Blogging & Writing,  Experience,  My EJC Responses,  Opinion

Finding My Erotic Self through the Words of Anaïs Nïn

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

Anaïs Nïn

I already knew that my body could feel things. I’d found myself aroused by words, furiously and guardedly reading late at night beneath the covers. I’d seen things that made parts of me twitch and pulse in response.

But I didn’t really understand myself as an erotic being until I rented a film at a tiny video store in a sleepy college town.

It wasn’t a new film. I found it buried in the “Drama” section next to all the other literary-themed films I loved so much…Howard’s End, Dangerous Liaisons, The Wings of the Dove, Jude… It was Henry and June.

When I watched it, I was drawn so intensely to the characters (their writing and their real life stories) that I entered a love affair with them that continues to this day.

I have to wonder, though, what exactly it is I found so appealing, given that both Anaïs Nïn and Henry Miller were so much more “bigger than life” than I was (or am…or will ever be).  Maybe that’s just it…they were fantastical. Voracious, sexual, boundaryless.

Both writers have been slammed for their narcissism and self-centeredness, their gauche sexual views and their openness in writing about it, and their disregard for others in seeking success and pleasure.

But, when I watched that film, what struck me…what made it imperative for me to research further…was not their disregard for the world around them as they moved mountains to become who they wanted to be as lovers and writers. In fact, I didn’t even see that as a factor until I read the criticism while working on two separate papers in graduate school (one of Nïn’s “language of the feminine” for a linguistics class and one on Miller’s Tropic of Cancer for a literature class). I suppose it is possible to see both writers as being self-absorbed, on a quest for the most luscious experiences just so they could devour them and write about them. But, as a young literature major, I lived in a world of similar souls, so they didn’t stand out for that. Creatives are always on the hunt for the ecstatic experience, and so I believe we could accuse them (us) all of being self-absorbed and searching. They do so, and we consume what they write to live vicariously through them, which allows us to broaden our own paths toward the ecstatic (some of us more than others).

But, I digress…

When I found this film, I found my erotic muse in Nïn. She seemed so small and shy, breakable even, like a caged bird, and yet, there she was, living this wholly decadent life in the alleyways and opium dens of Paris, an unapologetic sensualist opening herself wide to what the world could expose her to.

I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls. 

She was obviously seeking a way out. And simultaneously…a way in.

So many times in my life, I have felt the walls closing in. Have felt trapped by outer expectations or by decisions or by circumstances. And I have sought answers in the pages of books and in the words of author’s that I love.

Introversion, introspection…I have gone inward to find the answers, as well. And I think, as I read Nïn more and more, I saw in her words the inspiration I needed to hear:

“If you limit yourself only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.”

“Whenever you do something that is not aligned with the yearning or your soul—you create suffering.”

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Her works provide a boundless well of wisdom. And over the years, I have returned to her as if she were so many different things to me…a secret lover, a teacher, a mother, a muse.

In her, I find the monstrous. I could not (would not) so ruthlessly tear apart the world, as she did, to find my place and my peace. But, I also find the precious…so much of who I also am…the fragile seed yearning for more, despising the world for its judgement and ridicule…for its expectations and boundaries. Like she did, I spend an inordinate amount of time in my own head, writing my way toward enlightenment. Writing to learn and to grow. And, like she did, I eventually began to write for an audience, namely erotica.

Had it not been for my obsession with Nïn, I would not have begun this blog, and I would not have attempted to write even one erotic story (my first being “The Tenant”).

I began my writing life as a child diarist (much like Nïn) and then devoted myself to poetry from then on. My first short story (mentioned above) took me weeks to write and re-write and revise. And I kept it hidden away for years. I’m not sure what encouraged me to continue, really. I wrote one early on in my relationship with Mr. D (“Eating Out”) that was loosely-based on our life and came directly from my fantasies…and not again until a little allegory titled “The Rabbit Hole”, which embodies Nïn’s words: “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

I did not write another piece of erotica again until a Valentine’s Day competition in 2012 put on by Alison Tyler. For this, I produced two vignettes titled “Researching” and “Traffic Stop”. From there, a story or two per month appear on my blog until I found a Flash Fiction Friday (it no longer exists, the meme-operator, advisortoall, still keeps a blog, which you can find HERE). I wrote my first story (“Undone”) for this meme in February of 2013. That pretty much tapped the well, and I haven’t looked back since, submitting to other memes, joining in with Smut Marathon last year, and continuing to dig deep for original plots, interesting characters, and ways of exploring the erotic through story.

Following in Nïn’s steps, I have given myself intermittent permission to let go physicall and creatively…to seek the ecstatic and sensual and erotic. To swell and change and blossom in new ways both in self in and love and in lust…for people, for experience, and for sensation.

Intellectually, it does not feel like it is my nature to do so, but obviously, my nature is deeper than my brain allows me to understand. That is something that Nïn seemed to get more than I ever have…the depth of a woman runs deeper than even she may truly ever grasp, but it is her journey to explore it.

I seek regularly to explore it, knowing that the core of me is quite likely elusive. It is the seeking itself…the personal journey within…that leads to enlightenment. Nirvana.

“The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

There are critics who believe an introspective life, one lived sensually in pursuit of ecstasy, is self-absorbed. So be it. To be self “centered”, for me, is the ultimate goal, because when I feel centered, I feel authentic and open to others for experience. This is when I feel the most sensual. The most erotic. The most capable of growth in the deepest, most meaningful sense.

Nïn has always been a beautiful conundrum for me. She began her writing life as diarist, going inward, digging deeply to find her center. Very much an introverted being holed up in her own head. But she wrote later, with the full intention of eventually publishing those diaries, much like I now publish my own here. It does change what and how I write. But, the core of my content is still what it would be without an audience: an exploration of the self to understand my own existence in a conflicted culture that would have me believe that my experience and beliefs must be this way or that. Through my writing, as do many other sex-bloggers, I try to push the boundaries of what is acceptable (not only for myself, but for society as a whole).

We are sexual animals. But we are also intellectual creatures meant to live rich inner and outer lives. The search for meaning is a human quest, as base a need as sleep or sustenance. And that sharing of what we find…communication…interaction…is imperative to human growth and happiness.

This blog is my center. I suppose that is why I have never been able to walk away from it. Even without it, I would write for the same purpose, if only for myself.

Introspection is a devouring monster. You have to feed it with much material, much experience, many people, many places, many loves, many creations, and then it ceases feeding on you.

I discovered so many pieces of myself, through introspection and writing, as I read Nïn’s work: my own bi-curiousity, my earliest interests in dominance and submission, and my yearning to experience sex bodily and completely rather than intellectually. I wanted to lose myself to the senses, rather than to the complications of a relationship or romance. To divorce the concepts of love and lust, build them separately, and then re-combine them in their own strengths. I suppose that is why, for me, swinging always seemed more fulfilling than it was for my husband, who seeks emotional connections and intellectual stimulation through sex. Ironic that I would be, at base, the less romantic of the two.


…this may lead me down a very interesting path, and I’ll have to consider this more for another post, maybe tomorrow morning. For today, though, I think I’ve written myself into a wall and I have lots to accomplish besides writing and looking inward.

Let me leave you with this one final quote. Before reading these words, I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone describe what I wanted in a relationship so succinctly and perfectly. Growing up in a world where I felt I was expected to either be the “little lady” on my husband’s arm…a house-wife and mother…OR a militant feminist who needed nothing from a man so fuck ’em (where was the in-between, for god’s sake?). I didn’t even know about D/s yet, but this quote was the spark that briefly lit the inner room housing my hidden desires:

“I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness. I want a man lying over me, always over me. His will, his pleasure, his desire, his life, his work, his sexuality the touchstone, the command, my pivot. I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding.”

Just reading these words makes my skin tingle…because THIS…so fucking THIS.

If you are looking for a retreat prompt for today, try these:

What or who is your erotic muse?
Who has most influenced your sexuality or sense of the erotic?

(The Food for Thought Friday prompt for this week – “Words to Live By” – really got me thinking for this post. So thank you to May More and Floss for the mental fodder.)

Some interesting articles if you’d like further inspiration on the topic:

“Anaïs Nin on How Reading Awakens Us from the Slumber of Almost-Living”

“Before Lena Dunham, there was Anaïs Nin – now patron saint of social media”

If you’ve never read her work before…I suggest beginning with Little Birds. Her erotica is much more accessible than her scholarly writing and much less rambling and – at times…melodramatic (though I love it) – than her diaries and letters. This is her second collection of erotic short stories, written for an anonymous patron (a sexy and mysterious thing in itself!). Another work…which I have yet to get my hands on but plan to order for my collection is Auletris. She definitely pushes the boundaries of the taboo with some of these stories.


  • Floss

    What a fantastic muse for this piece you have in Anais Nin. I wonder if there is a sex blogger out there who hasn’t at some point found truth in her words. She seems, quite rightly, to crop up across many of our platforms. I love the thoughts you’ve shared surrounding how her words have been with you as you’ve grown, and it fascinates me that her words are so multi-faceted that the ones that speak to you are perhaps not the ones that speak to me and I think that is a wonderful thing. Thank you so much for sharing with us for #F4TFriday, this was definitely a fabulous read x
    Floss recently posted…[Erotica] Playtime at the BeachMy Profile

    • Brigit Delaney

      I agree…and thank goodness, too. She gave a voice to feminine sexuality in a way that no one else had done up to the point…and, I argue…had not done since.

      • TJ - The Lustful Empress

        Agreed. The way I see it is she was healing her wounds and sharing her profound and expansive soul with the world. People who move inwards to reflect, heal, examine, purge, etc… are often seen as self-absorbed… by people who likely have never taken a single moment of self-reflection (probably because their big dumb egos get in the way). But we all should be like that. We should all be invested in the development of our authentic selves, just like she was. She is one of heros… and one of my imaginary lovers. Lol

    • Brigit Delaney

      Have you seen the film? I actually really enjoyed it…even though it didn’t do well by the critics. I also liked the film adaptation of Delta of Venus.

  • May More

    I have bookmarked your story “the Tenant” for another day – looking forward –
    and these words
    “I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness.”
    are wonderful and resonate with me so much –
    Thanks Brigit for a great post and linking with f4tfriday x

    • Brigit Delaney

      Thank you, May! Those early stories are so different from what I write today, but they were the building blocks. And yes…that quote. It is hard to say it plainer or more perfectly.

  • J. Lynn

    This was rich and dark and just beautiful Brigit. I’ve loved reading Anais Nin and do find myself going back to some of her writings from time to time. We all have to be somewhat self-centered to write what we do, I think all artists are to some degree.

    • Brigit Delaney

      Thank you, J. Lynn. It took me some time to work through this content. At least a few hours to write it out, and I still feel as if there is more to mine.

      I agree with you that we do have to be a bit self-centered. It is so necessary to go inward to find the thread necessary to spin the tales that we do.

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