This is one of the last few stops on the month-long blog tour for “Best Sex Writing 2012.” I picked the date late in the month because…and here I’m being completely honest…I was worried I wouldn’t be able to slog through it. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not big on reading non-fiction. I read two or three non-fiction books in a year, and, even then, those are usually part of a class list or for my book group. The last time I picked up a similar anthology, I was so disturbed by the first article I read, I had to put it down. I decided to join the blog tour for this particular book as a curative measure for that experience as much as any other reason. Well, that and the fact that I have this impulsive need to raise my virtual hand whenever I see something of interest go by on my twitter feed. Given my history with non-fiction, I wanted to have as much time as possible to get through the book and meet the obligation of posting for the tour in a timely matter. I got my free PDF via the editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel, in the beginning of February and started to read it right away.
I don’t know what I was worried about. From the moment I picked up the book, I was engaged. Sure, there’s a warning that this is “not a one-handed read,” but I find there are hardly any non-fiction books that would be. I took a couple of weeks to read it so that I could let each piece have some private space in my head rather than plow through it in a couple of evenings–which would be entirely possible as it is that engaging. The articles and essays cover a wide range of topics, and there’s something in the book for everyone. Even if you look at the table of contents and think, “Wow, I’m not sure I really want to read about that,” you might be surprised that you’re not only reading it, but nodding along in agreement. The fact I “had” to read the book meant I read things like “Adrian’s Penis: Care and Handling” by Adrian Colesberry in spite of the fact that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to have much to do with Adrian’s penis. If I had skipped that little piece based solely on the title, I would have missed out on one of the most delightful reads in the book. I still don’t want much to do with his high-maintenance member, but his style and wit are fun and shouldn’t be missed.
While some stories wanted me to jump up and write an angry letter to my senators and congresspeople, others had me chortling with subversive delight. (I read a lot when sitting with my children as they do their homework. E-readers are handy that way.) There is a nice balance of the serious and the humorous without anything being trite or hyped up. Bussel also did a fine job selecting stories that didn’t get much focus or attention but should have.
Just a couple of highlights that I find particularly meaningful to me….
In her essay Why Lying about Monogamy Matters, Susie Bright says, “When young adults, past puberty, remain sexually inexperienced with their peers, it is because of dysfunction, not virtue.” As the mother of a teen-aged girl, I am always happy to see sex-positive messages geared toward youth. I am weary of the finger wagging, anti-sex messages that populate the mainstream media outlets, and would like to see Bright’s message that sex is normal on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It’s not likely to happen any time soon, but a girl can dream.
In the midst of the recent PayPal scandal (there’s some fodder for next year’s compilation), a lot of people have come down hard on transgressive erotica–even other erotica writers. I’m not sure if this stems from the fear is that by condoning transgressive erotica, their own work will come under scrutiny, or just from a generalized sense of ‘eeuw.‘ However, in spite of all that has been written about the why’s and why not’s of reading, writing, or enjoying erotica that involves rape, bestiality, or incest–or whatever it is that seems to send a lot of people squiggling away–I haven’t been able to mold my thoughts into an ‘elevator summary’ of the argument. Not until, that is, I read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s essay, Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy:The Truth About Kinky Sexting. In it she says, “The point of fantasies is that they come from somewhere that isn’t always logical or rational.” It’s sort of a “well, duh!” moment, but I’ve spent too much time trying to rationalize or put some sort of logic to fantasy. I’ve struggled in explaining to my daughter why it’s okay for her to be confused about the fact she is a strong, confident young woman who harbors tendencies toward male ravishment in her fantasy life. The cognitive dissonance is resolved when no longer being forced into a rationality. It’s time to just give in and let the fantasies be what they are and stop over thinking them.
You can buy the book at Amazon here. Or, you can find links to other formats including Nook, and other smaller, less Amazon-like sites can be found here.
When Jennifer left the cold and damp of London for the sparkle and bustle of Tokyo, she imagined she’d find a world full of cherry blossom festivals, ancient tea ceremonies and Geishas. What she got instead was a cramped, shared apartment, harassment on the subway and a mind-numbing job as a hostess at the Blonde Chick Bar in Roppongi.
With a single, unintentional insult all that changed. She wakes up to find that she has been kidnapped by Shindo: a sadistic Yakuza demi-god who doesn’t take his loss of face easily. Caught between his hatred of all things foreign and a growing obsession with this blonde gaijin, he is determined to make her pay for her rejection in sadistic and degrading ways.
`A woman’s lot is to endure,’ says the fox spirit in her dreams, but Jennifer wonders whether there are indeed fates worse than death. Little by little, she finds out.
One reviwer on Amazon says it well:
“Have I’ve read more erotic or arousing stories? Yes. Have I read more brutal and severe stories? Yes. But have I read a story that conflicted me more, that made me sit with an almost painful and sad feeling on my chest and think about it after reading it? No. Gaijin pulled a deep emotional response from me, an uncomfortable feeling that I would find beauty in its darkness. Gaijin is many things: dark, poetic, smart, and brutal, but most of all, confusing.”
Today is the last day of the blog tour for Voyeur Eyes Only. Here’s a link to the last stop along the tour. As I read what Jade Melisande had to say this morning, I found myself wanting to go to another conference. It’s not that I want to hit Vegas again, it’s more that I want to find myself surrounded by all these wonderful writers I met and get another jolt of that “camaraderie” I felt while there. Being in a world populated by people who share my world is…simply…wonderful. Until the next conference though, I’ll have to make do with the internet connections I’m making over Facebook and Twitter. Each day, I add new friends and connections to my erotic world.
In my every day life, I’m careful about how I share what I do. People tend to respond in one of two ways. Either they are interested and use my gentle opening as an opportunity to share their enthusiasm, or they are clearly not and change the subject. One friend, who is likely reading this post, said, “Oh, I love erotica. Read it all the time.” Another friend, without hearing the details about the explicit nature of what I write literally began to back away from me. The look on her face was a mixture of confusion, shock, and clear disgust. (And that was without me being at all specific.) This friend is rather…erm…on the uptight end of things generally and one of those feminists who think SLUT Walks are not a good idea. It was clear she did not want any details, and I wasn’t going to hand them over. We talk about other things.
However, I do, very often have people ask what my nym is. Most recently my mom’s sister asked me to share it with her. We had talked at our family reunion about writing, and I had told her rather quietly that I was writing erotica. (And, I do hope you’re reading this right now, my dear aunt–because YOU ROCK!) After posting something nebulous on Facebook like “Another story accepted–Woot!” she asked me to share my work with her. So, I sent her this basic message, just so we were clear:
So, here’s the thing. I don’t share my pen name with people unless they promise to the following rules of engagement and understanding.
1. do not share my pen name further –even if someone claims to have known it but just forgotten about it–always refer whoever is asking directly back to me. 2. That if you read my work you must understand it is FICTION and that husband and I are NOT the characters in the story 3. Just because I might write something convincingly does not mean I have actually done the thing I am writing about. 4. I write about a wide range of sexual activities in graphic detail–this is not “throbbing manhood” and “Pulsing heat” it’s “Thrusting cock into moist wet pussy” sort of writing. Sometimes it involves ropes, leather, anal sex, group sex, lesbian sex, gay sex, and the like.
So, if you are STILL thinking you will be okay with all of THAT, I’ll send you links to my website and the one book that is currently out.
I am just cautious on this because I have some fairly close personal friends who have spoken out against this kind of writing as being anti-feminist. What they don’t seem to be willing to hear is that the majority of erotica is written by women for women.
Her response was one that had me willing to send her my links and trust her with my pen name. I hate to admit this, but I could NEVER have shared what I do with my mother. Our only direct discussion about sex happened when I was ten when she handed me a pamphlet about menstration (pink) and a pamphlet about sexuality (blue). She asked me to read them and then ask if Ihad any questions. She added that she thought sex was wonderful, but it was like the icing on a cake. The cake, a loving relationship, had to be there to support the icing. At age ten, that just confused me a little bit. I was picturing something similar to the image at the top of this post. Sex on cake? What? (Oh…new story idea!) Anyway…I can hardly ever eat cake without a smile on my face because cake has forever and inextricably been connected to sex in my mind. I get what she was saying, but I also think icing is just fine on it’s own.
Did I mention my aunt is going to be seventy-eight this year? I love that she’s not judgmental, that she’s still interested in reading about sex, and just such a cool person. I miss my mom tremendously, but I feel grateful to have my dear aunt in my life.