Sex talk: Erotica or erotican’t

When Carly’s Couch first began, it seemed like all the questions I got were about sex. You can see some examples here and here. Now don’t get me wrong, I love talking about sex just as much as the next person but I don’t intend to position myself as an expert. If you’re looking for someone who knows everything about sex and can give you expert advice then I suggest you go to Dorothy Black because she really knows what she’s doing.

My interest in sex is just like my interest in any topic, really. I’m determined to talk about these things in a way that highlights our vulnerability and our humanity. I want to encourage my audience to be compassionate and kind. And I like to have a little fun while doing it.

The internet has recently been whipped into a frenzy about the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Some seem to be shocked with the BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism) material included in the book and movie while others are annoyed at how cheesy and tame these same aspects are compared to other videos…ahem…that can be found on the internet or compared to BDSM practitioners’ actual lived experiences (for a nice critique see this review).


Like with anything worth talking about, people are always going to be divided along conservative versus liberal lines. Perhaps the conservatives get upset at the idea of human sexuality being on a continuum that includes behaviours they’re not used to doing themselves?

I didn’t read the book because I honestly couldn’t get past the appalling writing style but I would probably see the movie because it would be a quicker and easier way of digesting the book’s material. I don’t think that the content of the book is in any way shocking or new but perhaps some people are less open to such things. I do know that the reason it was a bestseller and the reason the movie will go on to be a hit at the box office is that it’s doing just what its critics despise.

It is broadcasting or giving voice to a range of sexual activity and therefore to a sexual subjectivity that has been silenced in previous generations. The reason why so many people loved it was it legitimized a whole range of sexual behaviours and an interest in consuming literature pertaining to those behaviours. Suddenly, an erotic novel was on everyone’s book club list and now we’re watching the movie at mainstream cinemas.

Sex sells, we all know that. But so does MacDonald’s. This book/movie is the MacDonald’s of erotica. And people consume it because it’s packaged in a way that makes them feel a part of something big, rather than excluded or shamed by their urges. Can it do harm? Potentially. But probably less so than MacDonald’s. What it has done for society is it has made conversations about the depth and breadth of human sexuality possible between members of society that never spoke of such things before. It has also been very good for the sex toy industry, which is a rapidly expanding market.


So does this mark a victory for the sexually liberated? Do you feel like your sexual identity is finally being given a voice?

I recently came across a female author who writes erotic pieces on her blog Remittance Girl. I shared some of her posts with a group of my girlfriends and got mixed responses. Some felt her writing was good, some thought it funny but some thought it was hogwash. The critics’ biggest complaints were that she wrote from a position that didn’t represent their sexuality. In a story about masturbation one of the lines was:

“There was always a moment when suddenly she knew that her orgasm was inevitable. Like the grooved lines on a ziplock bag, there was a silent snapping into place of rightness, a smooth, linear passage towards completion.”

What followed was a discussion around how long it takes to come and how easy it is for each woman. For many, orgasm is still elusive. For others it requires a range of very specific variables. Some require fantasy, others not.


Female sexuality is like everything else female – layered and complex, multifaceted and mysterious. And so, at a time when our world is looking at Mcdonald’s erotica and seeing it as “groundbreaking”, should we be rejoicing or recoiling in horror?

My feeling is that we need to be sensitive to both sides of the debate. I don’t agree with censorship but I do believe that people’s interests in sex and erotica vary and thus any depiction of human sexuality is going to grip some while leaving others cold. Perhaps it is exciting that BDSM is hot on everyone’s lips because it does extend some people’s sexual vocabulary but in the same light, those who choose not to dabble should not be made to feel unsexy, undaring or conservative. If you feel that this novel/film does not represent your interests or your sexual identity then let that be a reason for you to open up dialogue with the significant people in your life (starting with yourself) about what turns you on.

“[Erotica] addresses our cultural mind and talks, not of sex, but of what we as humans have made of it: not urge, not drive, but desire.”

In fact I challenge you to start today. Start by reading some of the erotica on Remittance Girl and feel out whether it speaks to your heart and your loins. And if it doesn’t then go on a journey of exploration to find out what does. Let Fifty Shades, whether you love it or hate it, be the catalyst that allows you to explore your own sexuality a little further.

And please, share your stories #onthecouchwithcarly

The last two images are original artworks by Cape Town based artist and sex talker Lady Skollie. Follow her on Instagram and Tumblr.

Showing 15 comments
  • Caroline

    I agree with you and think that sexual desires are as diverse as anything else. What is intreaguing to one, is boring or repulsive to someone else. I believe that’s why BDSM is so controversial, because people hold diametral views on it. I try to be open and accepting towards every sexual practice, as long as nobody is hurt and it is consensual. Regarding erotica, I’m convinced that it can help open new horizons and make your sex live more exiting, which often translates into a better relationship with your partner. My site of choice is , which hosts a number of free and decent erotic stories.

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  • […] on from my earlier post about Fifty Shades of Grey, I have been in ongoing discussions with myself and with friends about this notion of […]

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