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English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Heterosexuals Putting Sex Into Language

Jenny Wade

Language of Sex: The Naked Truth

It remains difficult to define the language of heterosexual experience, yet for all of us (not simply the heterosexual subgroup I plan to discuss), the enormous responsibility of language in defining all experiences (not simply sexual) is undeniable. The quote, ?We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a defining framework for it,? (anonymous author) captures the mutable, fundamental basis created by language and its interplay, and eventual integration, into experience. Language is versatile, yet with unwavering, bold resonance due to the natural tension created in discourse. When these tensions are captured in harmony, concise and fluent in projecting thought, language parallels the balance of tensions present in a heterosexual relationship.

To use Fuss? argument, an ?inside? verses an ?outside? as the two genders compete in heterosexual acts, both battling for control and trying to establish some midpoint, creating a new ideal that is neither in nor out, but instead all inclusive. Rarely is heterosexual experience a unity (ironic in comparison to its ?natural? purpose or familiar marital connotation as ?the unity of a man and woman?), but instead, the language of heterosexual experience is a clever game, a twist of ambiguities as one sex is left guessing at the other with a curiosity that is guided by ?desire? and an endless, frustrating effort to understand and relate to the opposite sex. In describing sexual experience with effective language, it is much like the experience itself: an attempt to balance opposing yet complementary tensions, allowing a fusion of emotion, defaults, and honesty so that both separate identities are preserved, yet manage to reach some common ground. Heterosexual language and mentality is based on a type of ?traditional expectation? rather than a conscious rejection and redefining of ?tradition? that holds true for other sexual orientations. Since it remains the ?norm? to engage in heterosexual acts, a common misconception is that the language need not be vivid or concise, yet to effectively illustrate the sexual experience, a language that
incorporates a full range of expressions must be used. The experience must still be illustrated as unique and personal, rather than assumed to be ?normal?. This is the major gap that makes the transformation of heterosexual experience into language often unsuccessful.

Sexual experience is extremely complex, almost an art form in itself, so to express it, an individual must incorporate various modes of ?language? to illustrate the entire experience. The language of sex is composed of common language, art, poetics, scientific logic, dancing and movement, music and a myriad more specific forms of expression. Like the language of the artist, an ?image? of the experience must be recreated, each detail like a brushstroke contributing to the final product, richly defining the volume and shape of the experience. The ?language? is chosen at the ?artist?s? discretion to recreate reality upon a ?canvas?. The language is much like music, fluid and exceedingly difficult to capture at any given moment. While there are distinct melody, counter-melody, and harmony lines, there is still an overall unity, in which these separate ?mechanisms? operate to create a final masterpiece. This can also be likened to the dancer whose separate steps contribute to the whole performance. The details are hard to grasp, yet the emotion and overall effects are readily discernible to the astute observer. When looked at from these (and other) viewpoints that allow the individual to create a metaphor for the experience, sexual experience can be put into language quite beautifully although such intensity is difficult to articulate in a single explanation of a sexual encounter.

Due to highly fueled passions and fits of desire, the language of sex often rushes out in such unexpected fits that its production is much like that of the poet confiding in his journal, relaying his deepest secrets without a fear to expose the inner self. Poetic language is not always literal, but it possesses a radical energy that hints at, or sometimes bluntly states, the truth to such a degree that much modern poetry has been labeled ?confessional?. Several lines in a poem entitled Song manage to depict the artistic beauty of language, ?where words and sounds that build bridges toward a new tongue gather, lace the language like fireflies stitching the night?s lungs, rhythms of new speech reinventing themselves with a flair, a mystery, syncopating music rising from breath of the young? (Troupe, Quincy. ?Song.? The Best American Poetry 2000. ed. Rita Dove. Scribner Poetry.New York: 2000. p. 181). This ?new breath? can be likened to sexual experience, the
motivating force that integrates itself into common language, filtrating through in perfect harmony to add a new dimension to the richness of words which eventually become part of the experience; language is the process of reinventing oneself, of understanding the true value of a particular sexual moment, not simply a past event isolated from the present or future. Of course, the majority of sexual experience is not put into this type of language; more of it is relayed as gossip, reflections upon a momentary desire, or an uncertainty of the experience in relation to the partner, but despite the personal reaction to a particular sexual experience, the integration and impact of it is clear. ?Language?, while universal, is still a uniquely personal expression that extends far beyond the boundaries of words alone. In poetry as in sexual acts, raw emotion and yearning strip away all other layers, so that both the soul (not to mention the naked body) are exposed, taking a final ecstatic plunge into uncertainty, where the individual no longer has complete control over herself/himself.

As defined by Judith Butler in Bodies That Matter, the speaker is never in full control and is often ?used? by language as proclaimed in the simple quote, ?I didn?t write those words! They wrote me!? (Salih, Sara. Judith Butler. Routledge. New York: 2002. p. 97). Sexual experience in this way allows the individual to feel both closer and more distant from himself/herself simultaneously. Language allows the distant self to meet the all-revealing self as both the intellectual and soulful self speak together. In such a case, the language works its way into the experience by
?responding? with insight that has not formerly been recognized. In a poem entitled Semiotics, the poet Pamela Alexander proclaims, ?Now your heart wants an interview. It scribbles madly on the monitor, giving itself a polygraph test and failing grandly, proud that it lies? (Alexander, Pamela.?Semiotics.? The Best American Poetry 2000. ed. Rita Dove. Scribner Poetry. New York: 2000. p. 29). Here, passion plays with the truth, and is in itself, the forensic writer able to decipher the reality of experience. Rather than simply an extension of thought, language is an expansion upon thought that tests how the sexual experience relates to the real world.

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