I’m currently working on a critical essay about two contemporary literary novels, both of which tackle sexual subject matter, yet in ways that feel decidedly unsexy. Yes, there’s a difference between literature and pornography (which I define as sex without characterization, bodies in motion without souls or psychology in operation). And yet, as Steve Almond argues in his classic essay on writing about sex, on some level, one point of a sex scene is indeed arousal: “the intent of any effective scene is to evoke in the reader the feeling state of your characters, including the aroused states.” That said, so many works of literary fiction leave out the sex or else, like the recent story “Cat Person,” published in the New Yorker and which caused a mini-stir because of its frank depiction of a one-night stand gone bad, show sex as unsatisfying. Why? Maybe in part, it’s a function of Leo Tolstoy’s famous opening to Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” As writers, we often find the downsides of life more interesting and dramatic to explore. Happiness, joy, and yes ecstasy are more challenging to make interesting.