Archive by Author

For Love and Money: On Paying for Companionship

20 Jun

It’s not always about the Benjamins.

By Alexa Day

Making the rounds in my corner of social media is the story of Heidy Pandora, a 24-year-old who says she is a full-time traveler. After her first trip to Mexico, she discovered she loved seeing different parts of the world. But travel is expensive. In fact, the hefty price tags kept Heidy from exploring the world as much as she wanted to.

Then she found MissTravel.com, a website for travel dating. In other words, Miss Travel connects people interested in journeying to a specific destination. Women can participate on MissTravel for free. Members propose a trip, connect with someone else interested in visiting the chosen locale, and then arrange to travel together or meet up at the destination.

Heidy says up front that she has sex with some but not all of her travel companions, and that some of them are married. She says she prefers the married guys because they’re less likely to become emotionally attached. She’s about getting stamps in her passport, not a ring on her finger.

She’s also serious about not paying to travel with the guys she meets online. MissTravel requires members to upload a photo (something all dating sites should do, in my opinion), and it allows members to state a preference not to pay for trips.

It bears mentioning that site founder Brandon Wade is also the founder and CEO of SeekingArrangement.com. SeekingArrangement, geared toward sugar babies and the folks who support them, touts something called Mutually Beneficial Arrangements. The fact that they’ve trademarked the phrase basically sums up the nature of the site.

The headline for Heidy’s story calls her a sugar baby. I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization. Heidy is meeting up with people who will pay to travel with her, with the possibility of sex along the way. For her, the travel is the point. For the sugar baby, it’s all about the money. Money flows directly to the sugar baby, and so far as I can tell, the sugar baby’s relationship is far more likely to be sexual.

The concept of sex as currency makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but women have been exchanging sex for things of value as long as there have been women and things of value. If we want to be cynical about it (and I do, thanks for asking), we might describe much of the history of marriage as the exchange of sex for things of value. I think it’s just uncomfortable for people to be confronted by it. We might all be happier if the sugar babies and paid travel companions were plying their trade quietly, where we can’t see it, instead of in social media. At the same time, there’s a reason — perhaps an ugly reason — that billionaire romances were doing so well until the events of last winter.

I’d tell you to hop on the Maestra bandwagon, but no way these folks use a bandwagon. Click to buy.

Heidy’s story reminds me of Maestra, a novel Elizabeth Shore recommended not long ago. Heroine Judith Rashleigh enters a world of paid companionship and finds herself very much at home, even when she’s on the run, among wealthy people who sweep her up into their world. Judith just has to know her place and do as she’s told, and off she goes from one exotic locale to the next, gathering cash along the way. But Judith is capable of much more than her comrades know. The inner play of her emotions and her motivations, sometimes quite at odds with her outward appearance, makes for fascinating reading.

(By the way, two of us at Lady Smut have now granted their imprimatur to Maestra. If you grab it now, you’ll be ready for the sequel, Domina, when it comes out next month.)

But what to make of the paid companion and her somewhat seedier sister, the sugar baby? I had a difficult time coming to my usual position, to let a girl do what she wants as long as she’s chosen to do it and isn’t hurting anyone. Heidy’s been to 20 countries in three years. A high percentage of sugar babies are leaving college debt free, a thought that makes this attorney whimper wistfully. And even we call this prostitution, as some sugar babies do, the feminist in me says that if a woman owns her body, she should be free to sell it.

Still, something about this makes me uncomfortable.

For the right woman, clearly, arrangements work.

But how does the wrong woman discover that’s she’s not cut out for the world of pay for play?

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll keep it casual.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

Loving, Fiercely: Fifty Short Years

13 Jun

I bow to the Loving Project, both for this image and for their spectacular coverage of Loving Day 50.

By Alexa Day

Yesterday, June 12, 2017, was the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which made interracial marriage legal across the country. Loads of adorable interracial couples took to the Internet yesterday to thank Richard and Mildred Loving for their determination to defend their marriage against long-standing state law. This super-cute gallery is from last year, but couples turn up every year to smooch and be thankful.

Every year, someone asks me the same question.

“Alexa, are people still opposed to interracial marriage? After all this time, is that still a thing?”

In fairness, I have not heard that question yet this year. Maybe current events are answering the dubious for me. Nothing like hearing that some specimen left a noose at the National Museum of African American History and Culture to convince a person that yes, Virginia, people do still have an issue with racial equality.

But I’m going to approach this question squarely and honestly, by asking all of you to approach this question squarely and honestly. Take an objective look at the world around you.

Consider that 33 years after the Loving decision, Alabama finally got around to taking their anti-miscegenation law off the books. Consider that somewhere out there, someone’s first thought was that if the law was invalid anyway, why shouldn’t it hang out on the books for 33 years?

Consider that in 2009, there was a justice of the peace who would take the time to determine if a couple was interracial before refusing to marry them. In 2009. You might recall that the President of the United States at that time was the product of an interracial marriage.

And consider the many, many people who still endure hostile stares, snide remarks, ignorant questions, longstanding arguments with their families, and the occasional bold stranger who demands to know why they’ve chosen to marry outside their race. This will seem odd in a world where Richonne and a black Bachelorette and the golden days of Scandal are fresh in people’s minds. But in the real world, out there on the sidewalk with you, someone’s mom is being mistaken for the nanny. This happens all over the world, every day. Hip hop artist Eve, athletic goddess Serena Williams, and Prince Harry’s honey Meghan Markle have all had to take questions about the intersection of their racial identities and their love lives, and I promise that if it is happening to the three of them in the public eye, someone you know is having to deal with nastier questions.

So how do we fight this?

How a man looks at his wife is one thing. How he looks at the camera is quite another.

Take a lesson from Richard Loving. This is my favorite photo of him, with his arm around his wife. Mildred is smiling at someone off to our right, perhaps in the middle of a cheerful conversation about something other than being at the center of this court case.

Richard is looking right at us. His is the face of a man who knows his job is to keep his wife smiling, who takes his job very seriously, and who dares a nation of lookie-loos to make something of it.

Tell the Court I love my wife.

Or, if you’ll let me put frank language into his mouth: Fuck you. We’re happy.

How do we beat bigotry?

Choose happiness. Do it consistently, especially when people seem determined to make trouble. I can tell you from experience that this is harder than it sounds. One can only hear ignorant questions about what the sex is like or what everyone’s parents think so many times before wanting to flip out.

But today, we are much closer to a world where no one takes issue with marriage equality because of two ordinary people who wouldn’t back down. The least we can do is follow their example.

Love fiercely, my friends. And follow Lady Smut.

Speaking of loving fiercely, esteemed colleague Elizabeth SaFleur has a new release this week. Lucky is about a different sort of opposites attracted to each other, but my guess is that you can count on more BDSM in Lucky than in the average Supreme Court opinion. Click to score your copy of this super hot book about two people accustomed to getting what they want.

Click and go get it!

Billionaire, entertainment investor and resolute bachelor Derek Damon Wright and dance studio owner Samantha Rose are unprepared for their mutual attraction to one another. She desperately wants to have a baby, and family doesn’t match Derek’s sophisticated life of private jets, vacations in the Caribbean and his BDSM activities. Yet a magnetic passion draws them closer—at least until their past mistakes arise and threaten all hope of a real future.

All of the Above: Can Romance Play the Field?

6 Jun

What’s wrong with this picture? Not a damned thing.

By Alexa Day

I’m reading a book right now in which the heroine enjoys the abundant sexual charms of three partners. My guess is that she’ll eventually choose one of them — the cover for the next book in the series features two guys instead of three. But right now, she’s making no move to settle down.

The book is Taking Turns by J.A. Huss, and the heroine has an agreement with the three men. There are a number of stipulations, but once I heard that their arrangement basically entailed their putting her up in a nice apartment to take turns sleeping with her, I knew this was a story I needed to have.

It is romance’s most binding promise: the heroine will win, every time.

We can be sure that at the end of the story, she will be in a good place in her relationship, whatever that might look like. Maybe she’s getting ready to settle down with one guy. Maybe she’s establishing a relationship with a couple of guys (or more) in a relationship unit. I don’t object to that. Not really.

But this week, a troubling question tugged at my imagination.

Is the heroine winning big enough?

Put another way, why choose? Whatever happened to D: all of the above?

The modern romance heroine is a smart, successful, attractive woman. In the 21st century, a woman like that could — and honestly, ought to — have her choice of men. Indeed, more than one man would certainly be interested in her. But the modern romance heroine has less reason to settle down than ever. She’s at the top of her game, and she probably knows it. Why should she ever limit herself?

Even if she ultimately decides to choose one partner, why shouldn’t she take full advantage of what men have to offer first?

Chella is LIVING THE DREAM. Click to get some of that good stuff for yourself.

It’s important to note that this is neither menage nor polyamory. Both menage and polyamory involve multiple partners, yes. But in both situations, the men are aware of each other and have consented to share. They’re in a unit. Choosing menage or polyamory is settling down.

I’m talking about playing the field, in all its springtime glory, for as long as men will permit it. I’ve written it before. The heroine of Illicit Impulse has a bestie with benefits and an object of her more chaste desire. And in “Three, After Midnight,” the heroine enjoys a night of bliss with the spirit of her deceased husband, who’s borrowing the body of a hottie she seduced for that purpose.

Where’s the fun in limiting a fabulous heroine to one man, right? Why not let her have as much as she wants for as long as she wants to have it and her partners are willing to supply it?

I think there’s a group of romance readers who want, need and long for a heroine who is desired by many men, and who is determined to enjoy her status for as long as possible. I think romance readers need to know that in our abundant world, their heroine is free to lick as many men as will permit it. Their heroine doesn’t live in a world of masculine scarcity, and neither do they.

Consider Scandal in its golden days. For a long while, Olivia Pope thoroughly enjoyed the attentions of the President of the United States and the enigmatic Jake Ballard. When they had the audacity to suggest she choose one of them, she laughed and said she chose herself instead. She went right on sleeping with the both of them for as long as they permitted it — until Jake decided he wasn’t getting what he needed from the arrangement and bowed out.

And I’m reminded of a formative experience.

Look at those eyes, pleading, “Pick me! Pick me!”

I saw Tequila Sunrise in the theater in 1988, when I was quite young and impressionable. In the film, restaurant owner Michelle Pfeiffer must choose between reformed drug dealer Mel Gibson and police lieutenant Kurt Russell. That might not be a tough call today, knowing what we know, but in 1988, that was not an easy decision to make at all. I’m proud to say that Michelle spent the entire movie trying to make up her mind, and when it was all over, I left wondering how I could become a restaurant owner.

If Tequila Sunrise has a moral, it was to tell this child of the 80s that she could, in fact, have it all.

There should probably be limitations. The requirement that each men know about the others is not just about informed consent; I think it actually keeps everyone at their sharpest and most competitive. And of course, everyone would be free to stop playing as soon as things stopped working for them. Even in “Three, After Midnight,” the wrestling coach who found himself possessed by an eager spirit exercised his option to back out.

But with that in mind, why shouldn’t a heroine explore as many men — and as many relationships — as she wants?

Is there room in romance for a heroine to find more than one happily ever after, with more than one man, in more than one relationship?

Is it time for D: all of the above?

Follow Lady Smut. We won’t make you pick a lane.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

Gentlemen Prefer Marriage: Emmanuelle de Maupassant and the Bonds of Matrimony

23 May

It’s a big step. And not for everybody.

By Alexa Day

The historical romance thrives on change. Evolution keeps it fresh as it provides all that candy historical fans love so much. The fabulous details, the excitement of past events, even those exotic speech patterns — it’s all wonderful. But if the historical romance weren’t making subtle changes to keep up with its readers, it might lose some of that popularity.

Consider the historical’s focus on marriage. Once upon a time, the historical hero was all about avoiding marriage. While he tried to keep his freedom, he found himself ensnared by the meek heroine, enchanted by the calculating miss, or surrendering to some constellation of circumstances leading him to the altar before he’s ready. Marriage ultimately suits him quite well, but the fun part is watching him learn that for himself.

Emmanuelle de Maupassant sets this convention on its ear in two of her stories, where the heroines spend most of the action taking a pass on marriage. Commitment doesn’t agree with them, and they’d do any modern lady proud with their insistence on independence.

A bachelorette party at *this* club? Your friends would never stop talking. Click to buy.

I mentioned The Gentlemen’s Club before, a while back, when I was talking about what a woman-owned sex club ought to look like. The heroine, Maud, is in charge of her male clientele’s erotic experience. Her shows and tableaux are designed to arouse them and to free women to perform. They’re in control of the male gaze. Men look where Maud tells them to look. Remember that line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding? “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck,” the heroine’s mother explains, “and she can turn the head any way she wants.”

Maud is the neck. And she knows it.

After a night of erotic humiliation, Lord Macaulay can’t forget Maud, and he’s obsessed with the idea of possessing her. First, he’s determined to subject her to the same erotic treatment, but before long, he turns to a remedy that’s always available to her. He decides he wants to marry her.

Maud’s work comes with any number of people who are interested in keeping her to themselves, but she has no real reason to get married. Her entire life lies outside Victorian convention. She has nothing to gain from marriage and a great deal to lose. She’d have to pass on her abundance of sex partners, and she knows that sooner or later, she’d have to let go of her life’s work.

Marriage? No thanks.

Being grounded has never been quite like this. Click and get your copy for free!

Highland Pursuits, Emmanuelle’s newest release, moves forward in time to 1928. The heroine, Ophelia, has declined an advantage marriage proposal, and her mother sends her to Scotland as punishment.

I know. I mean, I’m not a parent. But seriously, how is that a punishment?

Once in Scotland, at her grandmother’s castle, Ophelia takes in the wisdom of her elders, who enjoyed a variety of suitors before settling down into marriage with equals. They were able to marry happily because life experience taught them about themselves. Before long, Ophelia gradually surrenders her innocence to several other guests at the family estate. It’s not the predictable fuck-fest; she finds frustration, heartbreak, and jealousy alongside pleasure and excitement. But ultimately, she arrives at a conclusion that would displease her mother a great deal.

“I’m trying on versions of myself, she concluded, to see how they fit. Aren’t I doing just as a planned, exploring what it means to be a woman, without becoming a dreary wife?”

She’s got a castle, the opportunity to meet all sorts of men, and a hot, bearded widower who lives on the estate. There’s no reason to marry. At least not soon.

In another twist, the men of both stories seem attached to the notion of marriage. Lord Macaulay initially wants to marry Maud so that he can have her to himself — it’s the way marriage has worked for men like him since time immemorial. But as he guides his niece through the courtship dance, he eventually discovers that the way to keep Maud is to allow her to remain free. When they do come together, he can only promise to provide her with the opportunity to be her truest self, and Maud can’t resist the chance to expand her already broad horizons through an alliance with her favorite suitor.

In Highland Pursuits, Hamish believes in marriage for love, especially since he’s done it once already. He’s slow to open his heart again, and he’s no stranger to heartbreak. But he’ll only enter a relationship with Ophelia if it’s based on affection. A one-time dalliance is one thing for Hamish, but he won’t consider a true coupling without love.

I tend to be a cynic during the season of matrimony. Maybe I’ve attended one too many failed bachelorette parties. But Emmanuelle’s work is a balm to the hard-hearted, a glimpse at what marriage might be — and at how splendid life might be without it.

Highland Pursuits is free right now! Head on over right now and start your vacation in the wilds of Scotland.

And follow Lady Smut.

In Praise of the Wild Man

16 May

Be honest. Are you really that attached to civilization?

By Alexa Day

Civilization. It’s a nice place to visit, but living there has its ups and downs. So many rules. Conventions. And it’s insidious. You might not think you play by society’s rules, but if you have an opinion about the man bun, you are closer to society than you suppose.

Enter the wild man. The unprincipled savage. He might be a little unkempt — hell, sometimes, he’s downright filthy. But he can be a breath of fresh air.

You guys thought of Daryl first, didn’t you? Don’t lie.

Daryl Dixon, of The Walking Dead, is proof positive that the wild man has a hold on civilized lady viewers. Daryl doesn’t even exist in the graphic novels upon which the show is based. Indeed, he all but admits that his life before the zombie apocalypse was basically non-existent. No job. No purpose. And yet we threaten to riot if harm should befall this person with no history.

Daryl’s an unrepentant redneck, in the best possible way. While others whine about the quality of canned food post apocalypse, he’s good with a squirrel or a snake or half of a rabbit from a few days ago. And he takes some measure of pride in being filthy. Avoiding a long overdue shower in Alexandria gave him some pleasure, I think.

But we love the Dirty South’s dirtiest representative because he’s genuine. His code is his own. He’s not one to just say something to make a person feel better. (He lied to Carol once, sure, but he did it because he was the only one to recognize that she was too vulnerable for the truth.) He can relate to civilization without being swayed by it, so when he makes a moral judgment, people listen to him. And he has so little regard for polite society that it’s heart-squeezing to watch him getting attached to anyone. There might not ever be a place in our civilized world for Daryl. But when he makes a space in his loner’s heart for someone, it’s a pretty big deal.

Wilder than Daryl and yet inexplicably clean is the ultimate wild man, Tarzan. Unlike the redneck with the heart of gold, Tarzan was once part of high society. He’s chosen to spend his life away from civilization, both European and African, and make a solitary home for himself in the jungle. For the women of his day — well, for some of them, anyway — Tarzan presents a potent lure. He’s an attractive, virtuous man who won’t force them to respect civilization’s restrictive rules because he doesn’t live that way himself. He lives far from anyone who would judge, shame or diminish him, and his chosen mate would share that world with him. Everyone — well, almost everyone — wins with Tarzan.

Because Romancelandia is, above all things, a world of abundance, many species of wild men populate its pages. Bearded mountain men. Tattooed bikers. Bare-knuckled fighters. Shifters of all kinds and varieties. All guys with both the will and the ability to carry us away from the many, many pointless worries and concerns that fill our everyday lives, despite our best efforts. Once the wild man’s gotten hold of us, we’ll forget all about that nail appointment, or whether we might have worded that email differently, or if the chicken breast is going to defrost by the time we get home. Okay, he’s not the sort of guy to arrange for top-shelf bottle service at your local high-end strip club, and I definitely want to make that happen at some point. But once your savage boyfriend makes all those frivolous distractions disappear, who knows what wild ideas might take their place?

Might I suggest a little nude photography? One of my wilder adventures.

Click right here to get your vote on!

Speaking of wild adventures, this week is Suspense and Thriller week for the RONE Awards with In D’Tale magazine. My esteemed colleague Kiersten Hallie Krum is among the finalists for this year’s awards, with her book WILD ON THE ROCKS. Pop over to vote for her this week, and be sure to score your own copy of this hot story about a beach bartender and the SEAL who loves her. It’s only 99 cents. Isn’t that wild?

And because I want you to win something, too, make sure you collect our various wild confessions this week for a chance to win $10 in spending cash over at Amazon. You like spending cash, right?

Follow Lady Smut.

For the Good of the Party: Simple Steps to a Wild Bacchanal

9 May

By Alexa Day

I’m concerned about the state of the party.

Not that party. As far as I’m concerned, the politicos are a lost cause.

I’m concerned about the state of the house party.

The other night, I got to watch a documentary on George Plimpton. George was a man of many talents, a participatory journalist and one of the founders of The Paris Review. But he’s also remembered for hosting some pretty legendary parties. James Baldwin, Gay Talese, Allen Ginsberg, and the bright lights of Sixties lit fic pressed together on the couch, drinks in hand and laughing merrily.

Well, maybe not James Baldwin. He was glaring at the camera as if daring his fellow reveler to photograph him. I can empathize. I’m not big on being photographed, either.

I will concede that in the New York City of the 1960s, it was probably not all that difficult to throw a legendary party. I’ll also acknowledge that the line between literary salon and wild party was probably pretty thin at George’s place. My suspicion is that wherever two or three writers gathered, a party was likely to follow.

But I had to ask myself. Do we make parties like this anymore?

We’re right on the heels of the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Thousands of like-minded but delightfully distinct readers and writers enjoying loads and loads of parties, sharing the kind of memorable conversation that probably marked a Plimpton party. Parties like this are safe places to talk about what we’re reading and what we’re writing, without anyone asking to help with research or wondering when we’ll write “real books” or insinuating that “those books give us unrealistic expectations.”

They’re a sanctuary disguised as a bacchanal. How could that possibly be wrong?

Now, back in the real world, is it possible to preserve the magic of the wild party?

I have to believe that it is. It takes a little effort, and I’m sorry to say that adherence to rules is sometimes necessary. But I think you can manage.

What must you do? Read on.

1. Check your phones at the door. Some of you will resist, saying that you need to be in touch with babysitters and the like. (I’m presuming you got a babysitter. You don’t need me to spell that out, I’m sure.) I’m not so sure you need your phone as much as you suppose. You can always check in with it from time to time if you have to. If you have a Fitbit, as I do, your phone will tell you if it’s ringing. In any event, your phone is going to distract you, despite your best efforts. You’ll be more present for that intense conversation if you don’t have other claims on your attention.

2. Bring a stranger. The best parties promote the collision of worlds. Work friends meeting writer friends. Local friends meeting visiting friends. Friends of friends meeting each other. It’s too easy to get locked into parties with one group of people, people who have just one thing in common, people who all know you from the same place and in the same way. After that, it’s too easy to get locked into the same conversations. A diverse crowd of people is going to take that party to some deep and unexpected places after a while. To make this work, you as the hostess will have to make sure people are meeting each other. After all, these folks don’t have their phones, and they may be surrounded by strangers. But don’t worry. Introducing people might be a tough job, but before long, it will take care of itself.

3. Be patient. We live in a swipe-left-swipe-right world, and I’m asking you to talk with strangers. It’s a big change. Conversation takes time. It won’t always seem to be working. Modern society has taught us that we know each other right away, but the truth is that we have to invest a few minutes in getting to know another person without judging them. Find a few minutes.

4. Be honest. Deception kills parties. The great parties of old were great because no one had anything to prove to anyone else. I doubt seriously that Allen Ginsberg was holding back because he was worried about what Tom Wolfe would think of him. Be you, without apology. You’ll maintain that buzz more easily and get invited to more places.

One final word of advice. It’s not a good look to exclude people. Seriously, we would not have the story of Sleeping Beauty at all if Aurora’s parents had just invited Maleficent to the christening. Maleficent would probably have said no, but she would have very little in the way of legitimate grievance. People remember not being invited to a party. They will remember it for the rest of their lives, and they will not care even a little bit about why that decision was made. Trust me. It’s not a good look.

This brings me back to George Plimpton’s legendary parties. After fifty years on The Paris Review, George has moved on to the great literary salon in the world beyond this one, but the publication he helped create lives on in the 21st century. At the bottom of the page on The Paris Review’s website is a place to sign up for a newsletter promising to keep subscribers abreast of all the latest developments … including parties.

My heart made a giddy somersault as I plugged in my email address. Could it be this simple to join the in-crowd? Would The Paris Review newsletter counteract the emails I still receive from Snctm about their far less interesting get-togethers? I wondered what my first newsletter would look like.

But clicking the sign-up button brought me to, of all things, a MailChimp error page.

I was crushed. I could not believe The Paris Review was capable of such an error, despite what the grinning chimp said. Clearly, someone out there knew I was trying to get in and set up this elaborate scam to keep me from showing up in my cheap but comfortable shoes to defile the party with my coarse discourse. And once again, I had to be impressed by the effort required to make sure I stayed on the outside.

This would be a great place to quietly commit to throwing my own soirees. To outdo The Paris Review. To direct this disappointment into a much smaller sanctuary, disguised as a bacchanal.

And maybe I will someday.

But not before I find a way onto that mailing list.

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Hey, Girl, Sharing Is Caring: Why Sharing Secrets Is Cool, Sexy Fun

2 May

This couch is not big enough for five people. That’s just the way we need it.

By Alexa Day

By now, you’ve probably heard that Lady Smut is at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. Oh, yes. Right now.

You’ve probably also heard that we’re going to have a party on Wednesday. It’s called NEVER HAVE YOU EVER EVER. And it’s a chance for you to share your naughtiest secrets for the shot at some awesome prizes.

Some of you are uncomfortable with the idea of telling a lot of strangers your naughtiest secrets. You didn’t even need to hear what the prize was, although I’ll get to that at the end of the post. That’s fine. If I stand for anything on Lady Smut, I stand for your right to choose not to do anything you don’t want to do. And don’t worry, you will still have lots of chances to win something.

But I’m also big on making you answer the tough questions.

Today’s tough question is this: Are you sure you don’t want to tell a naughty secret? Not even one? Not even a not-that-naughty secret?

Just consider these ideas.

Secrets can be fun. Secrets are intimate. Secrets build relationships.

Secrets are sharing, and as you know, sharing is caring.

Let’s demonstrate with a fun game.

I want you to imagine me, your faithful correspondent, sitting in the middle of the world’s longest fainting couch. Kind of like the one above, but much bigger. Almost big enough for five grown people to sit next to each other.

On my left are two really hot friends. Let’s say Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston. In the past, they’ve played such fun games as “let’s kidnap Alexa with our super-expensive car” and “How to be Wicked,” and this will be much less risqué than either of those. Unless they don’t want it to be. I don’t know. I didn’t really ask about that.

On the right are two more really hot friends. Let’s say Ryan Gosling and Idris Elba. They’ve never played one of these fun games before, but like I said, this is not a totally inappropriate game like the others. In fact, I bet if Idris knew about our game, he would volunteer to play.

If you want, you can imagine your own fainting couch. Just pick your own hot friends, because these four are sitting with me. Come back when you’re ready.

Ready? We’ll start with Mark.

I’m going to slide over one spot to sit next to Mark, who wants to tell me a secret. Sharing a secret is going to require me to be physically close to Mark. Possibly close enough for our shoulders to touch. Or our thighs. Whatever makes you comfortable. I want everyone to be comfortable.

Mark is also going to have to put his face pretty close to mine so that I can hear him but Tom can’t. I created this couch, so it’s almost big enough but not quite. I’m not crazy.

And now Mark is going to have to lower his amazingly sexy voice to tell me whatever is on his mind right now.

Consider the warmth of that point of contact between me and Mark. Mark’s accent is curling around my ear. All the baby-fine hair on the back of my neck is rising toward Mark.

It almost doesn’t matter what Mark says at this point, right? I mean, I’m going to pay attention and everything, but the sheer physical giddiness of the secret itself is pretty compelling.

And I wouldn’t be so close to Mark if he didn’t have a secret to share with me.

Is your earspace going to be all warm and tingly from Mark’s secret?

Nope. Mark is sitting with me. But if you’re willing to hear a secret or two, one of your hot friends will do you the same favor.

Once Mark has wound up and I’ve assured him that whatever he said is in the vault, Tom decides that he needs to tell me something, too. This is perfectly normal. I mean, I have a face like that, but it’s normal for a person to seek out an especially trustworthy person for the disclosure of confidences. Sharing secrets makes you that trustworthy person. Just think about that.

It looks like fun and games to us, but Tom has a lot on his mind. You could be there for him. If he were not sitting with me.

Tom and I really are just friends. I think he’s a sweetheart, but I’m not attracted to him at all, and no, he cannot sit with you now because he is still sitting with me.

I’m going to be a little firm with you. You need to find four really hot friends who are not sitting with me.

Anyway.

Physically, I’m as close to Tom as I was to Mark. Similar point of contact, accent curling around the ear, the whole thing. I have to imagine that Tom is one of those guys who smells really expensive. Once Tom is done telling me whatever he’s got to tell me, he’s going to pat my knee in a we’re-friends kind of way and say, “Now, that’s just between us.”

Stop.

How did I get to be part of an “us” with Tom Hiddleston? I let him share a secret with me. Disclosure of confidences can make you part of an “us,” too. You want to be part of an “us,” right? Sure, you do.

But not with Tom. Tom is sitting next to me.

Be picking your own friends while I go sit next to Ryan.

Ryan and I have not been friends for as long as Mark, Tom and I have, which is to say that I have never involved him in one of these imaginary games. That’s actually just fine with Ryan. See, Ryan has something that’s wearing heavily on his heart. He wants to tell someone, but he’s concerned he will be judged.

Ryan’s best bet is to tell a total stranger whatever is bothering him so much. He doesn’t know that I won’t judge him. As far as he knows, there’s still a chance I will leap to some conclusion about him. But he thinks he’ll never see me again, so who cares what I think about him?

“Hey, girl,” says Ryan. “You want to hear something crazy?”

The answer to this question should probably always be yes. There are some exceptions, and they will leap out at you when they occur. But my advice is to say yes whenever you can and figure it out later. This is what has worked for me.

“Sure, Ryan,” I say. “What’s going on?”

And then Ryan purses his mouth up in that Ryan way and leans over to tell me whatever he needs to tell me so badly. We don’t know each other all that well, so we’re probably not as close together. But one only has to be so close to Ryan Gosling, right?

When Ryan has told me his secret, which is not as troubling as he thinks it is but would probably bother someone out there, he is in a place of vulnerability. It’s an opportunity for me to share some strength with him. Reassure him that I’m not shocked at all. I know he’s a good person. I’m sure no one will think anything about this. Then I’ll give Ryan one of my best reassuring hugs, and we will both feel better. One of us will feel a great deal better.

Want Ryan Gosling to hug you?

Too bad. Ryan is sitting next to me. I feel like we have to keep going over this.

Want your own hot friend to hug you? Open up. Tell your hot friend a secret. A secret can make a safe place for new friendships.

Before Ryan can get uncomfortable with the length and intensity of this hug, I’m going to let go of him and move over to Idris.

Don’t let Idris play this phone crap with you. He can sit on the couch like everyone else.

Idris and I are going to have a conversation first. I get the impression that he’s an open book. After all, he sent a picture of himself in a state of undress to the entire Twitterverse when he intended to send it privately to his girlfriend. He sought out some brutally honest dating advice from little kids. Idris probably doesn’t have anything buttoned up deep inside him.

This is good news for me. It means I get to tell Idris something.

“Hey, you know what?” I say.

“What?” he says.

Go back and imagine that again. Make sure you have the accent right.

“What?” he says.

Now, I have to initiate with Idris because it’s my secret. So I have to lean over and put my face up against his and whisper something to him. Something complicated. No need to rush through this.

Once I’m done, I’m going to lean back again. Then Idris is going to tell me a secret. Hey, why not? We’re all friends here. Let’s be friendly.

So Idris is going to lean over to share a special point of fact with me. Same point of contact, same curling accent, the whole thing. And why? Because quid pro quo. Show me yours. You know the tune.

Am I saying that Idris Elba will lean over close to you to whisper in your ear once you share a secret with him?

No. Are you paying attention? Idris is sitting next to me.

But you can find your own roomful of friends tomorrow at the Lady Smut Never Have I Ever Ever Ever event. Some of them are probably better with sharing than I am.

Not at RT this year? It’s cool. We will have lots of crazy, sexy cool things happening right here on the blog. I promise.

And if you’re not following Lady Smut already, now is seriously the time. Your secrets are safe with us.

Tiaras. Fetish toys. Tiaras. Smoking hot books. Tiaras. And goodybags for the first 100 people in line. It’s the Lady Smut Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever event. And it’s on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30.

You’ll be glad you went.

Raising the Bar: Romance Has the Right to a Better Attorney

25 Apr

Is Dean Strang the new face of romance? Maybe. But let’s find a sensitive way to tell him that.

By Alexa Day

I have not been a huge fan of the lawyer as romance hero. Part of my resistance comes from reality, I imagine. As an attorney, I spent a great deal of time around other attorneys, and nothing cures an infatuation with lawyers faster than constant proximity to them. No offense meant, of course, to any members of the bar who might be hanging out here with me.

A larger part of the problem is that romance is generally fixated on the wealthiest fraction of the legal profession. I get that part of the allure of the super-rich hero is the comfort and security of money. But the world is filled with women who have their own comfort and security. And way too many of romance’s bumper crop of well-to-do heroes are … well … domineering jackasses.

They’re trying to impress people. They think the money makes them important. Money might not buy them love, but it’s always good for securing obedience and deference, and they’re willing to settle.

There’s a suggestion that the billionaire hero is on his way out, which is fine by me. I won’t miss them terribly, and they can take their alpha lawyer friends with them. But there’s an opportunity to reform the lawyer hero. If reality drove me away from lawyers in romance, then it makes sense in this great circle of life that reality would bring me back to the bar.

The last 18 months or so have been very good for the real life lawyer hero. Last winter’s film Loving featured two of them, bright-eyed ACLU crusaders who went to the wall to defend Richard and Mildred Loving’s right to be married. 13th and Time: The Kalief Browder Story introduce a few more, good people motivated primarily by the need to set things right. Off screen, the bold men and women of the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center are enjoying a moment in the sun, garnered under dark circumstances. The lawyers on the front lines here are not rolling in cash. One has to borrow an office. Another seems to be working in a windowless room just large enough for his desk and two chairs. Filmmakers make it a point to describe public defenders as hard-working, talented practitioners facing an impossible workload. Social media outlets emphasize that good lawyers are a bright light in a dark world.

They’re passionate. They’re tenacious. They know everything about the troubles that keep their clients awake at night, and they’re willing to shoulder as much of that weight as they can. They consider it their duty to ease fears, inspire confidence, and keep moving forward. They inspire that most blessed of feelings: Everything is going to be all right now.

And the legal industry is filled with attorneys just like this. Shouldn’t there be more of them in romance?

Of course, as an erotic romance author, I have to mention the delightful fiction potential presented by the rules preventing lawyers from sleeping with their clients. So no matter how attracted we might be to one another, nothing can happen without some fairly dire consequences. Except for impure thoughts. Impure thoughts about the forbidden can always happen. That’s great news for romance fiction, honestly — who doesn’t love a hearty struggle with impure thoughts? Even under extreme pressure, it’s hard to avoid an impure thought or three for the person who can create the feeling that everything will be all right now.

Two things, and then I’ll leave you to consider where the good lawyers of romance are (or to tell me where they are).

Why haven’t I mentioned the lawyer heroine?

My experience is that we already expect the lawyer heroine to take on this nurturing role. I don’t think we have nearly as many rich, hard-charging female attorneys as we have family lawyers, guardians ad litem, and the like. On the one hand, it’s good to see so many characters in these important lines of work, but on the other, it’s always reminded me of the days when heroines could only be schoolteachers and nurses. The iron ladies of the law deserve love, too.

Finally, I imagine some of you are wondering how I’ve gone on for this long without mentioning Dean Strang. I haven’t forgotten Dean. I just think he deserves his own space.

Dean Strang appeared on the worldwide stage in the Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. He and his partner, Jerry Buting, take up the defense of Steven Avery in a murder case most charitably described as a giant clusterfuck. Dean is exactly the sort of lawyer the romance genre needs.

By the time he appears in the third episode, Dean is a reassuring presence. He’s not a physically imposing figure at all. He looks out at the world through big glasses, and his fashion choices made waves on social media for being ultranormal. (In fairness, he can successfully wear the color popularly known as buttercup. That deserves a nod from social media.)

As soon as Dean shows up, he understands what’s happening to his client and to the case immediately, and as a result, we feel safer, almost without knowing why. We learn that local law enforcement regards Dean with a respect that approaches apprehension. He is quick to call prosecutors out on missteps, and his attention to Avery’s alleged accomplice, a teenager who is not his client, is heartwarming.

The purity of Dean’s devotion to the justice system is untainted by any trace of naivete. He knows how things actually work and how they’re supposed to work. He believes in the highest possible standard but knows that he’s working in an imperfect world. To watch Dean work is to watch someone capable of deep love for a system that cannot love him back if it’s going to function the way he needs it to. He is intense and magnetic, and he has everyone leaning forward, just by doing his job.

He throws everything he has at the idea that the justice system should function effectively and that it’s his job to make sure that it does. His quiet fury, directed at those who are trying hard to subvert the system to protect themselves, makes the series work. Before long, viewers are showing up for Dean. The world seems a little hollow when he’s gone because we’re not so sure that everything will be all right.

Dean is surprised he has groupies. I’m not. I’m not surprised at all.

Romance doesn’t need more lawyer heroes. It needs better lawyer heroes.

It needs the man completely, but not blindly, devoted to justice. It needs the man who’s comfortable shouldering a client’s burden. It needs the man who has sacrificed wealth and comfort for limited funds and an imposing workload because his job saves lives.

It needs the sort of man who is surprised to find he has groupies.

Does this guy already practice in Romancelandia? Call him out in the comments and I’ll sit corrected.

In the meantime, follow Lady Smut.

Did you maybe bend the rule and touch your attorney? It’s okay. You can tell us.

Have you ever had mad monkey love on a motorcycle? A three-way in an alley? Been tied to a tree and made someone’s sex slave? Have you never, ever, never done any of this? Be rewarded for your naughty or sweet past and win crowns, fetish toys, books and more at the Ladysmut.com special reader event, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. at the RT Booklovers Convention. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

You Had Me At “Hi”: Scandal Goes Through the Looking Glass, People

18 Apr

But is it all a dream?

By Alexa Day

“For of all sad words of tongue and pen

The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

— John Greenleaf Whittier

Two immensely powerful words: what if.

They lead to a world that doesn’t exist, an imagined world where we have the chance to fix mistakes or indulge in every imprudent temptation we avoided in real life. “What if” creates a world full of adventures and devoid of regrets.

It can be a place to turn around, to get back on course.

Scandal needed to spend a little time in the World of What If.

By the time I stopped watching, Scandal had lost its way. It had drifted from tempestuous romance and outrageous plot twists into espionage and family dysfunction. Along the way, it shed lots of viewers. Not long ago, the series hit all-time low ratings.

But last week, for its 100th episode, Scandal spent an hour in the World of What If. Trapped between Fitz and Jake in a far less sexy way than I’d become used to, Olivia wonders how different her life would be if she hadn’t agreed to rig the presidential election for Fitz so long ago. It’s a tempting fantasy, even for one who’s had to decide between two men like Fitz and Jake, and she indulges in the daydream thoroughly.

At first it seems that things would be easier in a world where Defiance never happened. Without the presidency to support it, Fitz’s marriage to Mellie doesn’t survive. Without the presidency to impede it, Fitz is free to marry Olivia. Just a few minutes in, and the what if episode gives us estranged Scandal fans something we’ve wanted for a long time. We get a very stylish wedding, complete with a classic soul soundtrack. We’ve gone back in time to a place before B613, before the weekly Shonda-logue. We’ve returned to a Scandal with familiar faces gone too soon, long stares heavy with naked longing, and that greeting.

“Hi.”

This gratification is wonderful while it lasts.

Everything seems fine at first. It’s better than fine. It’s like all the things that chased me away from Scandal have simply been wished away. But while an alternate universe might change a person’s surroundings, it does little to change one’s character. Olivia still doesn’t know how to be happy in a relationship, and without the presidency, Fitz has enough time to worry about his place in her life. It’s not long before they’re fighting over something again, but this is not the familiar back and forth that drove me away from the series. This time, Fitz wants a divorce.

This still felt like good news to me, and not like before, in the prime universe, when I just wanted the two of them to stop talking to each other if they couldn’t be together. I was hopeful, at least partially because I didn’t want to let go of the daydream. Maybe, in this alternate world, they’d find their way back to each other, even if they only managed to stay put for the rest of the hour.

Alternate universe Easter eggs made the time pass quickly. Without black ops, Huck and Quinn are as close to normal people as their natures permit. Huck is more disheveled than his prime universe self, but he’s close enough to Olivia to walk her down the aisle. He’s a superfan of a Bachelor-esque dating show featuring his one-time prime universe sweetheart, Quinn. For her part, Quinn’s a believer in true love, happily ever after, and going down on Fitz behind closed doors. She’s in it for the attention, not unlike her counterpart.

Cyrus catches Mellie at a vulnerable moment, on the outside of the wedding, trying to peek in. Cyrus is still in the closet and trying to stay there, so when his pep talk with the heartbroken Mellie leads to a kiss, the opportunistic Cyrus makes sure that kiss leads to marriage … and later, to her very own presidential campaign. Cyrus has always wanted the Oval Office for himself. Running the country through Mellie would work just fine for him.

It’s crazy, soaptastic fun, loaded with twists and backed with a well-curated soundtrack. But no one stays in the alternate universe forever, and finally we travel back to Olivia and Fitz and their future, together or apart.

Fitz and Olivia actually manage a compromise, an agreement that has a chance of making them both happy. It probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise, right? There’s no sense in traveling to an alternate universe to make the same mistakes for the same reasons. But why are these two people coming together now? They still have the same hangups. I still don’t think either of them knows how to be in a relationship.

But Olivia and Fitz have a much easier time in the mirror world because no one is president. And as Olivia returns to reality, I think she realizes that her reality is about to merge with that daydream as Fitz’s term in the White House ends.

What does it all mean, now that the dream is over? Are we returning to the Scandal of old? Will I be on the edge of my seat, waiting for “hi”?

I don’t know. Right now, I only know that I watched an entire episode of Scandal, and I’m thinking about watching the next one. That hasn’t happened in way too long.

Are you watching Scandal? Big fan of the alternate universe plotline? I’ll meet you in the comments.

And follow Lady Smut. What if has never been so much fun!

Heading to Atlanta for the RT Booklovers Convention? So are we.

Crowns! Fetish Toys! Booooks! All can be won at the Ladysmut.com reader event — Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever, at the RT Booklovers Convention.  Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Be rewarded for your naughty or sweet past on Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

As Young As We Feel? Considering the Younger Man

11 Apr

Don’t laugh. One person’s pacifier is another person’s sex toy.

By Alexa Day

I’ve never been one to do things just because other people are doing them. I’m content to let everyone else jump off the bridge our mothers told us so much about.

But now Cindy Gallop has me thinking about dating younger men.

I often struggle to explain who Cindy Gallop is and why her opinion matters so much to me. My knee-jerk response is usually, “Cindy Gallop is life! Cindy Gallop is a hero!” You all are probably looking for more than that, though, so let’s get you some facts.

Cindy developed Make Love, Not Porn, a video-sharing platform through which participants can upload videos of themselves having real-world sex with their partners, and stream videos posted by others. Her search for investors demonstrated that people are generally uncomfortable with openly supporting sex-positive businesses. But years of success in a male-dominated field (advertising), along with an understanding of how women do business (we “share the shit out of” the things we like), have made her quite an influencer in the realms of sex, gender, and business. Cindy once said she was the first person to include the phrase “come on my face” during a TED talk. In fact, I wrote about her at the 2014 Romance Festival, where she rocked my world.

Cindy has dated younger men for years. It’s part of the reason she came up with MLNP. Her younger partners learned everything they knew about sex from porn, to everyone’s detriment. MLNP, which bills itself as “pro-sex, pro-porn, and pro-knowing the difference,” offered viewers a more realistic set of videos to learn from. Or just to enjoy. You know, the days are getting longer as the seasons change.

When I first heard the MLNP origin story, I remember shaking my head and thinking that’s what comes of dating younger dudes. Now I’m not so sure. Now I’m starting to think it might be a good idea.

And it’s not just because I’m getting a little older myself.

I tend to be more about the older guys. They’re more established. Their self-confidence comes from life experience. They know who they are and what they want.

But Cindy says much of this is also true of younger guys … and they’re really good in bed.

This January, in New York Magazine, Cindy wrote “Why Sleeping with Younger Men Is Best — No Matter How Old You Are.” In the article, she said her primary criterion for choosing a new man was a simple one. He had to be nice. Everything else followed from that. No need to worry about what he thinks of your body — he’s a good guy. Your emotions are safe with him. When you make sure you only date the nice ones, she says, you’re only spending time with the men you respect and admire. “You meet younger men who appreciate everything about older women,” she says.

That makes sense. As much as I want to tell myself that they only have to be nice if we’re going to talk afterwards, I can see how having a nice partner, how making that a priority, would reduce unnecessary stress and make for a more pleasant experience. Even if this isn’t going to lead to a relationship, having a good person as a partner just makes things easier and, according to Cindy, sexier.

About the sex. According to Cindy, the sex itself is the icing on the cake — stamina, confidence, and short recovery periods — but icing is important, even when the cake is pretty damn good. Now, the older guys are pretty spectacular in their own way. Far fewer of them, I would wager, are still looking to porn for technique. Years of experience have made them creative. They already know what they do well. Still. Maybe there’s something to be said for a little more physical prowess and dare I say, a touch of innocence?

While a lot of women might avoid revealing their bodies to a younger lover, for fear of what that hardbodied fellow might think, Cindy doesn’t have that problem. Of course, it helps that Cindy has boatloads of self-confidence. She’s not all that concerned about what any man might think of her body — she thinks she looks fantastic. Besides, she’s not going for those superficial souls who might have something to say, since her rule is “nice guys only.” She’s also not trying to get married. Wedlock and children have never been part of her master plan. Her chain of younger lovers, in short-term and long-term relationships, is the romantic solution that works for her. She doesn’t have to worry about any one man’s opinion for any longer than she wants.

Cindy says society tends to approve more of older men with younger women. I wonder, if that’s true, why the general public has so much to say about older women with younger partners. Is it the old discomfort with women being single at a certain age? Is it the sense that an older woman is more in control of her life, and by extension, her relationship? Is it our prudish society rebelling against a grown woman’s choice to have a younger sex partner, with all the superficial frills and thrills?

Damn, is it just jealousy?

One thing is for sure: the disapproval of prudes and nosy people isn’t going to stop Cindy Gallop. It never has.

Maybe that’s why I’m considering taking a page out of her book.

Follow Lady Smut … all the way to Atlanta! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

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