The Six-Question Sex Interview with Erica JongBy Jessica Anya Blau
August 13, 2011
When I was a kid, I used to sneak into my parents’ room and steal whatever book was on the nightstand on my mom’s side of the bed. I tried Anaïs Nin, I tried The Bell Jar, I even tried The Happy Hooker and, alas, none of them could hold my attention. And then one day I found Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. And I couldn’t stop reading. The book felt magical in its ability to transport me into the mind of a grown woman. It was the ideal reading experience, one that launched me into a lifetime of reading and, eventually, writing. Since that time, Erica Jong has written volumes of poetry, a memoir, two nonfiction books, and seven other novels, includingFanny, Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones; Shylock’s Daughter (formerly titled Serenissima); and Inventing Memory. Recently she edited a very spirited and diverse collection of essays titled, Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex.
Here are Six Sex Questions for Erica Jong:
I love your short story, “Kiss,” in Sugar In My Bowl. The use of the word cunt in the story shocked me in the same way that fuck might have a few years ago. Do you think we should all start using cunt more? Do you use it in conversation?
Alas, poor cunt. I dreamed that we could rehabilitate the word and make it beautiful again. I would love to clean it up. It’s got that Anglo-Saxon brevity, but people are still shocked by the word, and find it has pejorative overtones. I only use it in conversation with people who are unshockable.
And one of my favorite essays in Sugar In My Bowl was “They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have to,” which happens to have been written by your daughter, Molly Jong-Fast. She describes herself as conservative compared to you, and as a reaction to you, in a way. What is your response to her more buttoned-up lifestyle?
I don’t find Molly’s lifestyle impossibly conservative. She wanted to have children early and she did. Her lifestyle is appropriate to having young children. However, she never mentions that she’s also written a third book, a very good novel called The Social Climbers Guide. She is doing it all.
Also, in Molly Jong-Fast’s essay, she mentions a three-way you had with a famous lesbian she calls MC Hammer. There were two things that struck me about this: 1. That she knows about the three-way. Did you tell her, did she witness it, or did she read about it somewhere? 2. That she clearly dislikes lesbian MC Hammer. Was this threesome a regular gig or a one-time-deal?
I must plead that my daughter is a satirist and I am her material. I don’t know how she knows about the three-way. She claims never to have read my books, but maybe she is secretly reading them? I am proud that my daughter is not exactly like me, and that she doesn’t feel that she has to be a copy of me. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
You’ve been married four times, and according to Molly Jong Fast, your parents had an open marriage. Clearly you’re an optimist and, I would guess, a proponent of marriage. Can you explain the value of marriage to me?
I don’t know if my parents would say they had an open marriage. My daughter is a satirist and she loves to exaggerate the outrageousness of her family history. My parents were bohemians of the 1930s, and they were interested in all kinds of freedom, but I don’t know how much they acted out. Regardless, marriage seems to be our way of hoping that love is permanent. Even if we are sometimes proven wrong, that hope is very precious to us.
Is it true that at your last wedding you called your husband “a horny boyscout”? No wonder you got married a fourth time!
That’s just one line from a poem that I read at my wedding to Ken. It was said partly as a joke, and partly with admiration. Molly was 11 at the time, and I think she would find it amusing now. As I have noted, my daughter is a satirist …and I am an ironist.
After Fear of Flying came out you became a rock-star-level celebrity writer. The book (and all the books that followed) is so openly sexual and sexy that I imagine everyone you meet wants to have sex with you. How do you deal with this? Do you feel any pressure to be sexy all the time? Can you leave your house without mascara, or do you feel like you always have to look good?
I do go out of the house without make-up. It’s terrible pressure to be expected to be sexy all the time. I actually find my reputation as a Sexual Icon hilarious. Aren’t all reputations hilarious? The truth is that we know very little about most public people, and certain stereotypes stick. I am not a one-trick pony – I have many strings to my bow, but it is convenient for journalists to pigeon-hole. It’s really laziness. That’s the effect of our 24-hour news cycle.
I adore the word ‘cunt.’ It is awful and impolite, but it is very pleasurable to utter in the midst of a foul mood. I like the bluntness of the word; it stops almost as soon as it starts and it is inexplicably shocking to almost everyone.
I am sure that it is the purest of coincidences that has led the tags to begin ‘cunt, Drinking closer to Home’ and it is for that reason, and that reason only, that I am not sniggering like a silly schoolboy…
Like James, I adore the c-word. I started using it years ago, when I realized its power to shock. People who don’t flinch at “fuck” go all sorts of colors when you say “cunt.” I just had it happen again recently, and to this day I’m banned from the company of certain people who’ve never forgiven me for saying “cunt” at their Christmas party a long, long time ago. So strange.
‘and to this day I’m banned from the company of certain people…. at their Christmas party…’ just sounds hilarious. It sounds like something made up for a comedy sketch, but knowing you Duke I have no doubt as to it being genuine.
When I was younger and occasionally swore in the presence of my parents (no mean swearers themselves) ‘cunt’ was one of the only words I’d be told off for using. It seems funny now that they don’t mind. Maybe it’s because I’m an ‘adult.’ We all throw it around fairly casually… and yet some people get REALLY upset by its usage.
I actually got marks in one of my university assignments specifically for using the word— or not using it as it turned out. I was rhyming in prose with a certain rhythm, describing Red Riding Hood being mauled during sex with a werewolf (we had to write Angela Carter-esque versions of fairy tales, not really my thing. I used a poetic form to score points with the tutor, a poet). The final line of the paragraph in question read something like ‘I don’t wish to be blood, but I appear to have sucked all the blood right out of your’
And then I cut, without full stop or ellipsis, to the next paragraph implying the word rather than using it.
Very true, what I said about the party, I assure you. I just had a long discussion about it with a friend of mine in March, a friend who was invited to see the people in question, while I pointedly was not. I had no idea, when I said that word, what the ramifications would be. It’s ridiculous, to me at least, but there it is.
Do you think, Duke, that if it hadn’t been a Christmas party you wouldn’t have been banned?!
Would you have been banned if it had been Halloween??
It wasn’t the season, no; it would’ve been the same on any occasion. The party was thrown by a couple, and the wife made such a big stink about it — though she didn’t to my face — that the husband decided I was persona non grata. I didn’t realize how “respectable” he’d decided to become.
I always think that it is very strange the level of offence one word can cause. Because that’s all it is. It is a word like any other.
I don’t think people are actually offended. They just think they should be offended, and act accordingly for fear of looking like moral degenerates…
Yes, James, you’re right. It is just a word. It certainly doesn’t offend me (although it does startle me because I hear it so infrequently), but maybe that’s because I don’t understand what it implies. If a white person uses the N word, it is offensive because of the history and politics behind the word and the fact that the word symbolizes an historical imbalance of power, rights, etc. But what exactly does the C word imply?
Ah, the C word. As I understand, it actually stems from the word cunning.
So: clever, but with a twist. There’s something up its sleeve. Her sleeve? I like the term “cunting” – as an adjective. “This cunting weather” – pretty descriptive, no?
Great interview, Jessica! I too stole Erica Jong books from my mom’s nightstand.
Thanks for reading, Stephanie! “Cunting weather” is fabulous!
fuck those cunts
I, too, am a huge fan of cunt. As well as Cunt.
So many Cunt and cunt fans on TNB! Maybe the site should be retitled, CUNTY NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.
Oh I love the idea of you sniggering like a schoolboy!
I think the tags automatically alphabetize, so C u n t, then D r i n k i n g . . . .
I was quite pleased with the (entirely unintentional) alliteration there. Funnily enough I’m not much past being a schoolboy…
Tags do automatically organize themselve alphabetically… I just wanted to be crude really…
Ah, it was worth it!
being from ireland i use the word “cunt” in a variety of guises, from the greeting of an old friend, to the castigation of a soccer referee’s decision. it’s a delicious word, indeed, though it’s gotten me into hot water more than once in my time in the united states. still, here’s to all of the cunts, short and tall, ugly and beautiful.
Ah, thanks for this James! You and Erica would get along splendidly! If you used the word cunt around her often enough, you might end up being her fifth husband!
I always write “great interview, JAB,” but this was exceptional. Great, great questions, and of course a terrific subject.
I’ll also say, for anyone else in TNB Land reading this, that Molly Jong-Fast is not only a satirist, she’s a brilliantly funny one…her sense of humor is reminiscent of Lenore’s. Funny, funny, funny, she is.
Thanks for reading, Greg! So far, all I’ve read of M. J-F is her great essay in SUGAR. But I will get to her books as soon as I finish the line up next to the bed.
You are so good at this.
You always know the exact questions you need to ask to make for a good interview.
You’re gentle as if you’re courting.
People trust you, and only a very few people are as trustworthy as you.
Ah, thanks Irene! XXX
Let me know if/when you’re ready to interview someone. I have more people to talk to than I have time to do it!
this is great, jess — and what a thrill to have erica here at tnb. and this cunt business. who gives a shit if people say cunt? i’ve never understood the outrage. my sister used to, like, melt down when i used that word, back in the day. drove me nuts. who cares? i’m hard to offend. it just seems like such small potatoes to me.
long live the six-question sex interview!
Long live the 6 Q S I! We need some catchy logo for it!
I’m hard to offend, too. Life is just so much easier when you don’t take anything personally. Because, really, nothing IS about us–it’s always about the speaker him/herself, right?
Have you tested the word on your sister lately?
…”The Sex Question Sextuplet”….?
The Sex Question Hexameter?
I would totally do a six question sex interview with you. Even if it never got published. You’re FUN. 🙂
Done! We’re doing it! Send me your email address.
I’m sad to admit that I’ve never read Erica Jong’s writing, but now I’m motivated to do so. Good on you for that, Jessica.
As for me, the only objection I have to the word “cunt” is that I think it shouldn’t be used as an insult. Like Erica, I really wish it could be rehabilitated. But no, I don’t find it shocking, so I guess I can be a little proud of myself in that regard.
Yes, you’re right, Mary. No point in insulting anyone with any word!
The collection she edited has a whole load of women writers in there and just one short story by Erica. It’s a fun collection–lots of funny and interesting people.
Thanks for reading!
I found Fear of Flying in my mother’s bookshelf when I was way too young to totally understand but old enough to get it… I have re-read that book many, many times over the years.. I actually have that original copy from my mother’s shelf. My mother ( who liked to use books as teaching tools: I’m looking at you Our Bodies, Ourselves), joked as she handed it to me, that she should have saved her cash and just given me FoF. Years later I happened to be on the UES of Manhattan and Erica Jong walked past. I was speechless and starstruck. Still am. What a wonderful interview, Jessica. xxo
I love your mother! Do you still have Our Bodies, Ourselves? I haven’t reread ANY of those books since I first read them or TRIED to read them. I really should hit up The Bell Jar sometime, but there’s just so much to read in life. . . where to begin?! (A question MANY people would probably love to answer!
What is the UES?
THANKS for reading!
Outstanding interview, Jessica! Insightful questions and I love both Jong’s candor and maternal pride. Congrats to each of you!
Yeah, it’s sweet how proud she is of her daughter. I had to hyperlink her daughter’s book when she mentioned–felt obliged after how much of her daughter ended up in this interview.
Agreed: her love and pride is palpable. Molly and I have been FB friends for years and in our limited interactions, I’ve found her to be quite sweet. I really enjoyed her essay in the aforementioned anthology and look forward to reading The Social Climber’s Guide. Congrats again, Jessica!
P.S. I agree w/ Jong that it’s time to reclaim “cunt”. I don’t use it often, but toss it out occasionally for humorous effect or b/c it’s the apt word. As she notes, it’s Anglo in origin and has that wonderful crispness and brevity. Also, I use it as the Brits do: I’ll call a guy a “cunt”, too, if it fits.
“Humorous effect,” Great! Good thing you hang out with people who have a great sense of humor!
Yeah, I’m lucky that way. Also, I tend to filter out the humorless.
Now I need to read Fear of Flying. It’s mentioned several times in the introduction of Men Undressed, which I was just reading yesterday. I started making a list.
Ah, and I’ll have to check out Men Undressed!
I agree. I love the word cunt and the thing itself. Checkout FANNY, my BEST NOVEL.
Yes, indeed, check out FANNY!
Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Fanny-Being-History-Adventures-Hackabout-Jones/dp/0393324354/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315357949&sr=8-1
cunt is the best word in the world. it’s succinct, it physically feels good to say, it feels even better to yell it and draw it out, it can be used affectionately or not – it’s perfect.
funnily enough, i dated a british dude who hated that word. it made him seethe. i couldn’t believe it – i thought cunt was THEIR word.
Astonishing that the British dude hated the word! It IS their word–they’re the ones who can throw it out in the same sentence where they mention the Queen!
Per usual, I <3 this, Jessica.
And, yes, it needed the emoticon and not the word.
I think the word is VERY sensual while having sex….And SO forceful when one is mad! Great Word!
Great questions, Jess. You’re an amazing interviewer. Oh — and that comment above (“Astonishing…”) is not from me. It’s from Jessica who used my computer because she didn’t have hers with her.