Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Saturday, September 27, 2014
by Jean Roberta
Lately, I showed the latest erotic anthology* that includes a story of mine to several fellow-writers in the university where I teach. One of my colleagues said the title (Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire) is enticing. He jokingly said he wouldn’t want to read stories of wise lesbian desire. I assume that a lot of readers would agree with him.
The longer I write erotica, the less my fiction resembles my life. This is partly due to the amazing degree to which love between members of the same gender has become socially acceptable. I’ve been legally married to my female spouse since 2010, but our relationship started in 1989. We are both over sixty. We have steady jobs, as an academic and a kind of social worker for a non-governmental agency that enables disabled people to live as independently as possible. We own a house, where we live with dogs and cats. We have grown offspring who occasionally need—and get—our financial help.
My story in Forbidden Fruit, by contrast, is about a young woman who just can’t resist the “bad girl” who was once a ragged foster child in elementary school. The narrator’s willingness to share a reckless night of passion with Ms. Wrong is tinged with guilt because the “good girl” never helped or befriended her classmate, who is now running from the law and from folks with less mercy. Any sensible advice counsellor would have arranged an intervention for the “bad girl” years before, and would have advised the narrator not to open her door for her.
The other stories in the book are about other women on opposite sides of the law or from cultures that clash like the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story, that classic musical from the 1950s that was based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. At one time in the recent past, lesbian desire was considered unwise by definition. In our time, the stakes have to be raised: the women can’t just both be female in a world where heterosexuality predominates.
In the September 29 issue of Maclean’s, a weekly Canadian newsmagazine, lesbian columnist Emma Teitel writes about “The Power of Erotic Nostalgia.” She says:
“At the Toronto International Film Festival this month, I saw Breathe, French actress Melanie Laurent’s directorial debut about an intense, erotic friendship between two adolescent girls that ends in catastrophe. I’d feel guilty about spoiling that last bit for you, were it not for the fact that nearly every mainstream lesbian-themed movie ends the same way.”
By contrast, Teitel describes her own monogamous relationship of five years: “At 20, we fell in love and carried on a clandestine affair until we were discovered—and lived relatively happily ever after. That is, so far, at least.”
So if lesbians (and other formerly-marginalized lovers) of different generations are living in relative peace, not hunted down by the police, the mental-health establishment or the Inquisition, why are stories about dysfunctional, “forbidden” affairs still so popular?
According to Teitel, this phenomenon can’t be completely explained as an expression of homophobia and/or misogyny in the culture at large. She says:
“It’s not as though horny frat guys are responsible for the thousands of YouTube tribute videos dedicated to Natalie Portman’s twisted, erotic bond to Mila Kunis in Black Swan, or Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox’s literally demonic relationship in Jennifer’s Body.”
Teitel speculates that: “It may be that nothing beats erotic nostalgia.” Most queer adults can remember a first-time, coming-out affair as a scary, hidden, but very sexy experience. Living it is painful, at least some of the time, but remembering it can be exciting.
I suspect that for many readers, including the heterosexually married, “forbidden” attraction carries the same sexual charge. It also enables a reader to vicariously experience more danger than he/she would seek out in real life. No matter how many publishers seem to prefer erotic romance with happy endings to edgy erotica per se, the latter seems unlikely to die out completely.
A walk on the wild side has always been a popular theme in erotica. The middle-class assimilation of same-sex, different-race, or generation-gap couples, and even polyamorous households (in some hip circles) may be minimizing the real danger of formerly “forbidden love,” but not the popularity of stories about it. And of course, there is still enough conservative prejudice to ensure that any love that is not strictly white-bread might really be threatened.
So is the theme of “forbidden love” inherently offensive? I don’t think so. We all crave excitement, as well as security, and we have to find some way to balance our clashing desires. I expect to write about the dangerous attraction of opposites for as long as I have the luxury of time and space of my own. I couldn’t write if I were dodging bullets.
*Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire, edited by Cheyenne Blue (Ladylit Publishing, 2014)
Sunday, September 21, 2014
By Lisabet Sarai
Friday, September 19, 2014
Written anything sexy lately? Why do I ask? Today's the nineteenth of September, your chance to share your Sexy Snippets!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!
Still, if your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. So play nice!
Thursday, September 18, 2014
As I’ve continued my musings about celebrity culture over the last several months, I’ve noticed that a number of the comments I’ve received explicitly or implicitly question the relevance of celebrity culture to erotica writers. After all, with very few exceptions (E.L. James certainly, Zane maybe) erotica writers are not celebrated millionaires. We aren’t ushered to the best tables in chic restaurants, our clothes are not critiqued by Us magazine. For this let us all be grateful.
However, I think erotica and the fascination with celebrity do have some important elements in common in that they both satisfy a psychic need for a great many people. As I mentioned in my first column on this topic, I’ve always been mystified by why so many people would write to an actor who played a doctor on television for advice on their medical problems. And even people who are not that misguided seem to believe that these complete strangers are worth our time and attention to even the slightest degree.
Because of course, Angelina Jolie could not matter in any significant way to the majority of us beyond a few hours’ entertainment. And yet, judging by measure of the attention and resources devoted to reporting on her life, she clearly does matter.
Well, first I would argue that it is not Angelina or Dolly Parton any real person who matters, it is what she represents to us: a beautiful, glamorous (or powerful, invincible in the case of most male celebrities) being as the object of adoring attention. The celebrity is an idealized self, worshipped simply for existing in such desirable perfection. For that matter, Marcus Welby is the kind, caring, infallible doctor we all wish we had to care for us--and probably don't.
In my study of celebrity, several authors made the point that in the past people became famous because of something they did to affect history on a grand scale—Julius Caesar, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Madame Curie. But today the majority of celebrities are famous because they’re good at performing, especially pretending to be someone else on the screen. Not to dismiss the immense difficulty of being a good actor, but what this means is that we are admiring a fantasy, a fiction.
Again a part of me has long been bemused by the seductive falsehood of fame—that a fan can be in any way intimate with a “person” who is made up by PR. But I’ve finally come around to see that we want and need this idealized figure with its soul-satisfying life trajectory of an individual’s struggle to achieve notice then mass acclaim and love followed by a stint in drug rehab then a comeback or two. Celebrity culture thrives because so many people crave the fantasy of intimacy with this chosen creature, of knowing them through images and words. Knowing them—and even more speaking to or getting an autograph from them—gives us a moment in the spotlight by association.
Erotica may be hidden away in nightstand drawers, but it also relies for its power on a fictional intimacy created on the page. Compelling erotica makes us feel we know the characters, that we are with them in their most ecstatic moments. The arousal they feel is mirrored in our own bodies, their pleasure sizzles straight to our own erogenous zones. The encounter is of necessity idealized or at least streamlined in some way—there’s no quicker way to lose the magic than a blow-by-blow description. The story, too, follows a satisfying arc from attraction to consummation. I know there are exceptions, but most erotica does offer at least a spotlight on a secret sexual realm.
Again there are exceptions but most erotica offers us idealized sex, with satisfaction mutually achieved. Sex with no awkwardness, mess or disappointment. Sex as we wish it could be, technically and emotionally.
And while writers here might not need to worry about being mobbed for autographs at restaurants, I’m sure many of us have received a few fan emails from admirers who seek a connection with the creator of a fantasy that touched them. A connection of words and ideas only—although now and then a reader tries to push the boundary further to a personal level (always rebuffed politely and cheerfully in my own case). One might argue that these readers are merely grasping at phantoms, but beneath the “lies” I believe there is something real: a mutual desire in both creator and audience to transcend of the repression and limitations of ordinary life, to be seen as magical and beautiful and loved.
To borrow an insight from a friend of Michael David Gross (author of Starstruck: When a Fan Gets Close to Fame), this reaching out to celebrity represents an internal need, yearning to be seen and appreciated and known for the special person we hope we are.
Next month I’ll conclude my discussion of celebrity with some thoughts on combatting toxic assumptions about success.
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a 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
Monday, September 15, 2014
Posted by Garceus at 12:30 AM
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Bunte is the first in a long line of people, mostly women, who have lost their jobs when it was found out they wrote erotic novels. But it doesn't happen exclusively to women, or to erotic writers. Recently Patrick McLaw, an African American middle school language teacher was put on administrative leave and forced to undergo 'emergency medical evaluation' after it was discovered he'd written two novels, set 900 years in the future, which involved a massacre at a school. When pressed on the issue, authorities reported that it was not just the novels that concerned them, but his state of mental health. (Atlantic Monthly). There was recently an incident of a UK male who was forced to step down from his position when it was discovered he wrote erotic stories. (DailyDot). Ironically, I have it second hand that the discovery was made when after the school organization contemplated raising funds by having an erotica reading night, his wife let it slip that he actually wrote some. Judy Buranich (Judy Mays), Carol Ann Eastman (Deena Bright), Ayden K. Morgen, Deidre Dare...
It's usually women, it's usually erotica and the excuse for firing them often involves the protection of children.
Let me offer you a contrast: Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, who has written some of detective fictions most celebrated novels under the pen name P.D. James. Her first novel, "Cover Her Face" was written in 1962. She has worked in the criminal section of the British Home Office, and served as a magistrate for years. No one ever thought she should be fired for setting her novels in environments she knew, or suggesting that she couldn't do her job right because she wrote about mentally unstable characters with murderous intent, or painted word pictures of gory murder scenes. She now has a seat in the House of Lords. Of course, there is one huge difference: she doesn't write about sex.
It's not a wildly irresponsible to surmise that a number of the parents who demanded Cass E. Ritter's removal and at least some members of the Kent County Council who fired her have read Fifty Shades of Grey. I do have to wonder if they'd be quite so anxious about the effect this administrator might have on their kids, if Ritter had been E.L. James. Sorry to seem jaded, but I notice that people are much less worried their children's minds will be poisoned by millionaires. Similarly, why is it that the consumers of erotic or pornographic works aren't considered destabilizing but their creators are?
But more haunting still is the unwritten, unexpressed accusation that lurks beneath a lot of these firings. What risk do people really believe these women pose. Words like inappropriate and reputation are bandied about, but strip the rhetoric away, and what it comes down to is that these women are losing their jobs because of a vague unspoken fear that they would, in some way, sexualize children.
It is not the content of the written work that is suspect. It is the mind of the person who writes it.
No one actually accuses anyone of anything. Because this allows the accusers to infer risk, rather than having to prove wrongdoing. In Western democracies, the accused have a right to hear the precise charges leveled against them, defend themselves against them, demand that those charges be proved.
But if we stick to vague, undefined mutterings about inappropriateness, any amount of injustice can be done. How many gay men and lesbians through the years have lost their jobs based on the baseless but oft-perpetuated fallacy that being homosexual immediately implied you were also a pedophile?
Looking back on the great censorship cases of the 20th Century, I am reminded why, for all its draconian influence, state censorship is preferable to economic persecution.
In the case of Lady Chatterley's Lover, the 1958 trial on charges of public obscenity didn't see D.H. Lawrence, the writer, in the dock, but Penguin, the publisher. The charge wasn't that the writer was dangerous or unfit for society, but that the book was obscene and should not be published. When the state censors in a modern democracy, the writer, the publisher and the reading public have some legal recourse.
Similarly, in the US, it was Grove Publishers who were charged and defended obscenity charges over Lady Chatterley's Lover, The Tropic of Cancer, and Naked Lunch. They notably won each case. But it is important to note that IT WAS THE TEXTS that were considered dangerous and drew down legal censorship, NOT THE AUTHORS. Moreover, even had it been the authors, a formal charge allows for the accusers to have to prove wrongdoing, prove risk, etc.
I suspect, at least in the West, that the supremacy of the marketplace, and fast-eroding protections for employees will mean that the persecution of writers will increase as it becomes clear that there are no mechanisms to stop it, save expensive civil trials that most erotica writers could never afford to conduct.
There are worthy efforts to highlight and ridicule the banning of certain books from schools and libraries, and I'm delighted to see this. But there is no movement to protect women who are economically punished for writing about sex. We're not in a good place, as women, as creatives, as workers or as eroticists. And if you think that writing under a pen name will keep you safe, think again. It only takes one bitter intimate to ruin your career.