Smut Marathon Round 1: On comfort zones and other stories

When I signed up for the Smut Marathon, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be sharing what I wrote on the blog after each round. As far as I’m concerned, my SBOS days are pretty much over, but hey, I’m still paying for the domain name, so I guess I’ll share stuff from the marathon as and when I’m either particularly proud of it or it makes me reflect on my writing in a way I want to explore further.

The first round challenge was to write an erotic metaphor of no more than thirty words. Quick shout out here to Violet, whose post on Round 1 I really liked and which hopefully she won’t mind me borrowing the format of here.

Anyway. The first round challenge is a great challenge, there’s no doubt. I didn’t see it coming and when it landed in my inbox, I thought …

… fuuuuuck.

Because I know what a metaphor is. I can identify them in other people’s writing. They’re just. not. the. way. I. write.

Trying to come up with something, I trawled the entire first draft of the novel I’m working on, and sure enough, not a single metaphor … or not a sex-related one, anyway. In the end, I chose a simile and committed to reworking that.

The end result?

‘Afterwards, she’s still aroused, cunt flexing at the sight of him cupping the soft mollusc of his cock with one hand as he reaches for the wine with the other.’

More than two weeks on, I’m not thrilled with all aspects of this sentence. If I was editing it now, I’d lose ‘soft’ and I’d work on the rhythm. But one of the judges wasn’t sure about something else:

‘Is the author sure about conjuring an association of fish and sex – unless it’s the aphrodisiac of oysters this is risky. Molluscs are mostly ugly… quick google image search (to see if I had the wrong thing in my head) destroys this metaphor for me. Maybe there’s another way of getting to the idea of a vulnerable soft ball sack that would work for this scene?’

When I read this, I genuinely laughed out loud. Anyone who knows me will tell you that the answer to ‘Is the author sure…?’ would be ‘Hell, no. Absolutely not. Never,’ but that doesn’t mean I’d take the mollusc back. One of my main worries, on signing up for the Smut Marathon, is that I’m not – or no longer – really an erotica writer. I write about sex, sure, but I’m not driven by the idea of getting people off, which is key to the definition of ‘erotic.’ If something I write resonates with you and makes you horny, great, if not, I don’t really mind. I just hope you think the actual writing is good.

And so, the promise I made to myself when I decided to bite the bullet on the challenge of the Smut Marathon (there’s still an email to Marie in my drafts folder explaining why I need to withdraw) was that I’d do it, but I wouldn’t read the entries or the feedback and I wouldn’t vote for anything, including my own piece. I’ve held true – and will probably continue to – to the last of those things, but after voting closed, I did read all the entries and the feedback and I’m glad I did.

It sounds arrogant, retrospectively, to say I had no intention of taking feedback on board, but I had my reasons. My mental health is hellishly shaky at the moment, and for the first time in a long time, my writing is impacted by that. I’m confident in my voice – less so in other aspects of my writing – I don’t want to lose that, and I stand by my argument that metaphor just isn’t my style. But another piece of feedback has made me think:

‘Just not the strongest of metaphors (just one word).’

I live my life, as far as I can, within my comfort zone. I hadn’t realised I do that with my writing, too, but I do. On receiving the metaphor task, I knew I was happy to do it, but I wasn’t going to take any actual risks. I wasn’t going to chance anything that could be seen as purple prose or ridiculous in any other way. I’d sooner lose points for being unerotic (which I did). The least Charlie thing about the sentence I submitted is the length of it – I’m not a thirty word sentence girl usually – everything else, although the fishiness may look like a risk – is safe, safe, safe.

Maybe, in future rounds (assuming I last a few), I’ll learn to take more chances, to push myself a bit more. I hope so.

SmutMarathon

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On red lips & falling out of love with my body

Being brave with make up is an odd one. When I originally started thinking about this post, I was intending to say that it’s perverse how, the more at ease I am in my own skin, the more tame my make up. But it’s not perverse; it’s complicated.

In my teens my skin was greasy, but even then, I escaped lightly compared to many of my schoolmates. My mum bought me a few Rimmel bits when I was ten and the fashion for Body Shop parties meant that make up quickly became part of my daily routine. Foundation, mascara, lipstick – we were allowed to wear it at school in those days, too.

I never felt I mastered make up, and I never experimented with it that much, but I liked playing with it, and I was interested in it, in a way I never was with clothes. Glitter gels, iridescent powder shadow (thanks, Miss Selfridge!), stick on hearts. It was tacky, and joyful, as fuck.

In recent years, the frequency with which I’ve worn make up has dropped dramatically. I rarely wear any at work, and the contents of my day-to-day make up bag (listed below), is pricey, but play-it-safe in the extreme.

Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder
Benefit Roller Lash Mascara
Clarins Multibush
Tom Ford Lips & Boys Lipstick in Eric

It worries me that I’ve stopped wearing make up. Not necessarily because I think I ‘need’ it, although it does make me feel more confident, but because every day I get up too late to put any on, every day I go to work with wet hair and bare skin, I’m reminded of the following statement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale:

‘I have lost interest in my appearance.’

The scale requires you to rank how much each statement applies to you between 0-3, and I’m never quite sure what to do with that one, because although I do wear less make up and spend less time getting ready, I still buy new clothes, I still read a couple of beauty bloggers, I still spend money on new products. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s bad because increasingly, I buy make up in the same way some people buy bags and shoes – because I’ve put on a stone and a half in four years, I’m uncomfortable in my body, I feel fat, and buying clothes is miserable. Make up always fits, but it’s also an excuse to not take a long, hard look at myself and the way I really feel about my body. It’s an excuse not to change.

But there’s a flip side, too. I already feel conspicuous, because of the disability, because of the weight – and so, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to choose cosmetics that will make me stand out. In the past couple of years, I’ve bought three *bright* red lip products – MAC Red, MAC Sweet Sakura and, this week, Lipstick Queen’s Seven Sins gloss in Anger. 

The name is not a coincidence. I am angry, mostly with myself. But on my lips, that anger is transformed into something vital, something kickass. One of the saddest conversations I had with a friend of mine – who is beautiful – was about lipstick.

‘I’d never wear red,’ she said. ‘I just want to blend in. I don’t want to be noticed.’

It’s her choice, obviously, but it’s not what I want for myself. I’m not convinced red lipstick suits me, or is flattering, but I also don’t care. I’ve been reading Ella Risbridger’s wonderful lipstick columns for The Pooland she talks often about liking shades of lipstick that might not suit her. And I think she’s right – it’s psychological, as much as anything else. It’s colour, in a world of beige.

Red is anger. It’s also love, passion, fire, heat. It’s brave and it’s unapologetic.

And right now, it’s what I need.

On language learning and sex

On Thursday nights, every other week, I teach English to foreign workers. A few weeks back, with the rest of the class absorbed in a pretty basic exercise, I found myself perched on the desk of a Spanish student whose level of English is well above that of the average student in the lower-level group.

‘I thought we talked about this a few weeks ago,’ I said. ‘You were going to try the higher group, remember?’

This particular student is a real sweetheart. We’d talked previously about whether her grammar was good enough for her to move up a level – I was adament she was, her argument to the contrary was that she occasionally makes mistakes with her tenses. Of course, she could stay in the lower group – it doesn’t make a huge difference to me – but the more I thought about it, and I did think about it a lot, on my way home, the following morning, the more I realised that what makes me sad about it is that she’s letting her fear hold her back.

As soon as I decided I wanted to be good at French, I got good, pretty much. In class, at least. On a holiday to Australia aged 16 I took a grammar workbook which I realised later was aimed at university students. There were no explanations or examples, so I worked through it to the best of my ability, only to find that more often than not I was getting the answers wrong and I had no idea why. I couldn’t recognise how far I’d come in a couple of years, only that I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be.

And I made my life, and a lot of other people’s, an absolute misery.

For two years running, my best friend won the end-of-year French prize and it seemed so bloody unfair, even though, looking back, I can see exactly why that was the case. She was a meek, obedient, disciplined student, good across all four skills, while I, despite being the one with the offer of a place at Oxbridge and the one who spent all her free periods reading French novels, applied myself only to the things I was comfortable with, namely Reading, Writing and Listening. Not speaking. God, no.

It wasn’t all my fault. I had a filthy temper, which I could now tell you was born of anxiety, but at the time I, and everyone else, just assumed meant I was a stroppy, difficult bitch. My French teacher, with whom I thought I was desperately in love, believed that speaking skills were improved by filming class discussion or debating activities and then playing them back to us, so we could identify our errors. I know a bit about language teaching now, and it’s not a terrible method, but his major failing was not recognising just how much it didn’t work for me, and mixing it up a bit.

We had an agreement: I knew that what bothered me was seeing myself move on camera; the jerky movements that to me screamed ‘disability,’ so I sat out of shot. You could hear me, but not see me. And still I hated it. It made me cry, it made me shout, it made me anxious as fuck in the run up to lessons where I knew we’d be being filmed. I know now that disability has coloured my views about every aspect of my body – I don’t like seeing myself move, hearing my voice, still photos that I can’t control … the list goes on. I wish I’d been able to tell him that calmly.

I owe the change to my Cambridge interviewer, who recognised I was too young and too lacking in confidence to be able to handle the challenge of a Cambridge degree straight after leaving school. My gap year was obligatory. Learning to speak French was not. Not for them, at least, but my mum wouldn’t let me get away with just working my summer call centre job for another year.

And, to cut a long story short, in a bakery in Switzerland I really learned to speak French. I doubt, even when I was pretty much fluent, that I was ever grammatically perfect. But I was revelling in the language, really enjoying it in a well rounded manner for the first time ever. I got a job abroad because they needed someone to speak English with the tourists: I spent most of the Winter letting the Brits struggle on in pidgin French before switching to English once they’d reached maximum fluster.

I was so immersed in the language that when things went wrong ‘Putain!” was more instinctive than ‘Fuck!’ I delighted in the fact that the French for ‘pussy’ is ‘chatte’ and that I could drive my boss crazy by answering with a slangy, drawn-out ‘Ouais,’ rather than the crisp and polite ‘Oui, Madame’ that she expected. All stuff that I picked up by just throwing myself into the language, and not overthinking it.

I’d love to say that that was the last time I feared throwing myself in at the deep end, but of course, it wasn’t. I never worked in Italy, or found an equivalent way to immerse myself in the Italian language and as a result the Italian I picked up during my degree has pretty much wilted and died. And I certainly haven’t lost that fear when it comes to sex – even when I’m doing something I love, like giving head, I still worry that my technique could be better. There’s a balance to be achieved here somewhere: if I love the act despite my worries I’m not letting it hold me back. And technique, like grammar, has a place in sex, certainly, which is why I’m always sorely tempted to go and do this.

The girl that I teach moved herself into the higher group after we had that chat. I’m pleased for her, because I think she’ll be having more fun. And fuck, just like sex, when language is fun, it’s *really* fun.

To read more Wicked Wednesday, click below.

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*I realised halfway through this, that it’s kind of an extension of/development of the thoughts behind this post. That’s ok though, right?

Wicked Wednesday: First Time

The stories of my first times are scattered round the internet. Girlonthenet has the story of my actual first time. My first real wake up call to kink is this post. First kiss is here.

That leaves two, by my reckoning.

‘Write about your “other virginity”‘ suggested someone on Twitter who’s not usually so coy. Anal, I presume she means.

I could. In truth, I’m a little surprised that I never have written about it. I’m not ashamed of having done it, nor of the fact that I like it, much to the surprise of some of my RL friends, who have only ever had bad experiences of anal. The secret to good anal is quite possibly doing it with a guy who is a) not anti being on the receiving end of it and b) knows his way round a bottle of lube, although I didn’t know that either of those things was the case when he first said ‘I really want to fuck your arse.’

But with anal, although I was undeniably nervous that it would hurt, I liked the fact that it felt like something he was entirely in control of. I can understand why that’s the very aspect of it that might terrify some people, but I like it when the responsibility for something physical is taken entirely out of my hands.

So let’s talk about something where it’s not.

I don’t think about my hard limits all that often anymore, but for a long time, oral, both given and received, was my hardest of limits.

Giving head is a skill, undoubtedly. I still think I’m really shit at it. I still worry about grazing him with my teeth, about gagging, about the fact that I can’t make him come that way.

But I used to think you gave oral in order to get oral.

When did that change? The first time he fucked my mouth so hard that my face was a liquified mess of tears, mascara, saliva and pre-come.

It felt like more of a milestone than anal.

On growing out of kink

I haven’t bought my Eroticon 2015 tickets yet. There are a few reasons for that: better to wait until payday, fear of a repeat of last year’s anxiety attack, and, most worrying of all, the ‘hope’ that I’ll be in a relationship that means erotica/sex blogging/kink will no longer be a part of my life.

I use ‘hope’ in the loosest possible sense. I’m not actively looking for a relationship in which I’m unable to express my submissive desires. It’s just that, well, finding decent guys on dating websites is hard enough, so inevitably, there are things on my wish-list I’ve decided I’ll compromise on if I have to. And finding a partner who’s at least a little bit dominant may be one of those things.

And yet. One of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had in recent weeks was with my best friend, who I adore. She’s got through her fair share of unsuitable men over the years, but she’s had some great sex with these men. Recently, she’s started dating a nice guy, but, in her words ‘It won’t last if the sex doesn’t improve.’

Ok, so for her, sex is a priority. Great. All the more frustrating then when, over brunch, I was talking about how it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really started to embrace submission and how fantastic it would be if I met someone who I not only liked and fancied, but who also shared my kinks, and she said ‘Oh, but that wouldn’t really matter if you met the right person.’

FFS.

I feel like, in a way, I’ve come reluctantly to kink. In the past month two people, completely independently, have pulled me up on my claim to be vanilla, citing my increasing desire for pain, bruising and toys as proof that it’s simply not true. Not to mention increased participation in things like Sinful Sunday. Not only are they right, I’m also having the time of my life, sexually: I’ve discovered what turns me on, I have a sexual partner who’s happy to explore that further with me, and I am *loving* it.

I’ve written before about submission and self-confidence, and unlike Girlonthenet, I still think there can be a link between low self esteem and submission. I think it tends to be a more passive kind of submission – a letting someone else take charge so you don’t make any false moves, rather than purely because it turns you on – but I’d argue that it’s submission nonetheless.

Novels like Fifty Shades of Grey would have us believe that the only reasons you could possibly be interested in BDSM are a) difficult childhood b) trying to hold onto a billionaire who had a difficult childhood. They also promote a very fixed view of what BDSM means: it’s spanking, flogging, bondage, waiting on your knees for your Dom to turn up.

It can be any or all of those things. It can also be none of them. Girlonthenet wrote a wonderful piece a while back about being a ‘stroppy submissive’ and I associate with it more and more. When the boy grabs my wrists and forces them high above my head I don’t submit willingly: I try to wriggle free, desperate to get my hands on his belt, to suck his cock, to touch him. I let him slam them back against the wall, my rings clinking as they hit the plasterboard, and I beg him to let me have his cock in my mouth. When he refuses I don’t look at the floor while my inner goddess pirouettes with joy, I tilt my chin up and look him square in the eye. I’m as defiant in submission as I am outside of the bedroom.

I’d love to find a long-term partner who loved all those things about me and who wanted to embrace them within our relationship. Even before I started exploring my submissive side, sex was a key interest: I’ve been writing erotica for years and years. Not buying an Eroticon ticket for 2015 because I’d met someone who didn’t like that side of me would be a massive let down, really. It would mean I’d compromised massively on who I am. But would I put kink to one side if someone was perfect in every other way? Quite possibly, yes.

If I do though, it’ll be because I choose to compromise. It sure as hell won’t be because I ‘grew out of’ kink.

Why difference is hot

I have a work crush: a tall, rangy, floppy-haired designer who wears skinny jeans and a pretty smile. He’s male model hot, sure, but more than that, I’m drawn in by what he’s good at – the fact that in an hour long meeting he can cover an A4 page with beautiful, intricate doodles a million miles away from my wonky hearts and stars. Every so often he pauses in his scribbles to pick up his mug, which, appropriately, is emblazoned with the slogan Hot Tot Tea. He catches my eye and I look down at my notepad and blush. I haven’t mastered the art of checking him out subtly yet.

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On giving up

I don’t think of myself as a massively determined person. Goals that I think are within my reach, sure, I’ll stick at them, but when I don’t think I have a hope in hell of achieving something, I’d rather just walk away.

I say walk away. In reality, I’m not that calm. Take cross country in PE at school as an example. This is my total idea of hell – not only are you asking me to do something that I’m going to find incredibly difficult, you’re asking me to compete against, and to be watched by, other people. The result in this particular case was usually complete meltdown: I could work myself up into floods of tears and hyperventilation in what I’d now recognise as a panic attack, but at the time even I kind of assumed was just teenage melodrama.

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Self-preservation: 2 ways

So … you remember friend with the ex-fling who ‘joked’ about her being a size 14? Well, he’s been cementing his reputation as a total cunt this week by getting drunk and making more great jokes – this time about how, the morning after he slept with a girl, he drew a map to the nearest bus stop, gave it to her, rolled over and went back to sleep. That girl is my friend and they work together. It’s not like he was never going to see her again. But the deal breaker for me is that he regaled all her other friends and colleagues with this story on a night out – ok, he didn’t say it was her, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something she wanted to relive. She was, understandably, pretty upset. But she didn’t let him know this, because this is her version of self-preservation:

Self-preservation #01

When someone, whether it’s a guy, a friend, a family member or whoever, does or says something that hurts you, you *never* let them know that it bothered you because that would just add to how humiliated and stupid you feel. You might, after a time, rant to other friends about it, about how he made you cry, or why you wish your mum would just shut up for once, but on no occasion do you mention it to the person concerned. If it’s particularly bad, you might give them the silent treatment for a while, but the key feature of this approach, to me at least, is ‘Quick! Brush it under the carpet!’

Self-preservation #02

Personally, I prefer approach No. 2. The only thing this has in common with approach No. 1 is that it sometimes involves the silent treatment, but rarely. More often it involves ranting and raving at the person who hurt you until both of you have lost the thread of the argument and are absolutely exhausted. Why do I handle things this way? Because just as my friend says it’s embarrassing to let someone know that they’ve got to you, I cannot internalize how much I hate myself if I think someone’s treated me badly and I’ve just gone along with it.

That’s the logical thinking behind it, anyway. The reality is more instinctive. If, for instance, I get a text or see something online that I don’t like, I immediately get pins and needles in my hands and feel like I can’t breathe. For a long time, I thought this was just me being melodramatic – I’ve since realised that it’s actually a mild panic attack, and as someone who suffers with anxiety and depression, I’m not sure why that surprises me. I’ll immediately fire back a text or an email with my gut ‘How dare you!’ response, because it feels like the only way to exercise some control over the physical reactions.

I should probably learn some relaxation techniques, but I’m far from ashamed of approach No. 2. Yes, it often backfires, but hopefully it sometimes also forces difficult conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be had (sometimes being the key word). I wouldn’t switch to approach No. 1 for the world.

How about you? Which of these approaches do you think works better? Or do you have a third way? Are you , *gasp*, capable of talking things through calmly?!