sex & literature

Most literature is about the sexual world. Of course we make a distinction between ‘literature’ and other forms of communication, like manuals for bike maintenance, blue prints for sky scrapers, proceedings of board meetings, recipes, newspapers, textbooks and so on. There are people who never read anything else, and thus they are perhaps not aware of the pervading presence of sexual life in literature.

Sex & literature: the sexual system in literature

From its beginning literature was about the human condition, about the individual in relation to others and to human society in general. Major themes in literature make the sexual system visible: family relationships, love and hate, marriage, procreation and morality. Variations of these themes are limitless and exist on each level of literary quality. Poems, plays, novels, and biographies almost without exception deal with the most intimate, intense problematic and emotional experience of humans in relation to their lovers and relatives, surrounded by a relatively small circle of remoter relatives and acquaintances, around which turns a larger and remoter world of war and peace.

Sex & literature: macrocosm and microcosm

So literature makes it clear that the basis of human society is to be found in the microcosm of individual characteristics and conflicts, family interests, love and partner selection, frustration, depression, betrayal, crime and punishment, good and bad on a small scale. The ‘large’ world of political developments, war and peace, disasters and so on, functions as the background close by or farther away or completely absent in certain genres.
Literature, including the theatre, deals with what concerns the small group or tribe. That does not mean that world at large is unimportant. In literature the macrocosm is often seen as a result of the microcosm. Individual behaviour is linked to the well-being of the whole society, even of all of creation. Thus literature has always been the most educational and moralising of the arts.