An uneasy relationship with my blanket fort

I love my bed. I don’t iron my bedlinen, instead I use jersey cotton, which feels just like your comfiest T-shirt, in Summer, and flannel in Winter. Both create a snuggly, inviting heaven. I have the perfect number of pillows, books all over the place, and I sleep naked. I know how to make my bed somewhere I want to be.

And for the most part, I do want to be there. I go to bed too late, but I don’t struggle with insomnia once I’m in. I hit snooze again and again in the mornings. I lie in at weekends and I’ll take a two hour journey home in the early hours if it means I can sleep under my own duvet.

But depression and anxiety have made my relationship with it a little more complex. There’s lots of great writing out there about the impact of depression and associated medication on sex – Jilly Boyd and The Shingle Beach are both worth reading on the subject – and I’m not sure I can add anything else useful to the discussion, even if the Fluoxetine has undoubtedly diminished both my desire for and my ability to orgasm.

What I can tell you is that, when your bed becomes the place you retreat from the world, a place where you go when you’re at your absolute lowest, it makes it harder to also keep it somewhere you want to make yourself come. The blanket fort is a curse as much as it is a blessing – yes, I can go to bed at 20:40 on a weeknight and the softness of the sheets and the sheer relief at not having to face another minute of the day will make me feel better, but that comfort is short-lived. By 1 a.m. I’m invariably awake again. My body thinks it’s morning and the anxiety cranks back up as I lie there in damp sheets and try desperately to find a cool spot with my feet and to persuade my mind – still too sleepy and distracted to focus on anything useful like reading – to drift back off. It takes at least an hour, and when the alarm goes off in the morning, I’m no more rested than when I went to bed, despite having laid there for pretty much twelve hours.

The first time I was diagnosed with depression I read Sally Brampton’s Shoot the Damn Dog, which I would highly recommend to anyone suffering with mental health issues. I seem to remember her talking about spending her lowest points not in bed, but sitting on the bedroom floor, in the gap between bed and wardrobe. That makes sense to me: it smacks of lack of self care, for one thing (I’ve been known to come home from work, sit on the sofa in my coat and stare at a blank TV screen as the night plunges the room into darkness; on other occasions I cried hysterically while supporting myself against a doorframe. I wrote this, loosely inspired by that time.) But also, it captures the rapidness with which depression can side swipe you and the need to reduce the world to the smallest possible area when it does, in order to be able to breathe. If I get as far as my bed when I feel that shit, in some ways I’m doing well. But it doesn’t feel that way when I get up for work the following morning having spent nearly all my free time horizontal. At that point it feels like a failure.

Advertisements

My Erotica Library Top 5: An Introduction

IMG_4438I spent most of May 2007 hidden away in one of the reading rooms of the university library. It was the year of my finals, and the year I finally learnt how to revise. It turns out, if you’re reading literary criticism, revision doesn’t have to mean reading the same stuff you covered earlier in the year all over again. You can read new stuff, which is way more exciting, and copy out quote after quote onto A4 lined paper.

I’ve been a sucker for snippets of text ever since. Or maybe even prior to that, I’m not sure. When I read Kristina Lloyd’s Undone last summer, I wished I’d had a pencil to hand and that I’d underlined the bits that tapped straight into both kink and cunt. There were lots of them.

But I don’t read erotica that way. I don’t often read it two-handed at all, actually. But I do mentally file it that way: which is the story with the guy in the hoodie, the one where the description of the bar makes me weak at the knees, the one where the word snog seems perfect, not incongruous?

And I’ve been wanting to put something together on this for ages and ages, pretty much since I wrote this post and Kristina Lloyd said she enjoyed it and she’d like to see more like it. I’m not good at reviewing erotica, because it’s so rare for me to enjoy a story because character and plot and voice all come together. More often it’s because a single line connects with something fleeting and shadowy inside me, but you can’t guarantee that the same line will cater exactly to someone else’s kinks.

IMG_4436

In the end, I remembered something I did as a teen, and decided to try and kind of recreate it. At the time, I was reading a lot of Mills & Boon, and saving for a copy of Romance Writing for Dummies. In the meantime, I bought something great terrible great: The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book. And it truly is both great and terrible all at the same time. It’s basically a reference book of what it refers to as ‘tags’ or ‘short, one-line descriptions so skilfully tucked into dialogue and laced through the narrative that they usually escape notice.’ And given that the skill in writing category romance is being able to write to a tight brief and match reader expectations with very few surprises, it knows exactly what it’s doing. It contains such gems as ‘she tingled as he said her name’ and ‘her eyes held a gleam that no makeup could improve’ (always one of my favourites). My best friend and I used it to improve what could only really be described as fan fiction about our crushes at the time. Pity my GCSE French teacher, who was once described with the line ‘the smile in his eyes contained a sensuous flame.’

IMG_4437

Good erotica doesn’t work like category romance. There are no guidelines about the hero’s expected income, the heroine’s sexual inexperience or a requirement to have a slick, big city setting. You can have a list of requirements in your head (e.g. cunt = good, pussy = bad, fuck = good, shag = bad) and you’ll almost always find examples that force you to reconsider. There’s no room for a dictionary of accepted, surefire phrases here, right?

Hmm, kind of. There are three things that I often stall on when I’m writing: kissing and orgasms, both his and hers. If a description doesn’t sound like it’s been used a thousand times before, I might like it for a day or two only to reread the draft a few weeks later and think ‘Jesus, what *was* I thinking?’ So what I needed was a reference bank that I could go to when doubting my own voice – a reminder that different authors describe these things in all kinds of ways and that words can work in ways you would never have even dreamed of.

It seemed to make sense to tie this post in with Erotic World Book Day. Because I only remembered this fairly late on, I’ve had to sweep through my collection of erotica slightly more briskly than I originally hoped. What I’ve come up with is three separate posts, each containing my top five descriptions of the following: kisses, male orgasm, female orgasm. Eventually, I might add a BDSM one and potentially others in the future. The plan is to update them as I read new stuff; these are not fixed lists of favourites, and stuff will be removed and replaced as I encounter more great erotica in the months ahead.

Doing this has been an interesting activity: yes, I’m open to a variety of writing styles and situations, but my kinks shine through in my choices. Semen features heavily in the male orgasm list; women who aren’t ashamed of how they sound when they come or are changed by the sex they’re having appear several times in the female one. The kisses vary much more than the other two lists – there’s a bit of everything from soft and gentle to hard and bitey, with some beautiful juxtaposition of ‘kissing like swooning lovers’ and fucking a near stranger. It’s an eclectic mix, hopefully.

I want it to serve a number of purposes. Inspiration, when my words dry up. A thank you, to all the great authors who continue writing in what I see as increasingly challenging market conditions. And a forum for recommending excellent reads to one another – please do share your favourite lines from what you’re reading in the comments section, either here, or on the posts themselves. I can’t wait to see what you pick!

My Erotica Library Top 5: Male Orgasms

‘Her sex was soaked with their come and she felt it trickle down her legs. She slowly pulled up her trousers and retied the cord. Sofina did not want to wipe away the memory of their brief time together. It prolonged the pleasure to so intimately carry him about with her. She held on to anything of him that she could. These were stolen meetings.’

S.M. Taylor, Forbidden

‘There’s hair in my mouth and I try to spit it out, which seems to make my pussy clamp down on Clark’s dick. Who knew?

“Yeah, Becky.” He’s whining against my ear, so hot, wet. His words are everywhere. “Fuck yeah, Beck.”

Giselle Renarde, If You Know Where to Look

‘He hurt her some more, fucked her some more, sank into her throat, then came on her tits. He dragged her to the mirror so she could see what a whore she was.’

Kristina Lloyd,  No Sleep

‘He didn’t ask if I wanted to swallow. He just tightened his painful grip on my hair, shoved his cock deep and shot into my mouth. Come poured down my throat, overflowed past my lips and dribbled down my chin. I sucked and swallowed as fast as I could, drinking in his pungent, briny semen. Nothing existed for me but the sound of his coarse words and the feel of him as he jerked and came.’

Lydia Hill,  Tryst of Fate

‘He curses, groans and then pulls out. The splatter of his come lands on my ass and he whines like a wounded creature and collapses against my back. I shiver, find his hands and pull them more tightly around me.’

Laila Blake, More Light

My Erotica Library Top 5: Female Orgasms

‘My fingers rub his cock through the thin and magical membrane that separates my two holes, and he makes a dark and secret noise that sets me off. I can’t catch myself before I’m coming and chanting, “Oh, Jason. Oh, baby. Oh, God. I mi-”

– Sommer Marsden, Smokehouse

”I’m coming,’ I gasped, right on the edge.

‘Go on,’ he said. ‘Come on me. Come on my cock.’

I whimpered.

‘Little slut,’ he breathed. ‘Come on me.’

– Kristina Lloyd, Split

‘Head back, legs spread, I come hard, screaming like a talon-gutted rabbit, thighs quivering. My boy lifts his face from my wet crotch, his lips and the tip of his nose shiny with my juice.’

– Gina Marie, Seasonal Affected Disorder

‘I’m quickly overtaken by my own orgasm, pulsating and spreading out from my cunt all the way up my spine and into the base of my brain via delightful vibrations that echo out into my fingers and toes. I clumsily fall back onto the linoleum, staring at the tiled ceiling until I hear the creak of his desk chair.’

– Rachel Woe, The Art Teacher

‘She would come, violently, with more guttural sounds than she’d ever made before, the scream of an animal being torn from familiar territory and flung high and hard. Her body was loosening, unravelling, fucking itself into the strange cold night with a man she’d never met before. It was like discovering a whole new city, there under the bridge.’

– Nikki Magennis, A Whole New City

A single girl and her sex toys

As I’ve said many a time here, I’ve been single forever, and so inevitably, one of the most important relationships I have in my life is with my sex toys. Except, ahem, I say ‘sex toys,’ but this is another area in which I’m completely monogamous, so let’s revise that. Sex toy.

I have had a number of vibrators over the years – from my first rabbit, which I had sent to myself overseas when I was working abroad on my gap year, to my Hitachi magic wand which I bought a couple of years back and *hated* (yes, seriously – I prefer my fillings not to vibrate, thank you very much). I used to want to run Ann Summers but I’m over that now – recently I’ve decided that running this would be dream retail career. My absolute favourite vibrator I replaced three times – it was a bog standard Ann Summers clit stim, that took a single AA battery (because seriously, that’s the golden rule of vibrators – make sure you’ll always be able to replace the batteries at the all night garage) topped with a soft dolphin whose purpose I could never quite figure out. In fact, I’m pretty sure its purpose was negligible because it always broke off in the end and I can’t say I enjoyed the functionality less. I didn’t replace it because of the broken dolphin, either, I replaced it because the strength of the vibrations always ended up breaking the lock on the battery compartment, which apparently, is why Ann Summers eventually discontinued it. Luckily, the amazing Sh Women’s Emporium now sell this one, which is pretty similar, except for the silly rabbit sleeve bit, which is like putting a cover on a hot water bottle (hot water bottles and baths should be scorching hot, and vibrators should be powerful without anything in the way to dull the sensations).

It does other fancy stuff that the Ann Summers one couldn’t do too, like knowing how to breathe underwater (by which I mean it can survive underwater, obviously!), but I’m not interested in any of that fancy functionality. As soon as I bought my first vibe, I lost interest in making myself come in any other way than with a toy, on my back, in bed. In many ways, it’s not a problem – I can come that way in less than 5 minutes which is helpful not only when I’m horny but also when I’m knackered but have a lot on my mind and can’t quite drop off to sleep. The other day, the boy challenged me via text to come in less than 90 seconds, and I nearly managed it – only afterwards did I realise that I think he meant me to use my fingers. But then, I wouldn’t beat cake mix by hand, so why would  I choose to make my life more complicated in the bedroom?

The issue comes from the fact that I have pretty much entirely forgotten how to make myself come using just my fingers. If a guy tells me to touch myself during sex, it makes me less likely to come, not more – I find that my fingers get in the way of his thrusts and it throws me out of the moment, because I always expect it to take ages. But it makes it harder for him to make me come that way, too, and that is something I’d like to change, because much as the pursuit of my own orgasm is one of the least important aspects of sex for me, I miss the fact that guys using their fingers no longer feels as good as it used to when I was still a desperately horny teenager.

So, single girls with a love of toys, I guess what I’m asking is – how do you avoid losing your touch?