded sexuality is in our natures. I also like the latter description because it connects so intimately the feminine Aphrodite with the masculine Eros. Too, it illustrates how helpless we humans are at times in the face of these basic impulses. So let’s embrace them!