Why Are People Into Fluids?
In the latest episode, Tina talks to Jenny Zhang, the Shanghai-born, reared-in-Queens author of Dear Jenny, We Are All Find; Hags; The Selected Jenny Zhang; and the forthcoming collection of short stories Sour Heart.
Zhang’s work explores all the fluids the human body can produce, from spit to sweat to piss to cum. Along the way, they investigate the phenomenon of dirty panty sniffing, Gushers candy, and the erotic potential of words like “drained.”
Jenny Zhang’s poetry is disgusting; and, if you know me, you know that nothing makes me wetter than obscenity.
From “It was a period when cunt was in the air,” originally published on Adult Magazine:
clap your hands if you need more nice sploogee
on warm nights when you wish to swim well
& clap your hands if you think you have enough holes
if you ever wanted to shit from yr pits
Specifically, Jenny’s poems seem to revel in bodily secretions on the move. Since her first book of short stories, Sour Heart, is out this August, I wanted to see just how gross we could get on the mic talking about the parts of our bodies that turn us on and turn our stomachs.
“I’m aware that I can temper my poems about flinging blood clots by having an ‘acceptable’ body,” she told me, ticking off story after story of being underestimated. During our interview, she rolled her eyes when discussing assumptions people make about her based on her race and appearance, before our conversations about bodily fluids turned as impolite as her poetry.
Jenny launched into a visceral explanation of the pus related to a skin condition she’d had when she was younger, and didn’t hesitate to describe crusty panties, or her love of the smell of someone who has just masturbated. I found myself scanning my body, thinking about all the viscous liquids it produces and what they all mean to me.
Piss and milk. Snot and tears. Cum and sweat. Spit and blood. Fluids are bodies in action, the parts of the body that no amount of socializing can contain. Fluids represent emotions. Fluids are functions.
I found myself scanning my body, thinking about all the viscous liquids it produces and what they all mean to me.
Every body fluid has its own devoted fetish fan base. From porn tropes like facials and creampies to kinky activities like golden (and brown, and Roman, and crimson, and milk) showers, the wet parts of the body are the most fascinating to us.
A sweaty, pheromone-exuding gym bunny makes us think of the exertion of fucking. Although crying is usually unpleasant, it sometimes provides an orgasmic release. As Maxwell Lander and I discussed in the podcast episode Why Are People into Blood?!, breaking the barrier between your inner self and the outside world can be intensely erotic. And cum, whether it’s ejaculating semen or gushing squirt, is the physical manifestation of orgasmic pleasure.
We’re taught right away that fluids are supposed to be released in private, and as a result are often tied to shame. Fluids carry infections and are often dangerous. Fluids are also the parts of our physical selves that make us feel unclean. Fluids, especially ones we’ve lost control of, are the body’s way of expressing itself; they tell the truth. We’ve invented products to suppress them, like antiperspirant, and ways to contain them, like condoms. Therefore, swapping fluids, or being fluid bonded, is a profound expression of intimacy and trust.
I’ve also always been fascinated by the strong reactions people have to sexual secretions and how they manifest. People have invented some creative ways to worship fluids, or to prevent themselves from acknowledging them. Personally, I love the scent of dirty clothes, and may have had my head shoved in a used gym bag once or twice in my time. I find it interesting that the process of ejaculating on a woman’s face is trotted out again and again as a demonstration of the essentially degrading nature of porn, as if reveling in the absurdity and wonder of what a body can do isn’t sort of the entire point of sex.
Fluids, especially ones we’ve lost control of, are the body’s way of expressing itself; they tell the truth.
Think for a moment about the fluid state you find most repulsive. Saliva dripping from a pursed lip. A drop of blood pouring from a piercing. The dried wet spot on your mattress. These things don’t make you shudder or faint in the same way a cockroach might; insects are creepy because they seem so alien. The disgust produced by bodily fluids is an uncanny disgust. The disgust of fluid exists in the tension between our familiar bodies and the —seemingly—unfamiliar things they might do.
Repulsion at fluids is the ultimate horror at the lack of control we have over our corporeality. As we have learned over and over yet must repeat, attraction and repulsion are as intertwined as the mix of shit, lube, and semen in a gaping asshole.
The disgust of fluid exists in the tension between our familiar bodies and the — seemingly — unfamiliar things they might do.
I’m guessing—if you’ve made it this far—that you’re totally grossed out. You might even be angry at me for making you think about these things. I love disgusting language because it demonstrates the physical affect language can have.
We may never meet, but as you read my words, I’m influencing your body across space and time. That’s one thing that filthy language has in common with erotica, and may be why the Marquis de Sade was as obsessed with the scatological as he was with the pornographic. When your art, like Jenny Zhang’s poetry, is provocation, you subvert the acceptable tools.
And be sure to check out last month’s episodes — YAPIT was on a short hiatus in April — exploring why people are into nude photos with photographer Ellen Stagg and the kinky sadomasochistic undertones of getting tattooed with Tamara Santibañez.