Him before me: my thoughts on ‘Me Before You’

*contains spoilers*

It could be a coincidence. It could be merely fluke that three weeks ago I walked into a cinema showing Me Before You relatively relaxed, calm and at ease with myself and left it shattered and tearful; descending within days into a depression so sudden and severe I’m still struggling to drag myself out of bed in the morning; my desire to live completely sapped.

I should clarify: I don’t blame Jojo Moyes’ now world-famous story for my recent mental health crisis. I do blame it for forcing me to confront hard truths about how I see disability and love, in a way that I’m not wholly comfortable with a book about disability written by an able-bodied author doing.

When I spoke at Eroticon back in May, I said that I didn’t think writing disability should be the preserve of the disabled, and I think I still agree with that. I also read out this quote, from Susie Day: “If yours is the first time a reader has met a fictional someone “like them”, it’s almost inevitable that you will disappoint.” And oh my, how Me Before You  has disappointed the disabled community.

The conversation around the book has been too lengthy and too nuanced for me to replicate all of the arguments here. At the risk of massively oversimplifying, most of the backlash has come from the fact that Will, the book’s protagonist, tells his carer, Lou, to ‘Live Boldly,’ just before he travels to Dignitas to end his own life. The implication? That ‘living boldly’ is something only the able-bodied are entitled to. If you are interested in the various commentary from the disabled community, Kim Sauder has an excellent round-up post here.

I recognise why the book is problematic based on the above, and yet, at my lowest, I fall very much into the ‘some people actually feel that way,’ camp, which, you know what? Makes me feel guilty as fuck.

I’m a firm believer that the relationship between how you feel about your body and your level of (dis)ability is not linear. That is to say: there will be some people who are para- or quadriplegic and feel every day that life is worth living, just as there will be some of us who, in comparison, look essentially ablebodied, but struggle hugely to accept our bodies the way they are.

So going in to Me Before You, knowing in advance how it ended (thanks, mum!), I thought I’d be able to handle it. I thought I was personally far more able to deal with the reaction to disability that I share than I would be with a plot line that essentially saw a man whose condition left him suicidal saved by the love of a good woman.

Oh, how wrong was I?

Books are funny things. Stories are strange. In real life, we want to believe we’re rational, sophisticated creatures who won’t be satisfied with a trite, neat little ending that goes against how we see things play out in the real world (or I do, anyway). And yet, when it comes down to it, a book which doesn’t follow the conventions laid down over centuries of literature can be strangely unsettling. When I said I was planning on ending my own novel, which is about a relationship between two people who are clearly terrible for each other, with the woman leaving and realising that she’s just fine on her own, someone in my writing group warned (rightly, I think): ‘People are going to be disappointed, you know. They’re going to expect a happily ever after.’

I scorn the happily ever after. Or, more accurately, it makes me uneasy. Do I think #liveboldly should be confined to the ablebodied? No, but that’s easy for me to say, when I’m fundamentally independent despite my disability: I live alone, I travel, I drive, I work. Do I think #happilyeverafter, in a romantic sense, is the preserve of the able? I’m afraid I do, yes. I don’t expect to find someone who’ll love me in spite of the disability.

So I needed Me Before You to tell me otherwise. I needed it, there in that popcorn-scented, slightly grubby Vue, to promise that I could find love, and not only that I could find it, but that it would be enough for me to forgive myself, to find peace. And it let me down.

Will finds love. He falls in love with Lou. Lou falls in love with him. But for Will, it’s not quite enough: it’s not the powerful, executive, highly-sexed, action-sport-heavy life he led before the accident that caused his quadriplegia, and he picks the assisted-suicide route anyway. It broke my heart.

What did I want Me Before You to be, on a personal level? Did I want it to represent me, and the way I see the world? I don’t know. Maybe. But I think more than that, I wanted it to lie to me. I wanted it to tell me that love could save me. Because unless he’s out there, and he can love me first, how the hell am I supposed to do the same?

 

2008-2016

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2008-2010: Snicket
It’s his idea, the first time. It’s a shortcut she takes every day on the way to and from the office, but usually she’s in low heels and a suit, always in a rush. It’s never occurred to her before what it might feel like to be made to kiss the bricks, to feel her bare knees graze against them. She’s never dreamt of stopping on a double yellow to fall to her knees and suck cock, never imagined what it might feel like to have water from the hanging baskets and semen mix on her upturned face. He – David – teaches her to want all those things.

2011-2015: Jitty
Adam. Adam is the only one who uses a word for it she’s never heard before. Adam is not sure he’s up for fucking in a backstreet at all. Adam is not an exhibitionist – he prefers the feathery softness of the duvet, the soft glow of a bedside lamp. She convinces him by waking him early one morning, when the sky is awash with purple, the milk still icy cold on the doorsteps. Adam makes her come so hard that morning, lifted against the wall, legs around his waist (he’s a big guy, in more ways than one), that she swings from the lampposts as they make their way home.

2015-2016: Ginnel
Paul calls it a ginnel, and fucks her in it in broad daylight, his thrusts as harsh as the word sounds in his flat, mancunian accent. They duck into the doorways, listening for the sound of footsteps or voices approaching. It’s different in the sunshine – dirtier, somehow – and they go back there day after day, until this road, this dank, unfrequented backstreet, feels more like home to her than her neat, clean little flat. When Paul calls time on their relationship, she doesn’t cut through to work that way for three whole months.

2016-: Alleyway
She’s single now, and the shortcut has regained the bland, regionless name she  gave it before them – alleyway. It’s always been part of the appeal of fucking men with regional accents, the fact she doesn’t have one. Three men have fucked her here, and each one had his own name for it. Those words – snicket, jittyginnel – they feel as intimate, as personal to her now as pussy or cunt, as unique to each man as the taste of his come, the shape of his cock. She’s single now, but from time to time, in the dead of night, she’s there, alone, kissing the brick. Remembering.

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On human suits (or let’s just leave it out, shall we?)

‘The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.’

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

When you have a sex blog, even a sort of sex blog, there are some things you should probably never write about. Politics is one of them. And yet, somehow, here I am writing about Michael Gove, and it’s not even the first time.

Ever since last Thursday’s referendum, and more so since yesterday when he announced he was planning to run for leader of the Conservative party, Twitter is, mainly rightly, I think, out to ridicule him.

And that’s fine. Ridicule him for having no charisma. Ridicule him twice as hard for *admitting* that he has no charisma. Wonder why the fuck someone who has repeatedly said that he has no desire, and none of the necessary qualities, to be Prime Minister, has now entered the contest to be just that. Hate what he did when he was Secretary of State for Education. Hate what he did in Justice. Laugh at the fact his wife implied that sex with him was no less of a chore than putting out the bins.

But poking fun at the way he claps or the way he drinks a glass of water? Can we just not?

The joke, most often, is that his ‘human suit is slipping.’

So far, so not so terrible. This man is awful, it says, this man is not a person, he’s an animal, or a monster, or something else entirely. But you know what? I think that maybe, just maybe, liberal Twitter is just looking for a socially acceptable way of saying ‘Doesn’t he look, y’know, a bit … special?’

Because personally, I think that when you mock the way a person does something physical – the way they walk, clap, drink, sit – you’re straying dangerously close to ableist territory. I don’t know why Michael Gove claps the way he does, and I’ll agree that yes, it looks pretty silly, but it also looks like the kind of thing I’d do either in a desperate attempt to stay awake, if I was drifting off in a boring meeting, or because I couldn’t clap like a ‘normal’ person (I can’t, as it happens).

The women among us especially hate when the media does this to female politicians. When their looks, dress sense etc. etc. are criticised. Not fair, we say, not fucking relevant. Because it’s not.

In Of Mice and Men, the book Gove tried to have removed from the GCSE English syllabus during his time as education secretary, Steinbeck paints his characters in a way that allows you to make judgements about them as people based on their physical characteristics. But it’s a story. In real life, not everyone good is gorgeous, and not everyone bad is physically unattractive with odd mannerisms.

Most of us are appalled at the surge in attacks on vulnerable people following last Thursday’s vote, a surge which seems at least partly the fault of narcissistic idiots like Mr Gove himself. But as a disabled person, the mockery around the video above made me supremely uncomfortable.

Tear into his policies, his beliefs all you like. It’s fair game. But let the weird physical stuff go. Because believe me, it’s probably the least of your worries.

Legs under scrutiny: on submission, stillness & movement

‘I have shorts you can borrow’ my mum says.

Ugh. I hate shorts. Why can’t I wear capris, like I do for exercise, or these super cute flamingo pyjama shorts that I’ve wanted for ages (ok, the physio might have laughed at those).

The truth is, it’s probably not the shorts that are bothering me.

I get accused a lot, by some of my real life friends, of being super vain, by which they mean, ‘I saw you just walk past that shop window and check yourself out.’

Except, I’m not checking myself out. Or at least, not in the way they think I am. It’s true, that when passing a mirror, or a window, or any reflective surface, my reflex is to examine myself in it. But I’m not checking to see if I look good. What I’m looking for is threefold:

a) Do I feel passably attractive today?
b) Do I look fat?
c) Am I walking in a way that people will perceive as ‘normal’?

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m not good at looking away, literally or metaphorically, from the things that upset me and/or make me anxious. You’ll know too, that I don’t like my body and that I believe my disability and my submissiveness are intrinsically linked. But what I don’t think I’ve touched on is that one of the things that fascinates me about submission is how often it’s associated with stillness.

And I’m both drawn in by that, and increasingly interested in inverting it.

I was thinking about it today, at the first serious hospital appointment I’ve attended to assess my hemiplegia in twenty years. As the physio explained how the two hour appointment would work – measuring my legs, testing my strength and dexterity, fitting sensors all over my lower half to track my movements – the same old issue was bothering me.

‘Do I have to see the stuff you’re capturing? I really don’t like video cameras.’

‘Not if you don’t want to. Most people find it interesting, though. Gait is very distinctive and lots of people recognise theirs on screen as soon as they see it.’

Yeah, I thought, that’s exactly what I’m worried about.

As it happened, it wasn’t that bad. It turns out you can walk up and down a room endless times and avoid eye contact with everyone present. It turns out that when you see footage that’s essentially just a series of computer-generated lines and dots for your legs, with a triangle for your pelvis and nothing above it at all, it’s not too hard to disassociate that with the body you’re uneasy living in. It turns out that you can live with the limp the way it  looks on screen, even if your left leg does swing through without bending, not unlike the foot in Mousetrap.

It turns out you can leave with a different perception of your disability than the one you went in with- limp not as bad as you thought, but left ankle strength only a 1 out of 5 – and also wondering why you’re not getting to the heart of the way that makes you feel in your fiction.

I wrote a story last year where the FMC shares my condition. In that story, she and her partner invite another man into their bedroom in order that she’ll understand that she’s desirable to men other than the one she’s with in spite of her disability. I’m thrilled it was published, and I’m proud of it, but it fails to engage with the reality of disability and kink as fully as I’d have liked.

Back to the question of being still. When I’m submitting, the act of submission has never been characterised by stillness. I’d freak out if a man wanted to find me waiting for him on my knees. I don’t really see the appeal of rope bondage. I like to be held down, but only if I can struggle against the restraint: I like sex to be rough, out of control, blurry: sufficiently chaotic that neither he nor I can focus on the way my body looks or moves, essentially. Because even kneeling, although it ostensibly means staying still, requires that you can move in a certain way, and I’d want to do it gracefully and independently, not have to lower myself down and haul myself back up by the nearest surface or available hand.

So yeah, I want to write about that, because although it makes me uneasy, anything which makes me uneasy also has the potential for power-dynamic and humiliation play, things which I’m always keen to explore further – and fiction, after all, is a safe space in which to do so. And I want to push it even more – because if I’d be risking humiliation if a guy asked me to drop to my knees, I’d be risking it even more if he asked me to pace the room back and forth while he watched.

I want to play with those ideas of movement and motionlessness in my stories. I want to confront the things that scare me about my disability and that I’d love to overcome through kink, and work them right in there. Keep reminding me. Ask if I’ve written about it yet. Suggest new ways I can approach it. And, if stillness is central to your kink, please consider leaving a comment explaining why it appeals to you. Because, like I said, it fascinates me.

 

For more Wicked Wednesday, click on the circle…

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[e]lust #83

Elust 82 Header Holden and Camille
Photo courtesy of Holden and Camille

Welcome to Elust #83

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #84 Start with the rules, come back July 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

London Crows and London Kisses

I am Her. She is Me.

You Say You Want to Cook for Me

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Unusual Liaison

Community. Respect. Friendship. Fucking.

~Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

Dirty Little Secrets

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

Poetry

You Know
O

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

My Bed
Secular Submission
My therapy
from “hard limit” to “want”
We Measure the Nostalgia
The Cure and The Cause

Events

Smut in the 6ix – Porn Conference & Gala

Erotic Fiction

Typing Errors
La Belle Dame
Sex and chocolate
The Imprisoned of HIM-HER-THEM
The Gift
audience
Becca’s Story
Rope and Fixtures
As salty as his cum…
Dominating the Doctor

Erotic Non-Fiction

Teen Sex in Woolly Tights with 60s Beat Music
Dear Sadist: Your Cruelty Is Your Love
A male dom, the straight girl and the bi girl
Owned, Leashed, & Beaten
Jan 2015 Owned & Collared by Mistress Claire
Rinse The Days Filth Away
Power On
Keeping tally

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Formative Kink Epic Fail: “Buck Rogers”

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

If it was easy anyone could do it
What’s a service submissive?
Prescient Words

Writing About Writing

What if aspirational meant something else?

 

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Triangle

I still remember, 16 years on, how you calculate the missing side of a right-angled triangle: a2 + b2 = c2.

That information is useless to me.

What would I like to know instead? Well, how to groom my pubes into a neatly-trimmed triangle (my style of choice) would be a start. Although not a right-angled one, it’s true.

I am pro-hair, on both men and women. I’m pro-hair on myself. But I’m not pro the way it looks most of the time, and I certainly don’t feel positive about either my ability to style it the way I want, or to ask someone else to do just that.

Which, to be honest, worries me.

I am, on the surface, all body confidence and positivity. Naked in the changing rooms. Topless on the beach. Fucking with the lights on. But what I project? It’s sure as hell not being reflected back at me.

I believe, wholeheartedly, in two things. Firstly, that body positivity is important, even when it’s a struggle, and that it’s more important for me to come to terms with my body the way it is than to cave to society’s demands that I change it. I will, for example, only try to lose weight when I’m in a good and happy place, because I’m trying to like myself more, not less.

Secondly, that there is no shame in asking  questions when you don’t know or can’t do something. And I do a shit job of landscaping down there. I’d like to be smooth underneath. I’d like zero hair in the creases between my thighs and my pelvis. I already go to the beautician to have facial hair waxed, which, truth be told, should bother me a whole lot more for the lack of femininity it implies. But I don’t. I don’t go because I worry that beauticians never see clients with pubes as unkempt and wonkily-shaped as mine. I worry that they’ll judge. I worry that I won’t know what to ask for.

Because I don’t want a Hollywood, a Brazilian, a landing strip, or a postage stamp.

I just want a triangle.

So why the fuck can’t I say so?

Heads, shoulders, knees and jizz

My bedroom ceiling is low, and he’s short. Not ridiculously so – though you wouldn’t know it from the fuss he’s made about it – but short enough that when he stands on my bed and puts a hand in the air, he can touch it. Or brace himself against it – one hand on the plaster, the other jerking his cock.

I’m not into this. But I’m into sex, that’s who I am, so I’m pretending.

Earlier, he tried to get me off with his knee. Literally wedged it between my legs and rubbed it up and down. Apparently, someone let him whip them one and he’s fascinated by the fact I got flogged the week before, but his idea of playing rough? It’s just, well, rough.

I wrote the above in Hyacinth’s session at the weekend. I haven’t written about sex I’ve had for a long time now – thought I was done with it, in fact – but I’ve been thinking about this for a while, because I think it reflects badly on everybody involved.

When he didn’t text for ten days after our first date, despite telling me repeatedly that I gave ‘the best blow job he’d ever had,’ a friend said, ‘He’s intimidated by you, I reckon.’

I don’t really believe in intimidation in this sense – my view on it is very much in line with this – but equally, I can see that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m loud, outspoken, not particularly elegant or ladylike, and not everyone wants me to blow them in my kitchen within seconds of walking through the door, right?

In truth, I went down on him because *I* was intimidated. He was the first guy I’d been on a date with for a while who I’d actually fancied, and he’d said by text that he wasn’t looking for anything serious, which was, y’know, fine, even if it wasn’t, really. So, we sat through a date where I felt distinctly more interested in him than he was in me, to the point where I was actually surprised when I said, at the end of the evening, ‘If you want to come back with me, you’d be welcome.’

So, I sucked him, and fucked him, and later that evening he came in my mouth, and then he vanished for 10 days, and then he came back, and I fucked him again, and then he texted me, incessantly, for days, telling me how horny he was, but bailed on actually meeting up.

When I called him out on that, it was indeed that I was ‘intimidating,’ he said, and I was furious, with him and with myself. Furious about the cutesy ‘Oh, I’m not intimidating, it’s just a front I put on,’ text I sent in return, rather than telling him the truth, which was that, actually, I went down on him for the same reason and – guess what – I’d never swallowed spunk before him. Furious that because he was relatively attractive and intelligent I’d marked him as ‘out of my league,’ before we’d even said hello, and had used sex to try and lure him in.

Furious that, after all that, I still fucked him one more time.

And furious that, on my lowest days, I still think this is the best it’s going to get.

 

 

Sex and stuff: what if aspirational meant something different?

I’m not blogging much at the moment, because I’m mainly focused on a novel. And, for the last few weeks, I’ve been working on pulling together a synopsis for that novel, not because it’s finished, but because an external deadline requires one. So, in short, I started thinking about how I’d market it, and was quickly reminded that, in the real world sex might sell stuff, but in fiction, stuff sells sex.

I could write yet again about FSoG here: about helicopters, fast cars and penthouse apartments. But I don’t want to. Instead, I want to talk about Maestra, which, truth be told, is not really that different.

Rags to riches is, if you believe in that kind of thing, one of only seven possible basic plots, so it makes sense that people are still writing about it. Things haven’t changed that much since Dickens was writing about it – being white, male and ablebodied, or, if you can’t be those things, marrying them – is still the smoothest route to an easy life, and therefore the key component of any HEA.

I don’t know if Maestra ends with an HEA. I hated it so much I didn’t get past the sample chapters. But what I can tell you, just from those sample chapters, and from the reviews I’ve read, is that the sex and stuff link is alive and well. There’s a lot of champagne, many yachts and women who are desperate to lose their regional accents in favour of something posher. There’s some graphically-written sex. There are not, thankfully, any ‘inner goddesses’ and there is liberal usage of the word ‘cunt.’

Nobody has any feelings.

In a Guardian piece, called, promisingly, Time to be grown up about female desire, Maestra’s author, LS Hilton, makes some valid points, like this one:

‘From Colette to Pauline Réage to Catherine Millet, the French appear to have no difficulty accepting that a woman can write about sex without being reduced to it.’

The problem is, in the book itself, while she may not reduce women to just sex, she does, according to the Guardian’s review of the book, reduce them nonetheless:

It’s shocking because the world it portrays feels so depressingly regressive. Men have money, power, yachts and hedge funds. Women are disposable accessories, frantic for material gain; they might use their wiles to outwit the men, or manipulate them to their own advantage, but the essential balance of power remains unchanged.

Being grown up about desire – male or female, to me, means divorcing it entirely from status and material goods. It means separating it from body type – because not only beautiful people have sex – from race, and from ability level. In the real world, while relationships and sex might sometimes be driven by the quest for material gain, I really believe that desire is the one thing that isn’t. I don’t believe, or at least I hope – that nobody gets wet or hard over the thought of a hedge fund.

And erotica, by which I mean the type that people reading this are likely to be writing, rather than the mainstream titles mentioned above, has the opportunity to change this. Already many of us are writing characters who aren’t model-like in their looks, physique and/or age range. Not many of us feel the need to make our characters outrageously wealthy. And I think we can take it further. 

As you may know, I’m doing a workshop on writing disability in erotica at Eroticon this Saturday, and this question of aspiration is really the one I want to tackle. We spend a lot of time in the erotica/sex-blogging community reminding people that sex is a valid and worthwhile thing to write about – that sex and body positivity stand to benefit everyone. We’re doing as much, if not more, than most other genres to challenge gender and other societal norms, which makes me very proud and kind of emotional. And I want disability to benefit from that willingness to go against the status quo, too. 

LS Hilton says her book isn’t ‘precisely a feminist polemic’ and that’s fine, but if she thinks she’s being grown up about desire, I’d disagree. She says:

I merely attempted to write about a modern female character who is unapologetic about desire and who feels no shame or conflict about its fulfilment.

I’m sorry, but don’t we all feel shame and conflict sometimes? Isn’t that what gives desire the complexity that makes it such a joy to write about? Especially since she goes on to play down desire/sex as the book’s main theme: ‘Besides, it’s not a “sex book”, it’s a thriller.’ 

I want to write “sex books”. I want to write about the way sex makes people feel – both the good and the bad. And more than anything, I want to write fiction that represents the way we actually live, rather than the way the rags to riches plot tells us we should want to. If you feel the same, please come along on Saturday.

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Self love: more than masturbation

Self love. It’s a euphemism, a way of skirting around something that isn’t talked about in polite society, which isn’t really the way I do things. If it’s not something most people would talk about in polite society – sex, masturbation, writing erotica in your spare time – you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be doing it.

I’ve been lucky, I think, when it comes to masturbation – no one has ever tried to make me feel guilty about it, and the shelf crammed with erotica on public display by my bed is just a grown-up update on the pile I hid under Mills & Boon novels as a teen, and which my mum kindly turned a blind eye to.

I’m with Girl on the Net on wanking, though – it’s not something I indulge in in a sensual, lingering manner. I know what works for me and everything about the way I do it, from the toys I use to the times of day I pick – just as I’m on the cusp of sleep, at night, or when I’m already late for work in the morning, conspires to mean that I’m all about an orgasm in under five minutes – often it barely feels like engaging with my body at all.

And I’m okay with that. Sex positivity often suggests, with the best of intentions, I think, that women should understand their bodies – I’m thinking the hand mirror between the legs trick that teenage girls are sometimes told to try in order to be able to identify what’s ‘down there,’ and the assumption that, once you understand your body, liking it will naturally follow. Which is a nice idea, but not necessarily the reality.

Partly, I think what I struggle with is the separation of body and mind. We talk a lot about women’s bodies, and increasingly we acknowledge their minds in so far as women’s desires and fantasies are more recognised now than ever before, but I still think the conversation about self-love in the sense of being mentally healthy and at ease with ourselves has a long way to go.

Luxuries and indulgent products for women are often marketed as being something for use when we escape from the myriad demands put on our time, often by the people who care about us and who we care about – I’m thinking partners, children. Loneliness isn’t something that’s acknowledged (and yes, I see that it’s not an ideal way to sell products!) – women are painted as always trying to grab ten minutes ‘for themselves’ rather than watching the hours stretching out in front of them, filling their time with as many activities as they can, in order to distract themselves from the fact that something feels like it’s missing. Because it can’t just be me, can it?

I’ve mastered masturbation. I understand my body. My mind, not so much. Which is why, for me, self love is as much about learning to sit alone in a cinema and enjoy the experience as it is about wanking.

Home

old-fashioned-typewriter

By the third week of night school, the words flow so fast from Karen’s fingers that her mind wanders to Joe as she works. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, she types, and for a moment he is the fox – it fits: his hair is fiery red – and she the dog. It is like that in the mornings, when has to be up at six, and more often than not chooses her over the snooze button, her limbs still half-asleep as his hot cock presses against her thigh and he kisses the sleepy dust from her eyes. On one occasion he woke her by imitating the noises of the actual foxes that had kept them up half the night, but she soon put a stop to that – she was afraid the neighbours might think he’d completely lost it, and although he makes her laugh, even she has her limits before coffee.

Other times, she is the fox – the one who could gladly stay up all night while he is already dozing in front of the television. If foxes had opposable thumbs and could gently lift the fast-cooling mug of tea from his grasp, place it safely on the sideboard, then remove their knickers and straddle him, kissing him until he is back in the world of the living and his cock is thickening and pulsing under her steady grinding, then yeah, she can be the fox, too.

These thoughts make her restless. She shifts uncomfortably in the too-small wooden chair, and loses her place in the exercise.

She’s lucky, and she knows it – the women around her see typing skills as their route to emancipation – a job, a salary, a life of their own – and she has all those things without the keyboard skills. These classes are purely for her. She wants to write a book, and Joe is right behind her. That’s why he bought her the typewriter. That’s why he stays home with the kids while she goes to these classes. But it’s more than that. By letting her write, he’s telling her that her words matter. And it’s just not like that for so many of her friends.

So yeah, she’s lucky. She’s lucky, and she’s wet, and even though, when she crawls into bed beside him he’s already fast asleep, she can’t help herself. She rolls on her side, her hands under the duvet, reaches for his cock, and lets her fingers return to home.

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