Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Friday, July 26, 2013
By Jean Roberta
I was lucky enough to be young when the “Sexual Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s was happening, and it coincided with the birth of “Second Wave” feminism, so called because it looked like a revival of “First Wave” feminism, which gathered strength from about 1850 to the First World War, when adult women gained the right to vote in Britain, the U.S. and Canada.
The guys I dated in high school and afterward all wanted me to know that sex was a wonderful thing, and that I had no logical reason to say no, since we were living in a time of sexual freedom and Women’s Lib. I even heard rumors about exotic experiments in “group marriage” or communal living in cultural meccas such as San Francisco. I really hoped that the old sexual double standard was dying out all over the world.
As an erotic writer, I would love to write realistic stories about relationships based on pleasure for everyone involved, as well as general good will. I only have to turn on my TV to realize that a culture that would support such generosity is still nowhere in sight.
To write about women who are sexually exuberant, creative, as horny as animals in heat, yet also intelligent, practical and powerful, I need to write fantasy. I can’t see any alternative. A world in which women are not horribly stigmatized for enjoying sex outside the bonds of monogamous marriage (or for openly enjoying sex at all) is not the world we live in. Even now.
Consider the latest news in the media. I understand that the birth of an heir to the British throne is newsworthy, but realistically, neither the little princeling nor anyone else in his family is in a position to govern an empire. Not anymore. The arrival of little Prince George was really not a political issue, yet a horde of reporters has been endlessly commenting on the miracle of an ordinary birth, the new mother's wardrobe, the princeling’s pedigree, and the reactions of everyone on the scene. Why has this event pushed every war off the front page of every English-language newspaper? Could it be a hysterical celebration of traditional marriage and childbearing? Could it be that Princess Kate is being held up as a model for all women in contrast to the waywardness of her deceased mother-in-law, Princess Diana?
Well, maybe I’m being a grinch about all this. The princeling looks cute (as far as I can tell) and his parents look happy. I wish them all well.
However, there’s more. Anthony Weiner, currently running for Mayor of New York City, was caught “sexting” yet again. He has apologized to his wife and the voting public for making inappropriate comments to someone in cyberspace, and for displaying his, um, weiner. He has apologized and asked for public support.
Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York state, another married man who was caught in an indiscretion, is now running for Comptroller of New York. He also hopes the public can forgive him, and he has supporters.
While we’re focusing on New York, let’s consider Melissa Petro, who is not currently featured in the news. She is a gorgeous young woman who sold sex via Craigslist for 11 months while she was a graduate student. In due course, she earned her degree and a job as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx. By all accounts, she was loved by her students and respected by her colleagues. In September 2010, she protested the closing of the “adult services” section of Craigslist by writing about her experience under her real name.
See her piece, “Thoughts from a Former Craigslist Sex Worker” here:
The administration of her school discovered this admirably clear, brief, straightforward article and fired Melissa. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg himself, said that she should be removed from the classroom. Since then, she has not been able to find another teaching job. It looks as if her teaching career has ended because she is known as a Fallen Woman. So much for human rights in the workplace.
Maybe Canada is a more humane country for young women to live in. After all, Canadian women got equal status with men (on paper) in 1982, when the Charter of Equality Rights was signed. In 1983, our laws against rape (as it used to be called) were thoroughly overhauled, it was renamed sexual assault, and no longer has anything to do with the victim’s reputation, in theory. In 2005, we got same-sex marriage, which implies that all spouses (including the heterosexual majority) have equal status under the law.
Surely any girl who is growing up in Canada now is even better-off than I was. But no.
In September 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd, who lived near Vancouver, British Columbia (on the west coast) posted a heartbreaking 9-minute video about how she had been hounded since she sent an image of her naked breasts via webcam to a man she met in cyberspace. This event eventually caused her to change schools twice in a fruitless effort to escape being persecuted as a “bad girl.” After two unsuccessful suicide attempts which were met with ridicule, she succeeded in October 2012.
This was not an isolated case. A 17-year-old on the opposite coast (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) hanged herself in April 2013. Rehtaeh Parsons had been persecuted for two years, since four boys had sex with her at a drunken teenage bash, someone photographed the scene with a cellphone, and these pictures went viral. Rehtaeh’s mother has defined the event as gang-rape and has criticized local police for not taking action sooner. A national reporter on court cases, Christie Blatchford, has claimed there was not enough evidence in this case to prosecute anyone for sexual assault.
Rehtaeh’s stepfather responded to Christie Blatchford by pointing out that Rehtaeh’s state of intoxication (as shown in the cellphone images) indicated that she could not have given meaningful consent.
Any resemblance to another recent case involving a drunken teenage bash in Steubenville, New York, is painfully obvious.
I am not interested in arguing whether Rehtaeh Parsons was sexually assaulted or not, or whether Amanda Todd, as a “child,” responded to a dare by exposing herself to a stranger because she didn’t know any better. Re Melissa Petro, she was a grown woman who clearly arranged to meet men for the purpose of exchanging sexual services for money.
None of these events seems to me to be an adequate reason for the orgy of harassment, ostracism and life-threatening abuse that followed. As far as I can see, none of this is about “bullying in school” or the ages of the victims or the use of modern technology (evil computers). This is about the persistent, irrational hatred of young women who are perceived to be sexual beings.
This is Biblical, like the stoning of the woman taken in adultery—except that, in that case, Christ was her advocate.
When reading and hearing about these cases, I find it hard to stay calm and focus on writing fiction. Whatever happens to male politicians who cheat on their wives, in person or in cyberspace, they are not subjected to the lynch-mob persecution of any woman who is even suspected of being less than “pure.”
So far, the media loves Princess Kate, with her breezy, “modern” fashion sense and her apparent immersion in an ancient feminine role. As long as she never steps out of line, she might not be attacked.
We all need to imagine and create a better culture. We need it now, before another case hits the headlines.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
And we’ve always won this fight. From well-fondled copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to bawdy tales around the campfire with Chaucer, we endure. We laugh at you, with your silly belief that you can kill an idea and control people. Pandora’s Box, baby. It’s open, and if you try to put a lid on it, we will find another way. To reach our readers, if we must, we will sell our novels and anthologies under the genre title Romance (Let’s see you cut off 50% of your sales, Amazon). Or Westerns. Or Mysteries. Or Literature. Or all the genres. To hide in plain sight, we will use euphemisms so obscure that readers will leave an Urban Dictionary tab open to figure out what’s going on. Or we will go Shakespearean on their asses. We will change faster than your filters can keep up. We will be agile. We will be goddamn Kaiser Soze—poof, and we’re gone, as far as you know. But not really. We will always be here. Because we are writers. Because words are our fucking tools, and we know how to use them.
Here's a petition you can sign (UK citizens, one supposes), but personally, I think respectful phone calls work much better. Also, VOTING.
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 5:30 AM
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
By Lucy Felthouse
Writing a series is something I put off for a while, because the idea scared me. I've been known to lose consistency in a short story, never mind a series of stories! But I knew I couldn't put it off forever, and now I'm writing two!
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I co-authored a novel with Lily Harlem, which was great fun. We very much just wrote and waited to see how it went. There was no planning, we literally just wrote and let the storyline and characters develop themselves. As a result, there are no notes or anything on that book. Which would have been okay... had we not decided it would be fab to write a series. We'd very much like to write about more characters from the same "world" as the first book, and so I'm currently in the process of reading through the first book and making lots of notes about the characters we're featuring in book two. Again, this is to make sure there are no inconsistencies, and so on. Also, the starting point for book two will actually be in a scene in book one, if that makes sense. Told from the new characters' perspectives, and so it's vital that any happenings and dialogue are exactly the same. It's proving fun, and I'm reacquainting myself with book one at the same time. Which is just as well, as we're hoping to see it released by the end of summer. Watch this space.
So I kind of muddled along when it came to series writing to begin with, but now I know what works for me I can continue doing it. Lots of lists and copious notes - my characters will not change hair colour in book three, honest! ;0)
Sunday, July 21, 2013
By Lisabet Sarai
Thursday, July 18, 2013
I happened to be leafing through a rather thick folder in my filing cabinet labeled “Ideas for Writing,” when I found an article I’d clipped from the November 28, 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly: “50 Sexiest Movies Ever” (and this predating the elevation of the number fifty to erotic heights by several years). The authors guaranteed it was a list of “the hottest films you’ll ever see.”
I’m sure I kept the article more as a study of what mainstream America considers sexy rather than a source of ideas for future stories—not that there’s anything wrong with theft if you give the story your unique imprint. As I did the first time I read the article, I skimmed the list for movies I’d seen, comparing my reaction to the official score of the squad of journalists. For each movie, they’d also chosen a “sexiest moment,” which invited another opportunity for comparison.
I can’t say there was all that much agreement on either score, although a few movies did bring a nod of approval. In the Mood for Love, a Hong Kong film set in 1962, with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as cuckolded spouses who slowly develop their own achingly unconsummated passion, did indeed show that “what doesn’t happen is just thrilling as what does.” sex, lies and videotape is another personal favorite, especially those interview scenes, and The Year of Living Dangerously and A Streetcar Named Desire both had a smoldering, but doomed quality that only sharpened the erotic edge.
I had not yet seen Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, the number one choice of the journalists, so, as a matter of professional duty, I rented it. Most of the movie was routine thriller, but to my surprise, the climactic erotic scene—the flirtatious conversation in the hotel lounge at night—was one of the sexiest bits of celluloid I’d ever seen, porn included. And it was all talk and innuendo. Words, words, words. I guess I am cut out to be an erotic writer after all.
Many of the other movies didn’t work so well for me. Little Children, a less-restrained story of adulterous love between Kate Winslett and Patrick Wilson, gave us intercourse on the washing machine (pretty ridiculous, actually), but made sure to lay on the anti-sex message by throwing in a disgusting sex-addict husband, a pedophile predator as villain and (spoiler alert) just punishment for adultery with a freak skateboarding accident. And I never really got the excitement about the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct, where Sharon Stone flashes her pantyless crotch at a line of drooling cops who somehow decided a standard room with a table wasn’t a good idea for this particular suspect. Are men really that sex-crazed that they would let a woman get away with murder because she isn’t wearing underwear?
Possibly, but I sure hope my local detectives are a little more conscientious.
Whatever the lack of agreement, I do believe our favorite erotic scenes in film are clues to our erotic imaginations, just as favorite erotic stories offer clues to what makes our libido tick. Clearly for me, the exploration of erotic desire through words and suggestive images are more powerful than the often disappointing realization of sex on camera. But was I so different from the rest of America in finding no more than few of these “sexiest movies” (let’s add my check mark for Don’t Look Now, Body Heat, Maurice, and The English Patient) at all sexy?
Then, in that lazy way summer leads to fortuitous connections, I remembered a chapter in one of my favorite, but alas out-of-print, sex guides, Are We Having Fun Yet?: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Sex by Marcia and Lisa Douglass. In their “Pop Porn” chapter, they describe a fictional couple watching a typical Hollywood sex scene. The focus is on the impossibly gorgeous woman’s body and her reactions while the male body is shrouded by shadows and clever positioning--camera as desiring male gaze. Thus “foreplay” is essentially the display of the female’s body. Intercourse itself takes less than a minute and involves the man thrusting and giving a long final groan of release, while the woman arches her neck and closes her eyes and doesn’t do anything to suggest an orgasm happens, but seems satisfied all the same. After the show, the fictional boyfriend exclaims that the sex was hot, while his date knows she’s supposed to agree, but is annoyed by the lack of consideration for what she finds sexy.
He gets his fantasies fed along with his movie snack, she has to make do with “pop porn.”
Douglass and Douglass define pop porn as “the pervasive panorama of female flesh—the high-heeled foot, breasts spilling out of a low-cut gown, the pouting red lips, the sultry stare from under a thick mane—that is the everyday stuff of popular media.” Although many of us think we can avoid porn by staying away from the X-rating, we’re still getting eroticized visual entertainment aimed chiefly at straight men everywhere we turn. Most of us are so used to the bias, we barely notice it, but on an unconscious level, we’re getting the message that is what Sex Is.
The good news is that erotica today does offer more for female readers. Fifty Shades of Grey, whatever one’s opinion of the writing, clearly satisfied female desire on a wildly popular scale. It remains to be seen what the Hollywood version will do with this female fantasy cinematically. I’m not expecting a revolution of camera work, but will certainly read the reviews to see whom they satisfy, if nothing else. I’d be even happier if some of the work by ERWA writers was translated to the big screen. Perhaps that day will come and Entertainment Weekly will have some real gems to review?
In the meantime, I’m curious if you, dear reader, have any movies you’d recommend for subtle, simmering or even believably desperate and passionate sex scenes? Many long, hot days and nights of summer still lie before us. I myself would add The Lover, Raise the Red Lantern, and the “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?” scene in To Have and Have Not.
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor