An Introduction to Sex(ualities)
Dr. Zelaika Hepworth Clarke & Dr. H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams
Great sex, like great literature, draws upon the imagination. In the latter, the imagination of the writer and reader is so important. Working together to create new worlds, new ways of applying the rules of language, or breaking them is the stuff that occupies the passions of writers and drives readers to search for writers who have invested themselves in the project. In their work, writers create possibilities of desires that readers can choose to explore. They also can create clearer boundaries from which readers can form values.
When people in contemporary North America and Western Europe think about sexuality, oftentimes they think about sexual identity and labels, such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. They think of categorical boxes that people can check off. There is little to no complexity and nuance in this approach to understanding sexuality. Faced with the idea that there could be multiple ways of being contained within those boxes, people will shake their heads in confusion if you suggest that there are perhaps, heterosexualities, homosexualities, and bisexualities. The plural seems unfathomable. But in pluralism, non-hierarchical, authentic ways of being can emerge and be celebrated and honored.
Working together to create new worlds, new ways of applying the rules of language, or breaking them is the stuff that occupies the passions of writers and drives readers to search for writers who have invested themselves in the project.
To discard sexual identity as an organizing framework for understanding sexuality is to end up in an another realm in which the real and imagined life of sexualities exists. In this context, to talk about sexuality is to talk about what we do, what feels good to us, and what we want to be doing rather than merely who we are or what labels we carry. Sexualities live in all aspects of our bodies: in our taste buds, nostrils, eyes, and ears as well as on our skin. The body is a way to experience, and those experiences can be erotic and sensual. In fact, the word sensual contains the knowledge of the ways the Erotic connects to us through our senses. We can come to know beauty and understand euphoria sensorially.
The entire body can be a zone of the Erotic. We are not limited to erogenous zones reduced to genitalia. And pleasures, which are our birthright, become a part of our everyday experience. The Erotic--as poet, essaysist, and activist Audre Lorde defined in her classic essay, Uses of the Erotic as Power,--is the result of the connections we make between the depths of our Self with the world in which we live. The Erotic is an energy and force. It is orgasm, fulfillment and pleasure. It involves intimacy, connection and vulnerability.
Sexualities live in all aspects of our bodies: in our taste buds, nostrils, eyes, and ears as well as on our skin. The body is a way to experience, and those experiences can be erotic and sensual.
That is why this issue of Duende dedicated to sex(ualities) makes sense. Writing and reading are about intimacy and vulnerability as well. Like erotic connection, they require us to make connection, encounter that which operates as much below the surface as above it, and give ourselves permission to learn something new.
In this issue, readers can hook up with a poem or date prose. They can allow the writing to enter them, fill them up with language and experience. They can insert themselves between the lines, creating a gushy mix of intentions between author and reader. Readers can be as polyamorous in their love as the writing and their capacity for love allows. The editors understand that personal taste and desire will have different pieces of work affecting different readers differently. Try not to yuck someone else’s yum. But do consider how our positionality within social and cultural systems, including the matrix of domination known as settler-colonialism, imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and cisheteropatriarchy inform and inspire both the creation and reception of such work.
Finally, thank you to the editorial board of Duende for giving us the opportunity to introduce the issue. It was a pleasure speaking with you in preparing for the sex(ualities) issue and to participate, in this small way, in its publication.