"She was his beautiful, impossible creature: a woman, not reared to live in shame." -- from "Sealed" by Laila Blake, published in A Princess Bound: Naughty Fairy Tales for Women (ed. Kristina Wright).
This story is a complex exploration of the myth of the selkie, wound up with the concept of consent, with some breathplay and rope not only creating erotic tension but symbolizing the nature of the relationship between the main characters. Laila Blake is a masterful writer, and it's well worth reading.
I want to talk about the line I quoted, though. This line just breaks my heart and makes my gut twist. Blake's description feels true to me—a woman not reared to live in shame would seem like a beautiful, impossible creature indeed. I just don't want it to be true.
I've thought lately about how, despite so much effort to focus on female desire and female pleasure in much of the erotica that's being published, there are these moments when the curtain slips and one can see how low the societal standard for those things is. That we should take shame for granted—that the idea of being free of it should be an impossible dream... I feel like all of us ought to be up in arms about that.
Jean Roberta engages with this a great deal in her work. Her book The Flight of the Black Swan is an impressive envisioning of sex enjoyed without shame, and I'm sure it wasn't easy to write.
I notice in a lot of my reading the many signals that writers are sending that this particular thing is "nice" erotica, not "shameful" erotica. Especially in erotic romance, there are all these things—the heroine is acting out of character, overcome by the hotness of the hero. She'd never normally behave this way. It's been a long time since she had sex really. A lot of this amounts to, "She's not a slut." And she needs to not be a slut or else it seems like the sex becomes too illicit to be enjoyed. There's a flip side, of course—the eroticization of shame. That's a powerful tool, and maybe important for resistance.
More and more, though, I'm thinking about the question Roberta's asking in her work. What would this look like without shame?
And here's my question: Why are we taking "reared to live in shame" for granted?