Wendy Jones Talks Women and Sex at Nottingham's Festival of Literature

1 November 16 words: James Walker

In the 700 years that books have been published in England, there has not been one that invites women to talk about what they want from sex. Until now. Wendy Jones reveals all…

You were the first person to do an MA in Life Writing at UEA. How was the experience and how has it helped with your career?
An MA in writing is very useful training if you want to be a writer. It’s helped with my career because of the contacts and friendships, and it showed me how high the bar is if you want to be a writer – it was scary but inspiring.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for your debut novel, The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals…
My godfather was an undertaker in a small Welsh town, and I spent a lot of time in his workshop playing when I was a child. It must have gone in very deeply because when I began to write the novels, this is what came out.

You’ve also written a biography of the artist Grayson Perry. How did this come about?
We were friends and I suggested it one day at the kitchen table, before Grayson was famous, and we went ahead and did it. Then it was published when he won the Turner Prize.

For the Festival of Literature, you’ll be talking about what women want from sex. How did this project come about?
I thought it was time someone listened to women and what they wanted sexually, instead of telling them how to be. It was a political act.

How did you select the 24 women you interviewed for the project?
Intuition, contacts, chance. If I met someone who had a lot of spirit and seemed interesting, I would ask her. I wanted to cover all the main religions and sexualities, and have a woman from every decade of life.

What was the most surprising revelation?
That all women are an expert on an area of sexuality and didn’t know about another area. No one was a total expert, and no one knew nothing.

Has this made you think differently about sex yourself?
Yes – I think sex is very human and shows our vulnerability. No one is as armoured as they seem around sex.

Will you be encouraging the audience to share their own stories at your event or will you be sharing your findings? 
If the audience would like to talk about their experiences, that will be welcome. I will also share my findings.

The internet has made pornography accessible to everyone. Has this had an influence on what women desire from sex, or perhaps more accurately, raised expectations as to what they perceive men want?
Pornography is educating and takes away some people’s feelings of isolation. It also sets unreal and damaging standards, and sets up a fantasy world which people can mistake as reality.

What is your definition of sex?
Well, there’s the straightforward biological one – I’ll go with that!

Wendy Jones: Sex Lives of English Women, Friday 11 Nov, 5.30 - 6.30pm. Nottingham Arts Theatre, 12 George Street, NG1 3BE.

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