Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wicked Fairy Tales Month

August is Wicked Fairy Tales Month at Forbidden Fiction, and there's still time to get involved. Head over to the home page and tell the editors which fairy tale you'd most like to see redone as erotica -- you'll be entered in a drawing to win a free e-book at the end of the month.

You can also check out interviews with authors whose stories are featured in the Wicked Fairy Tales collection, including yours truly:

The unknown is erotic, and fairy tales are all about the unknown. What's in the cave? What's beyond the edge of the forest? What happens if you break the rules? What happens if people aren't who they seem to be? What would you be if you could be something else, or if you were forced to be? These questions become very sexual very easily. Beyond that sense of magical roleplay, however, fairy tales in their original form have a deep sense of eroticism. Many of them are about marriage, which means they're about sex. They're about risk. People do strange things, and some of those are sexual. In the original version of The Six Swans, for example, the mute princess for some reason climbs a tree and throws her clothes down to the king's servant a garment at a time. I've never understood quite what she was up to, but it's an undeniably erotic action, and it's there in the original version.

You can read the full interview here.

Be sure to check out other interviews while you're over there, and enter the drawing (the main post is here).

The Wicked Fairy Tales anthology is available here. Enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Music Mondays: "Picking Up The Pieces" by The Milk feat. Idris Elba

"You're looking at a fighter." -- Idris Elba

Yet again, I'm relying on the fundamental sex appeal of the blues. Idris Elba also makes the video easy to watch...

Repeated viewings helped me get through the rough final stages of a recent project, so I owe the song a debt of gratitude.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fighting Spirit: "New Low" by Middle Class Rut

"I did my time in a windowless box, like it or not. All I got now is today; tomorrow ain't here, and yesterday has gone dead on me anyway." -- Middle Class Rut

This isn't one of my usual "sexy music" posts, hence the mid-week appearance. I like this song's fighting spirit, and have been listening to it a lot lately.

Despite the song's title ("New Low"), I feel hope and defiance from this song. The quote I posted above feels like a punked up version of the day at a time cliche. The song's narrator has been through a lot, but he hasn't given up. The failures of the past don't matter, and he's determined to make use of the resources he does have.

When I learned a little background on the band, the song's sense of struggle took on a deeper meaning for me. These guys are far from an overnight success. They've been pounding away in pursuit of their art for well over a decade. I can't help but hear the song as an anthem to continued commitment, which I really respect.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Music Mondays: "Paradise Circus" by Massive Attack

"The devil makes us sin, but we like it when we're spinning in his grip."
--Massive Attack

(Warning: Video NSFW)

This is, of course, a great song -- and it's been in scenes on True Blood, as well as in the recent movie Savages. But I just discovered how much I love this video, perhaps most of all for the added interview with the old woman. I'll confess that when I was searching for the official music video and saw the old woman's face, I thought, "That can't be the right video." But that turned out to be wrong -- and evidence of my internal prejudice that sexuality is the province of the young. Watch the video for the old woman even more than for the song.

Here, for example, is her definition of orgasm:

An orgasm is that point in time that can't be measured. A mystical instant that can't really be measured in this dimension.
I like that. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Modern-Day Sexy Bibliographies

If you're into the stuff I've been blogging about the last few days -- the mysteries of old forbidden books -- I must draw your attention to Scissors and Paste Bibliographies, which compiles information about old erotic books, such as a catalog of books published by the German Olympia Press.

You can pick up a lot of interesting detail there on the history of erotic publishing. See, for example, the fascinating page on Brandon House Library Editions, where you can see covers for books with excellent titles such as Clit Clique and Maidenhead Stories, as well as pick up some interesting historical notes on "the effective collapse of censorship [in the United States] in 1967."

A hat tip, as usual, to Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors, for alerting me to the work of Patrick J. Kearney, who maintains the site.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

And An Index Can Be Sexy, Too

Did you think it was just bibliographies? Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors presses the case of the sex appeal of the index as well:

Actually, there are times when I think the book's index is the best part of, and possibly even an excuse for, the whole enterprise [referring to the Victorian sex history, My Secret Life]. You might, for instance, look up "Spending" and find the following citations:

my first
on writing paper
on a silk dress
on silk stockings
against a looking glass
against a door
in a woman's hand
baudy ejaculations when
is the most ecstatic moment of life
happiness of dying whilst

This makes me think fiction ought to have the index, too. I suppose there's something similar going on with tags -- which I have certainly used to explore sites such as Oysters and Chocolate. On the other hand, the list puts things in a much funnier format. I'd love to see one of the erotic novels I love gifted with an index like this.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Sexy Trail of Ownership

One thing I appreciate about Geoff Nicholson's book Sex Collectors is that it reminds me of the thrill of the chase of erotic objects -- the way it is when they have to be physical and they have to be found. With the exception of a few serendipitous volumes (such as a copy of Best American Erotica 1996 that I found at a library book sale when I was, ahem, probably a little too young for it), I started reading erotica online because I could actually handle buying it online.

It still makes me nervous to buy a physical copy of a Harlequin romance novel, or to be seen in public with it, though I force myself to do these things occasionally as a sort of private political statement. A lot of my erotica is electronic, partly because a lot of it is published in e-book only form, but also because it's a lot easier to buy Women Who Love Wearing Leashes Volume Three (*) when only me, my credit card company, Google and whichever technology companies are currently tracking me are likely to know about it.

But Nicholson is reminding me of how cool a physical object can be -- not just because it's nice to have something you can manhandle a little, but also because it can be sexy to think about who else has manhandled that very item.

See, for example, his discussion of My Secret Life (**):

published between 1888 and 1894, the great Victorian eleven-volume, two-and-a-half-thousand page, infinitely obsessive and detailed account of one man's genuinely extraordinary sex life.

Patrick J. Kearney ... says that My Secret Life "is probably the most collectible and desirable of erotic texts, but certainly not the rarest." It was first published in Amsterdam, though the book itself claims to have been published in Belgium. ... Previous owners of examples from that first edition are said to have included the Satanist Aleister Crowley, silent comedian Harold Lloyd, movie director Josef von Sternberg, and George Mountbatten, the second Marquess of Milford Haven. It's perfectly possible that some of these people, especially the Hollywood crowd, owned the same copy at different times. Today I believe there are copies in the British Library, in the Kinsey Institute, in the private hands of Karl-Ludwig Leonhardt, and in the library of the late Gerard Nordmann.

While it can be kind of disgusting to think of who might have pleasured him or herself with whatever sex book or object you're holding, in this case I find the trail of ownership pretty sexy, mysterious, glamorous, and so on. The forbidden nature of the object makes knowing about it or owning it feel like being part of an exciting secret society.

I don't think this is just about anonymously written Victorian literature. I once moved into an apartment that came with a stack of sexy romance novels left by the previous tenant -- the kind that, at the time, I'd never have had the courage to go buy at the store, but was very interested in reading. The mystery of the discovery, and the physicality of the experience, added to the appeal of the books. I've often wondered about that previous owner, who in my head was a knowing teenager with some idea of how much those books would be appreciated by a fellow.

I love e-books, not least for their convenience and the publishing possibilities they've opened for many writers today. However, passages like the one I quoted make me remember why the smell of paper can be so exciting.

(*) Not an actual book, as far as I know. Though go ahead and write or publish it if you want, because I probably would buy it.
(**) For those with a healthy sense of irony, My Secret Life is available for the Kindle, here. I also found a few copies of the paperback Grove Press edition of the book.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

If You Thought Bibliographies Weren't Sexy...

Check out these bibliography titles -- they're lists of erotic books compiled by the Victorian collector Henry Spencer Ashbee:

Index librorum prohibitorum: An Index of Forbidden Books (1877)
Centuria librorum absconditum: A Hundred Books Deserving to Be Hidden (1879)
Catena librorum tacendorum: A Chain of Books Which Should Not Be Spoken Of (1885)

As usual, the forbidden sounds quite delicious. If some publisher wants to start a line called, "A Hundred Books Deserving to Be Hidden," I think I will buy a subscription to the whole series. It makes me want to read every single one.

Hat tip to Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors, which is my current ongoing source of interesting sexual errata.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Savages Offers Little Resolution

A bit late to the party, I went to see Savages over the weekend, an uber-violent Oliver Stone film that intrigued me mostly because the primary romantic relationship in the movie was a menage. While I was pretty sure the menage was there for titillation, I was really interested to see how menage would be portrayed in a film currently out in mainstream release (obviously, there have been other films that included menage -- Doom Generation and Threesome spring to mind, and I'm sure there have been more). Though it's been done before, I wanted to see what I could glean about possible current societal attitudes toward sex. (Note: I'm going to talk freely about the movie, without regard to spoilers.)

The film definitely played the titillation. Though I don't find menage shocking, I suppose I was there for the titillation, too.

The reason the female narrator gives for the menage is that, between the two men, she nets one perfect man (summarized by lines like "Chon fucks. Ben makes love."). There are some cringe-inducing lines (such as, about war-veteran Chon: "I have orgasms. Chon has wargasms."). But overall, the premise seems to be these are three wounded people who need each other to be whole. They are all home for each other.

She acknowledges societal attitudes ("I know what you're thinking: Slut."), but then justifies her actions somewhat defensively with the argument about wholeness and home.

Soon, this female narrator is kidnapped by a drug cartel, and her two men are desperate to rescue her -- to the point that they get their hands dirty in ways that go far beyond any of their previous misbehavior.

The main problem I had with the movie was that it didn't really settle most of the questions it raised about the relationship. In a scene that I think was supposed to be significant, Salma Hayek's character, Elena Lopez, leader of the drug cartel, tells the narrator, "There's something wrong with your love story, baby." She goes on to say that the two men can't really love her as much as they love each other -- "or else they wouldn't share you." The way the scene was shot, I believed this raised questions for the narrator, maybe even shook her faith in her way of life. However, it's never spoken of again and never clearly resolved. To be clear, it's OK with me if the narrator ultimately decides to shake off the question. But the shot didn't read confidence to me. It read confusion, and then it was dropped.

The ending is even worse. What I first saw seemed like a classic punishment ending to me (where everyone dies in a sort of metaphorical and spiritual payback for their effort to live outside of society, sinning with respect to both sex and drugs). After Ben is mortally wounded in the process of trying to save the female narrator, the narrator and Chon kill themselves so they don't have to leave him. This happens amid carnage in which pretty much everyone else dies, too. I was a little annoyed by the punishment ending, largely because it seemed like a huge copout -- a way to not address, for example, the issues raised in the scene above (or raised by Ben's fall from innocence over the course of the movie, or raised by the female narrator's rape during her imprisonment, or any number of things).

But this proved to be a minor annoyance in the face of the utter copout to come -- because that wasn't the real ending. The narrator says that ending represents the way she imagined it would go down, and then the audience is presented with a fantasy ending -- one where everything works out fine, the three end up hidden away on an island somewhere, and everything rings equally false and is left equally unresolved.

This is one way to handle controversial material, I suppose -- use it for titillation, and then avoid making any sort of statement about it. I was pretty disappointed that the film pretended to engage with some sexual issues, but ultimately turned away from the debate. By providing two endings, Savages essentially provided no ending.

Music Mondays: "Sweet Sour" by Band of Skulls

"Sour by the minute, but you're sweeter by the hour."
-- Band of Skulls

How do blues riffs manage to sound so sexy? This song also has that achingly slow rhythm that's super-hot.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Given the Right Partner and Circumstances...

I wish it felt more acceptable to disclose kink -- it would save so many later incompatibilities.

For my part, I suffered in a vanilla marriage in part because I didn't take my need for kink seriously. I did disclose my kinky experience and thoughts at the outset of that relationship, but in a tone of contrition, along with promises to "get over it" and "not give in to that behavior anymore." I feel this was mostly because I didn't have any sign at the time that it could be acceptable to be kinky, given the right partner and circumstances.

Problems like this seem pretty widespread to me. I recently came across the following passage in Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors:

Henry Spencer Ashbee was part of a coterie of Victorian bibliophiles, collectors, and sexual adventurers who shared a theoretical and practical interest in flagellation. ... The idea of this group of rich, serious, outwardly respectable Victorian men getting together to discuss flagellation, no doubt in a bookish, scholarly, high-minded way, strikes me as infinitely depressing. It may have struck Ashbee's wife, Elizabeth, in much the same way, though no doubt she took it a lot more personally. In his introduction to Prohibitorum Ashbee tells us that flagellation "has caused the separation of man and wife" and I suspect there's a deliberate ambiguity there about whether he means its occurrence in books or in real life. ... Having a husband who's obsessively interested in flagellation may not be the recipe for a happy marriage, regardless of where he keeps his collection.

After reading this, all I could think was that having a husband who's obsessively interested in flagellation might be the recipe for a very happy marriage, given the right wife. I'm glad for kink events and sites like Fetlife and anything that can help kinky people find each other, thereby sparing themselves and prospective vanilla partners from the pain of this incompatibility.

I still think there's too much shame floating around. There's all kinds of titillation going around about Fifty Shades of Grey, but from what I've observed, there's still a heavy aura of shame about it -- shame directed at people who are turned on by the book, as well as shame within the book directed at the character of Grey himself.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More on Sexual Disgust

In yesterday's post, I wrote about being troubled by the idea that "women tend to be specifically more disgusted by sex than men are," as described in Rachel Herz's book That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion. A couple points she makes a bit later in the book shed some light on what might be going on when it seems women are more disgusted by sex than men.

The main study Herz cites found that female college students shown pornography were more disgusted by it and enjoyed it less than their male counterparts did. I already raised the question of whether the presentation of sex acts was disgusting to the women, rather than the sex acts themselves. I wonder if the women felt the pornography presented sex in a degrading rather than pleasurable way.

But there could be more to it than that. Herz writes later:

The faces of anger and disgust are most likely to be confused for each other throughout our lives, which ... has some intriguing implications for understanding what "moral disgust" really might be.

I wonder if the women's disgust had more to do with anger than disgust at the human body and its natural functions. Obviously, there's an interpretation I'd prefer to make, but this seems like a reasonable question.

I also suggested the women might have been disgusted because they were socialized to be disgusted (i.e. "good girls don't like that"). This passage suggests this could certainly be a factor:

There is not one disgust, but many disgusts that vary from simply and physical to abstract and complex. The emotion of disgust is probably universal but it is not innate; disgust has to be learned and is subject to a myriad of influences. Our age, our personality, our culture, our thoughts and beliefs, our mood, our morals, whom we're with, where we are, and which of our senses is giving us the feeling, all shape whether and how strongly we are able to feel disgusted, both as a personal predisposition and in the moment right now.

Clearly, sexual disgust is a complicated issue. I'm convinced this isn't just a biological or hard-wired neurological thing. I think that if women are in fact typically more disgusted by sex than men (I also questioned the cited sources in my original post), there is likely a constellation of societal factors operating to promote the effect, ranging from what girls are told as they're raised to how sex is typically presented in society.

I'm still planning to get hold of the paper that seems to be Herz's main source for the claim.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Looking for the Ravaged Promo Blog Hop?

Are you here to check out interviews with Ravaged authors and win prizes?

We've got you covered. Follow the links below.

Summary and instructions

Mickey J. Corrigan interview

Heather Whittington interview

After you're done here, don't forget to visit the other participating blogs:

Good luck and enjoy!

Can't wait to be Ravaged? Buy the book here.

Are women really more disgusted by sex than men are?

I've never liked the stereotype that men like sex and women don't. It seems so patently false to me, both because of my own experience and because of things like the apparent success of publishers like Ellora's Cave, Harlequin, and all the rest.

There does seem to be some kind of scientific backing for the stereotype, however. Here's a bit I came across in Rachel Herz's book That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion:

Closely connected to our repulsion at animality is our disgust at sexuality. ... Sex is among the most brutish behaviors we engage in, and though all cultures have rules for "proper" sex, we cannot escape the fact that sex itself is raw and physical and that we make the beast with two backs quite literally.

Besides being more generally squeamish than men, women tend to be specifically more disgusted by sex than men are. For example, in the first experiment to investigate differences between the sexes in response to sexually explicit films, female college students rated pornographic movies as 20 percent more disgusting and less enjoyable than men did. Many subsequent studies have corroborated the finding that women are more disgusted by sex than men are.

When I read things like this, I always wonder if the disgust the female students are reporting is truly biological or neurological or the result of a lifetime of being told that women don't like sex. I'm also curious about how the specific pornography shown influenced the female college students' response. Are the women more disgusted by sex, per se, or are they more disgusted by something about the way the sex is presented? This seems a significant distinction, though it's all too easy to conflate the two.

For those interested, a nitpicky analysis of the footnotes to the paragraph quoted above:
I want to get hold of the study cited in this paragraph -- D.L. Mosher, "Sex differences, sex experience, sex guilt and explicit sexual films," Journal of Social Issues 29 (1973), 95-112 -- I imagine it may answer some of my questions. But right off the bat, I have to note this study came out in 1973. If female disgust at sexuality is socially based rather than biologically based, then I'd be really interested in an update.

Herz cites another study (in a footnote after the sentence about how many studies have corroborated Mosher's finding), but when I checked out that citation, I wasn't sure how relevant it was. (D.M.T. Fessler and C.D. Navarette, "Third-party attitudes toward sibling incest evidence for Westermarck's hypothesis," Evolution and Human Behavior 25 (2004), 277-94.) It was a paper about how third parties respond to sibling incest, which found women reacted with stronger disgust. Saying women are more disgusted by incest than men are seems pretty different from saying women are more disgusted by sex than men are.

Given my dissatisfaction with these footnotes I wonder if the problem here is that Herz is buying into the cultural stereotype that women don't like sex. If those two citations are the best she's got, I wonder if there really is scientific evidence to back up her statements about women's disgust at sexuality.

Ravaged Author Heather Whittington Talks Encantado

Ravaged author Heather Whittington shared a few insights about her contribution to the anthology. Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book (and include your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win)!

What is your story in Ravaged about?

“Encantado” is about a young man who meets a mysterious woman at a party. Derek sees
her hooking up the with host during the shindig. When the host's body is recovered from the ocean, Derek wonders if the woman had anything to do with it, despite his intense attraction to her.

Where did you get the inspiration for your story?

I was looking for a different sort of shapeshifter, one that hasn't been done many times over. I came across the legend of encantado during my research. Meaning “enchanted one,” the encantado are usually dolphins who shift into human form. They are particularly attracted to parties and sex.

Favorite line?

Hard to pick one. Guess I'd have to go for this bit: "It's my day off, Chris. My only day off this week. You think I'm gonna waste it by getting up early and accomplishing

Now for a little about yourself. How long have you been writing, and how did you become a writer?

I've been a published writer for about a year and a half now. I've been writing since high school at least. When I met a friend at the theatre a few years ago (I was auditioning for a musical), she saw I had the Nanowrimo banner on my blog and invited me to join her writing group.

Have you got anything else out/due out?

I have stories printed in anthologies by Pill Hill Press, Wicked East Press, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and SNM Horror Magazine. Several stories are available in several of SNM Horror's online magazine. I also have a stand-alone story with Breathless Press called “Bordello Secrets.”

Top tip for writing/publishing?

I always thought Nike had the best advice: Just do it.

And a few questions just for fun. If you were a shifter what animal would you change into?

A cheetah. Though any feline animal would do.

Favorite food and drink?

I love fresh strawberries in vanilla yogurt, and I love chocolate milk.

Favorite movie?

Way too many of these. But the tippy-top of the list would have to be “Serenity.”

Boxers or Briefs?


Finish this sentence: I have never...

been drunk in my life. Though there are a lot of people who would buy tickets to that epic event.

Find more about Heather Whittington here.

Can't wait to be Ravaged? Buy the book here.

Want more from Ravaged authors? Check out the full set of interviews at the links below, and don't forget to comment for a chance to win (include your e-mail address so we can contact the winners)!

Ravaged Author Mickey J. Corrigan Talks Internal Savagery

Ravaged author Mickey J. Corrigan shared a few insights about his contribution to the anthology. Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book (and include your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win)!

What is your story in Ravaged about?

"Internal Savagery" is the story of the frightening yet alluring transformation of Bradley's lover, Melissa.

Bradley is a graduate student who studies the socialization behavior of gorillas. His story begins in the office of a therapist, where Melissa cries and rages while Bradley attempts to defend himself against her charges of infidelity and neglect. He can't understand why she refuses to acknowledge their wild passion, their hot lovemaking. He also wonders why she has changed. Melissa does not seem to understand her own transformation. She's angry and confused.

Melissa is full of a new deep rage. She hits Bradley, pounds the couch between them. She even looks different: her body is bigger, thicker, her forehead wider, her jaw more prominent. She is very unhappy with her appearance, but Bradley is strangely turned on. He loves Melissa, her fiery nature, her animalistic behaviors. Now he has to find a way to prove it to her.

With humor and pathos—and some hot sex scenes—"Internal Savagery" explores how
much we are willing to change to fulfill our lover's desires. Melissa wants Bradley to love her, so she becomes what he loves. Isn't this what real love requires?

Where did you get the inspiration for your story?

Hey, I've been in therapy. And, well, it wasn't fun. It was hard. Painful. But transformation did occur.

Couples therapy can be helpful and insightful. But it is also a torturous process. You need to reveal parts of yourself you would rather not look at or share. And you need to be willing to strip down your ego to its most naked self. Sometimes a therapist can suggest a way to see yourself that is very revealing. In Internal Savagery, the annoying couples counselor does just that.

I set the first half of the story in the therapist's office to see where the stress and anxiety would take the two lovers. I knew what was happening to Melissa, but Bradley didn't. I wanted to hang out with him while he found out what it would be like if his girlfriend became exactly the kind of lover he craved.

Since Bradley was passionate about gorillas, the direction of the story unfolded in some interesting ways. I used modern technology to help Bradley and his girlfriend discover just what was happening for her. And exactly what was going on between them.

I especially enjoyed revealing Bradley's thoughts as he was being emotionally scoured by the therapist. It is a lot of fun to tell a love story from the man's point of view, and to share what guys really think when women are asking them what they really think.

Favorite line?

"The truth shall set you free. But only if somebody else believes it. There was more to share about their sex life, but Bradley didn't want to go there. The doctor would question his sanity."

Now for a little about yourself. How long have you been writing, and how did you become a writer?

I'm new to the genre, although I've been publishing for a long time under another name.

Have you got anything else out/due out?

Dream Job, a cyber-romance novella, was released by Breathless Press a few months
ago. Professional Grievers, a quirky romance featuring a couple who attend strangers'
funerals, is currently in press. And a novel about college girls who work as professional girlfriends is due out in January. I also have two novels with a literary agent, which means my fingers are stiff from remaining crossed all the time.

Top tip for writing/publishing?

My top tip for writing is simple but not easy: Go lock yourself in a room and write. Stay there for as long as it takes: days, weeks, months, years. Like Rapunzel, let your hair down occasionally to allow your lover to visit. Otherwise, hide yourself away and get it done. The successful writers are the ones who stay locked in the tower until the darn thing's written.

As for publishing, it's a world of options. Once you come out of your tower with a
manuscript in hand, you should be able to find a willing publisher. Ebooks are fast and fun. The New York publishing houses take longer, and they can be brutal. You will have less input on the final product. Personally, I'm enjoying the world of ebooks. When I'm not locked in my tower.

Find more about Mickey J. Corrigan here.

Can't wait to be Ravaged? Buy the book here.

Want more from Ravaged authors? Check out the full set of interviews at the links below, and don't forget to comment for a chance to win (include your e-mail address so we can contact the winners)!

Ravaged Promo Blog Hop

The Ravaged Promo Blog Hop starts now!

To celebrate the release of Ravaged this weekend, the authors featured in the anthology have put together Q&As for your reading pleasure. Friday, August 3, through Monday, August 6, hop through the five blogs below to learn the stories behind the stories in Ravaged, and a few details about each author.

Each of the five hosting sites will post two interviews. If you comment, you have a chance to win one of 10 PDF copies of Ravaged that the authors have on offer.

Be sure to check out these participating blogs this weekend:

Can't wait to be Ravaged? Buy the book here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sex Marks You

This passage from Geoff Nicholson's Sex Collectors shocked me:

Sex and travel: in one model, what they might be considered to have in common is a kind of invisibility. You emerge from sex with, at most, a few scratches and bite marks. You return from your travels with a suntan. Sooner or later they all fade away. But not everyone wants this kind of invisibility. When sex and travel are over, you may still wish to have a keepsake -- a ring, a locket, a tattoo in the case of a sex partner; a model of the Eiffel Tower or a pack of lewd playing cards bought at the Musée de l'Érotisme as a souvenir of your travels. And very likely you will have photographs: pictures of the loved one, pictures of what you did on your holidays. These are ways of preserving the traces of a potentially all-too-traceless experience.

Overcome, I wrote in the margin, "Only a man could write this paragraph."

I generally enjoy Geoff Nicholson's writing, but for me this really underscored a key difference between male and female sexual experience. As a woman, unless I'm having lesbian sex, the idea of pregnancy is always looming. The sentence, "You emerge from sex with, at most, a few scratches and bite marks" seems absurd to me, because, at most, you emerge with a baby nine months later. Now, I spent my teen years in the South, and there were probably a lot of good conservative dollars put into educating me about the dangers of being a slut and the permanent life consequences thereof.

Let's also not forget about STDs, because you could emerge from sex with a life-threatening illness, too -- and that's something that also affects men.

To be fair, I understand where Nicholson is coming from. I've had the urge to mark someone, to claim that person, or to be marked by them. I've been aware of how only air held us together, some series of choices that could easily be revoked. I know what he's talking about.

But for me, this experience has always been fraught with tension, because on the other hand I'm aware of what a high-stakes game sex can be. How many times after a one-night stand did I simultaneously wish I could hang onto the person and worry that I'd collected some permanent and unwanted souvenir of the event.

I've never had a child, but I'm aware of the sexual allure of the idea of producing a life from a sex act -- in fact, a key part of the heterosexual sexual experience. It's stunning to me that Nicholson could forget that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sex Is Not Just Fun

Geoff Nicholson in Sex Collectors, writing about The Sexual Life of Catherine M.:

What I like best about the book is that at no point does it ever suggest that sex is fun. Sex is far, far more serious and important than that.

As an erotica writer, I can attest to how much work it can be to make sex fun, especially when I'm going for just fun. Some of the best-paying erotica publishers talk about wanting work that tells a story and has something at stake for the main character, while at the same time emphasizing pleasure.

This is indeed a tricky proposition. Leaving aside the issue of poor writing, which just makes sex feel fake, sex can often become heavy, sad, angry, regretful, uncertain, or poignant. I'm interested in sex in all its forms, so I like writing about it of all types. I like reading a fun sex story, but I also like reading a dark exploration.

Nicholson's assertion becomes particularly interesting to me when I think about what sex is like for me personally. I know how much art it takes to make sex sound fun when I write about it. How often is it fun in practice?

I would say that the times that are really fun are special, but there's also usually a lot of other emotion swirling around on the side. I remember once getting on top of my partner and riding him for a long time in a wild, sweaty way, using my full strength and stamina. It was incredibly fun. I came a lot, and I think he was really into the idea of my being so unstoppably turned on by him. It's a fun memory, but when I think back to it, I also think about the role of shame. I was really worried he would think I was weird, because of the faces or noises I was making, or because of what I was doing. He didn't, and so along with the idea of fun, the memory feels liberating and poignant to me.

I think this is the sort of thing Nicholson is talking about. Feeling liberated from deep personal shame is serious and important, not just fun. Erotica often has this subtext, and I love it for that. Holding out the promise of pleasurable fun is also really important, because to make it work and feel real, you have to be able to write characters who are truly capable of enjoyment, which often means characters who have moved beyond deep personal shame.

(Incidentally, I had already planned to read The Sexual Life of Catherine M. after I finish Sex Collectors. I will likely post a few things about it, too).

Ravaged Authors on the Prowl Starting Friday

Five blogs, 10 authors, and 10 copies to be won!

To celebrate the release of Ravaged this weekend, the authors featured in the anthology have put together Q&As for your reading pleasure. Friday, August 3, through Monday, August 6, hop through the five blogs below to learn the stories behind the stories in Ravaged, and a few details about each author.

Each of the five hosting sites will post two interviews. If you comment, you have a chance to win one of 10 PDF copies of Ravaged that the authors have on offer.

Be sure to check out these participating blogs this weekend:

SJ Thomas
Erin O'Riordan
D.F. Krieger
Silvia Violet
And, of course, right here.

And if you can't wait to win a copy of the book that inspired the hot cover above, you can preorder one here.