Sex As Metaphor

Michael Thomsen wonders why great writers can't do justice to the act itself:

Sex is usually a side dish, one that causes some wavering mania in a great character just before he redeems himself in the fifth act. And even in these brief glimpses, sex is rarely more than a signifier—a dropped handkerchief, a double entendre, a clever narrative ellipsis. One never hears just how the sex went; what matters is that it was had. … David Foster Wallace doesn’t shy away from adjective nor word count when it comes to a tennis backhand, but a similarly prolonged reverie on the use of one’s loin muscles is inconceivable. Virginia Woolf lavishes Clarissa Dalloway in a web of memory and sensual detail, and yet the closest she comes to describing sex is the recurring image of a match burning in the crocus.

Compare that to Oriana Small, author of Girlvert: A Porno Memoir:

Our presumptions about Small as a writer are powerfully skewed by literary dogma. It is all too easy to think of her as a porn star who happened to write a book about her experiences. She is not a writer, or painter—though she does both—but a porn star who writes and paints. (By the same logic, we could conclude that Ken Kesey is not a writer but an aide in a mental hospital who happened to write about his experiences there.) Her writing is easier to digest as a non-literary, transgressive, one-time only confession. This judgment says much more about the delusions of the literary audience than it does about Small’s (disarmingly good) work.