Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Originality is Overrated

I've worried about repetition, or things growing stale, in a lot of ways. As a writer, I don't want to be seen as writing the same kind of story all the time. As a partner, I don't want to use the same turn-ons and techniques every time. And sometimes I worry about whether I'm stunting myself horribly by using the same go-to masturbation fantasies for, like, my entire life.

Here are some reassuring words from Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors:

A moment's consideration suggests that a sex life consisting of never-repeated wonders would be as bizarre as it would be exasperating, to say nothing of impossible. The whole point of sex, surely, is that it's all about repetition. We know what we like, what gives us pleasure, and so we repeat those things. There'll be variations and novelties, there'll be inventiveness within the form, there'll probably be a few surprises, but the idea that every sex act might be some previously unexperienced and then unrepeatable form of escstasy is just plain silly. If it's any good, why wouldn't you want to repeat it?

It's a good point, and well worth remembering. Let's not underestimate the classics, or forget the pleasure they hold.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Music Mondays: "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls

"When I think about you, I touch myself."

This one is such a classic, I can't believe I haven't thought to post it before. I used to hang out with this gorgeous blonde who loved to bring down the house at the karaoke bar by performing this song. Imitate her with caution -- the technique was quite effective.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Erotica in the Open

J. Blackmore asks on her blog whether erotica writers have become a community of people writing for each other, somehow losing touch with the mainstream world:

I'm not sure if, in a post-Fifty Shades world, we can afford to be that insular. That book is decidedly not OK with the BDSM sexuality of its, uh, hero, and yet it's being held up as a stunning success in the markets of kinky and erotic fiction. This makes me think that a lot of people are not finding us, don't know what other stuff is out there, or how to find it. That makes me incredibly sad.

The frenzy over Fifty Shades is bewildering to me. As people have commented before, Fifty Shades is not the first erotic book aimed at women to sell a boatload of copies (see, for example, Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden, and, um, the entire Harlequin catalog). To some degree, I think this is a media event -- people at various media outlets feel they have to follow each other writing articles about the inexplicable success of this sex book (sarcasm here), and that feeds more articles and more sales. Why this book? Who knows? -- it happens that way sometimes.

But is erotica insular? I do think things that are specifically erotica concentrate in small press editions, dark corners of bookstores, and e-book publishers who of necessity market to the tech-savvy. A big thing Fifty Shades has going for it is massive publisher support, cross-platform availability, displays in stores including the supermarket, and so on.

If Fifty Shades encourages more mainstream publishers to get into more erotica, that'll be good, I think. It might pull the erotica section out of those dark corners.

I think there's also a packaging issue going on -- Fifty Shades doesn't have a red cover on it, or a picture of a shirtless man, and I think some of the shock is that the book sells anyway. But this is part of a larger trend that's already been happening. Harlequin has its Luna line, which is fantasy romance. A lot of fantasy books for a lot of years have been full of explicit, erotic scenes, BDSM included (see, for example, Jacqueline Carey or Terry Goodkind). I respect Fifty Shades' sales, but it doesn't really seem unique to me. Sexy books have been selling well for quite some time, I think it's just that a lot of the world didn't realize what was going on.

I'm holding out hope that this will increase people's willingness to go looking for the erotica tag, rather than sticking to books that have a lot of sex but are being marketed primarily as something else (say, fantasy).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Who's Reading All This Erotica, Anyway?

People so frequently seem uncomfortable with the idea that someone is reading erotica, and I've seen lots of disingenuous attempts to identify who is doing all these reading. Most recently, this has come up in relation to Fifty Shades of Grey, with all kinds of weird speculation about "mommy porn." But it's an old conversation, it's often about shifting shame onto some group that the speaker doesn't belong to, and it usually sounds pretty silly. Here's a great example from Geoff Nicholson's book Sex Collectors.

[Gershon] Legman tells us in The Horn Book that collectors of erotica are either the "inexperienced young" in search of information and education or the "old and impotent...searching in books or pictures for the reviving of their drooping sexuality." "Few collectors exist between these limits," he says, and he reckons the young are in the majority. This seems so transparently untrue and such a downright weird thing to say that you have to wonder what his agenda is. When he starts talking about "these children, with their hopeless pornographic pamphlets, grotesquely illustrated as often as not with smeary photographs of old time pimps and whores in pointy shoes and torn stockings," his scholarly credibility seems to be sprinting rapidly toward the exit.

The quoted language sounds patently absurd, and you have to wonder where these assertions are coming from. I suspect a lot of the "mommy porn" speculation is going to sound just as absurd in a few years.

People read erotica. Which people? Plenty of people.

(And for those following along at home, I've indeed quoted several times recently from Sex Collectors. It's a really interesting book, and I'm likely to do it some more. It's on the Kindle if you want to check it out for yourself.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wicked Fairy Tales releases today!

Today, Forbidden Fiction releases its Wicked Fairy Tales collection. If I know the Forbidden Fiction authors, this will be an amazingly twisted dark carnival of fresh perspectives on classic tales.

If you missed my story, The Three Wives of Bluebeard, you can pick it up now as part of this collection. In addition to my story, you'll see stories by the likes of Nobilis Reed, Elizabeth Schechter, and Kailin Morgan. Take a look here!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hey, Hey, Pompeii

I've just discovered that, as is often the case with elementary school education, my official introduction to the story of the lost city of Pompeii left out all the best parts.

From Geoff Nicholson's book, Sex Collectors:

When the ruins of Pompeii were excavated most actively, from the mid-eighteenth century onward, the newly found artifacts suggested that the Pompeiians had lived surrounded by the most extravagant obscenity. There were lascivious frescoes and murals on the walls of their houses, lewd statuary and carvings of erect phalli on every street corner; domestic vases and lamps were decorated with graphic scenes of copulation. This was a shock and a puzzle to the scholars of the day.

Luckily, these objects weren't destroyed -- but they were locked in a "secret museum," a room in the Museo Borbonico in Naples, which Nicholson says you could get into by bribing a caretaker. These days, the collection is open to the public, but I am sad to say I'd never heard of it before today.

I love thinking about what it would have been like to live among these artifacts. I'm imagining something that made sex part of daily life, like certain streets in San Francisco. I loved the times I walked down Castro Street in the mornings for a bagel, passing video stores that rented porn and musicals, a manicure place called "Hand Job," and bars with names like Moby Dick. Sex was fun and ever-present but also normal. In my own life, that meant a lot to me -- it helped me to make peace with myself and my sexuality.

I like the idea of idly strolling down a Pompeiian street, wondering about the shape of that particular cock, or finding myself drawn to that particular fresco.

Too often, when sex is present it isn't treated as normal. My experience of Las Vegas, for example, is that in Sin City sexual energy is frenetic, frantic, treated as something ordinarily furtive that is there kept in the open for people to grab while they can. The myth of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" may seem romantic, but to me it doesn't have the appeal of staring at a big cock statue while having a coffee.

Here's to Pompeii, and I hope I get to see this collection someday.

(The painting at the top of the post is apparently an example of a Pompeiian wall painting, which I grabbed off the Wikipedia page on the subject.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fancy Man on BDSM

I read a lovely description of a BDSM relationship the other night in Fancy Man and the Lipstick Lesbian, the latest book out by Thirteen:

It's not just about merging personalities, it's making sure the top cares and is inventive, is masterful, not just brutal. Likewise, the bottom has to be honest and open to new experiences, submissive but not passive. It's a very delicate balancing act, especially when it involves love and sex.

Thirteen has rapidly become one of my favorite authors, particularly for the sensitive, nuanced portrayal of BDSM featured in the Fancy Man series. Lipstick Lesbian is the third in the series, but each one so far has been a meditation on a fresh angle of what exactly it is that goes on between a dominant and a submissive. How are they filling each other's fantasies? Meeting each other's needs?

Fancy Man, the central character of the series, is absolutely compelling -- a creative, powerful dom who goes far beyond all the cliches.

I highly recommend every book in the series, especially for those interested in the psychology of BDSM.

(Note: Forbidden Fiction publishes Fancy Man, as well as some of my books, but I purchased Fancy Man entirely on my own, mentioned the book of my free will, and recommend it from the bottom of my heart.)

Not His Territory

Check out the cover to my forthcoming werewolf book, Not His Territory. Truly, the art department at Breathless Press has outdone itself. Here's a description of the book, which is slated for release in October:

Raul Silva is an investigator for the Werewolf Council, and has dedicated his life to procedures, regulations, and holding back the beast within. When he visits Big Timber, Montana, to investigate reports of unruly pack behavior, he meets Chandra Williams, ex-wife of the local pack alpha and the best reason he's ever found to unleash the beast. According to Council law, she still belongs to the pack alpha, but Chandra insists that she is not his territory. How many rules will Raul break for Chandra's sake?

This isn't the first time Breathless has unleashed a wickedly hot cover for a werewolf book. Remember how hot and bothered I got over the cover for Ravaged? The good news is you don't have to wait until October for this one. It releases in early August, and you can preorder now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

World Discovers Erotica: Episode 53

The Daily Beast posted 12 erotica titles it's calling "sexier than 50 Shades of Grey." Seems like a nice reading list, but particularly, I wanted to mention that it spotlights Going Down: Oral Sex Stories, which includes my story "Getting Something Out of It."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Music Mondays: "This Head I Hold" by Electric Guest

I'm not going to quote lyrics from this song even though there are plenty, because it's really the beat that I find sexy. The video has a weird part in the middle where the beat is interrupted by some sort of dream sequence. Not really sure what to make of the message communicated by the video. What I do know is I thought this song was hot when I heard it on the radio. So, I present Electric Guest.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Win a Copy of The Six Swans

The Romance Reviews is having a Sizzling Summer Reads party this month, and The Six Swans is part of it.

If you'd like to win a copy of my retelling of the famous fairy tale, here's what you have to do: I've got a multiple choice question up at the event page -- there'll be a link to a blog post that will help you find the answer. One person who visits today and answers correctly will win a copy of the book.

You have to log in to The Romance Reviews to participate.

While you're there, be sure to check out the other books -- there are more than 400 authors participating, and lots of prizes.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Words: Fully Loaded

Well-written erotica needs to be a full-body experience, immersing the reader in all five senses.

While the first time I read erotica, I was turned on just by seeing explicit language on the page, that quickly grows old unless it's freshly described. After reading a whole bunch of erotica, I was left with almost no desire to read about "the old in-out" unless the writing is revealing some new aspect.

Nothing can beat a truly fresh description, a brilliant metaphor unique to an individual writer, but broader lists of words can also help.

I use the thesaurus more now than I ever did before. You can also find specialized lists, such as this erotic thesaurus.

The great challenge of erotica is to write over and over again about the same type of action and make it feel new and thrilling every time. Plenty of elements go into that, but a big part of it is fresh, sensual description.

The other day, I was writing a story that included a section where I really wanted to focus on smell and taste. Those senses are very central to my experience, but maddeningly difficult to describe. I was looking for a fresh set of words, and found this useful post, which helped me to consider types of smells and tastes apart from my usual go-tos. (Bonus note: It amuses me that the comments to the post I linked seem split between schoolchildren and erotica writers.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Want a Free Book?

Editor extraordinaire Rachel Kramer Bussel is currently running a buy-one-get-one-free offer -- preorder her new collection Anything For You: Erotica for Kinky Couples before July 22, send her the receipt, and you can choose a free, signed copy of one of her past anthologies. You can see the full list of available anthologies here.

Tragedy of tragedies, I didn't write a story for Anything For You -- which looks like an awesome book. However, I'm in two of the books you can get free. If you haven't picked up Passion: Erotic Romance for Women or Going Down: Oral Sex Stories, now is your chance to get one free at the same time as another hot book.

My story in Passion, "An Easy Guy to Fall On," is one of my favorites. It's a romance of cultural difference and serendipity. Ina and Saeed feel strong physical attraction as a constant punctuation to sharing a daily commute by bus, but they can't be together unless they overcome personal and cultural inhibitions.

For Going Down, I write "Getting Something Out of It," which is about a woman's discovery that giving oral sex can provide pleasure for her in itself, rather than simply being a demonstration of skill.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Uncle Sam Wears Pasties

I did a double-take when I saw this issue of The Economist. Uncle Sam has become much sexier than he used to be -- I'm pretty impressed by the pasties. Is this just because they couldn't show his nipples on the cover? Because this picture gave me a mental image of him swinging those tassels, and I'm not sure that's what they intended. I generally associate the idea of a comeback kid with sports, not erotic dancing.

I suppose America's overall image involves sexuality. It's still interesting to me to ponder what this cover says about how this country is perceived.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bottoms Up!

I've signed a contract with Xcite for my story "How to Handle a Younger Man," which will appear in their anthology, Tops and Bottoms. "How to Handle a Younger Man" involves a storage unit, a hot younger man, and spanking with a variety of kitchen implements. I'll post more news about it as it's available.

If you can't wait to read a spanking story, check out Spankalicious, where I wrote about a spanking menage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sex is Fundamental

I really got a kick out of this recent XKCD. It's obviously a joke, but I think it's also onto something. Lots of things are sexy when you really immerse yourself in them. I'm always amazed about this when I'm writing for anthologies. The themes can be all over the map, yet when I take the time to sink in, there's always something really hot about them.

Sex is fundamental. It's inside of every part of human experience.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Music Mondays: "Blunderbuss" by Jack White

"Such a trick pretending not to be doing what you want to, but seems like everybody does this every waking moment. ... Doing what two people need is never on the menu."
-- Jack White

I keep meaning to declare Jack White appreciation month, but don't time things right. So I'll just start posting awesome Jack White songs -- and this might go on a while.

I love this song for the little bursts of defiance that punctuate a narrative of desire.

This is off his solo album, Blunderbuss, and I'd recommend every single song on that. Been listening to it nonstop for weeks.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Freedom for a Small Part

Tentacle stories get me excited, so I'm totally stoked to have signed a contract to appear in Coming Together: Arm in Arm in Arm, edited by Nobilis Reed.

Reed is, amazingly enough, an experienced editor of tentacle porn -- he edited a previous book, Tentacle Dreams. And I'm expecting Arm in Arm in Arm to be pretty awesome. Here's a clip from how he described what he wanted:

Tentacle sex celebrates helplessness in the face of ravenous, remorseless, undeniable lust. I want to see stories with characters, settings, and plots. People change. The world is revealed. Things happen. They don't have to be deep, but they have to be there.

I want to see stories that stretch the boundaries of what defines tentacle porn. "Demon appears out of nowhere and rapes unsuspecting victim" is boring. Even hentai anime isn't doing that anymore. Give me more than that.

That line about ravenous, remorseless, undeniable lust stuck with me. In my story, "Freedom for a Small Part," I wanted to play with that idea. My tentacle creature starts out representing that stuff, lurking, threatening. But the main character eventually starts to wonder what it really wants. Might it be playing a role that helps it to stay alive?

Like all Coming Together books, this one's for charity. Proceeds benefit Oceana, an organization that works to protect the world's oceans. (I always wish I could see the look on someone's face at an organization like this when they figure out where the latest donation check came from).

I think you're going to want to pick this book up when it comes out, but if you want to indulge in a little erotic charity now, may I remind you of my two other titles with Coming Together? The Six Swans is a sexy retelling of the fairy tale, and it benefits Kiva, an organization that provides microloans to entrepreneurs all over the world. Coming Together: As ONE is a collection of menage erotica that benefits ONE, the campaign to end global poverty. My story is about the follower of Artemis who serves as a bridge between the goddess and a favorite male hunter.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What Is Kinky, Anyway?

The word "kinky" gets thrown around a lot, but when you think about it, its meaning is pretty unclear. As I mentioned recently, when Cosmo gives a list of kinky sex tips, they're normally suggesting things like "tell your man exactly what you want him to do to you, and where" (which I would consider basic sexual communication). They might suggest you blindfold him or something.

In my own head, "kinky" means nipple clamps and floggers and pinwheels and other tools of BDSM.

I'm pretty sure it can mean plenty of other things. Maybe there are people who wouldn't call something kinky unless it involves a violet wand and a urethral sound. And it doesn't have to involve pain. It could be a kinky for a man to put on his girlfriend's underwear -- It's probably kinky if he puts on his boyfriend's underwear, too.

So when I think about it, kinky starts to mean everything and nothing, which is problematic, since I consider myself kinky.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines "kinky" as "involving or given to unusual sexual behavior." This definition seems right on, because it pinpoints the problem: the word "unusual."

What's unusual to the average Cosmo reader might not be unusual to me. What's unusual to me might not be unusual to a person in a fluid-bonded poly family. This, I think, explains a lot of the typical arguments about whether something or someone is "actually" kinky (and I find these arguments pretty annoying most of the time).

Kinky is a spectrum word and comes with all the associated confusion. In relation to the word "unusual," it might also mean, "behavior for which someone else might shame you." In the purest form, anyone doing anything beyond m/f missionary within a marriage could claim it, I guess.

But I'd like to say that it means more than that, that there is a realm of sexual behavior that is actually unusual. To clarify this, I'll start by talking about what isn't unusual. I think there are a few things. Pretty much everyone feels pleasure through the genitals, for example. It's not kinky to touch someone there and expect that to be pleasurable.

There are other things that I would expect the vast majority of people to enjoy. For example, talking to your lover(s) about exactly what you want him/her/them to do to you, and where, would result in pleasure for just about everybody, assuming it's possible to get hangups and shame out of the way.

There are activities, on the other hand, that I would not expect everyone to enjoy. I like to get hurt during sex, for example, but I really don't think that has universal appeal. It's a common enough kink, but I don't think that anyone who tried it would necessarily like it.

So I think my real definition of kinky is along those lines -- activities that one could not reasonably expect everyone to enjoy. Things you need to ask your lover about before doing. I don't consider oral sex kinky, and I wouldn't ask before going down -- there's the pleasure to genitals thing again. However, I'd certainly ask before dripping hot candle wax on someone, for example, because I wouldn't expect everyone to enjoy that.

It's not a perfect definition, but I think the key thing is to note that there are two aspects floating around when the word "kinky" gets used. Sometimes people are talking about practices that could be considered weird or unusual by society (I think oral sex was in this category relatively recently). Sometimes they're talking about practice that it wouldn't be reasonable to expect everyone to enjoy (such as pain).

In this light, it makes sense that Cosmo's idea of kinky tends to fall in the first category -- they're trying to appeal to a broad and general readership, so I think they're looking for tips that will give people a thrill and make them feel they're going outside the mainstream, but not tips that would only be pleasurable for a niche group of people.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Aim of Porn

I recently realized something that might explain why it took me a long time to learn to appreciate male/male erotica. Though I read erotica much more than I watch porn, my first experiences of explicit portrayal of sex were through porn -- men introduced me to that, and erotica was something I found on my own. And most porn is produced with a male audience in mind.

A lot of men like watching lesbian porn, but it's pretty clear that the "lesbians" you typically see in such a production are chosen with straight men in mind. They usually look the way a man might want them to, and the things they do together are often designed to arouse men. (I'm not talking here about porn produced by and for actual lesbians).

However, gay male porn is again mostly produced with men in mind, so here again you'll see actors who look like and do things intended to appeal to a male audience.

I've seen a lot of arguments about male/female porn and the effects of its similar targeting toward a male audience, but that's a complicated issue that I don't want to get into here.

The point is that, in typical mainstream porn, whether you're watching straight, lesbian, or gay porn, you're probably watching something intended for male consumption. Recently, I realized that the male/male scenes I enjoy need a different angle. Basically, I want a female version of what's done for men in lesbian porn. I want the men I see together to have a look that would appeal to a female, and to do things to each other that a female wants to see. I've never encountered this in film porn, so I thought for a long time that I just didn't like male/male scenes.

The experience that changed my mind turned out to be a video game. I played Dragon Age 2 as a male character, and carried out a romance with another male character, pretty much on a whim. I was stunned by how hot that turned out to be for me. But when I thought about it more, it made more sense.

In lesbian porn aimed at males, you basically have straight-appearing females who happen to want to make out with each other. I think this helps men imagine those females would be open to them, say, joining in, which I think is a typical part of the fantasy. I had the same experience with the Dragon Age 2 characters. Both of the men read straight to me visually, which made it possible for me to fantasize about them without my sense of reality intruding. I bought their romance with each other a whole lot more than I buy most events in lesbian porn aimed at males but, hey, mainstream porn's never been known for its plot.

It's hard for me to fantasize about people I'm sure would not be interested in me, and when I watch gay porn and read the characters as really gay, I feel sort of shut out, or like I wouldn't have a chance, and my arousal doesn't really activate.

I've been experimenting with reading male/male erotica recently, and have found the principle to hold true. I appreciate reading about gay men in terms of story, but I only find it arousing if they seem bi or heteroflexible. This may not be the way it works for everyone, but for me male/male erotica arouses when it follows this pattern. (As an aside, I've long appreciated male/male erotica that doesn't arouse me, because it allows me to read for story and really appreciate the romance, rather than frantically flipping forward to find the next "good part.")

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why Seal the Section?

Cosmo made a big deal about the sealed section in its July issue, which was apparently "so hot, they made us seal it" -- according to the copy on the cover. I long ago learned not to get too excited about Cosmo's sex tips and articles, since they typically amount to "touch him on the penis:"

Not to mention that their idea of kinky is usually along the lines of bringing an ice cube to bed.

But I got curious about the sealed section. Who are "they?" Was there really some sort of legal requirement to seal the section? (Or was it a requirement passed down by an editor?)

The section turned out to be a set of articles and infographics on the penis. One in particular caught my eye and seriously undermined the claim that the section had to be sealed. That article discussed which term should be used to refer to the penis, mostly by weighing the merits of "dick" vs. "cock," and including a bunch of improbable foreign slang terms. But Cosmo didn't say "dick" or "cock" at all -- if they had, I suppose I might have understood the sealing. Instead, they said, "the d-word" and "the c-word," just as they do in this web post about the section.

I sat there way too long racking my brain, trying to figure out one thing that might require sealing. I saw no vulgar language, no images more risque than those in an underwear catalog, and no erotica. The section included one comedic essay a dude wrote about his penis and a bunch of research and infographics (of varied provenance) that I hope didn't require sealing, because they seemed mostly scientific. It covered ground similar to what I consider basic sex education, though with more fun presentation.

I was left hoping this sealing thing was just a gimmick, not a real requirement. If some legal or financial authority truly made Cosmo seal the section, then the state of sex education in the United States is even sadder than I feared.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Art and Pornography

There was recently some discussion online about using "the wet test" when evaluating about erotica. I did a couple posts, one about reading erotica for reasons other than arousal, and one about writing erotica for reasons other than arousal.

I came across a great passage over the weekend that sums up my position, from Geoff Nicholson's book Sex Collectors:

Some people used to say that art was good because it was celebratory and porn was bad because it was masturbatory, but now we all say, what's so wrong with masturbation? Camille Paglia says, "What people call pornography is simply the moment when the physicality of the act becomes obtrusive to them." I say the difference between art and pornography is this: you can masturbate to art if you want, but you don't have to. It still has an appeal and a function even if it doesn't get you aroused. Whereas if a piece of pornography doesn't get you aroused, then it's a complete failure, and few things are worse than failed pornography.

I found this a useful distinction. I think what I was trying to get at with my earlier posts was that I see erotica as art. However, when I started to read it, I read it as porn -- I wanted to get off. I think its purpose is still confused, and writers and readers approach it as art or porn or both, not always being clear what they're going for.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Music Mondays: "Want It Back" by Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra

"He's already on the outskirts. I'm still pulling on his sweatshirt. He says fate is not a factor. I'm in love with every actor."
--Amanda Palmer

Considering that I discovered this song moments ago, it seemed like a great time to start back up with Music Mondays. Check out the lovely, erotic, disturbing aesthetic to this video. This is a great example of the interplay between the erotic and the artistic. Amanda Palmer looks stunning and sexy, and the drawing on her nude body also introduces a visual vocabulary of brazen vulnerability. Enjoy!