Confessions of a First-Time Pornographer

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Confessions of a First Time Pornographer by Pam Houston          

Pam Houston’s “Places to Hide a Body” was published on Nerve.com on July 27, 2000. Below she describes the process of writing that piece.

One of the first and most embarrassing things I have to admit is that I had to let my characters get to know one another for fourteen full pages before I would let them jump into the sack. I have never thought of myself as particularly moral when it comes to sex, and modesty has always seemed like something that required more attention to detail than I

am, at any given moment, capable of. And though I’ve scarcely ever written a story that didn’t contain a sex scene, when erotics became the goal of the piece, rather than its byproduct, I became suddenly shy, needing to give my characters a trip to the grocery store, a three-course dinner and a lengthy (although, I hope, enlivening) discussion on the living room couch before I’d so much as let them kiss. When sex drive took the place of narrative drive, I was forced to face exactly how much of a prude I am. Or not.


My second surprising discovery was that I could use the word cock, freely and repeatedly, and it seemed to add to the eroticism, but no matter what word I used to describe the female genitalia, the story ceased to be sexy and became either ridiculous, coy or crude. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed about this, or mildly smug.


Cock is such a grand word, a powerful word, full of assertion and pride. Pussy is meek, apologetic, diminutive. Cunt seems to be all about anger, something I prefer to keep out of sex whenever I can. And from there where do we go? Hot box? Swamp? Poontang? Muff? Twat (sounds like twit, rhymes with snot)? Or, as one frightened male poet in one of my writing workshops always penned, her fucking organ (an attempt that makes even vagina sound sexy).


I am also made somewhat uneasy by the fact that, for me, the most erotic part of the sex act was the seduction, the moment when she is stretching her feet towards him on the couch hoping he might touch them, the way he kisses first her earlobe, then the pulse at her wrist, then the place equidistant from each shoulder blade in the center of the widest part of her back.


Once they’ve got all their clothes off, once they’re beyond all resistance and hesitation, once they have surrendered their separate wills, once he has his cock inside her glistening slit, sex becomes all about friction, lubrication and orgasm, which, no matter how much fun it is to try to describe, is one of only a handful of things (being born, dying, possibly religious conversion) that is utterly beyond language. And thank God for them, those indescribable sensations are the very things that drive writers to write.


When I say I fear I may sound old-fashioned, my boyfriend, Randy (one of the most old fashioned guys I’ve ever known), says he thinks my feelings are, in fact, on the cutting edge. He says that anonymous sex has become so available at the video stores and on the Internet that people will become inured to it, will soon need fourteen pages of longing and foreplay to seduce them. That people will eventually
only be turned on by the emotionally engaged, psychically

conscious fuck. That X-rated movies will begin to have plots.


Alone in a bad hotel room in San Diego last October with all-night road construction outside my window, I pulled up a dirty movie off the Spectravision menu. It was the first X-rated movie I’d ever seen. (Something else I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed about or not.) Perhaps my mistake was renting a “best of” video, featuring what claimed to be the eight most erotic scenes of 1998. But aside from one excerpt that does stand out, (three very femme young ladies doing backbends and stacked like lawn chairs, one on top of the other, while a spikey-haired blond licked them off like their steaming orifices were a triple scoop of ice cream), I might as well have been watching a lawn mower demonstration. All those glassy eyed, disengaged faces, all those body parts pumping away until I wished them all a tub of Vaseline in which to soak.


I had hoped the video would make me want to call Randy and have a little phone sex. What happened is that I fell sound asleep (despite the road noise) between the clip from Hot Wet Nurses and the one from Power Tools.


Writing my own piece of erotic fiction, it turns out, had a much different effect. And while it was somewhat discomforting to admit I turn myself on immeasurably with my own writing (it’s a bit like cracking up at one’s own one-liners during a public reading, or worse, at the sad parts, starting to weep), by the time I finished the story my succulent aperture was in a condition for which a whole weekend of sex is the only cure.


I considered using my vibrator, a brilliant Japanese God’s gift to women called the Rabbitt Pearl, but decided it would be more fun to wait for Randy to come home. In the interim I pondered the relationship of language to eroticism. I said cock out loud in the empty house. I tried to determine how my body was reacting. Cock, cock, cock. Randy’s cock. I pictured Randy’s cock. I pictured Randy’s cock sliding in and out of my enveloping sheath. I cracked myself up, but in private, that’s allowed. I

decided that in order to conduct this experiment effectively I would have to do it on a different day, on a lot of different days, when my desire can’t become cumulative.


By the time Randy came home I could feel my pulse in my velveteen cleft. I followed him into the bedroom, watched him removed his tie (one of the single most unconditionally erotic gestures the modern
world can claim). He always takes his shirt off before his pants, and I couldn’t keep from running my hands over his chest hair, down his furry belly to his waistband. Stripped down to just his dress pants, barefoot and wearing his tortoise shell glasses is my very favorite incarnation of him. I took a picture of him like that in my kitchen when we were first dating. He was eating cheese, the thing he requires after sex, and I used to pull that picture out and look at it when we were apart and it was like a shot of endorphins, straight to my sultry gulch.


Today he let me undo his zipper, stepped out of his pants like a schoolboy and there was that cock I’ve been writing about all day. I kneeled on the floor in front of him and teased the head of it with my tongue. I took him in my mouth and he hung on the closet door for support. He slammed himself into the back of my throat until he came and I swallowed, something that we both enjoy and sometimes giggle over, after the fact.


He pulled me down onto the bed, but before he buried his beard in my luxuriant bush, he said, “What’s gotten into you today?”


“I had an assignment,” I said, “to write about sex.”


“I see,” he said, though his voice was now muffled by my yeasty beaver.


“I had a problem,” I said, though it was becoming harder to maintain my train of thought. “I couldn’t think of a word for the female genitalia that’s as sexy as cock.”


He paused the long slow motion of his tongue to consider the options.


“I think,” he said, “you should keep working on it. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.”

For more Pam Houston, read:

Ostrich Theory
Confessions of a First-Time Pornographer
Places to Hide a Body

©2000 Pam Houston and Nerve.com, Inc.