The following quotes from Telling Sexual Stories by Ken Plummer (1995) were chosen because they struck me immediately as being particularly applicable for this project (and Gottlieb’s work), although truthfully the entire book is quite relevant:

1.   Somehow the truth of our sexual lives lies in better communication: in telling all. There should be no ‘sexual secrets’. Tell your partner exactly what you desire. Tell your children every nook and cranny of the erotic world. Come out to your parents if you are gay, tell your teacher if you’ve been sexually abused, tell your therapist if your husband is a sex addict. Stand in the public square and shout through a microphone the story of your rape, or your abortion or your gayness. Go on television to announce your impotency, to demonstrate your sadomasochism, to reveal the innermost secrets of your heart, to get a ‘Blind Date’ or to find a ‘Hunk’. Tell, tell, tell. An intimate experience, once hardly noticed, now has to be slotted into the ceaseless narrating of life. If once, and not so long ago, our sexualities were shrouded in silence, for some they have now crescendoed into a cacaphonous din. We have become the sexual story tellers in a sexual story telling society (4).

I could not possibly agree more with this quote; I feel very lucky to be surrounded by many people who are comfortable (/brave/silly) enough to divulge intimate sexual details. I’ve talked about oral sex with my mom, sat for hours in my favorite cafe discussing orgasms with girl friends, swapped fantasies and experiences with partners, and just recently had an awesomely personal conversation with a teacher. It’s so incredibly refreshing and liberating to be open and honest in Real Live Conversations with people, often unexpectedly, and to feel a genuine connection through sexuality using words rather than touch.

2.   Power is a process that weaves its way through embodied, passionate social life and everything in its wake. Sexual stories live in this flow of power. The power to tell a story, or indeed not to tell a story, under the conditions of one’s own choosing, is part of the political process. (26, Emphasis original)

Reading Plummer’s connection between power and sexual stories made me instantly think of Daphne Gottlieb’s poetry. The way she paints pictures of her own sexuality and experiences – intensely highlighting some details while obviously omitting others – seems to be the embodiment of this particular quote. Plummer also states that power “flows into lives making some abundant in capacity… and others diminished” (26). This is particularly evident in poems such as “you never forget your first,” which I will be analyzing in detail in a later post. She recalls her “first” as an incredibly raw, abusive experience. I will come back to this quote and adjectives Plummer uses to describe these “abundant” and “diminished” situations.

Advertisements