I've been doing some writing this weekend. And Friday night I wrote a chapter describing what it feels like to give a blow job (I hope it's needless to say that this was not academic writing, but given that I'm a Byronist, I suppose it just could have been). It will go later in the book, but because I'm having some difficulties getting the plot structure sorted out I thought I'd write it up now, then go back and work out the links. Well, it turns out that describing this particular experience is quite difficult: you'd think it would be pretty straightforward, but it isn't. While I wouldn't say I found myself with a newfound respect for pornographers, I will say that it suddenly became clear to me why all those descriptions of sex in books are soul-crushingly embarrassing: it's because in order to describe sexual acts in writing you have to be either hopelessly abstract and woolly, or worryingly clinical, or embarrassingly lyrical/metaphorical.
At the same time as it offered these literary challenges, this writing also offered me a most unusual experience. I think I talked once before on this blog about how quickly the memory of sex vanishes, so that after about a week you can remember that you had it, you can remember abstractly whether you liked it or not, and you can even remember in a non-re-creative way the feelings and sensations that you had - but you can't really remember viscerally and somally what those feelings felt like, or what the physicality of it felt like. Well, this turns out to be true of what you might call para-sexual acts, too. In short (although perhaps short is a word one might object to here), I found myself sitting at my desk wishing ardently that I could perform fellatio on someone, but without an ounce of sexuality behind the wish: I wanted to do it as an act of objective research. And I was really irritated that this wasn't something I could just ring someone up and ask to do. Yes, yes, cue many hilarious "Anytime you want to call me, I'm happy to help out with this" comments, but that was the irritating aspect: I was angry that I couldn't ring someone up and say, "I need to take some notes on what it feels like to perform fellatio: do you mind helping me with that?"
I feel safe in saying that this was the only time in my life that I was irritated for reasons of research that I couldn't perform a sexual act, and it was certainly the only time in my life that I forgot a sexual act was a sexual act, and simply considered it as an object of investigation.
Well, I can certainly say that my literary endeavours have offered me the opportunity to look at the world in new ways. Although, unlike Mr. Chater, I cannot say I have received satisfaction.