Maggie Nelson writes for me.
In any event, that is how I feel about it ever since I encountered her for the first time in October 2018 – not face to face, yet in a highly intimate way, through Bluets, her magnificent book that covers the pain of separation and blue, the color.
Two years later, when I was investigating the mysteries surrounding my grandparents in Tanzania the Die roten Stellen (The Red Places) accompanied me. Nelson’s story, which had just been published in German, addresses the darkest chapters of her family.
And now, as I am preparing my first new long-term project on sexuality and language, Maggie Nelson has published On Freedom. In The Ballad of Sexual Optimism I find pages full of sentences like these:
«Each of us has our own particular body, mind, history, and soul to get to know, with all our particular kinks, confusions, traumas, aporias, legacies, orientations, sensitivites, abilities, and drives. We do not get to know these features in a single night, a year, or even a decade. Nor is whatever knowledge we gain likely to hold throughout the course of a life (or even a relationship, or a single encounter). None of us is born knowing how to manage our sexual drives and disappointments; none of us is born knowing how to contend with the various limitations, persecutions, and allowances of sexual freedom society has prepared for us prior to our arrival. We can work against noxious norms and laws that curtail sexual and reproductive freedom; we can create generatiopns of people less likely to be injured, persecuted, or driven to self-harm on account of gender or sexuality; we can educate each other about mutuality and communication, the location of the clitoris, and difference beyond a gender binary; (…) these are a few good starts. But each sexual exchange – particularly ones performed with partners you haven’t repeatedly had sex with, but even then – is going to resemble a certain wandering into the woods, because of the fundamental unknowabilty of ourselves and each other, and the open question of what any new interaction might summon.»
Mats Staub, Berlin, 8 February 2022