Condoms: fictional contraceptive of choice

I’ve written several times (here, for example, and here), about why, in real life, I’d always rather be on the pill. I like semen. I like spontaneity. I like intimacy. To a certain extent, I think condoms interfere with the enjoyment of all those things. But in erotica? In erotica, I think they come in to their own.

There’s been a lot written by erotica writers about whether we have a responsibility to write condoms into our sex scenes, a responsibility to write safe sex. That is not the purpose of this post: this is less what about what we do through obligation to reflect best practice in real life, and more about how condoms can actually serve a fictional purpose.

In fiction, you can almost argue that the pill is the contraceptive of deceit and stability (almost, because right now, helpfully, I can’t think of any specific examples – I thought Gone Girl was one, only to be reminded that what Amy does is worse still.) It’s the form of contraception that women ‘accidentally’ forget to take, or the one they make an active decision to stop taking when they want a family. It feels, to me, more about conception than sex.

Condoms, and other barrier methods, on the other hand, are visceral – though condoms more than say, the diaphragm, since they’re on the outside of the body, not the inside. The pill, the coil, the implant – they’re intellectual decisions, made in a GP’s surgery, out of the heat of the moment, separate, really, from desire. The rip of that foil packet? It screams desire.

The sheer physical presence of the condom is a great device in fiction – I made my own attempt at writing that here, but it’s better shown, I think, in Kristina Lloyd’s Asking for Trouble, which is my go-to novel for demonstrating how to do stuff well – not least because unlike my fictional take on condoms, it has actual sex! Condoms recur throughout this novel – they’re symbolic…

‘Just a sec,’ I said, and scurried to get a condom from my desk drawer. That had been a real treat for me when I’d first moved in: hiding little condom stashes here and there, making every room in the flat a potential fuck zone. No more having to worry about other people. The whole place was mine.

… but that symbolism works on a very real level …

When he withdrew, I saw the rubber wrinkling on his prick, its teat drooping with liquid. I just hadn’t felt it. I guess my vagina wasn’t concentrating. Thank God one of us is in control, I thought.

There’s so much in those three sentences. The comedown from the out-of-control desire that fuels this sex scene is captured in ‘drooping’ alone, but the fact that Ilya, the hero, puts on a condom despite Beth not realising, and that she goes on to frame that as ‘Thank God one of us is in control’ foreshadows the way that she relinquishes control to him all the way through the novel, and it’s all captured in one perfectly written piece of latex.

Symbolic objects in fiction fascinate me. And condoms lend themselves perfectly to symbolism, whether your characters use them, or whether they don’t. It’s why a blanket insistence that we include them just to remind readers of the importance of safe sex denies the writer, and the reader, so much damn potential.

 

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Self-summary

I rarely have to force myself to edit down my words online. I’m verbose in reality, but less so on paper, and more often than not I find myself struggling to meet minimum word counts than to come in under the maximum.

Here, I know who I am, because I’m honest, but honest in the moment: what I say is true today, but it might be less so tomorrow. That said, the blog isn’t everything I am, either: it’s love, anger, disability, MH and food – all things that matter, but make up a fraction of the ‘real me.’

Of all the things I hate about internet dating, the self-summary is high on the list. Is it easier to be able to say as much as you want, OK Cupid style, or to be confined to 500 characters, à la Tinder?

So, how would I summarise myself? There’s the stuff that’s true every day: that I won’t have seen that film you’re talking about, that I live on chocolate and wine, that I’m Charlie almost as much as I am RL me, that I have a disability, that I sometimes struggle with anxiety, that I chat, a lot, that I love books, bath oil, and words, that I want children, and hugs, and long walks in the rain.

But there’s also the stuff that shifts. And, as this excellent piece by Jilly Boyd proves, the little details of someone’s life are often far more fascinating than the bigger picture. Some days, I’m a Dairy Milk girl, other days Galaxy. My signature scent is Dior Pure Poison but at the moment I flirt with YSL Opium every time I go in John Lewis, because it matches the way I feel right now. I’m the book on my nightstand, the recipe I return to again and again this month, the track on permanent repeat on my phone, the short story floating around in my head.

I’m all of that, but on Tinder I’m a ‘sometimes scary-seeming, but actually super-soft feminist, working in publishing, baking, writing, and learning to run (badly!) in my spare time.’

It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written.

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***COMPETITION: LIPPIE***

Remember Polished?

Well, I thought it might be time to do it all over again, and I mentioned it to Kristina Lloyd, who has a great new anthology out, and she suggested a fresh take: lipstick.

I’m not a big wearer of lipstick, so instead of my own collection, this competition will be based around the names of classic MAC lipstick. It’s simple – if you want to enter, you drop me a DM, I’ll select a lipstick name for you at random and you write a piece of erotica using that lipstick name as a title. Sound familiar?

There will of course be a prize, the full details of which are yet to be confirmed, but which will definitely include a signed copy of Kristina’s anthology when it’s released in paperback. In addition, I’ll donate £1 to Refuge (up to a maximum of £30) for every story entered – and you can enter more than once.

If you’re tempted, here are …

… the Rules…

(1) Your story must be a piece of erotica and use the name of the lipstick allocated to you as, or as part of, the title. The more creative the story, the better.
(2) The post must (obviously) be your own work.
(3) There is no minimum length for posts, but they must be no longer than 1500 words.
(4) You may request more than one lipstick name and submit more than one story, but you must submit a story for every lipstick name you are allocated.
(5) You must post the piece on your own blog and link back to this post in order for your entry to be counted. If you’re having trouble with the link, DM me or drop me an email and I’ll add your post to the list of entries.
(6) If you don’t have a blog, but would like to enter, I’ll also consider stories sent via email (my email address is here)
(7) The competition closes at 23.59 GMT on Sunday, October 11th. Any entries submitted after this point will not be considered.
(8) You consent to me linking to your post in a list of all the entries once the competition has closed.
(9) Should you win, you are happy to share your mailing address with me (and Kristina!) for the purpose of sending your prize.
(10) The competition is open internationally.

If I’)ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know…

Charlie xx

On Rape Fantasy

TRIGGER WARNING This post contains information about sexual assault, rape and rape fantasy, which may be triggering.

‘No,’ I said. ‘Not now. This isn’t playing. You’re for real because you’re sick. You’re a cold, twisted bastard and you’re scaring me. And I’m for real because I’m scared. I want to leave.’

He carried on pumping his cock. ‘Are you saying no, you don’t want me to fuck you?’

‘Yes,’ I breathed. ‘I am.’

‘And are you saying no, you don’t want me to force you?’

I nodded.

Kristina Lloyd, Asking for Trouble

I remember the first time I saw someone tweet ‘I want someone to rape me.’ It was in context, insofar as the person who tweeted it regularly wrote about dark fantasies and non-consent, but it bothered me. Even in context, you couldn’t guarantee someone would make the distinction between fantasy and reality; when the tweet was out there on someone’s timeline, with no context at all, it seemed risky, irresponsible even. You didn’t admit to stuff like that unless you were absolutely certain who your audience were.

Rape fantasy is top of my fantasy list in the sense that it’s rare for me to masturbate to orgasm without imagining being forced into sex, sex with a stranger, or more often than not, a combination of the two. As I teenager, I frequented the non-consent/reluctance section of Literotica. I find it hard to lay my hands on erotic fiction that’s dark enough for my tastes (more on that later) – Asking for Trouble is very much the kind of thing I’m into, to the point where I lend it to partners in order to explain my kinks, but I don’t think a mainstream erotica publisher would touch it if it was being pitched today.

I’ve never been sexually abused/assaulted in real life and I recognise that I’m incredibly fortunate in that regard. I’ve also come a long way in my understanding of the impact that reading about rape or non-consent can have on people who have experienced those things – years ago, I bought Asking for Trouble as a gift for a friend who lent it to her friend, who had been sexually assaulted, without having read it first. These days I’m not sure I’d buy it for/lend it to anyone without warning them about the nature of the sex first. I’m entirely pro trigger-warnings. But here’s the thing, I think trigger warnings are a good thing for literature because they allow people to evaluate the content without having to read it but from a purely selfish point of view, there’s something else potentially great about them: they allow authors to take more risks. In theory.

I say in theory, because unless you self-publish (and even then, I imagine rape might be a problematic keyword on Amazon), I can’t see publishers wanting to print rape scenes that are not explicitly fantasy. That’s one problem. The other, I think, is making rape work in a narrative. There’s some good rape fantasy writing out there – Sweet Danger by Violet Blue contains several great stories on the theme – but 75%+ of the time, it follows the same pattern. The main character is forced into sex, sex they do not consent to, but end up enjoying. So far, so good. Except at the end, we almost always find out one of two things: either the character’s ‘rapist’ is actually her partner, or someone else she knows and has previously consented to/expressed a desire to be raped by. It’s rape fantasy in the truest sense.

I’ve had trouble piecing together the next bit in my head, so bear with me. Obviously, rape and rape fantasy are not the same thing. No one actually wants to be raped. But because almost all stories about non-consent now take the format detailed above, I can no longer suspend my disbelief sufficiently to believe that the FMC hasn’t consented to what’s happening at some point previously, which will be revealed later in the story. The whole thing is an entirely consensual set up. Which kind of takes the edge off. For me, anyway.

So, what do I want from rape fantasy in erotica? I’m not entirely sure I know. Not actual rape, obviously. But something darker, something scarier, than a well-thought out arrangement between an established couple. Rape fantasy gone wrong interests me (and turns me on, often), but when I’m writing it myself I still feel obliged to stop short of actual penetration, for fear of crossing some unspoken boundary.

Is there an answer? Are there good examples of what I’m looking for (in erotica or mainstream fiction), that I just haven’t come across yet? And if this is your kink or s subject on which you enjoy writing, how do you get round the issues above. I’d be interested to know, so, as always, comments are more than welcome.

The Fallen Woman

‘I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet and falling head first into the office.

Double crap – me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr Grey’s office, and gentle hands are around me helping me stand. I am so embarrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up. Holy cow – he’s so young.’

– E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey

I didn’t get that worked up when Ana fell at the start of FSoG. According to a friend, that was as it should be.

‘Bella is clumsy in Twilight. That’s the whole point.’

Maybe it is the whole point of Twilight. I don’t know. I haven’t read/seen it. What I do know, though, is that Ana’s clumsiness is completely fucking irrelevant to Fifty Shades.

I’m not sure that E L James thinks it is, however. I think E L James thinks it might be how Christian spots that Ana would make a good sub. After all, there’s lots about BDSM that confuses E L James – the fact that it’s not born out of a disturbed childhood, the fact that the love of a good woman can’t ‘cure’ somebody of it, and the way no fucking helicopter can make up for the fact that nowhere in the book does Ana suggest she might have submissive leanings.

Anyway. I wasn’t that bothered at the time because it was just a book. Not a book that had sold millions of copies. Not a book that had changed the landscape of erotica. Just a book. And then this happened:

He sank into an elegant crouch in front of me. Hit with all that exquisite masculinity at eye level, I could only stare. Stunned.

Then something shifted in the air between us.

As he stared back, he altered … as if a shield slid away from his eye, revealing a scorching force of will that sucked the air from my lungs. The intense magnetism he exuded grew in strength, becoming a near-tangible impression of vibrant and unrelenting power.

Reacting purely on instinct, I shifted backward. And sprawled flat on my ass.

– Sylvia Day, Bared to You

I’m a big believer in the power of chemistry. But I can honestly say I’ve never sprawled on my ass due to a guy’s ‘elegant crouch.’

I did a bit of Google research earlier this year, when I first started thinking about this. Surely, I reasoned, women falling must be an established trope in romantic literature. I couldn’t find anything. And then it occurred to me that maybe falling/injury is a modern update of this:

“MY DEAREST LIZZY,—

“I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones—therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me—and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not much the matter with me.—Yours, etc.”

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness—if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Romance relies on a weak heroine almost as much as it does an alpha hero. In the past, illness was enough to create a situation in which the hero and heroine are thrown together. These days, it’s harder to convince the average reader that a woman ‘needs’ a man, and so romance does everything in its power to recreate that situation of old. There are various approaches – the heroine can be pregnant, sick, young, poor or just plain clumsy. Because if she doesn’t need rescuing, the author is (ostensibly) breaking the pact they have with the reader.

I’m a cynic, but I was a sucker for Mills & Boon in the past. I loved these women who needed saving so much, I didn’t just read them; I made some shoddy attempts at writing them, too:

He knelt beside her and kissed her gently. She opened her eyes and gave him a sleepy smile. “Bedtime?” he asked.

She nodded, but made no attempt to move. He stood up and gathered her into his arms. She kicked off her stilettos and snuggled up against his chest. He handed her the warm mug, and headed for the stairs.

In their bedroom, he sat down on the edge of the bed and set about undressing her. He slid the straps of her satin dress down and placed her briefly on her feet so that she could step out of it. He unsnapped her suspender belt, removed her stockings and unclipped her bra. As he pulled her white cotton nightdress over her head, she gave a contented sigh, still half asleep. He pulled back the duvet and laid her down.

I think I excelled myself with that particular piece (in my defence, I was eighteen when I wrote it). The FMC has a minor case of being a bit tired, but it affects her so badly that she gets carried upstairs by the hero, undressed by him, and even ‘laid down.’ She couldn’t be more passive if she tried.

Looking back, it wasn’t the passivity that attracted me to writing these kind of women. It was the bodies that they’d need for these kind of scenes even to work. Women who get carried up to bed must naturally be willowy and feather-like. Not only that, I think I thought they were also easy women – if you could simply scoop a woman up and literally put her exactly where you wanted her to be, she wasn’t exactly going to cause you many other problems. And god, I wanted to be that kind of girl.

Luckily, I’ve grown out of that. A bit, anyway. But I’m still writing women who fall.

Falling is seriously grim. I know that not only from my own extensive experience, but also because I’m hyper-alert to other people falling. When I did the Moonwalk back in May, I witnessed a horrific one – an elderly lady tripped over a tree root and gained momentum as she attempted to right herself. Just as I thought she’d regained her balance, she went absolutely flying. And the smack of body hitting concrete, of other people’s gasps, they bring back every fall I’ve ever suffered. I hate seeing it almost as much as I hate doing it.

So we have to stop writing falls as though they’re romantic. They’re not. They’re painful, humiliating, scary. But those things can all be sexy. There’s one particular scene that’s stuck with me from Unfaithful with Richard Gere and Diane Lane, where she falls and we see the aftermath as a series of vignettes designed to foreshadow the risks and pain inherent in the affair she’s embarking on. She eases her tights away from an oozing graze. There’s a flashback to a boiling kettle hissing as she does. It’s all a bit predictable, perhaps, but it turned me on.

I’m fascinated by cuts, grazes, bruises. And not just the ones caused by kink, either. Watching skin knit back together, or blood bead, waiting to spill. The stickiness of it as it clots. The metallic, iron-rich taste of it. I completely accept that these things won’t work for everyone, though. They’re fairly dark, I guess.

Essentially I feel much the same about falling as I do about disability. We need to write it, to see it in the media, to acknowledge that it’s part of many people’s reality. It’s not kooky, or adorable, or cute. What it could be though, if we wrote it well, is really, really fucking hot.

Anal, WHY???: On contemporary, literary, semi-autobiographical, women’s mainstream (erotic) fiction

And I told you that the main reason I didn’t see you, was because I was lost in my thoughts of you. This pleased you immensely. You had guessed as much. You could tell, you said, by the way my eyes stared, the thoughtful set of my mouth, that I was thinking about what we had done in the Chapel in the Crypt. The arrogance of this assumption annoyed me then and I rolled on my back on the bed, away from you, and tried to back-track, claiming I wasn’t thinking about you that day in the cafe after all, that I was thinking about the introduction I had to write to a new university textbook, a collection of essays taking a wide-ranging approach to molecular biology. You knew I was lying. You rolled on top of me, pinned my arms above my head with one hand and dug your fingers into the soft part of my waist with the other until I admitted I had been thinking about you, you, you …

Louise Doughty, Apple Tree Yard

What have I read so far this year? Lots, I think, or certainly more than in the last few years. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve read more that has stuck with me. Apple Tree Yard, by Louise Doughty, Hausfrau by Jill Essbaum, The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall, In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume.

All have sex scenes. None are erotica. Truth be told, I’ve never really *read* erotica, I skip to the good bits and use them purely to get off. These days I might read more erotic short stories from end to end, as a way of learning the craft, but full (novel) length erotic fiction that holds my attention and brings me to orgasm? It’s harder and harder to find.

My earliest memory of getting off to words is not tied in with erotica, or even with a classic erotic scene such as the ones you find in anthologies like this. My earliest memory is of being aged around twelve, and of being allowed to stay up in my parents hotel room while they went for dinner and my sister slept in our shared room. I can’t remember what the book was called: it was a typical holiday paperback belonging to my mum – white glossy cover, ridiculously middle class protagonists – and the bit that I remember most is that when the FMC had her first child, a girl, her husband bought her pearls, when she had her second, a boy, she got diamonds. It was a sexist, dated, pretty crappy read, no doubt. None of the details of its (one) sex scene have stayed with me. But I do remember lying on the bed on my stomach, reading it over and over again. Of course, you could argue that what gets a twelve year old girl off is unlikely to titillate a grown woman. I think there’s some truth in that, although there have been plenty of mainstream novels with sex that both drives the plot and tries to be sexy. Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong; Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I’ve not wanked over either of these, but if I wanted something to wank over, I could just go to Literotica.

I class my own work as erotica because it has sex in almost every chapter. But it has sex in almost every chapter because endless publishers’ guidelines and other successful erotic novels have led me to believe that that’s what the reader wants. My natural inclination would probably be to include more sex than in the average non-erotic novel, but less than in the erotic fiction that’s out there on the shelves. I didn’t start out writing erotica, but I did start out writing sex: my first novel, which currently lies abandoned, opens like this:

Hope turns her head, hoping for a kiss. Her lips part eagerly and in the puddle of milky light from the street lights outside he can see her pupils are huge with desire.  He traces a tender finger across her lips and over her soft cheek and then bends to kiss the delicate valley of her collarbone, breathing in the faint scent of patchouli and rose oil that lingers on her skin.

He loves how everything about her feels so familiar.  Her breasts, small and pert enough to fit exactly into the palms of his hands, her tiny waist, the way the silver ankle bracelet that she always wears jangles as she moves.  Coaxed by his fingers, she grows wetter and wetter for him, but for the first time in their relationship, he feels nothing but cool detachment as her knuckles whiten, grasping the sheet as the heel of his palm presses firmly against her clitoris.

I’m a big believer in the school of thought that says that sex can reveal a lot about character, that it can change the relationship between people, that it can drive the plot forward. I’ve never wanted to write sex for the sake of sex, and I’ve never thought that my own writing was particularly hot. As a result, I agonise over what each sex scene is *telling* the reader about the characters, rather than whether I think it will turn them on. Right now, I have a post-it stuck to my desk which says ‘Anal. WHY???’ Not because I don’t enjoy anal sex, but because it’s currently in the story purely because I *do* enjoy it – it doesn’t develop or change the relationship between the characters or move the plot forward in any way. I, as a writer, think that’s a problem. Judging by the mood among erotica writers, the average reader doesn’t.

Like Malin James, I write to understand the human (or at least my own) experience. And because in RL, sex has taught me a lot about human experience, I write about sex. I’m struggling with my current novel for a number of reasons. Firstly, because like the other writers who’ve written on this topic – Tamsin FlowersRemittance GirlSessha Batto – I struggle to see where my work slots in to the market. Secondly, because it’s so strongly autobiographical – it’s me trying to understand the relationships I’ve had and the sex I’ve had within them. On my blog, that seems to work for people. Whether it would work for them in print is a whole other matter. The third reason is the one I gave above – that I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to structure and build a satisfying novel and that’s not a hallmark of most erotic fiction out there at the moment. And lastly because I’m wondering if I only started writing erotica because I’m lazy.

What do I mean by that? Obviously it’s an over-exaggeration – I care about plot, about character, about language – so I can’t be *that* lazy. Or maybe by ‘lazy’ I mean under-ambitious or just plain scared. I’ve always wanted to have at least one book published and when I started writing, Black Lace were still commissioning the old-style way: with a page at the back of their books inviting potential authors to send off for their submission guidelines and to submit their work. They made it sound easy, especially in a world where for almost every other genre (category romance aside) submitting direct to the publisher was a no-no: you’d need an agent first and finding that sounded hard enough, without even contemplating the fact that they’d then have to sell your novel on.

I think I was also scared off by the limitations (or not) of other genres: the book world seemed a true Goldilocks arena. Writing literary fiction allowed me to write the way I wanted to write, but I worried that it wasn’t intelligent enough, or conversely that it was too intelligent and therefore self-indulgent. Women’s fiction, when I started out, meant chick-lit, which I’d grown to hate, and although I think things have improved a bit, I still hear authors like Helen Walsh complaining that the publisher slapped a ‘chick-lit cover’ on their work, against their wishes, because it allows them to target the right audience. Chick lit, erotica, and romance all want the HEA. I don’t write HEA. Mainstream, contemporary fiction, which is probably where I should be aiming, just seems impossible: everyone, whether they’ve been published or not, seems to be talking about how ‘no one is buying anything right now.’

The benefits of erotica not requiring an agent have been totally lost: submission guidelines are no longer guidelines in anything but name: they’re requirements, and strict ones at that. Erotica has gone the same way as category romance: there’s undoubtedly a skill in being able to write to a tight brief, but building that skill is my day job, not the reason why I write fiction.

I’ve been contemplating these questions for weeks now and the more I contemplate them, the more the writers’ block sets in: I don’t know who I’m writing for any more, or what they want: we’re all taught that convincing plot and well-rounded characters are what matter to the reader, and I think we’re all trying to do our best for them, but honestly? That’s not what they want any more, or not from smut, at least.

And so for now, I’m trying to get back to writing for me. I like hanging out in the erotica community, so that’s where I’ll stay, but I doubt it’s where I’ll publish. But essentially, I think we need to stop worrying: there is a (big) market for well-written fiction with the bedroom door open, we just need to stop thinking we’re not good, or mainstream, enough to be part of it.

Postcard Flash #01: New Biology

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I’m blogging more than I have in recent weeks, because I think writing breeds writing, and I miss it. I have a box of postcards depicting vintage Penguin book covers and I had no idea what to do with them – I’m not a big sender of old school mail. And then I remembered F Dot Leonora’s Sticky Note fiction, and wondered if I could do something similar. Pick a postcard at random and then write a piece of erotic flash inspired by the title on the card. By linking it to Kayla Lord’s great meme Masturbation Monday, I hope i’ll be inspired to do it on a fairly regular basis. This is my first attempt. I hope you enjoy.

Semen was to High School what strangers were to Primary: *the* thing to be afraid of. After all, you could get pregnant even if he didn’t come inside you. So at first she made the mistake of thinking she craved his come because it was transgressive, the same way she craved unknown sex in dark alleyways. The sex was good, even with condoms – he knew how to tilt her hips just so, and she came more easily than she ever had with anyone else. But her own wetness coating her skin afterwards wasn’t enough – she wanted to know what it would feel like mixed with his. ‘How long?’ she wondered. How long did you have to have been fucking before you could talk STD testing and alternative methods? He seemed to know what she wanted, asked if she’d like him to come in her mouth, on her tits, her face. And it was close to what she’d hoped, but not quite there. So she got tested, without telling him, went on the pill. When she told him, he had a surprise for her too: his own clean results. In the weeks that followed they fucked bareback time and again, and with the trace of him inside her, she learnt something new. Semen was indeed the source of new life – it made *her* feel alive.

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More Masturbation Monday here…

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My Biggest Fan

There’s been a post about talking to my dad about sex on my to-write list for a while, now. But, although I find it weirdly easy to talk to my dad about sex, it’s less easy for me to work out why. So bear with me.

What prompted this post today is, well, Father’s Day, obviously, but also this tweet by @Juniper3Glasgow, and her blog post about her dad, too.

My parents know I write erotica. They know I have a sex blog. My mum says: ‘Do you think one day you’ll write a different genre?’

My dad says: ‘I went for a drink with N the other night. I told him you’ve just had an erotic story published. He asked if he could read it?’

No. Not this time.

There are two problems with the story I’ve just had published. One is that it’s deeply personal. The other is that my bio has a link to my blog, and thus not only the details of my sex life, but also my Sinful Sunday pictures. They *definitely* don’t need to see those.

If I ever get something published that’s less personal, would I let my dad read it? I don’t know. It’s not the sex that I think he might judge, but at the moment he thinks everything I do is great, and he’s the fussiest audience I’ve ever met. Whether it’s film, TV or books, he prefers indie, European, generally pretty bleak stuff. Would my writing match up to the quality of what he’s used to reading? I doubt it.

But, there’s a benefit to that, too. If he thinks something is good, he’s always shared it, with little concern for age-appropriateness. He let me watch 9 1/2 weeks at age 15, and I, in turn, a year later, lent him my copy of Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales, which is pretty filthy. Sex is not a topic that’s off limits. I’ve explained sex positivity to him, and the pull for me of writing erotica, which is best captured by Guy New York’s book Write ’till You’re Hard:

‘Sex is a natural way to look at self-discovery, and it’s one that is often overlooked or ignored. Mostly because we’re afraid of sex, and there’s a giant stigma against erotica as being a non-serious genre. Which is a load of shit. Sex and relationships are at the center of all our lives…’

My dad’s family shy away from physical affection and touch, as well as talking about feelings. He couldn’t really be more different. I grew up believing it was ok to ask for hugs when you wanted or needed them, that it was ok to cry (whether you’re male or female) and that men suffer from anxiety and fear too, and that doesn’t make them any less of a man. It was a good grounding for a feminist take on the world.

I have a box in the cupboard stuffed full of letters from my dad. He writes every couple of months, always on headed paper, only ever writing on one side, always asking more questions about my life than he tells me stuff about his own. We speak too, regularly, but there’s something about those letters. A lesson about writing, perhaps. That it’s worth it, that it matters, that it’s not a waste of time. Whatever genre you choose.

Just missionary: why *anyone* can write a sex blog

It looks like I had it all planned out, doesn’t it? I think I’ve even gone so far as to claim in an earlier post that the whole ‘(of sorts)’ thing was designed to let me write about anything I wanted because I don’t believe that there’s any reason to split blogs into strict genres. It’s almost believable.

Except it’s actually bullshit. The real reason I tagged the qualifying bit on the end is that I’m so clearly *not* a sex blogger – six sexual partners, five of them for one night only, a fear of receiving oral, a flirtation with a d/s dynamic that wasn’t even a thing when I started writing SBOS – I wanted to write about sex, but I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.

Where am I going with this? Well, I read this post by Girl on the Net earlier and started thinking about which of my posts get the highest hit rate or number of retweets. It’s harder for me to tell than her – the majority of my posts have similar figures – but without a doubt, two types of posts get retweeted more than others. The sex ones and the ones in which I write about my relationship with my body.

But you’re not reading me for the filth. The sex I have, d/s dynamic or not, is pretty vanilla. My love life is a car crash, but I hope you’re not reading me for that reason, either. I hope you’re reading me because you can relate. I hope you’re reading me because I try to capture the mundanities and the day-to-day dramas of my life as much as I do the ‘Wow!’ moments.

One thing I’ve learned in the course of blogging is that I don’t want to document all the sex I have, and certainly not in public. Generally I’ll write about sex for one of two reasons: because a particular detail is haunting me, or because I’ve learned something about myself. If I wrote about every sexual encounter, it would leave you cold. Fucking can be as dull to read about as anything else.

If Girl on the Net gets the urge to do any more stats analysis, I’d be really interested to know how the posts about her relationship stack up against the really filthy ones on throat fucking and the like. Because I’m a fan of both but it tends to be the ones about navigating the realities of life with her partner (including the sex they have) that stay with me the longest. And again, not because my reality is in any way similar, but because I’d rather there was one cock, one cunt and an insight into the emotional dynamics behind the sex than three cocks, tits everywhere and a face covered in jizz at the end of the post.

If it sounds like I’m slagging off posts about the kind of sex acts the majority of us might never try, I’m really not. Hell, I’d never have stood in uncomfortably damp knickers in the queue for security at Gatwick if it hadn’t been for this post. It’s just that I wish there were more sex blogs out there and I wonder if what puts people off is not just the thought of putting the most intimate aspects of their lives out there for the world to read about, but the fact that they don’t think they’re having the right kind of sex for a sex blog.

There’s no kind of right sex for a sex blog. If you want to write about it, there’s a good chance I’ll want to read about it. Even if it’s just missionary.

Disabled characters: who do I really write them for?

A few months ago, I tweeted about the huge disparity in follower numbers between the @EverydaySexism and @EverydayAbleism Twitter accounts. And somebody random came back to me and said something like ‘Well, there are lots more women than there are disabled people.’

I accept that that’s true to an extent, but probably less so than you imagine. Factor in all the people with invisible disabilities, who tend to get ignored, and I bet the number shoots right up. Plus, it’s a pretty fucking limited view of who can care about these issues, isn’t it? Only women give a damn about sexism and only disabled people fight against ableism. And yeah, sometimes it feels like that. Which is a good enough reason, in my book, to pepper my erotica with my own experiences of disability. So that other people, able-bodied or otherwise, get it. That they see the challenges, the unexpected triggers, the psychological battles. I’d like to say ‘so they see that disability can be hot,’ but if I’m being totally honest, I often don’t care whether readers think what I write is hot or not – I just desperately want to share my own experiences.

I’m currently writing a short story featuring a disabled female character, with the intention of submitting it to an anthology. The character in question is freaked out by a physical challenge that would seem relatively insignificant to anyone able-bodied, but it’s a big deal to her. In this particular case, she overcomes her fear, but I don’t want that to be the narrative of every story about disability that I write. It’s just not realistic. But my biggest problem with this story is that she overcomes the fear with the help of a man, she doesn’t manage it all by herself. And in today’s climate of sex-positive, strong women, that feels like a failing.

The pressure I feel to write strong women, a pressure that causes writer’s block like nothing else, is equally applicable to characters with disabilities. In the story I’ve just had published in the For Book’s Sake anthology Tongue in Cheek, the (able-bodied) FMC cries during sex:

He’s losing me, and he knows it. Neither of us can gain enough purchase here on the cushions for him to up the tempo of his thrusts and re-centre me in the moment. So he takes me upstairs, and we fuck like we’re fucking, not kissing, and I give up the pretence completely and start to cry.

Until recently, I’d have found it hard to write a disabled character who cried during sex and not feel like I was perpetuating myths about disabled people being weak. But the truth is, if we write disabled people who are all happy and cool about their disabilities, who’ve dealt with all their issues, and are basically disabled only in a physical sense, we’re doing people who identify as disabled a massive disservice. I think the able-bodied world is often guilty of holding up as role models disabled people who’ve achieved way more than the majority of us could ever hope to – Paralympic athletes for example. While I find what they do hugely impressive, I can’t relate. Partly, it’s about finding it easier to relate to people whose condition is very similar to my own and whose strengths are similar too (Conservative MP Robert Halfon, for example, who mouths off about anything he feels strongly about). But it’s also about feeling immense pressure to be above average – I’ve done it in some areas of my life, and it frustrates me hugely that my body prevents me achieving what I’d like to physically. I want to write erotica that shows it’s ok to be weak, to be scared, to be angry. Because I think those are universal emotions – felt by able-bodied people as much as disabled people, men as much as women.

But universal though the emotions I’m writing may be, the writer’s block on the novel continues. Weak, scared and angry might be ok in a 3k short, but they’re pretty relentless in a full length piece. When I posted an extract on here, I got detailed feedback from several people who I like and whose opinion I trust. One pointed out that the female lead was clearly me, and that that was a risk – no one expects to get 100% positive feedback on a novel and I’d have to be prepared for readers to potentially criticise or dislike a character who is a barely veiled version of myself. And because she’s a barely veiled version of me, she spends the majority of the novel beating herself up. I’m not always sure I like her: how can I possibly expect readers to?

Perhaps readers won’t like her, but if the novel does get published, it should be a pretty good sign that some, at least, do. All my hang-ups when it comes to writing are not caused by other people’s opinions. They’re caused by my own. *I* worry that to turn to a man for support when I’m scared makes me weak. *I* worry that a heroine with a disability that she hasn’t fully come to terms with can never be sexy.

I write to make disability less scary. I write to reduce the stigma that surrounds it. I write to show that you can be disabled and still be sexy.

But right now, it’s not readers I’m trying to convince. It’s myself.