Why Anaïs Nin matters

Suddenly, lying on the grass, drenched in the hot West Coast sun, I found myself blossoming as I progressed further through the literary masterpiece Delta of Venus.

Sexuality has always been a strange topic for me. My introduction to sexuality left me in a vulnerable and confused place for a long time.

I threw a wild party at my parents’ house during my senior year of high school, while they were away at our beach house. Feeling like a queen on cloud nine, I drank my weight in cranberry cocktails and red wine. I recall lying almost blacked out on the couch as a good friend of mine stroked my back. I finally realized he was not my friend when he led my drunk, spaced-out body to my bedroom for his 3 a.m. conquest.

I do not remember much of that night, but I remember feeling confused as I awoke to find him next to me, distant and uninterested. I never believed the events of the party were not consensual until I told a friend the story during one of our once-in-a-blue-moon heavy conversations in the dining hall at college. The realization ached. My idea of healthy sexuality became blurred.

I fell deeply in love with my best friend. I do not believe tumultuous is a strong enough word to describe our relationship. We were on-and-off for around two years, until distance and hopelessness consumed what was left of our love affair. When we broke up, sexuality became even more confusing to me.

Facing the devastation and grief was too much for me at the time. I was behaving badly. I do not believe there is anything wrong with a woman who is free with her sexuality and indulges in many sexual partners, rather than just one. Indulging in many experiences with men was not my problem; it was how I viewed the experiences that was problematic.

I recall having a date for every day of the week. I look at my contact list today, and I do not remember half of the male names on the list. My philosophy was to “fuck like a man.” I began using the word I always despised.

I thought that going out to dinners with men and staring off into space until we found ourselves at his apartment, having this one-sided sexual experience, would help me heal from heartache, but it did the opposite.

Finally, I found the person I was looking for for so long. Her name is Anaïs Nin.

I remember a fellow writer compared me to Nin, and I would hear her mysterious name very often. I finally picked up Delta of Venus, a book of erotic vignettes which stimulate the imagination in a beautiful manner.

Pornography is troublesome. The porn I have been exposed to is violent, empty and objectifying. Delta of Venus embraced a new kind of eroticism.

The most sensual aspect of Nin’s work is how she explains the emotions—the waves of pleasure, the emptiness in a woman’s womb as she craves penetration, the lust and the insatiable desire. What I learned from Nin is the value of a sexual experience as a reciprocal journey of two humans, exploring the terrain of each other’s bodies and indulging in pleasure, but respecting one another.

Delta of Venus stimulates my wild imagination, but the experiences are very human. Nin describes deep erotic tension, as well as insecurities lovers may face and how they find in themselves the ability to overcome these insecurities. A vignette about a woman named Elena and her lover Pierre described a stiffness she felt in her sexuality due to Pierre’s spontaneous absences in her life. Elena then experienced lovemaking with two women, awakening a suppressed sexuality inside of herself.

The erotic experience is a beautiful concept. The process of the experience is about stimulating each other emotionally, intellectually and physically.

I believe connections can be built in any amount of time. An erotic experience can be eating a delicious dinner together, listening to records or gazing at each other in a dark room for a silent stretch of time. Eroticism is a way of living—a sensuous and romantic view of the universe. My present and future sexual experiences must integrate this notion. I have realized sexual liberation relies on incorporating the erotic experience.

I have abandoned the word “fuck” to describe my sexual experiences, and I refuse to treat men the same way I despise being treated. The point of sexuality is to indulge in pleasure, to connect and to explore a physical and spiritual body.

The vocabulary of sexuality is dangerous. I hear college fraternity boys describe the sexual act as “tearing that pussy up” or describing a woman as some sort of territory to be claimed. The act is militaristic, incorporating violence rather than eroticism. “I fucked” can be replaced with “we had sex,” or “we made love.” The decision to engage in a sexual experience is made amongst two humans, and therefore the experience should not be individualistic. Sexuality for power is oppressive sexuality. Sexuality not honoring all partners is oppressive sexuality.

Kiss me with your lips and your imagination. Kiss me with your intellect and your mind as well.

Anaïs Nin taught me about embracing my own unique sensuality. I am a sensuous person, swelling with romanticism and eroticism. Reading Delta of Venus helped me discover that part of myself. After loving deeply and losing, it makes sense to lose yourself for a while. However, I am lucky to discover that the world needs romance, whether it lasts a night or several years.