Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I've never confessed anything

This summer, a girlfriend asked me in hushed tones if I knew what squirting was, and do I squirt. I didn't know, and I don't (not yet, anyway).

Here's an irony: (almost) everything I know about squirting I've learned from men. I don't know one woman who squirts, but then, I haven't asked all my female friends — it's not a socially comfortable question.

And that pisses me off, like it's men's secret knowledge, in their control. It pisses me off because I'm already pressured to be the perfect lover with the perfect body and have orgasms the way they're portrayed in porn (I don't watch porn, I suspect I'm still not doing it right), and now I'm supposed to squirt too.

So Sexographies, by Gabriela Wiener, is wow. She writes about squirting.

She also writes about polygyny, dominatrix techniques, swinger clubs, Isabel Allende, egg donation, and ayahuasca. I want to go drinking with her.

This essay collection has the distinction of being one of the few books whereupon having read a review of it, I rushed out to get myself a copy.

Wiener writes from first-hand experience. You may call her adventurous, a bit of risk-taker. But she's also aware and reflective. [I wish I had the guts to live the life required to write this book.] She takes ayahuasca, she submits to a dominatrix, she lives (for a couple weeks) with a sex guru and his six wives, she finds someone to make her squirt.

In an essay on body image, she writes:
If my lovers or friends are ugly, I think they make me uglier by association. The same goes for what I write. What I write always makes me uglier. I won't go into my hatred for good writers who are also marvelously hot. I've got several of them buried in my backyard. Beauty kills, no? For Bataille, "Beauty is desired in order that it may be befouled; not for its own sake, but for the joy brought by the certainty of profaning it.... The greater the beauty, the more it is befouled.
[What do I think is beautiful? What am I attracted to? How do I profane it? How am I profaned?]

I love that Wiener namechecks Bataille, Bolaño, Emmanuel Carrère. I was surprised to so thoroughly enjoy reading about Isabel Allende. Once upon a time I loved her books, but I grew out of them. Allende is a popstar, somewhat disparaged in literary circles. But Wiener reminds us that her books are valuable: "Her books reveal history through memory and reclaim sex so that it belongs to the home and not to poets of the body." Her work is belittled for being domestic. Thank god, at least she is popular.

Allende once said, "I learned how to be feminine, sexy, and a feminist. It can be done." Maybe not every woman wants to be all three; but a woman should be able to be whatever the fuck she wants. Perhaps Wiener sees in herself some of the same qualities Allende wields — Allende played the lead role in her "adventure-reportages," a feminist gonzo journalist ahead of her time.

Wiener inserts herself into all her stories. This is her strength. This is where authenticity comes from. She does not write about a subject; she writes about her relationship to a subject. [I like to think I write the same way.]

We need to write with frankness, without excuses. We need to say, this is what matters (and this, and this, no matter how silly or small, this can matter too), this is what it means to be alive.

It's Wiener's essay on motherhood that gutted me, brought me to tears. I read this entire collection of essays against the backdrop of the senate committee hearing regarding Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the US Supreme Court. My reality was a little more ghastly thanks to this juxtaposition. How hard it is for a woman to be frank, particularly regarding sexual matters, where men still have so much power — it's men who shape the truth and the law and the value of sex.

We stress over raising our girls right, to be confident and assertive of their rights and to be whoever they need to be. The world might be a better place if we agonized half so much over how we raise our boys.
My daughter is an intelligent girl, she learns new things every day; she draws portraits of Chinese emperors, she writes three-line novels, and she also just became a fan of Elvis.

Sometimes people ask me if I'm scared of her reading the things that I've published, the things I've "confessed."

I've never confessed anything. There's something perverse in the word "confession." Within it lives the word "guilt." I usually reply that I'm not afraid because I know my daughter knows the value of truth.
LARB: I Never Got the Knack of Fidelity: On Gabriela Wiener’s “Crónicas”
L'Officiel USA: "self-taught chronicler of intimacy and sexuality"
On the Sea Wall
Underrated Reads

#Noespis (in Spanish)
The Greater the Beauty, the More It Is Befouled
Isabel Allende Will Keep Writing from the Afterlife
On Motherliness
From This Side and from That Side

For a discussion of how do we square sexual fulfillment and freedom from unwanted sexual advances, see Why We Need Erotica (framed around a review of Pauline Réage's Story of O), which says so well what I want to say.
When we ignore or demean consensual BDSM erotica, or stories about female sexual submission, we inadvertently contribute to a cultural legacy that routinely pathologizes, demeans, or erases women’s sexual desires.
This is why you should read Gabriela Wiener. This is why women should talk about squirting.
Until we are brave enough to investigate it [female sexuality] unflinchingly — without turning it into a pathology, without pitting it against feminist movements — women will not be able to achieve sexual liberation.


Mrs. Henchy said...

I have lurked around your site for years as I always enjoy your reviews and your point of view, but have never commented that I can remember. But this one just stands out and has me looking online to order this book ASAP.

Isabella Kratynski said...

Hello, Mrs Henchy! Thanks for unlurking. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!