A friend in the Midwest asked me to write about sex and the imagination. It's easy enough to begin an essay about that. It's imagination that brings sex to life, that gives it its energy and power and delights. I can't imagine any physical pleasure that isn't filtered through the imagination or fueled by the imagination. Whatever the body does, or wants to do, it's the imagination that shapes it and gives it meaning.
I've always lived inside my head. I grew up scrolling through scenes in books or films in my head, and whenever I walked down streets--- in the city where I was born, in small lakefront towns in my later teens ---I was always moving through some scene in a film or a book. When I was young I inevitably had a book with me, and I'd read in all sorts of unlikely places and then re-tell the stories in my head. I did the same with films, and once I learned a bit about the grammar and vocabulary of film, I'd walk down tree-lined streets or through a downtown still shaded by wrought-iron balconies and envision how to shoot film scenes there.
I live through books and films; I always have. On any ordinary day when I'm crossing a street or standing at a window, I'm a character in a story. When I sit at a cafe table and watch people at other tables, I'm telling their stories in my head. I'm creating stories for them, and the more details I can insert, the more depth of context I can create, then the better the stories can be.
There's a new sin (or crime, possibly) that the gender warriors have created--- something called "sexualization". That seems to mean something like imagining what a lovely stranger (or anyone, really) would be like as a sexual partner, or at least imagining them in some sexual way. This is all tied up in issues of "dehumanization" and consent. It's another term that the gender warriors use as a term of abuse that I simply can't understand. I've always made the world around me into a set of stories, and I've certainly told myself stories about sex.
That's not just about looking at lovely university girls whisper past and imagining them naked--- or, better, half-undressed in stylish high-fashion outfits. It's not just about wondering what it would be like to have her legs over my shoulders, or what her sexual tastes and previous adventures might be. It's about long, intricate stories, each one filled with details and backstory. It's about what imagining that any moment, any chance meeting could turn into an episode of "Red Shoe Diaries" or some film shown late night on Cinemax. Not porn, really, since the stories I create in my head are more about settings and styles and poses than about the sex itself. They're erotica certainly--- tales of sudden, unexpected, risky, breathless, no-names-please encounters. It's just that the look and setting matter more than just the connection of bodies.
I wrote once in a notebook that if something can't be crafted like a story, then it's not worth doing. I suppose I do expect that from romances and encounters: a certain formality, a sense of a clear story arc, the ability to turn the world around me into sets and settings, the ability to be a character in a well-designed tale, the creation of a backstory for myself, my young companion, and the encounter itself. Sex can be deeply, overwhelmingly passionate, but I always find myself standing just a bit outside the moment, thinking about how what's happening fits into a story arc or into a kind of roman fleuve.
Over the years, I've been lucky enough to find young companions who were girls who lived inside books and films themselves, who understood about films-in-the-head and about the art of narrative. They've had their own roles in the stories they'd tell themselves, their own set of backstories for encounters. We've been able to put our separate visions together, or at least to tell stories that complement rather than compete with one another.
I've long thought that bookish girls make the best lovers because they understand the idea of imagination, of creating worlds and knowing how to furnish them and live inside them. They understand the power of narrative, and the power of realizing that there are (or at least should be) no limits to stories and scenarios. I've been lucky about that, about finding girls who were willing to construct new worlds and imagine new tales. There's always been something thrilling about looking in a young companion's eyes and trying to intuit what stories she wants to tell and how she imagines the look, the style, of what she and I are doing.
Sex is always about imagination for me. It's not an end in itself, but it is the scaffolding, the skeleton, for narratives about worlds and times and characters, about style and sets and settings. I can't imagine any affair, any encounter, that isn't born out of imagined stories and lived out as a kind of tale. Yes, I do sexualize the girls I see on the street or in cafes or classrooms, though it's much less a matter of the flesh than it is of casting them as characters with particular styles or complex backstories in a long and ongoing narrative. I can't imagine sex or romance that doesn't exist as part of a story, and I can't imagine not re-visioning the world around me for the stories I tell inside my head. I always whisper to lovers, No limits, and I do mean that. I want them to trust themselves to their own imaginations and just fall forward into new worlds and new adventures, to take up new identities and re-make the ordinary world into something well-crafted and visual and stylish.