On Corrupted

In my head, there are a handful of ideas for anthologies I’d like to edit one day. Most of them are far simpler than the premise behind Corrupted.

Erotica is already good at being a feminist genre, in my experience, so putting a call out for feminist stories didn’t feel different enough. I wanted to do something that celebrated how far women have come – how much we’ve overcome – to get where we are today.

And that’s what Corrupted is all about. It’s a super contemporary celebration of women’s liberation –  of same sex and non-binary relationships, of disability, of technology, of women’s suffrage, of women breaking the same rules that men have broken for so long now – sometimes getting away with it, and sometimes not.

When the call went out, I had an idea of how the finished collection of stories would look. In reality, it’s a very different anthology, but in a great way. In choosing the final line up, I’ve tried as far as possible to make sure it’s truly representative of womanhood and not just a white, straight, middle class, cis representation of being a woman.

There’s an extract from my story in the anthology below (which I’ll admit is cis, white and middle class, but hopefully in a tongue in cheek way). All that remains is for me to say two things

1) Thanks so much to all the authors and to Anna Sky at Sexy Little Pages for all their hard work – it wouldn’t be what it is without you.

2) I really hope you like it (please review it if you do!).


Your Vote Matters – Charlie Powell

“Susie?” he asks, thrusting the hand that’s not clutching a sheaf of leaflets in my direction. “May I call you Susie?”

Risky strategy, I think. The Labour representative who canvassed me two days earlier called me “Ms Smith” and didn’t try to be all chummy. This guy though, the Tory candidate himself, has clearly decided that keeping it casual is the way forward. Charm is oozing from him like butter from hot toast.

I like charming men. I even like charming men who happen to be Tories. No, wait, I especially like charming men who happen to be Tories. I know, I know. I hate myself sometimes, too.

“I guess,” I say, my gaze dropping from the blue rosette pinned to his jacket to the white shirt and red chinos he’s wearing underneath.

“Good, good,” he says. His voice is pure Oxbridge. “Oliver Tamworth, Conservative candidate for Green Park North.”

“I gathered,” I say, gesturing at the rosette.

“May I ask who you’re planning on voting for?” he continues, flashing me what I imagine is his most ingratiating smile. “Can we count on your support?”

I smile back. “Of course.”

I’m a really good liar.

He beams. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he hadn’t had much luck so far tonight, but this cannot possibly be the case. After all, Mr Green at number ten is convinced single mothers “take far too much from the system and don’t pay a penny back in”—even though I know for a fact that the three mums on this street raising kids on their own work every hour god sends. I once overheard Mr Johnson at number fifteen telling someone he’d voted for UKIP, only to follow that up with “Oh no, sorry, I meant the BNP”—it’s been five years since that election and I still scowl at him every day on the bus—and Mrs King who lives on the corner “thinks people have too many human rights.” I don’t even know where to start with that one.

“Great!” Oliver says, seemingly staring straight at my tits. I should slam the door in his face. “Let me give you a leaflet anyway. It’s got my email address at the bottom and the number for my team, so if there is anything you’d like to discuss before election day, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Your vote matters to us, Susie!”


Sweet little mystery*

I don’t watch porn. Really. I mean, I watched the odd soft core movie, rented from Blockbuster and accompanied by cheap wine from the college bar, when I was at uni, a lot more on Channel 5 when I was babysitting as a teen for the crap families who didn’t have Sky, a few hardcore clips the boys on my corridor downloaded onto my laptop, and a full length hardcore film three weeks ago in a hotel in Paris, out of sheer curiosity. And because it was free. That’s honestly the full extent of my porn watching. I’ve wanked to porn perhaps once. Because I discovered good erotica pretty young and because I’ve only ever seen porn with terrible and distracting plot lines, I’ve never really felt the need to seek it out.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not bothered by the new UK porn regulations. I’m very much with Myles Jackman, the obscenity lawyer quoted in this wonderful post by Girlonthenet, who said “Pornography is the canary in the coalmine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die. If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence.”

Plus, even the Independent is citing the anti-feminist argument (“More worryingly, the amendment seems to take issue with acts from which women more traditionally derive pleasure than men,”) so I think it’s safe to say that being pretty fucked off at this is not overreacting.

Lots of people will write about a lot of the acts on the banned list a lot more knowledgeably than I possibly could, so I’m not going to go there, much as my initial dismay was caused by the fact that bruising is no longer allowed. Instead I’m going to write again about something I’ve written on before: female ejaculation.

I stand by my original take on it. Personally, I don’t like it. That’s if I’ve even ever done it properly. I’ve certainly got very, very wet during penetrative sex, wet enough to soak my clothes and the bed underneath me. For me, that counts. For others, it may not. Either way, I don’t the sloshing noises my cunt makes when he fucks me that way, even though he seems to. I don’t like the feeling of being uncontrollably wet, I don’t feel *lady-like.* And therein lies my problem with banning squirting in porn. It’s not that squirting *isn’t* lady-like, that’s just my perception of it. Which might be partly down to personal preference, but also, I think, has a whole lot to do with the way society polices women’s bodies and the fluids they produce.

Lets go way, way back to when I was eleven. I got pretty good sex-ed at school. My parents had been open and honest about puberty. I was staying with a kind-of friend, the daughter of one of my mum’s mates. I was on a thin mattress on the floor and aside from anything else, I remember being unable to sleep because I was fucking freezing. And then I woke up properly in the early hours of the morning, soaked. In blood.

From there on in, it got worse. I was pretty scared of my mum’s friend, who wasn’t exactly warm and approachable. In fact, based on a later incident where my sister got drunk on cooking wine on a camping holiday and vomited everywhere, I’d say she’s a judgemental bitch. Anyway. My clothes for the next day involved cream jodhpurs (don’t ask). I didn’t dare tell her my periods had started, so I wore the cream jodhpurs and did my best to fashion an impromptu sanitary towel from loo roll. You can imagine the state of me, and the state I was in, by the time I got home.

And so it continued. Later the same year, someone in my class had the famous swimming party at the local pool, complete with massive inflatable for climbing on. Yep, you’ve guessed it, I had my period. My mum gave me a tampon, explained how they worked, and left me to get on with it. The swimming party lasted an hour. Nobody told me you need to change a tampon immediately after you swim. By the time I did change it, an hour or so after the party, it had leaked, staining the beautifully 90s body-with-poppers-between-the-legs (also in cream) that I was wearing. For the second time in less than a year, I was mortified by my body. I’d also learnt a lot about not wearing pale colours during my period.

At 30, I’m obviously much less bothered by my menstrual cycle, except it’s more irregular than ever, and in some ways, more disruptive. The problems of being a woman on her period don’t go away: I keep tampons in my desk drawer at work, but do I then slip one into my handbag and take that with me or do I clutch one in my fist and hope that no one stops me on the way to the toilets? If I sleep with someone who’s happy to fuck me while I’m on my period, I still hate that moment when you have to slip away to take your tampon out. Even if the guy in question *is* happy to fuck me at that point in the month, it’s undeniably less messy to avoid blood during sex, which means I back-to-back packets of the pill way more often than I intend to.

We’re no more open-minded about urination and I don’t mean in a watersports sense. Or UTIs for that matter. I don’t get cystitis often, thank god, but every time I do, it’s a battle to get the doctor to accept that I’ve tried the over-the-counter salts and they haven’t worked, and I need antibiotics. On one particularly memorable (for all the wrong reasons) occasion, I paced the floor of the emergency GP surgery to try to distract my bladder as he wrote me a prescription, on another I thought my entire birthday trip to Latitude festival was ruined because I was bleeding every time I peed and couldn’t get more than a metre from the toilet block before the stinging desperation forced me back again. For some reason, you can order antibiotics for cystitis online via Lloyds pharmacy, but can you do the same in a physical store? Of course not.

Likewise, when I looked briefly at Mumsnet earlier, to see what they had to say about squirting, there were lots of *hilarious* gags about how they could pass off urination caused by a weak post-partum pelvic floor as ejaculation. Very few women seemed to have anything positive to say about female ejaculation in its own right. How did we get like this as a society, and why can’t we be more like the French, who offer pelvic re-education as standard after having a baby? I could go on, because there are still more things about women and their need to piss going unrecognised that bug me, including the fact that city centres often now have pop up urinals for men who’ve been drinking. Is anything similar supplied for women? No, love, we don’t want to think about the fact you piss, so go and crouch behind a wall somewhere where we can’t see you.

And lastly, there’s the stuff that *never* gets talked about, or certainly never did when I was younger – like the fact that vaginal discharge is acidic and can therefore bleach the crotch of your black knickers to a garish shade of orange over time. It took me years to figure out that that wasn’t just me.

I have no idea why female ejaculation has been banned in UK poem – this post is an educated guess, at best. When I read the Independent article, it made me think of this passage, from Kristina Lloyd’s Thrill Seeker:

‘You’ve got to really work it.’ Liam slammed his middle fingers into the pad of my G, his elbow shunting as if he were trying to tug something from me. ‘It can look quite violent.’

‘Ach, I dinnae mind that,’ said Baxter.

I wailed as the pressure swelled within me. All too soon, my walls loosened and I was slushy around Liam’s pounding fingers. I slumped in Baxter’s supporting arms, crying out as liquid rushed from me in a hot, unstoppable fountain.

If squirting’s been banned because the censors associate it with fisting, something which they, insanely, consider to be ‘life-endangering,’ I can almost see the twisted logic behind the decision, much as I still disagree with it. If it’s been banned because someone objected to women’s bodies behaving in that way – well, angry doesn’t begin to cover it.

*The title of this post is a music-related riddle. I think Girlonthenet once used to send her readers a Twix as a small prize for getting questions like this right, and I liked that, so if you’re the first person to guess the link between the title and the post topic, I’ll send you something chocolatey.

Damaged heroes and tea-swilling heroines


So, by my calculations there are 7 days and oh, 12 blog posts left until the end of October. And I really want to hit the full 31 posts because I have a bit of a project that I want to launch on November 1st and I’m only going to do it if I complete the blog posting challenge successfully.

With that in mind, missing this week’s Wicked Wednesday was a slight disaster.

It sort of took me by surprise, even though I’d been thinking about the prompt since a conversation I had with Kristina Lloyd at her book launch last Saturday night. Well, sort of. It actually also ties in really nicely with something I’ve been thinking about since I went to a couple of events at the Cheltenham literature festival at the beginning of the month.

Anyway, let’s start with the prompt. I feel a little guilty saying this, but drunk, rambling man in a bar feels a bit cliche to me. Or rather, it feels cliche, but also an entirely feasible situation with which to start a story.

Back, briefly to the literature festival. The first talk I went to was this, on the ‘Rise of the anti-heroine.’ Although I fully recognise that feminism still has a long way to go, and that men and women are far from equal, I’m always stunned as to how much this affects women in fields like literature. It’s supposedly harder to get published if you’re a woman, something which kind of makes sense when you look at things like the statistics behind ‘The Year of Reading Women.’

I have a handful of notes from that evening – one of which just says ‘relatable, likeable.’ Another is a quote from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, which i failed to copy down exactly but is something along the lines of ‘Feminism is the ability to have female characters who are bad.’ One of the authors on the panel said that women writing chick lit are told that their female characters must be the kinds of women you’d want to sit and drink tea with. I think that’s meant to mean ‘sweet and nice’ – in short, the kind of women I personally loathe spending time with. I’m pretty flawed and I like to spend my time, both when I’m reading and in real life, with women who are equally so. Which is probably why I haven’t read chick lit for years. Someone else said that what we refer to as ‘the anti heroine,’ if it was a male character would simply be referred to as realistic and interesting.

I finished The Lemon Grove back in August, and so I asked Helen Walsh about her portrayal of anal sex in the novel, which caused a bit of a stunned silence, but hey, I can handle that. More specifically, what I asked was ‘Is an openness and a love of sex for the sake of sex a characteristic of the anti-heroine?’ The answer was pretty much ‘Yes.’ So you can imagine my joy when, after I’d asked that question, a middle-aged man (in a mainly female audience) asked for the mic and posed the question ‘Why does writing strong women have to mean writing about sex?’ I gave him side-eyes, but I don’t think he noticed. I can’t quite remember what the panel said, but my answer would be ‘Because for so long we haven’t been able to. So suck it up.’ As an aside though, things are hopefully changing. The boy walked in on me in the middle of reading that anal scene: when I asked him what he thought of it he said ‘You might want to use some lube, love.’ Which is definitely progress of a kind.

Let’s go back to men. Based on what I’ve said up till now, you’d think male characters have a much easier ride of it. After all, complex men are just realistic and interesting, right? Well, yes, up until the arrival of a certain billionaire (by the by, I was in WH Smith today and the covers in the erotica section are now literally fifty shades of grey. Who is still reading/publishing/buying these novels?)  Except it seems that in erotica, if you’re writing men  who have much growth/self-discovery to do as the heroine, men who are still learning about/discovering their own desires and men who make (sometimes pretty awful) mistakes as a result of that, those men are automatically ‘damaged.’ I call bullshit. *That’s* equality – learning about sex, about desire, about what turns us on and off, about sometimes misjudging things is something we all do, not because we’re male or female, but because we’re human. Those are the kind of men I want to read, and more importantly the kind I want to write. The photo at the top of this post is my notes from feedback from my writing group: at the top right it says ‘Neither character has proper character arc; he’s on the margins; entire relationship is a projection onto him.’ Those things are top of my list of things to fix. Because I don’t want cardboard cutout men, or women who are dependent on those men for everything they discover about sex. Real men do get drunk and messy in bars. So do real women. Life is messy. Fiction should be too.


Time is a feminist issue

I’ll begin this by saying that I think a lot of people may disagree with what I’m about to say. Certainly the friend I mentioned it to this evening did. Please do add your thoughts in the comments, whether you agree or not – I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

Anyway. In comparison with a lot of women, there are very few claims on my time. I work full-time, sure, and there are a couple of hobby-related regular commitments in the evening, but I’m not raising children, working hours and hours of overtime or caring for someone who’s sick or elderly. I’m a single woman, a free agent, and my diary is relatively uncluttered.

None of that means that my time isn’t valuable. There are lots of things I need/like to do when I have free time – meet friends for drinks, laundry, food shopping, blogging, writing. And I like to know in advance where those things are going to slot into my week. That makes me neither a better nor a worse person than someone who likes to fly a bit more by the seat of their pants.

I should also, in the interests of full disclosure, remind you that time keeping is not one of my strengths. I’m regularly 15-30 minutes late. I’m occasionally guilty of doing that thing where you send a ‘Just leaving now!’ text when you still have wet hair and are wearing only your knickers.

But I don’t bail. Last night I went to someone’s birthday drinks. She’d invited somewhere between 15-20 people. Most had replied to say that they’d be there, but when I turned up, halfway through, the majority had texted some excuse as to why they had to cancel at short notice. This kind of shit drives me crazy. As she said herself, if people had said no in the first place, or the week before, she could have made the decision to cancel. The way it actually worked out, as the night wore on the pub kept moving us to smaller and smaller tables as it became obvious people weren’t going to show. I doubt it ruined her birthday, but it can’t exactly have made it, either.

So yes, both men and women can be lame. But in my experience it’s far more often men who are guilty of suggesting plans, promising to confirm by a certain time/day, and then not bothering, so the woman has to chase, which makes her feel needy, naggy and generally pretty damn unattractive. Once or twice I’ll forgive this, but if it becomes a pattern, not so much. If it becomes a pattern I will nag you, I will become shrill and needy, and I will pick a fight, even though it won’t help.

Why a feminist issue, though? Well. You could (and I’m going to) argue that men call the shots much more in dating than women do, especially in the early days. I see tweets every day from women about men who’ve arranged dates only to cancel at the last minute. And, something which I’ve had more experience of myself, and which I hate even more: men who initiate conversations via dating websites, who want to flirt, who want to sext, who want you to give up a good chunk of your time to interact with them online but who have no intention of meeting up in person, Men who can’t even be bothered to take the time to draft something new when they message you via said sites. Men who clearly haven’t even taken the time to read your profile. Men who, essentially, think their time is *much* more important than yours.

That’s the impression it gives too when, a bit further down the line, a guy suggests meeting up on a Sunday and says he’ll confirm by, let’s say, Friday evening. I generally like to have my weekend plans firmly in place by Friday, but I like him, so, ok, I can wait till Friday. Friday comes and goes. Nothing. Saturday evening comes. Still no word. I text, and ok, by now I probably sound a bit stroppy. I say something like ‘I guess tomorrow’s not happening, then? And the reply, of course, says ‘Sorry! No, couldn’t make tomorrow in the end.’

There are of course other explanations here. That he’s generally flaky. That he just doesn’t give a fuck about me. There’s probably some truth in both of those statements. But I do think it’s partly because he’s a man, and because he’s been socialised to believe that his time, his wants and his needs, take precedence. And even if he doesn’t believe those things, he has *no idea* how often women’s time is at the mercy of the decisions men make. So boys, if you really want to be feminist, start by texting when you say you will.