Inevitably, as a writer I am a big fan of telling people to ‘write it down’ – their problems, their worries, their hopes and above all their filthy fantasies. So imagine my grin of delight when this week’s guest blogger – Jamie Beckenstein – got in touch to offer a post about the joy of writing sexy letters. Yeah, letters. Not emails or texts or WhatsApps: letters. As well as offering trans sensitivity training for erotic writers (get in touch if you’d like to Jamie’s help figuring out the world of trans sex cultures and mis/conceptions about hormones!), they also run the Rail Mail instagram account, where you can get in touch to buy sexy letters of your own. Handwritten, filthy, ink-on-page smut. Swoon. Why sexy letters though? What special magic do words on a physical page have? That’s what this week’s guest blog is all about…
The art – and joy – of writing sexy letters
It is with the expertise of lived experience and signifiant psychoeducation that I bring you my official stance on post-traumatic stress disorder, which is as follows: yuck!
It wasn’t a surprise when I got my diagnosis, but it was still a bit of a kick to the nuts. I was ready to be sad and angry, but no one told me how frustrating it was going to be. Sex became this weird buffet where absolutely everything is on the table but there’s buffer glass around it and I can almost never find a stool. It’s not that I never have sex, or never have good sex, but looking for the stool means opening and closing a lot of closet doors, which is loud and timely and not always successful and particularly unpleasant when someone is watching and waiting. I want the buffet— I really, really want the buffet— but want doesn’t give you a boost.
Probably the most significant fact about me, besides that I’m a Gemini sun with a Pisces moon, is that I am extremely stubborn. I’m too mulish to let things like my central nervous system get in the way of my sex life, but I’m also too stubborn to let up on trying to be the number one best at healing (I’m pretty sure that therapy is something you can win, and I’m gonna do it). So I’ve gotten creative. If I can’t touch and I can’t be touched, there surely must be something that I can do.
There was once something I very much wanted to do with a lover that I could not bring myself to ask for. Compared to a lot of the other stuff we’d been doing, it was incredibly mild, and I was 99% sure they’d be into it. But the desire got stuck somewhere between my dick and my mouth and I couldn’t cough up words. So I sat on the couch next to them and I texted. I heard the whoosh of the text being sent and the ding of the text received and they said “oh yeah definitely” and then we were naked.
As sex got more and more difficult, it got harder to get the words out, and then harder to translate the want into words, and then harder to identify the want at all. Texting wasn’t enough anymore. Even emailing wasn’t distant enough to tell lovers what I wanted. The cursor would blink, and my fingers wouldn’t move, too afraid to find out what was under the layers of fear. And when they did, even a little, the words would sit on the screen, glaring at me, begging me to erase them, making me angrier and angrier when I did. I’ve been told that abstracting out is helpful, but I couldn’t figure out what could be more abstract than email.
Until I did.
People sometimes refer to snail mail as a lost art, but that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve had penpals my entire adult life, people I know and people I don’t, friends of friends and people I haven’t seen in years. I decided to try to write a letter to send to a lover, the same one I’d texted on the couch. And dear lord, the things I wrote. I told them things I wanted to do to them that I hadn’t told them before, hadn’t really even told myself. Previously unfocused images translated into clear words. Colors became body parts, shading became verbs. Not only did I finally know what I did want, I knew the shape of what I wasn’t writing and that didn’t seem scary, either, just stuff I wasn’t quite ready for.
I was in complete control. Not kink control where it’s really a navigated, shared power, but actual control. I could take breaks from writing, and I did. I could touch myself while I was writing and stop if that was too much without having to remove myself from a fucking hot mindset. I could get up and walk away and come back five minutes later, five hours later, five days later. I could skip over the shame and anger and sorrow I feel when I have to stop masturbating after starting even though I really, really want to cum. I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone when I took a break, didn’t have to make any calculations about what effects starting and stopping might have.
On top of that, I couldn’t erase anything. I didn’t go back and reread what I’d written because there was no point. I write in pen, and short of starting over or doing a ton of blackout redaction there wasn’t much I could do to change what was there. It allowed me the cover of not acknowledging what I was writing, a little dissociation to supersede a big one. And when I put it in the mail, it was gone.
I was no longer choosing not to reread; it was impossible. I couldn’t know where my desires were, or when they would get to where they were going. A truck, a plane, a state, a border. Wherever they were, they were safely away from my body, which allowed me to feel safe that they had been in my body.
Sex shifts, but how I feel about fuck letters stays the same. I write them to friends and lovers and Twitter mutuals. People pay me to write to them and I experiment with what it feels like to try on their desires. I bought pens, I bought notebooks, I bought stamps. I can’t always have other people touch my body. I can’t always touch my own body. I can’t always think about my body. But I can always know that there are letters, and that whenever I’m ready, they’re waiting for me to write them.