Sex Advice from Famous Authors


Don’t expect Russian students to attend sex education classes if children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has anything to do with it. “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature,” he recently declared. “In fact, literature in general. Everything is there, about love and about relationships between sexes. Schools should raise children chastely and with an understanding of family values.” While we all try to wrap our minds around this troubling statement, we decided to turn to the annals of literature and see what advice famous authors have to give concerning sex.

Erica Jong

The Fear of Flying author is no stranger when it comes to writing about sex, but according to her daughter (writer Molly Jong Fast), she didn’t dole out sex advice at home. However, when Molly (then 11 years old) asked mom how to choose her first sex partner, Jong amusingly offered: “Make sure he’s really nice and won’t talk about you to other people.” During press rounds for Sugar in My Bowl, she discussed the future of sex, stating that “good sex is still a mystery” and “most sex is not really intimate.” She elaborated: “It doesn’t necessarily open up people’s souls, and I think that we have to learn that really true intimacy is rare and it depends on other things besides sex.”

Neil Gaiman

Gaiman doesn’t believe there’s a “one-size-fits-all reaction to sex,” when it comes to his work, in cinema, or in the flesh. “Nor are any of us expected to be consistent about these things,” he further reassured readers in a journal entry. Gaiman also feels sex should be a celebration:

“The last time I was actually in a hotel and flicked up a porn movie, there was this horrible feeling that these people were really just going through the motions. They had their list of twelve things that had to happen, and they were just ticking them off, and it was joyless.”

Anaïs Nin

Nin wrote a frustrated letter to a private client she was penning erotica for. He wanted her to “leave out the poetry” and “concentrate on the sex.” She chastised his “mechanistic obsession” in this response:

“The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all of the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.”

Jeanette Winterson

The British novelist thinks sex is the perfect way to relax, but sex “on the run” is a terrible thing. More importantly, she believes that people shouldn’t minimize sex and sexuality — its “terror and danger and also its liberating pleasure.”

“People who are lost to art and lost to love tend to lead very comfortable lives, watching the television and having a cup of tea with their partner, but that’s not living. If we’re only here for 70 years, let’s do it to the uttermost,” she elaborated in a 1993 interview.

Duncan Fallowell

“All lovers are unique. Bad sex can be very thrilling for the heart.”

Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq hasn’t decided whether sex is “good or not,” but he can tell you that “ugly” people don’t have a sex life — and apparently that’s just how it is. When speaking about his first novel Whatever, he told the Paris Review that he wrote the story of a desperate computer programmer and 20-something virgin, because he wanted to express that “some people have a sex life and others don’t just because some are more attractive than others… if people don’t have a sex life, it’s not for some moral reason, it’s just because they’re ugly.” Houellebecq also stated: “Sex is supposed to be positive. Showing frustrated sexual desire is obscene. But it’s also the truth.”

Beth Ann Bauman

The Jersey Angel and Beautiful Girls author described the qualities of a good sex partner at any age when she spoke to TNB:

“Laughter and kindness and good hands. And for me, boyishness, meaning an open heart and adventurousness. It’s easy to become a bit bruised and wary as we age — life presses on all of us — but enthusiasm is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

Mary Gaitskill

“If a person doesn’t feel like being brazen or doesn’t want to do that, they shouldn’t. I think a lot of times women who really display sexually are covering up a lot of fear. A confidently sexual person doesn’t have to announce it all that much. But if it’s who you are — if you love to get dressed up in the big heels and the tiny skirt and the wig and the whatever, why not? But I don’t feel like that should be idealized any more than the modest, demure person. The same woman can feel both ways on different occasions…

I think some women have to find their own way of being where they’ll feel the right to be very sensitive and shy and they don’t want to have sex or take their clothes off and whatever, and some women will feel like ripping their clothes off and dancing around, but I think that’s something people need to come to terms with individually.”

Isabel Allende

“For women, the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time.”

Judy Blume

The sex-positive author’s stories have been an unofficial sex advice manual for generations of young reads. She spoke to Rookie about teenage longing and intimacy without sex:

“There are so many kinds of longing. The longing to fit in, the longing to figure it out, the emotional longing for friendship and being accepted — these are all as important as physical longing. Before all the hormones start raging, it’s the emotional longing that is most important, and boy, you have to learn to figure it out…

I think today’s kids miss out on being sexual without having intercourse. There are a lot of sexual expectations today. Everyone is watching porn now. It turns you on, sure. I’m not saying don’t watch it. But what you see in porn is not what real love and sexuality within a long-term relationship are. Just like kids have to learn that the toy they see on TV is different from different from what it does in real life, I’d like to see the same thing taught about sex.”