Sex and sexuality in literature are often considered as the “elephant in the room”, well, that is at least how one of the authors from Monday night’s Beyond Lolita discussion described it. A few authors, even our very own Amy Monticello was amongst them, came together at Porter Square Books in Cambridge to discuss sex and sexuality in all forms of literature. Seems like a touchy subject, huh? Well, these authors made it evident that it really should not be. All of the speakers that night made it clear that there is not enough serious discussions about sex and sexuality. It tends to just be overlooked or whispered about. Benoit Denizet-Lewis, an author for the New York Times magazine, discussed how limited he is when it comes to writing about sex. He emphasized how there are so many words that he cannot use. Where is our freedom of speech? These days we all have to live in such fear of offending someone with what we say or what we write, despite how we may really feel. Professor Monticello made an excellent point, why can the media and literature express violence without any limitation but not sex? Violence has such a negative connotation, while sex and sexuality usually does not. Yet, the expression of sex and sexuality is so shunned upon! This part really was an eye opener for me because I never thought of it in this way, and I assume that most people have not.
Author Jaclyn Friedman insisted that our literature world needs more women who are not afraid to speak up about sex. And she is so right. Women are usually degraded or mocked if they express their sexuality, and that is just plain wrong. No person should be judged based off of what they read or even what they write. Expression is a beautiful thing, let it live. As I sat and listened to each author speak, my mind kept referring back to Brittany Means’ “Books You Needed”. Means explained how this generation needs more influential books, more books that will teach them sacred life lessons. The Beyond Lolita panel certainly agreed with Means.There are not enough books these days that can teach you about sexuality and or gender roles. But instead, you can enjoy a beloved fairy tale that teaches young women to wait for her prince charming to save her. When will we have a book that teaches young women that they can be their own hero? We need to teach them to save themselves! Friedman explained that a woman who writes about sex will certainly make a lot of people mad. Who cares! Boundaries need to be broken sometimes, especially when talking about sexuality. I wouldn’t say that I am a diehard feminist, but I do believe that everyone has the right to voice their opinions, and to not be shamed for it. Author Anna March insists on writing sexuality from a feminism perspective because it is so rarely addressed. I think that is one of the greatest issues in literature today. We need more female powerhouses to address the issues that everyone is too nervous to talk about. This event really changed my perspective on sex and sexuality in literature. I don’t think that I have ever really seen it as an issue, but after listening to all of these fascinating and passionate authors talk, I really realized that we need to change our literary world.