'Bad sex: humiliation, Anais Nin and contemporary culture'

Charnock, Ruth (2018) 'Bad sex: humiliation, Anais Nin and contemporary culture'. In: Capacious: Affect Inquiry/Making Space, August 8-11th, 2018, Millersville University, USA.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Bad sex is everywhere, from the scenes played out in the Weinstein case and others, through to the texts I’ll discuss here which pivot on figures of bad sex: Jill Soloway’s t.v version of Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick (2017), Kristen Roupenian’s ‘Cat Person’ (2017) and Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? (2010)

Bad sex feels ugly (Ngai: 2005). It is sex that embarasses, that promises but doesn’t deliver, sex that we don’t desire, or at least not now, not like this, not with him, or her, or them, or it, or me. Bad sex is sex had in clichés, sex that fails to absorb us, that leaves us on the outside - either shamefully interested and yet rebuffed, humiliated, or uninterested, unmoved. It can be sex that absorbs us too much, that holds us too close for comfort or desire, trying too hard to get us to want it, or not hard enough.

This paper will argue that we can productively read some of our own bad sex scenes through the work of another female writer: Anaïs Nin. Long-humiliated for the way she wrote and had sex, Nin is useful for thinking about contemporary depictions of bad sex because of how her work solicits our investment in sex playing out a particular way, only to throw us back onto this investment, in scenes that (re)enact the gendered dynamics of humiliation and shame that attend contemporary bad sex (Tomkins: 1995; Sedgwick: 2002; Doyle: 2006).

Keywords:Anais Nin, sex, affect, humiliation, Sexual humiliation, contemporary culture
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P301 Television studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W830 Prose Writing
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:34389
Deposited On:28 Nov 2018 12:42

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