Salon Q&A with co-founder Rufus Griscom

Best Sex Writing 2009 contributor Tracy Clark-Flory interviewed co-founder Rufus Griscom about the new book Nerve: The First Ten Years:

What makes sex writing good?

I think what makes sex writing interesting is the fact that we still — despite all these many decades of sexual liberation — struggle with taboos and a sense of guilt and shame over parts of our sexualities. One of the ways Nerve has always been different from the pro-sex contingent is that we think the taboos are what make sex interesting. Sure, if you get rid of all the taboos, you’d have a lot more people having a lot more sex, but it would be much less interesting to write about. It would just be another form of calisthenics; the reason it’s more than that is the shame and taboos.

All the best pieces we’ve published deal with what I refer to as the blush zone. If either the writer or editor loses their ability to blush, then it’s boring and they should get out of the business. Appreciating and teasing out the subtleties and complexities of the writer’s relationship to internalized taboos and their own sense of shame is the beauty of the exercise. If they can simultaneously throw in some humor and some poignant revelations about the human condition then that’s a masterwork. That’s the Holy Grail.


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