Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ellen Willis

There are two kinds of sex, classical and baroque.  

Classical sex is romantic, profound, serious, emotional, moral, mysterious, spontaneous, abandoned, focused on a particular person, and stereotypically feminine.

Baroque sex is pop, playful, funny, experimental, conscious, deliberate, amoral, anonymous, focused on sensation for sensation's sake, and stereotypically masculine.

The classical mentality taken to an extreme is sentimental and finally puritanical; the baroque mentality taken to an extreme is pornographic and finally obscene. Ideally, a sexual relation ought to create a satisfying tension between the two modes (a baroque idea, particularly if the tension is ironic) or else blend them so well that the distinction disappears (a classical aspiration).

From a magazine article later published in her 1981 book, Beginning to See the Light: Pieces of a Decade.

Ellen Willis, who was born on December 14, 1941, was a left-wing political essayist, a "sex-positive feminist," and the New Yorker's first pop music critic.  She died of lung cancer in 2006.

Ellen Willis in 1981


  1. I'm reminded of that classic line from an old Woody Allen movie.

    Q. Do you think sex is dirty?

    Woody: Yes, if you do it right.

  2. Mark did you not just quote that to me the other night?
    I vote for Classical with a hint of Baroque.