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'Eternal Spring' by Auguste Rodin (Getty Images)

The ‘everything and nothing’ of sexual intercourse

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Essay | 25 minute read
Grace McCleen grew up in a fundamentalist religion so came to sex late. She reflects on the personal, literary and philosophical intersections of sexual passion - and on its capacity to cause harm

I have had very little sexual experience. I lost my virginity late and have recently embarked on my first relationship. So I have only hunches. One of these hunches is that, as I said to my boyfriend the other night, sex seems to be ‘everything and nothing’. At least, I thought I said it to him, but it turned out later that he didn’t hear me because he was already asleep. Such is the way of things. I am a thinker; I stare into the dark trying to fathom this and that. He, like most men, is a doer. And after he’s done he conks out.

‘Everything and nothing’ mainly for me perhaps, because to someone growing up in a strict, fundamentalist religion, sex was the cardinal sin, or so it seemed; to engage in it outside of marriage was to exchange everything, including life itself, for the blotting out of perdition. Sex was the real unspeakable, not God’s name (which my denomination pronounced anyway), representing everything that was shameful, hidden, taboo and transgressive, whether my parents intended it to be that way or not. Most of all, sex was everything to me because, for a very long time, my entire self-worth rested upon the fact I had not and did not ‘have’ it.

My craving for love and meaningful sex was all that mattered and all I wanted from life. But for so many years, sex was forbidden and after that it was an impossibility because I was ill. Sex was the epicentre around which I spun. And I spun for many, many years… even after I had ‘had’ it. Perhaps even more frantically afterwards, desperately trying to penetrate the heart of the mystery; to know it, hold it, possess it. This isn’t unusual; sex is so mythologised, so gossiped and whispered about and cautioned against that when one finally does engage in it with another person, it is bound, for most of us, to be something of an anticlimax. Sex continued to be ‘nothing’ for me, however. I met with disillusion again and again. It was utterly empty, a cipher and an aporia. In theory, sex meant the world to me, yet in reality, the sex I was having could have been traded in for a handful of loose change. The world itself and I, at this time, like Louise Erdrich’s ‘earth and sky[,] [touched] everywhere and nowhere, like sex between two strangers’ (The Antelope’s Wife). A sexual alien, the world itself was unknown to me.

‘Everything’ – and nothing; ‘everything’ perhaps, because at the moment of orgasm, the pinnacle of sex, all things appear to be possessed and everything right. ‘Nothing’, because simultaneously, all other things, for one or two blissful seconds, are wiped out. ‘Everything’ because orgasm is without doubt the greatest pleasure that human existence can offer (at least to someone who has not experienced spiritual bliss). ‘Nothing’ because where does this pleasure reside: in the genitals, in the mind, outside the body altogether (I often feel ‘outside’ myself at this point)? Apparently there can be nipple orgasms, elbow orgasms – orgasms nearly anywhere – as those who have lost part or the entirety of their sexual anatomy have attested. The body is infinitely adaptable. In states of deep meditation, a similar, even greater bliss can be experienced. And where this euphoria is located – and where the experiencer resides during the experiencing – I do not know.

‘Nothing’ and ‘everything’ because, as I have discovered, like most things in life, during a single act of sex there can be moments of emptiness and moments chock-full of meaning; it can be mechanical, abstracted – and unbearably intimate and personal. Sex is life then, is time, simply being; is calm, maelstrom and flux. Henry Miller, one of the greatest sexual voyagers of the last century, understood this. ‘For some,’ he wrote, ‘sex leads to sainthood; for others it is the road to hell. In this respect it is like everything else in life – a person, a thing, an event, a relationship.’ Sex is interchangeable; translates into the rest of life. This is confirmed by the fact that changing one’s sexual style can highlight and resolve non-sexual issues in personal development and relationships. Sex is a chameleon then; nothing special in itself, it can, with the right circumstances, be a doorway to encounters most of us only dream of.

I do not dream about sex. I felt and still sometimes feel a sense of de-realisation during it. In the midst of what ‘should’ (and perhaps there’s the rub) be the most intimate and intense experience with (in most cases) the person you are humanly closest to at this point in life, the very proximity of that other body, the sounds, smells and sensations engineer a kind of trance; so much so that though I have an encyclopedic memory, I can remember only before and after, the act itself is a blank, the time it took unknown – possibly stretching out to astonishing lengths or equally elapsing in a surprisingly short interval.

Sex acts for me are places where the reel skips, the frame flickers. It sounds suggestive of trauma, the brain callusing over previous points of assault. Is this a result of experiencing sex ‘virtually’ for so many years, I wonder? Of being an observer rather than a participant for too long? I do not know. ‘Sleeping with a man she would very often have [the] feeling, that she was animus for a pre-existing framework… someone who wasn’t there, someone who may or may not even have existed,’ Rachel Cusk writes of a character in her novel Transit. Space (nothing) and matter (everything) are at the heart of Cusk’s enquiry into selfhood in her recent fictional experiment. While other characters talk the narrator begins ‘to see herself as a shape, an outline, with all the detail filled in around it while the shape itself remained blank’. Paradoxically, she learns to locate herself through just such erasure. I often feel erased during and after sex, relieved of some indefinable mass or excess that has evaporated, until it accretes again. But whether I am better able to pinpoint myself afterwards I am not so sure.

Susan Sontag says that sex, ‘unlike writing a book, making a career, [or] raising a child’ is ‘not a project’ but ‘consumes itself each day. There are no promises, no goals, nothing postponed. It is not an accumulation.’ It is a momentary process appearing and disappearing, not something to own or secrete away. ‘Nothing’ then; each time a beginning and an ending, a doing and undoing, a becoming and unbecoming, casting off of the old and donning of the new. No wonder sex is an enigma for many of us. When Connie Chatterley can completely surrender to this vast unknown in D. H. Lawrence’s novel, ‘she was gone, she was not, and she was born: a woman.’ After she has sex with Mellors the gamekeeper for the first time, Lawrence writes that she ‘just dimly wondered, why? Why was this necessary? Why had it lifted a great cloud from her and given her peace? Was it real? Was it real?’ This is one of the most profound encapsulations of both the transformative power of sex (its everything) and its mirage-like nature (its nothingness) experienced from a woman’s point of view that I have come across. I too, like Connie, used to long for that ‘everything’ again after sex, and when I next ‘had’ it, struggled to retain its reality fruitlessly. So much for Lawrence not understanding women.

The notion of reality is examined to great effect in Charlie Kaufman’s animated film, Anomalisa. The protagonist, a puppet, who has experienced a destabilising twenty-four hours which included a sexual encounter with a stranger, suffers a kind of nervous breakdown, during which he catches glimpses of our own ‘real’ world. At the conclusion we leave him watching a Japanese porn toy, half machine, half doll, serenade him with an incomprehensible song. We are prompted again to ponder the absurdity, awkwardness, and ill-adjustment to our own ‘medium’ that are experiences frequently attendant on being human and often concentrated most intensely in the act of love itself. Ironically, for an animated feature, the sex scene in Anomalisa is one of the most realistic I have seen (the lovers’ bodies are middle-aged, imperfect; they fumble, apologise, the woman bumps her head), so much so that I forgot I was watching animated ‘actors’ and felt I was intruding, something I never do when watching ‘real’ flesh-and-blood actors and actresses cavort. This is partly Kaufman’s point: in our awkwardness and fallibility we are greatest. We transcend ourselves when the strings show.

Sex is ‘everything’ for most humans, in contradistinction to animals, not simply because it is one of the most fundamental biological urges, impacting our emotions and hormones and thoughts, but because society and the media make it so. The covert nature with which sex is often referred to, particularly in the developed world, would not be significant if it was not also so mythologised; after all, many aspects of life, particularly relating to our physicality, are hidden (defecation, menstruation, childbirth etc) but because sex is simultaneously hinted at, boasted about, longed for, it creates fertile soil for dysfunctional attitudes to spring up, particularly in the minds of the susceptible.

Because I was deprived of information on and experience of sex for so long, instead of it remaining firmly in its (invisible) place, it took centre stage, intruded into everyday life; innocuous situations and interchanges became filled with sexual overtones and connotations, life became exhausting as I expended huge amounts of nervous energy. Each glance, each gesture, each word was loaded. The ogre of sex dictated nearly every decision of my young life (as I attempted to avoid the shame of being seen to be without it) – all in the complete absence of the act itself.

Sex and love are possibly the most mythologised states of all time. They form the subject matter of most popular songs and have been a staple of the arts from time immemorial. Their antithesis – isolation, involuntary celibacy and loneliness – are the most execrated; I suspect most people would rather admit to having an affair or criminal activity than being lonely. The idea of sex (and the concomitant horror of its lack) is big business. It is used to manipulate, shame, induce envy, continually divest the masses of money, and incite us to constantly upload data to social media. To a large extent, someone’s ease of access to sex is a determinant of their social capital. We are led to believe that those having ‘great’ sex are gods. Like fame, great achievement and immense wealth, sex is a Holy Grail. No wonder, then, that when it, as other idealised attainments, disappoints, the narrative leading towards it is perceived to be a sham. Great is the ‘nothing’ in which those who have tasted ‘everything’ then find themselves. Sex lends itself to excess, and excess and extremes, as Carl Jung noted with his theory of enantiodromia, have a tendency to turn back on themselves, implode and become their opposite.

The world would also have us believe that sex is ‘nothing’ however, because as well as being omnipresent (sex is everywhere just as people are everywhere) it is possibly also the most hidden, and because of that, the most misunderstood. Ninety-nine percent of the time sex takes place in private and it is often referred to by hints, suggestion or euphemism. But that which is hidden becomes more intriguing, that which is illegal becomes more pervasive and that which is resisted becomes infinitely more powerful. The ‘covering over’ of sexuality in Christianised societies can be traced from the story of Adam and Eve, whose ‘sin’ led directly to the realisation and covering of their nakedness, to the thirteenth-century Le Roman de la Rose – overtly a joyous celebration of ‘courtly love’, but in reality a tale of a young lover in pursuit of pudendum (the fabled rose’s lips outrageously mimicking women’s labia) – to the whitewashing and ‘purification’ of sexuality in the Victorian era; a time characterised by greater numbers of prostitutes in London than any other.

Sex is always just below the surface yet it is so out of keeping with the vast percentage of our lives it can seem varyingly unreal, embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk or think about. It can potentially reduce our everyday, responsible identity to ‘nothing’ through feelings of vulnerability, stupidity at requesting certain fantasies, loss of control and autonomy during the act itself, even with a trusted and caring partner, or in the hands of an abuser, which can be the means for the most profound destruction of another person’s mind. The covert nature of sex then, as with many clandestine things, is a major component of its power. The result is endless curiosity, confusion, suspicion, competition and victimisation. No one really knows what other people are getting up to, how other people feel, whether the sex they themselves engage in is ‘normal’, ‘right’, terrible, great, or just good enough.

Danger lurks more freely within the implicit than the explicit, and the implied than the stated. The damage wreaked in a society that will not engage in open discussion about sex is incalculable and hard to remedy; no one is even sure where or when the damage has been done. Some of the most powerfully dramatised instances of violence in literature are those inflicted psychologically, in invisible ways, often in a sexualised context. In Anita Brookner’s autobiographical novel, Look at Me, tensions centering in the psyche of the sensitive and socially vulnerable librarian, Frances, come to a head in a scene freighted with images of sexual significance. Ostensibly, not much ‘happens’: Frances has Christmas dinner with her glamorous friend Alix, Alix’s husband, a woman called Maria, and James, the man who until recently expressed romantic interest in Frances. The chapter in which the dinner takes place and the chapter that follows are a masterful dramatisation of the undoing of someone, of subtle yet devastating abuses of power. In the dinner scene food is sexualised (as it is in Rossetti’s similarly sinister Goblin Market) and an objective correlative for Frances’s horror, shame and revulsion she feels in the presence of the people around her. Maria, Alix’s crass friend, dollops desert onto James’s plate and before Frances’s eyes James displays sexual interest in Maria in a shocking and uncharacteristically lascivious manner. It spells the end for Frances:

‘”More, more,” shouted Maria … and she bent over James, who was laughing, and said, “More, darling. I want you to be good and strong tonight. More.” I stared down at the yellow custard on my plate and willed my shock not to show. And when I raised my head, it was to look calmly and even smilingly at Alix and Nick. Who were, of course, watching me. I said, “It was delicious but I really couldn’t eat any more.”’

Frontispiece of Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti; artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Fine Art Images/Getty)

There is no overt likening of the custard to semen or anything sexual at all but the reader’s imagination is working feverishly by this time and sees sex (something the deeply repressed Frances has tried to keep from both her own and her reader’s mind) everywhere. Because the deathblow is covert and happens in the midst of a ‘civilized’ dinner it is sanctioned; Frances, the victim, cannot even acknowledge the murder herself, for that would divest her of the last vestige of dignity she has. Rebecca Solnit understands this. In her collection of essays, Men Explain Things to Me she identifies a ‘continuum that stretches from minor social misery to violent silencing and violent death’. Solnit is primarily concerned with male domination of women but I would point out that women, in an attempt to attain monopoly of sex do as much damage to one another as men. In this novel, they do infinitely more.

The socially maladjusted narrator, Rachel, in Stephan Benatar’s criminally little-known novel Wish Her Safe at Home is portrayed as being so similar to ourselves that her gradual descent into madness, to some extent, drags the reader with it. Her insanity is triggered by subliminal sexual deprivation, and because we see ourselves to a frightening extent in Rachel, her increasingly deranged interactions are more than painful; they are hideous, they are wrenching, they are well-nigh unbearable. If sexual shame, sexual jealousy and sexual grief has been portrayed in literature, I do not think it has been done better than by this uniquely gifted author. And the axis upon which he works his dark magic are those subtle abuses of power that a society which banishes sex to the margins enables. As in Brookner’s novel, the reader is left wondering: did I imagine that? Was something happening or nothing? Of course, the answer is both: something completely real and something entirely imaginary was taking place. It meant absolutely everything and nothing at all.

Can sex really be ‘everything’ and ‘nothing’? Is there no innate meaning that resides in the act itself? There does not seem to be a context in which a non-sentient human engages in it, so we cannot know; young children and animals engage in sex as unselfconsciously as any other pleasurable activity, and there certainly seems to be no inherent meaning pertaining to it in these instances. It is true that engaging in sex can make women emotionally attached to a man they may not have been particularly attracted to before they slept with him. It can make a man repulsed by a woman he previously lusted after. It can make a couple grow closer or further apart. Sex as a form of abuse can devastate a life as nothing else can. And it has been at the heart of women’s struggle for equality with men since the beginning of time. The endless backwards and forwards dialectic between persons gendered male and gendered female, between giving and receiving, settling for nothing or taking everything instead, is expressed by Katherine Angel in her book Unmastered: ‘Must I either take, or be taken?’ she writes, ‘Must I either do, or be done?’ This varies, in everyone’s life, from moment to moment, as we flip continuously – opposing halves of one magnet – between poles; pulled from side to side of a purportedly optimal mid-point.

The domination of women by men perpetuated by sexual mythologising is both overt and insidious. There is the degradation of women in phallocentric pornography filled with heteromale-generated automatons who always want sex and orgasm loudly from mere moments of penetration, which begs the question, as Alain de Botton puts it in How to Think More About Sex: ‘why a man might ever choose to lead his own life rather than just click on, obsessively, from Amateurs to Blondes, Bondage to Interracial, Outdoors to Redheads and Shemales to Voyeur’. And there is, as Sara Pascoe says in Animal, a ‘more common lie being shouted about what [women] should expect from love. This is the modern world; women lied about by pornography and men lied about everywhere else.’ She is referring to the plethora of romantic fiction (which begins in childhood with countless fairytales) that involve the redemption of a helpless woman by a powerful male. This is the main motif in E. L. James’s depressingly popular Fifty Shades of Grey, where Anastasia orgasms when Christian simply plays with her nipples, and is first dominated, then ‘saved’ by him. The damage done to so many straight women and girls by such mendacious storytelling is incalculable. Whole lives are wasted, devoted to the exhausting and never-ending task of conforming to various roles which will (hopefully) gain hetero-male approval; so ‘over-written’ that women are unable to experience pleasure themselves. ‘[T]he tendency of women to link sexual desire with so many arbitrary expectations and consequences [is] that they cannot focus on sexual experience itself,’ as Emily Witt puts it in Future Sex.

Georges Bataille, the French philosopher and novelist, famously wrote: ‘I believe that truth has only one face: that of a violent contradiction.’ ‘[T]he crux of the conflict pertains to the rarely understood phenomenon of polarity’, Henry Miller wrote in The World of Sex. The greatest healing can come about through sex, and the greatest harm. This paradox is at the heart of the pleasure/pain relation played out in various forms of sadism and masochism. At a more quotidian level, sexual relationships, or the lack of them, seem for most humans to be the most fertile ground for the proliferation of psychological pain. Simply put: if sex were not in our lives we would be much less acquainted with agony. Antidepressants kill libido but also to an extent kill mental pain, suggesting that a large proportion of human pain (as Freud attested) is linked to our sexual drives and identities. Sexual shame is the deepest. Sexual fear is the deepest. So is sexual delight. That union through sex affords one of the few possibilities in our temporal domain to attain oneness with the ‘god-like’ and eternal has long been a trope in literature. In true metaphysical fashion, sex provides the possibility for not only exploring the self but for that same delimiting self to be eliminated, for a human to travel full circle and by becoming ‘all’ become simultaneously ‘nothing’.

The whole of the universe rests upon the attraction between opposites. This is present at the subatomic level in the attraction between positive and negative parts of an atom. And where there are polarities there is a preoccupation with wholes. The idea of uniting opposites in a kind of transcendent ‘rebis’ (‘dual or double matter’, the end product of the alchemical magnum opus or great work) occurs in the ancient Greek philosophers, the traditions of Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism, German mysticism; Taoism, Zen and Sufism, among others. In John Donne’s ‘The Ecstasy’ the souls of two lovers leave their bodies during their physical union and mix together in a purifying and spiritually fulfilling process before returning to their corporeal forms. Writers such as Marsilio Ficino, St. Teresa of Avila, Bataille and others have proposed similar ideas regarding the transformative effects that sex has on the soul.

Besides increased knowledge of self, such transformation can involve a quantum leap forward in knowledge of the other. The Old English synonym for the noun ‘sex’ is ‘know’. It may seem strange to reduce the desire to have sex with someone to an epistemological longing but that is what the act and term conveys at its deepest meaning. In Michael Ondaatje’s sumptuous The English Patient the climate of Second World War desert warfare and exploration provide the author with a way in which to dramatise how both love and war involve a desire ‘to know things, how the pieces fit,’ as Caravaggio, one of the characters, says. The result is a ‘recognition’, as Katharine experiences with regards to the character of Almasy – a recognition that causes her to wake screaming. The physical love between Katharine and Almasy finds its analogy and inversion in his mapping of the desert divided by war: ‘There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace,’ Almasy writes. ‘The new lover enters the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in new light…’ Throughout the novel, sexual forays are paralleled by risks taken during war. Hana, the nurse caring for Almasy (who is the ‘English patient’) listens to her lover’s heart ‘the way he will listen to a clock on a mine’. For her lover, contact with the bombs he defuses (and through them, the enemy who made the bomb) is described synonymously to his interactions with Hana, who wonders: ‘[h]ow could he trust even this circle of elastic on the sleeve of the girl’s frock…? Or the rattle in her intimate breath as deep as stones within a river’?

The film, ‘Henry & June’, based on erotic writer, Anais Nin’s novel (Etienne George/Sygma via Getty Images)

Knowledge attained through sex can be akin to religious gnosis. In Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, the protagonist’s self-knowledge attained through sex with her uncle-in-law is described in language befitting religious initiation, and the rapture (and rupture) of her psyche could as easily be that which accompanies the End of Days as near-incest. Her petitions for her uncle to enter her have the fervor of a religious supplicant and the act the same abandon and headlong hurtle:

‘God his face like a pattern I have seen…Since I was younger…He will take me somewhere…Come into me. Come into my house. Come in and stop all the clocks for he can…Give me a moment….He says stop. I’m here now….I’m here. Come for you…. I called you. I said. Where were you?…Put yourself on me then, in me. Pull all other things out. It’s no interest to me and. Throw me. Smash all that up. Do whatever you want…Fuck. Yes. Help me. Save me…’

McBride’s prose blurs lines between speaker and interlocutor, savior and saved, taker and taken, doer and done-to, as language becomes both intercessor for, and means of dissolution of the self. Later, when her uncle-in-law rapes the protagonist, the Christ imagery is explicit and the protagonist allied to Christ in his harrowing, becoming ‘Jesus me’, ‘Jesus. I nme’. The name she loses at the conclusion of the novel, the ‘My I’, is ‘[w]hat he takes is the what there is of me’:

‘There’s a my body he push back. I’m. Fling rubbish thrown I am am I I. Falt. Where until I crack. Bren my. Face. Head. Something. Smash…Not this I don’t not for me what he will. You. Jesus. Got. Jesus on his knees pull me up pull me…Not my Jesus. His nails too sharp are you….Jesus he. Not. No. Jesus me…Save…Kill. Me…In the muck my crown of stones….tucks the fck the thing in. Me. In. Jesus. I nme…’

The moment her uncle ejaculates inside her, language breaks down as never before in the novel, the ‘coming’ of the abuser allied terrifyingly with the coming of Christ. The loss of the protagonist’s self – fatal in this case – is a product of her earlier knowing: ‘Know me you know he know me.’

It is perhaps no coincidence that the capacity for intimacy is directly linked to the ability to tolerate existential loneliness. For the poet, John Keats, a principal figure of the Romantic movement, and for whom ill-health and early death deprived him of the experience of physical union, the ‘still point’ was achievable only through the highest reaches of art, the climax of creative form reached in his ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, where it is heralded by a ‘mad pursuit’, ‘struggle to escape’ and ‘wild ecstasy’. Unlike bodily union, however, which by virtue of its very nature can last a mere matter of moments, the artistic union of ‘beauty’ and ‘truth’ in this poem forms something arrested and everlasting. The Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, similarly bereft of human love, asked in his Duino Elegies:

 

‘Is it not time that, in loving,

we freed ourselves from the loved one, and quivering,

endured:

as the arrow endures the string, to become, in the

gathering out-leap,

something more than itself? For staying is nowhere.’

 

For Rilke, departing from the self was necessary in order to be more than oneself. When he talks of ‘loving’ he does not mean the usual, physical act of love. As Gerard Manley Hopkins before him (whose poetry is similarly sensual and littered with dichotomies, dualities and ‘dappled things’), Rilke tells us that the world itself is the ‘lover’ we should turn our attention to.

As Chris Klaus knew and demonstrated in her auto-fictional I Love Dick, there is something ‘better’ than reality, ‘and better than is what it’s all about’. ‘[S]ex short-circuits all imaginative exchange,’ Klaus writes, and her book, ostensibly about wanting to fuck someone and never getting to, is the result: the only exchange possible, one of imagination, the result a work of post-modern self-consciousness, where life becomes art by means of a sleight of hand known as the Kierkegaardian third remove. The irony is that the copy – the replica – does not undercut the emotion of the original, but serves to accentuate and make it stronger. Ali Smith, likewise fascinated not just by sex but by the ways in which art supplants, supplements and interfuses with life, explores knowledge of self through the binaries man/woman, straight line/curve, arrow and circle in her novel How to be Both. Beneath such exploration of opposites, however, is the realisation that these things are one, just at different stages of becoming:

 

‘before there’s

any sign of the tree

the seed still unbroken

the star still unburnt….

made and

unmade

both’

 

Sex partakes of the dichotomy at the heart of the universe to an extent few other things do. It is Blake’s heaven and hell, Coleridge’s snake with its tail in its mouth, ineffable light and inscrutable darkness, the yin and the yang, Hegel’s thesis, antithesis and synthesis rolled into one. Merely a reflection of the rest of life, sex is governed by the same principles that govern both atoms and galaxies; is the story of the universe all over again, the outer movement followed by the in, expansion by contraction, movement by stillness, creation by destruction, no time and all time, containing ‘everything’ and nothing at all. Not surprisingly then, being at peace with oneself, with aloneness, and with the present moment, is paradoxically highly conducive to sexual health and happiness. The pleasure sex bestows comes most easily when we cease seeking self, cease seeking pleasure, cease seeking to arrive – in fact when we cease seeking pretty much anything at all. Sex is its own creature and will not brook interference, abuse or control. It, like all other things, partakes of and embodies the ‘nothing’ at the heart of existence. And embracing the ‘nothing’, letting it in and making it one’s home, is a potent way to make the all-important space for sexual knowledge and pleasure to grow.

Grace McCleen’s Unbound book choice is ‘Sex Drive’