6 Great Sex Stories

The language of sex is so overused that writing about sex involves the all-but-impossible task of turning a whore into a virgin. Pubic hair, swollen, throbbing, lemony juices, ample breasts, entered, plunged, triangle, shaft … a complete list of sex clichés would fill a ream of paper and leave the would-be writer little wiser about how to avoid making more clichés. Unlike pornography, which construes all human relations in terms of sex, and unlike erotica, or genteel sex writing, which displays semblances of emotions and a degree of lyricism and literary ambition at the boundary where romanticism loses its ideals and hangs momentarily between redemption and corruption, the best writing about sex rests firmly on scenes that offer perceptive, erotic characterizations of conflicts, hopes, desires, illusions, struggles for power, and other intricacies between lovers. Literary depiction of sex depends not on sex itself but on eros. In the six stories here, you will find ample pleasures, both aesthetic and erotic.

“Shorty’s Paradise,” excerpted from T. Coraghessan Boyle’s novel The Inner Circle, follows the misadventures of two social scientists caught by the police in an unflattering position while doing field research on the habits of prostitutes. Elea Carey’s “First Love, Last Love” traces the emotional life of a girl who gives herself too easily but never loses heart. Pia Z. Ehrhardt’s “Famous Fathers” shows a daughter striving to wrest the torch of adulthood from difficult parents, and Gina Berriault shows a daughter forced to accept an adult, knowing she’s unwillingly received. David Corbett’s gritty portrait of the sex trade, “Sin Vergüenza,” characterizes a child slave procurer craving an impossible tenderness. Kim Addonizio’s “The Palace of Illusions,” set against the alluring, nightmarish backdrop of a traveling circus, is tale of sexual obsession and murder. And one of our all-time favorites, Frank Conroy’s “Gossip,” gracefully reveals the mingling of desire and conscience, of pain and love, that connects us all.