Embracing Eros and Sex in My Novels

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 novel Fling! 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).
Folks like us could never fuss
With schools and books and learning.
Still we’ve gone from A to Z,
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally)
You don’t have to know how to read or write
When you’re out with a feller in the pale moonlight.
You don’t have to look in a book to find out
What he thinks of the moon and what is on his mind.
That comes naturally (that comes naturally).
My uncle out in Texas can’t even write his name.
He signs his checks with “x’s”
But they cash them just the same.
If you saw my pa and ma,
You’d know they had no learning,
Still they’ve raised a family
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally)
Cousin Jack has never read an almanac on drinking
Still he’s always on the spree
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).
Sister Sal who’s musical has never had a lesson,
Still she’s learned to sing off-key
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).
You don’t have to go a private school
Not to pick up a penny near a stubborn mule,
You don’t have to have a professor’s dome
Not to go for the honey when the bee’s not home.
That comes naturally (that comes naturally).
My tiny baby brother, who’s never read a book,
Knows one sex from the other,
All he had to do was look,
Grandpa Bill is on the hill
With someone he just married.
There he is at ninety-three,
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).

I especially like the second to last line about the 93 year-old who also is doing what comes naturally, reminding me of my vital 90 year-old character Bubbles. 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.”

eros copyI think the key word in my next to last paragraph is “vital.” People who are alive in their sexuality seem to be more animated—more vigorous. So, yes, the characters in all of my novels, published or not, 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 soon-to-be released novel Bone Songs.

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!