The Problem with Gay Erotica

To be sure, most of my sex writing has involved two teen males or two (or more) adult men. I always bear in mind Harold Brodkey’s remark to me that if you write “she went down on him”, it is a “lie”, because no one can summarise an intense, prolonged and inevitably unrepeatable and original sex act with a snappy five-word formula like that. He felt that every sex act had to be entirely rethought and reimagined from the beginning to the end. Which of course made his sex writing very, very long.

I’ve always thought that the main problem with gay erotica is what I call “the cock-and-balls” problem. It seems to me that gay sex writing is a major test for the typical reader, who is a middle-aged woman. Isn’t it terribly alienating to have to read about those rigid shafts and hairy bums?


I guess straight men would hate such lurid passages just as much if they read fiction. But older women, at least, often like sex to be linked to sentiment and never to be purely anatomical. I imagine that’s why so few gay novels have “broken through” to the general public; all their sexual hydraulics must seem either bleak or seedy. Or “boring”, as middle-class people say when they’re shocked.

Edmund White – “Sex Tips for Writers


p.s. catch up with Edmund White during his latest visit to San Francisco and get a sample of the worst sex writing of the year.


Oscar Raymundo
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Comments (2):

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    […] p.s. I wonder if these straight female writers in China have conquered Edmund White’s problem with gay erotica. […]

  • What If We Took Out All the Dirty Words in Gay Erotica?

    […] gay author Edmund White describes his issue with gay erotica simply as, “the cock-and-balls” problem. Sometimes gay erotica gets too carried away depicting sexual play-by-plays, describing the […]

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