Sexual Pleasure in Fiction

What would happen if novels were rewritten with the sexual stories included? Not just included as an afterthought, but as important narrative devices. Having sex or BDSM play is typically a crucial component to developing romantic intimacy. If we want to see our characters fall in love or lust, let’s see it all. Show us flesh, skin, sensation, and heart. What day of the week was it? How did their skin taste? Where did this happen? And let’s just call it fiction, rather than compartmentalize get it by naming it smut.

What would the iconic dyke coming out novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, have looked like if detailed, lascivious sex was included? What if Molly and Loeta’s night together didn’t end teasingly with “And I soon found out”? In Molly’s torrid affair with Alice, sex was described as, “Alice steamed and shook and sighed…she loved being touched and she loved touching back”, but I longed for a more visceral description of sexual pleasure and bodies, instead of this delicate hint. Sensuous yet explicit sexual guidance would have soothed many a baby dyke’s nerves and provided affirmation of her sexual self-worth. Internalized homophobia would begin to dissipate.

Fiction that includes explicit sex is categorized in several ways, and the major ones are erotica, pornography, artsy, and erotic romance. With the possible exception of artsy, none of these categories are viewed as having any literary merit and are often scorned. The exclusion of sexuality and bodies in fiction perpetrates sexual shame and leaves us without fully realized literary role models. Although this lack of modeling in fiction is problematic for all people, it is particularly problematic for anyone struggling with their gender identity or their sexual orientation.

At what point does fiction cross the line from fiction to erotica, pornography, or erotic romance? How many explicit sexual acts, say blowjobs, are permitted per book? Does it make a difference if the blowjob is mentioned fleetingly, or if it is described graphically? What if it is described sensually or using metaphors? Does it make a difference who is sucking who? Do silicone or trans cocks automatically make it a sort of situational smut, even if the blowjob is the smallest fraction of the story? Is smut the narrative of sex without life, making fiction the narrative of life without sex? Why do we compartmentalize our lives, subtracting such a primal and basic pleasure from art? I believe that we censor pleasure from fiction due to a conglomeration of religion, shame, and power. If the power of sexual pleasure were shown and was culturally acknowledged without shaming, the world would change.

What would happen if sex was not compartmentalized in art or life? What if it wasn’t the dirty, private, faintly shameful function that it so often becomes? Could novels include realistic depictions of sex, side-by-side with the rest of the storytelling narrative? I long for that expansion of fiction, the inclusion of sexual pleasure.

Sex and sexual attraction are powerfully primal. Is that why we are reluctant to depict it? Romance novels sometimes depict sexuality in all its fleshy glory, but I am not interested their narrative tropes. I found such tropes as the powerful hero, the inexperienced younger woman, the millionaire, broken birds, and the rescue a turn-off at worst, and uninteresting at best. Then there’s bad boy fiction such as Henry Miller’s, but that sex was too misogynistic and gloomy.

These are some of the questions that I asked myself before writing Behrouz Gets Lucky. Like most of us, sexual pleasure is crucial in my life. I start many days with masturbation and an orgasm, have ended romantic relationships when the sex didn’t work, and stayed in relationships past their natural expiration date because of amazing sex. I’m 61 years old and hope to be having orgasms until I die.

I knew that I wanted to treat sex with as much importance as any other action in my book; a blowjob had to include as much detail as morning coffee and conversation. I wrote a list of sexual and BDSM situations that I wanted to include in the book, making a sex storyline. Then I added a nonsexual storyline to the sex storyline. Behrouz Gets Lucky was the story of a kinky, sensual couple’s courtship, from their first date onwards; if I glossed over the sex, it would not be realistic.

It is important to tell our stories, the ones that we hold in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. This is how we know that we aren’t alone, and how we build a world where sexual pleasure is given the dignity and respect that it deserves. Silence and shame do not beget sexual healing. As writers, we need to begin the habit of incorporating sex into our fiction. As readers, we need to ask for it! Ask our favorite authors where they’ve hidden the sex, ask librarians and bookstore owners for fiction with depictions of sexual pleasure in their plots, write reviews on Amazon and Good Reads commending books that are inclusive of sexual pleasure and asking for it in books where it is missing. This is how we change the world, orgasms flanked by grocery shopping, walking the dog, and grousing about the rising cost of living, one book at a time.

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The Butch Lesbians of the 20s, 30s, and 40s Coloring Book is Here!

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It’s a whole gaggle of very grownup butches! The Butch Lesbians of the 20s, 30s, and 40s Coloring Book has arrived – 38 fabulous butches plus 11 pages of bad-ass butch history!

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Service Tops…Myth or Reality?

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I’m a bottom who frequently jokes around that I’m looking for a service top. I‘m not proficient with American colloquialisms, have a tendency towards word invention, and have never been heavily involved with the leather community. This means when I blithely throw around terms like “service top”, I’m usually in my own private Idaho. I’ve come across a slang term and personalized it to suit my purposes. What is a service top anyway?

When I start whining that I want a service top, usually I’m tired and lonely. I want a kind-hearted, proficient, and energetic top to mysteriously appear in my apartment, beat me senseless, and then fist me until we both collapse in a sticky puddle of come and sweat. I want a top who gets off doing this, who needs to control the scene and beat me, as much as I need to be submissive and beaten. I want a physical and emotional connection between us, albeit for just a few hours. I don’t want to plan it, don’t want safe words, don’t want to be in control, and don’t want to be passive. There is an enormous difference between submissive and passive, however that’s entirely another blog post.

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Butch Coloring Book Sneak Peek!

We’re getting closer to submitting the Butch Lesbians of the 20s, 30s, and 40s Coloring Book to our printer! Here are a couple of sneak peeks of two of our fabulous butches by artists Dorian Katz and Tyler Cohen.

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Local artist Dorian Katz outdid herself with her drawing of mononymous, superbly dressed and exceedingly eccentric butch painter and artists’ activist Gluck (1895 – 1978), AKA Dearest Grub. A self portrait of Gluck with her lover, Nesta Obermer, was used as the cover for Radclyffe Hall’s dismal, but groundbreaking novel, The Well of Loneliness.

 

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The arch artistic comics powerhouse Tyler Cohen, drew Buddy Kent AKA Bubbles, for the butch coloring book. Buddy was a sweet-faced baby butch bartender, who occasionally stepped out from behind the bar to metamorphize from Buddy into Bubbles, starting out in a top hat and tails, then stripping to reveal femme burlesque attire. Buddy told famed lesbian historian Joan Nestle in an interview when Buddy was 70-years-old, “When I finished people didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl because I was quite slim and very flat.”

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Language in Genderqueer Fiction & Smut

typingI’m genderqueer, and when I wrote Behrouz Gets Lucky, I was determined to write about pronouns, sex, and naughty bits the same way that I live them and think about them in my personal life. I knew that the majority of my readers might find this confusing at first, but hoped that they would become enthralled enough in Behrouz and Lucky’s courtship and story to get on with it and learn how to translate this unfamiliar language.

Like many genderqueer people, I am comfortable with any pronoun; they, she, and he. I also think of my body in a multiplicity of gendered terms, depending upon my mood, what I’m doing, who I’m with, whether the moon’s full, and what I’m trying to express. Sometimes I have breasts and sometimes I have a chest. I have a cunt, a cock, and a clit. despite my wishes, I don’t really have it all.

I never have a pussy or balls. To me, “pussy” is reminiscent of 1990s Penthouse magazines; pink, airbrushed, neat flesh attached to women with massive blond hairdos and excessive manicures. “Balls” remind me of the stinky, hairy fragility of that delicate body part…hardly an appealing image. I know plenty of people that adore “pussy” and “balls”, but see “cunt” as demeaning. I love “cunt”; it’s directness and strength, I know one transgender men that calls his breasts his chesticles, because sometimes we need to invent words when the available ones are insufficient (although I didn’t realize this was an actual colloquialism until I typed it here and spellcheck let it be!) To my total dismay, my gynecologist once called my cunt a mangina, I nearly slipped out of my stirrups. I know transmen who use mangina comfortably.  Many transmen call their vagina their front hole. There’s a galaxy of terms for naughty bits!

We’re all different and our choice of vocabulary is not attached to ethics. In other words; cunt is not bad. Pussy is not bad. Balls is not bad, and so on. Since my protagonist Behrouz was genderqueer, I assigned most of my personal preferences to them, although to my regret, Behrouz was never comfortable with female pronouns. Everyone is different though; I’m not representational of all genderqueer folks. My way is not the only way.

I was fortunate with my readers. One was a middle-aged gay man, the other was my 84-year-old lesbian aunt, and they had differing responses. This was helpful.

My aunt is vanilla and a retired librarian, writer, and editor. She used to be a lesbian separatist, thinking that dildoes and vaginal penetration were patriarchal tools to devalue women. I shuddered to speculate what her views on BDSM might have been back in the sex-negative, conservative 1970s. My fears proved to be groundless. She loved my book, but had questions about both the pronouns and way the vocabulary for naughty bits changed from scene to scene. Based on her feedback on pronouns and the way genitalia are named in the story, I chose to write a foreword for my book talking about my linguistic choices.

My gay male reader is also a close friend and a co-worker, so I’d broken him in to my flexible pronouns and views of my anatomy over the course of several years. He adopted quickly, not letting the unfamiliar get in his way of enjoying the book. I felt encouraged by his ability to incorporate my linguistic flexibility into his understanding of the characters and the narrative.

After Behrouz Gets Lucky was published, I ended up getting enthusiastic feedback from Bay Area genderqueer folk about my language. They were grateful to see themselves reflected in fiction, specifically in how I named the body.

To my bewilderment, my book was heavily promoted by my publisher to straight romance blogs, despite the fact that it features an almost all queer cast, and contained a significant amount of kinky sex amongst the courtship and domesticity. A straight romance blogger from Romancing the Book reviewed Behrouz Gets Lucky. The reviewer confessed that she started reading my book nervously, not sure what to expect, “OK, lets get the whole gender identity, male, female, ying, yang thingy out of the way. This book pushes boundaries and forces the reader to let go of what they feel is male-female and throws traditional values out the window. My values and how I feel were never threatened, but they were gently challenged.” Other reviewers were not so kind; Behrouz was confusedly identified as a gay man by one reviewer, and several were disgusted by the queerness of it all.

My advice to other queer writers is to be bold. Write how you are in the world. White how you wish to be in the world. Despite the current wave of conservatism, don’t forget that there is a corresponding wave of resistance. Be the resistance.

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