Archive | Topical Commentary RSS feed for this section

Sexually Omnivorous

20 Jul

Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers. Photo: Luke Fontana

by Madeline Iva

There’s an actor named Nico Tortorella out there on a television show I’ve never seen. But what’s making headlines for Nico is that he’s joined part of brave young new Hollywood in saying he’s not a straight male.

He could also say he’s not cis-gender. But who really is cis-gender and likes this term? I don’t. Oh, I don’t mind the queer advocates claiming that everyone needs a term—not just the “other”. Sure, but why cis-gender? It doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. It sounds ugly. I don’t approve on aesthetic grounds. (Of course, it’s not like gay people picked the word ‘gay’ to describe themselves.)

How about demi-sexual? That sounds much better and describes me to a T.  It has a delicate nice sound. Demitasse, demimonde, demigod. ; >

Demi means “lesser” so if by adopting what used to be ‘normal’ I have to somehow accept a lexical smackdown, so be it – demi-sexual will do nicely. Now being demi-sexual doesn’t define exactly who it is I’m romantically in love with, but who cares!

Back to our guy Nico. He tried to describe himself as sexually fluid. No, he was told, the proper term is pan-sexual. I knew a lot of guys who were pansexual back in those ten minutes between being a teen and hitched for life to my sweetie. I did not know the term pan-sexual back then. I thought of these guys as sexually omniverrous. Just like an omnivore will eat anything, these guys would too. ; >

Pan – It means everything. The prefix is derived from the Greek πᾶν, used in English for all. It’s the same prefix for words like pandemic, panacea, Pantheon and Pangaea. A close equivalent would be the Latin prefix omni which also means everything. (Quora.com) Pan-sexual sounds rather clinical. It doesn’t sound like much of anything—except that it makes you think of pan, small, goat-like, played the pipes. Meh.

But omni–Sexually everything. Vs. Sexually all… Hmmmm. I still like my word better. It captures what I encountered in these guys—their raging appetite for sexual passion with almost everyone they encountered.

Sexually fluid, meanwhile, has a much more melodious sound.  Again, I don’t think that it’s the people who are these things who are coming up with these terms.

Nico must have been approached by the bisexuals.  The latest article in People about him shows his progression down the sexual by-ways of America.  An article just came out in which he was like: Okay, guys. Okay, people. If you really insist I will simply call myself bi-sexual.

Now, other than the Hootie and the Blowfish Song, everybody doesn’t love you if you’re bi. Nico said the Bi people have fought long and hard for recognition. They will not be overlooked. Does Nico realize how challenging it was to get that B into LBGTQ? Well it was. And Nico was like, okay, okay. I’m happy to join with you all and be bi. Third time’s a charm, right?

Also, the bi people might have pointed out – the idea of pan-sexual is that you’ll have sex with ANYONE – including trans people and cross-dressers, even someone who’s intersex. Is that what you mean Nico? And possibly Nico backed down and was like – no dude. I just meant if I like someone I have sex with them, that’s all, but no, I’ve never done it with someone who’s trans….

Photo for The Advocate by Luke Fontana

This is all conjecture of course.

Now, Nico could have said, “I’ve only had sex with cis-gender women and gay/bisexual men.” But that wouldn’t be true because….

Nico’s partner of eleven years, Bethany Meyers, identifies as a lesbian. (!) A lesbian who, until Nico came into her life, had never been sexually attracted to men, or fallen in love with a man. But she has done both with Nico. Also, she’s polyamorous. What does this mean in her case? Apparently, it means that she is in a committed relationship with him—but likes casual sex with others on the side.

[Isn’t this what we used to call cheating? Not really. We now recognize that people can be romantically attracted to one sex AND sexually attracted to another sex. Sometimes who we love is not who we want to have sex with and vice versa. It’s not cheating unless it’s with your nanny and you didn’t check in with Gwen about it first. *Cough-Gavin Rosedale-Cough*.]

How bold of Nico and Bethany to come out with all of this in Hollywood—which is chock-a-block with lesbians, gays, queers, and people of every stripe in between—but which has been notoriously conservative when it comes to actor’s sexuality and their ability to get roles.

Women were the first to break out of this box, because no one on the face of planet earth has ever really minded the idea of two hot women having sex. As long as a woman identified as bi–not queer or lesbian. The L-word—despite the TV show—is not cool. I mean, look at how long it took Jodi Foster to come out of the closet! But in the last year or so a few young leading women have jumped on the bi-wagon.  Then some men started to join them on the bi-bandwagon.

In doing so—and in finding acceptance with their audiences—they have come to create a line in Hollywood. If you’re on one side you’re old. If you’re on the other side where all the gender fluidity is, you’re au currant, young, hip and fresh. You’re connected with younger folk who are choosing their sexuality the way people used to chose their Jimmy Choo’s.

Pick which side of the line you’re on stars! On one hand everyone desperately wants to appear young and in the know. On the other hand, these people making headlines are new to the industry and this is getting them attention…will they be cut off in the casting room on the quiet by studios? We don’t know yet.

Nico, meanwhile, told The Advocate he’d rather wait until he feels love for the other person. Nico, my friends–like myself–is a demi-sexual.  Ahhhhhh! Feels so good, doesn’t it Nico?

The thing I like about this couple is that he’s for sexual fluidity—and that makes sense given that she seems pretty sexually fluid herself. Yet I tremble for them a little. There’s a segment of the gender wars that doesn’t like sexual fluidity. Sexual fluidity implies that one can move from having sexual attraction for one sex to another sex. And if that’s possible, well, then, you can ‘train’ gay people not to be gay. And we don’t want that, do we? No, we do not. Meanwhile, lesbians are never thrilled with anyone who likes women but then ends up liking a guy. No, queer folk don’t like that kind of narrative at all.

I see the problems here, but ultimately, I back the side most willing to admit life is gloriously messy. What’s so wrong with taking things on a case by case basis? Isn’t sexual freedom ultimately about not having to fit into any particular sexual shoebox?

Yes, we all are grateful to those people who devoted their lives to saying there’s more than one shoebox out there. But isn’t it okay to expand upon that philosophy and keep broadening our sexual horizons?

In the end, I like Bethany and Nico’s story. I like that they are young, and brave, and honest about who they are—knowing that they could get it on all sides.  I like that they explored and wandered outside the lines when it came to their love. There’s a kind of vulnerability at the core of their complicated love story – and ultimately, I back Nico and Bethany because there story is about love.

We’re ON FIRE this week over Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest anthology. (See what I did there?)  Couples exploring their sexual needs together — just like Nico and Bethany!  Just like YOU! Click to buy it now —

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

Beta Me, Baby

26 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

By now, pretty much everyone on the planet with the slightest connection to me knows of my mad love for Wonder Woman the movie and Wonder Woman in general. Loud and proud, baby. Loud and proud.

 

The film has stuck with me for weeks. I saw it a second time with a friend for whom it was a first-time viewing, and found even more to love about it. Those Amazons. Strewth.

 

I’m currently caught on the marvel (heh) that is Steve Trevor, the beta male. Amongst all the awesome female kick-assedness of the film, Steve Trevor is not so quietly being equally awesome. I touched on this a bit in my blog about the movie.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

Any cursory scan of my blogging history shows my affinity for the alpha male, at least in print and TV/films. In real-life, I can put up with that bossy, tough guy BS for about half a second before the guy has to show me something more. A guy can be masculine and manly and not be a jackhole about it, alpha or no. And this, I’m begging to believe, is the core of the beta hero, of which Steve Trevor may be the perfect example.

You lead, I’ll follow

I texted with my best friend about Steve Trevor this week.

Her: I dig the beta hero, so I’m biased.

Me: A lot of women do and if they were all like Steve Trevor, I’d definitely go there. I think he’s a mix of  both [alpha and beta]. Goes to show that beta doesn’t automatically mean weak or not a leader of men.

Her: He’s absolutely both and definitely a good example of someone willing to share the load. Smart enough to take the reigns and give them back as the situation changes. He doesn’t constantly have to prove himself. And I think the beta part comes through in that he doesn’t try to change everyone’s opinions of [Diana]. He tries to keep her somewhat within the social boundaries so they can be effective (not because he feels those boundaries are good) but lets her prove her own worth to others. So, not take-charge in that way, but sexy because he knows it’s unnecessary.

My bestie is one super smart lady.

With Steve Trevor on the brain, I paid more attention to Mon-el in the TV show Supergirl.

Chris Wood as Mike/Mon-El and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I’m not a fan of Supergirl, or, more accurately, I don’t want to be a fan of Supergirl. I really don’t want to like this show for Reasons. Yet I find myself absently watching it, usually reruns and usually around 7 AM on weekdays when I’m doing my FitBit and lifting free weights and need the distraction. But Supergirl is girlie and feminist, empowering and a little campy. And in season two, it introduce a perfect beta male.

Mon-el starts out as a self-serving boy toy who isn’t so much interested in using his powers for good as is for using his powers to score. But as the season progresses (I’m guessing here a bit; I haven’t seen most of the season, only the first three and the back nine episodes. Don’t want to like it, remember?). Anyway, as the season progresses, and he and Kara, aka Supergirl, fall in love, he becomes less a dude bro and more the perfect beta male and partner for his super-powered woman.

Ah. Young, superpowered love.

Mon-el is not left with no role to play. His powers are different than Kara’s and so how he can help in their missions differs too. But he’s learning from her all the time, much like Steve Trevor learns from Diana and the Amazons. At the end of the season, again like Steve Trevor, Mon-el sacrifices himself and his and Kara’s happiness in order to save the world. Literally. He does this because he’s learned this kind of sacrificial service from Kara. And, again like Steve Trevor, he knows in making that sacrifice that he’s leaving the more powerful person behind to carry on.

I’m not of the belief that only beta males can be this layered and complex, this manly and yet not the primary in all things. Dyson of the Lost Girl series is unabashedly (and literally) an alpha wolf (and, admittedly, occasionally a bit of an emotional dumb ass). As he falls for the succubus Bo and as, episode by episode, they become partners in crime solving, he defers to her when the situation warrants it, none of which makes him any less alpha be it wolf or man. They save each other, time and again, not because one or the other is weak or incapable, but because they each have their own strengths and often, Bo’s is the greater one in the situation. (At least in season one. I’m still trying to ignore most of season two, all of season three, when the man-hating began in earnest, and the majority of seasons five and six.)

Above all, these “beta’ males are not de-fanged of their masculinity because of a powerful woman. Powerful in their own rights, be it as a super-powered alien from another planet or as a superior leader of men, a truly heroic person, who is as human as the guy next to him, or an outright alpha male who isn’t a bully or a jackhole, when partnered with a woman vastly more powerful than they are in physical capabilities, they are not made lesser–they do not feel lesser–which is super sexy.

We need more of these complex, empowered, layered, kinds of men in fiction today, because there are, I’m convinced, far many of them in real-life than media would lead us to believe. In which case, beta me, baby. Beta me.

Do you have a favorite book or TV beta boyfriend? Give him a shout out in the comments.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Follow Lady Smut and sign up for our newsletter so you never miss the sexy. Alpha, beta, or gamma–we take all comers.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

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.

 

“Exploited” Bikini Babes Serving Coffee?

22 Mar

By Elizabeth Shore

If you ever find yourself in Kent, Washington and are hankering for a cuppa joe, you could head over to the local Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee. They’re as tried and true as the day is long. Coffee and a pastry and you’re good to go. But what if the same ol same ol isn’t your style? What if, for example, you like cleavage with your coffee? Some pasties with your pastries? Well, fear not, friends. There’s a place for that, too. Introducing Bikini Beans Espresso. As their logo states, “Coffee’s never been this HOT!”

Bikini Beans, as you’ll see from their Instagram page, is far from a normal coffee shop. To start, even the name is a bit of a misnomer. Bikinis? Not entirely. Pasties are the preferred form of “on top” adornment for the servers, with bikinis strictly relegated to the nether lands. Male baristas? Fuhgeddaboudit! Babes only, please. And those babes include owner, Carlie Jo, who isn’t shy about splashing pics of herself all over social media.

In addition to promoting the shop, Carlie Jo stated in an article in The Sun that being a Bikini Beans barista is empowering. “We have the right to work with grace, confidence and dignity,” she states, “regardless if it’s in a business suit, scrubs, or a bikini.” Right on, Carlie Jo. Not everyone, however, shares her views. A councilman in Spokane, Washington has been trying to push forward legislation around limits at bikini coffee stands popping up around the state. Just what exactly those “limits” are isn’t clear, but one can surmise they’re related to puttin’ on some more clothes. Some moms in the area, as shown in this ABC news report, share the councilman’s views.

The councilman states that his proposed legislation is “for the children,” as well as trying to curb the exploitation of women. However, a female barista at Bare Beans Espresso, another bikini coffee stand in the Spokane area, states emphatically that she feels neither demeaned nor exploited. In a YouTube video about the controversy surrounding these risqué coffee stands, store manager and barista Allison seems to share Carlie Jo’s views in feeling “empowered” by working in little more than pasties and a string bikini bottom. And she adds, “No one is forcing me to work here. I choose to.”

That, perhaps, is the rub. By definition, exploitation occurs when someone uses or takes advantage of another person without regard for that person’s interests. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it this way: “to use someone unfairly for your own advantage.” In that vein, can it accurately be said that women working at the bikini coffee shops are victims of exploitation? How about waitresses at Hooters? Beautiful women on magazine covers? The unifying feature is that they’re willing participants. Making the argument that someone is being exploited becomes problematic when the person wants and chooses to do what he or she is doing.

The other primary concern around the coffee bikini shops is from some who feel it’s inappropriate for kids to see scantily dressed baristas. Yet I wonder if those same concerned parents keep their kids safely hidden from the beach? The community pool? Lots of skin in those places. Is this protecting kids, or is it reinforcing the same tired message that the human body is shameful and best covered up.

For the record, there was a male-staffed bikini coffee stand in Washington called Banana Hammock. Hot beefcake dudes either shirtless or clad only in suspenders were serving up hot brews and awesome views to what appeared to be a primarily female clientele. Did the male baristas feel exploited? Demeaned? Apparently, we’ll never know. Yelp is reporting that the Banana Hammock went bust. Same with another place called Hot Cup of Joe. Women went there, according to the posted reviews, but not enough of them. Hot Cup of Joe has been rebranded Whip It A-Latte and is now staffed with…you guessed it…bikini-clad female baristas.

So prevalent are the bikini barista coffee shops in Washington and surrounding area that there’s even an online guide so you know where to go for sizzle with your steamed milk. But if cleavage and coffee isn’t your thing, there’s always Starbucks.

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative Endings to the Bachelor

16 Mar

Huzzah! Rachel Lindsay–The first POC bachelorette.

by Madeline Iva

I saw the very first season of the Bachlorette while packing for a Big Move to the South.  I made it through a few seasons after that because I was fascinated by watching grown women aggressively fight for the attention of one man–while pretending not to. So deliciously perverse! Alexa Day posted about the announcement of the latest bachelorette on Tuesday, and the rest below is just one long riff about The Bachelor and other thoughts her post inspired.

I loved how the most interesting women (to me) on The Bachelor in the end ultimately had to be–I mean HAD TO BE–there for the money. (Student loans, I’m guessing.) Top ways to tell:

  1. They were very popular with the other women in the house. This, I think, is a key sign. But at the same time, they didn’t seem to have a secret boyfriend at home, or were there for some kind of acting career –and thus could dodge the “you’re not here for the right reasons” attack.   (BTW has anyone ever gone up and attacked a contestant saying “You’re just here to pay off your student loans—aren’t you, bitch?”)
  2. Often they would acknowledge being on the fence about their feelings for the guy. Why? Because they weren’t that into Mr. Available.  This only helps them not seem like a threat to the other women, of course.
  3. The fact that they weren’t so into the bachelor often seemed to make the bachelor far more into them.  Like he wanted to chase them hard.  After all, for most men, chasing is their comfort zone.  (Some of us are challenged when it comes to being adored.) Logically, enlightened men *know* it’s okay for a girl to chase a guy.  But they’re not actually comfortable with it.  It’s not their usual pattern–and sometimes breaking patterns feels odd.
  4. Because these women were just “passing time” to earn their paycheck, they could neatly avoid conflict in the house with the rest of the women–and work on soothing things out.  This is where their attention was.  It’s like they reguard the other women in the house as their fellow co-workers and wanted to be team players more than they were actually vying for the heart of one man.
  5. There’s almost an instant, quick and quiet break up following the conclusion of the show when one of these women was chosen.  The fact that a break up would immediately follow seemed like wonderful karma to me.  That’s what you get, you bachelor guy, for going for the girl that’s “not that into you” and ignoring the ones who were good people and desperate for your man-love.

At any rate — I’m glad that the show chose a POC bachelorette.

But I gotta wonder: how is this show going to continue to appeal to any but the most conservative audience? Because with polyamory becoming an accepted thing amongst all the hipsters and millenials, doesn’t the idea of picking ‘the one’ seem just a wee bit old fashioned?

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a monogamous type of person (I’m one myself). I’m just saying that when the Batchelor says “OMG, I’m in love with BOTH of these women” is this still the shockingly upsetting drama that it used to be?  Aren’t twenty and thirty somethings across the land saying “And? This is a problem why?”

Or–a more radical theory still–was the repetition of season after season of The Bachelor/Bachelorette actually paving the way for widespread polyamory across our heartland over these last ***seventeen*** years by making TV America overly familiar with the idea that one person can easily fall in love with two (or more) people at the same time?  I mean, think back to when polyamory started becoming a thing–right? Amiright?

I’m just waiting for the season when the Bachelor/Bachelorette decides to propose to *both* women or accept a proposal from *both* guys.  Now that would be a ratings booster.

Maybe if this this new bachelorette says yes to a black man AND a white man we can all have our cake and eat it too.

MEANWHILE — Idris Elba for Bond.  Seriously.  Accept no other substitutes.  Unless it’s Tom Hiddleston.  Then we’ll have to talk.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

Waiting for Godot: Living Through Series Delay

13 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Recently, an author for whom I am a big fan–in fact, I think it’s safe to say I am a superfan–released the first book in her new series. Cue the confetti. Strike up the band. Huz-freaking-zah. Right?

This new novel is in a new genre for said author and is the start of a three-book series, the remainder of which will come out throughout the rest of the year. Goodness abounds, yeah? Well, no, not really.

The author is rightly super excited about her new foray, a genre into which she has long been noodling on her own, ramping herself up to finally go for it. She also values her readers and is enough in tune with them to know not all of her dedicated flock are going to happily trot along behind this new venture. To this end, she’s taken great pains to explain the long path that’s brought her to write this series. She’s posted blogs on her web site and on social media patiently laying out, not her argument, because she needs make no defense for following her heart into writing the stories that have been weighing on her or so long, but an explanation as to what led her to make the decision to pursue this series. No author or any creative force, is obligated to take this sort of effort to, essentially, state her case. She’s done this with grace and care, and I have a lot of respect for her, or rather, even more respect for her, for doing so. And I’ve read enough of her books (over and over and over again) to feel confident that she has hit it out of the park.

That said, I’m unlikely to read this series because its genre is not in my wheelhouse. Like I said, I’m a superfan and have deep dived into this author’s extensive back list. That said, there’s a dozen or more of her novels I haven’t read, or ones where I’ve read the first in the series and the genre and situation didn’t/doesn’t appeal to me.

But, I’m woman enough to admit, this time, I’m a little miffed.

This is not because this author has written a series in a genre I don’t like, which leaves me going nearly a year without new goodness from a favorite (my choice, admittedly). Okay, it’s not only because of that. Mainly though, I’m miffed because this author has at least two unfinished series for which I am rabid and another series that readers (including moi) have been greatly anticipating for years, all of which are being denied for something new. Instead of working on what is already in play, she’s taken a new creative direction and thus created another new series.

I don’t want a new series. I want the books that have been explicitly or implicitly promised for existing series I’m on which I’m already thoroughly hooked. I want the series installments for which I have been (im)patiently waiting.

And yes, I would like some cheese to go along with that whine, thank you very much.

Look, I’m miffed, I won’t lie. That’s the reader side of me. I want my jones for those existing series to be fed. I got hooked on one of them fast and deep only to have the brakes slammed on the three or four books yet waiting to be written. Now I hafta wait out this unwelcomed series and hope that maybe next year there might be a hint of these upcoming books being in the works much less the break off series that has been promised for years.

But the writer side of me gets it. Sure, you have to sit and write whether the Muse or the spirit or whatever floats your boat gets your butt in the chair and your hands of the keyboard or not. Especially if you’re a full-time writer making a living off your words. You have to produce pages in order to get paid. It’s much easier to do this when you’re passionate for the project, when you’re driven to get that story out of your system. A writer can’t always pick and choose what story grabs her and when. In order to be true to reader expectations of the quality of your work, you have to make sure your commitment to that work is on par. That doesn’t always mean giving them the story they think they want. I know enough to know it doesn’t always work that way. Added to that, when an opportunity presents itself to do something different, something you’ve been somewhat secretly working on or leaning toward for some time, you don’t say no. You pursue that opportunity with prejudice if necessary. No author jumps off into the deep end of something new, knowing you might be risking a portion of your readership and therefore your livelihood by making a drastic turn in what you’re writing. Don’t get me wrong, I totally support this writing and admire her for having the guts to pursue this direction for which she clearly feels substantial compulsion.

To be honest, I wouldn’t want those upcoming books that I’m keenly anticipating to suffer from a rush job either. If the author isn’t feeling those stories, isn’t prepared to live in the heads of those characters, I sure don’t want her to force herself to write them simply to appease her readers’ desires when she’s not prepared to tell those stories. That disappoints everyone.

Look, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve waited on a series. Diana Gabaldon cranked out Lord John novels and novellas in-between her Outlander tomes. We all know the pain and suffering G.R.R. Martin fans have been going through for decades. Cripes, Godot shows up more often than new Game of Thrones novels.

Maybe I’m feeling this one so keenly because to me, it feels like a waste because I have no desire to read this series. This means I now have to wait for it to burn out so she can get back to writing what I want, because I’m a selfish superfan in need of her jones. God forbid she come out with an announcement later this year that she’s writing more installments in this new series. I may just plotz.

It’s a weird line to walk. I support the author’s new endeavor because I like her and I dig her work hard. I’ll probably read it too at some point, despite my dislike of the genre, because I’m curious to see how her voice comes through in that situation. What her unique take on the genre turns out to be. But I also resent it because it just means more and more delays until she writes the stories I’m waiting for with ever so-much-less patience.

The writer/reader relationship can be so wonky.  There’s an ownership a superfan feels when they’ve invested time and emotion and dollars into a writer, or any content producer really, and then something happens that makes the reader feel as though they’ve been gypped. It’s not just in books either. Lord knows, I’ve railed and fumed when TV shows and movies don’t fulfill the promise of relationships or story lines. It’s gotten to the point where I refuse to invest in a TV series until I can wait out the will they/won’t they of the primary ‘ship. (Do *not* get me started on Arrow’s abysmal treatment of the Olicity ‘ship, which has made me stop watching the show altogether.) This resentment I’m feeling now is along the same lines, the continued disappointment of not getting what I want, no matter what the motivations or desires of the content provider. And yet, as a content provider myself, I understand the creative and marketplace demands that may take precedent over one reader’s (or a thousand readers’) preference.

Have you been disappointed by a writer or other content provider’s creative decisions? Are you waiting for a book that feels like it might never come? Have you had a favorite author go in a direction you don’t like? Tell me your experiences in the comments!

Lady Smut is out and about in the wild again. We have a hot and spicy event at the upcoming RT convention in May. Share your sexy secrets at the “Never Have I Ever, Ever, Ever” game with in-person Lady Smut bloggers Elisabeth SaFleur and Isabelle Drake. We’ll have more information on the event in the upcoming weeks so be sure to follow Lady Smut so you don’t miss a trick!

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

 

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

“Naked is normal”: Playboy restores the nude pictorial

7 Mar
Nudity might be normal, but what about shame?

Nudity might be normal, but what about shame?

By Alexa Day

I remember writing about Playboy’s decision to remove the nude pictorial from their print issues. At that time, the pictorials had already been removed from the online issues. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at the time, in large part because I read Playboy for the articles. I’m just not that interested in the nude female form. If I want to see female nudity, I’ll take my own shirt off.

I thought I’d heard that nudity had returned to Playboy, and on Saturday, my colleague Elizabeth Shore confirmed my suspicions. This was just a couple of weeks after I named Playboy one of the three things that was getting me through a bit of a creative slump. So now I’m presented with another opportunity to examine my feelings about the presence of the nude pictorial in Playboy, and I think I’m finally able to pick a lane.

I don’t care. I don’t care whether the nudity is present or not.

On the one hand, the restoration of nudity isn’t affecting the reasons I show up to the metaphorical Playboy party. (I mention the metaphor to emphasize that I am absolutely available for a real Playboy party.) I took a quick look at the website before I began to write this post and found an article about a hormone that improves sex (and isn’t testosterone or oxytocin), an advice column explaining what exactly a fuckboy is, and a short story about a young woman taking charge of her sexual awakening. The last time I visited, when I found a story in praise of sex with unattractive partners, I noticed how many women are contributors to Playboy. In fact, all the stories I just mentioned were written by women.

Here’s where it gets complicated for me.

If, indeed, the reason for bringing nudity back to Playboy is to increase readership, are we to believe that nudity is the only reason people will pick it up? That’s a little depressing. Playboy is bringing it right now. It should have a solid, dedicated audience of sex-positive people looking for the sort of content it supplies in abundance. I wonder if it might not benefit from more time to draw that audience. My suspicion is that a lot of potential readers are being scared away by their perception of Playboy’s reputation. Those folks are going to stay away now because they’re going to see this decision as a commitment to boobs before content.

Having said that, if the editorial staff stands to benefit from this decision, I will find a way to support it. After all, if nudity gets more eyes on the pages, at least some of those readers will stay for the stories. Nudity might sell that magazine, but strong content sells subscriptions. We’ve all seen what strong content is doing for Teen Vogue right now. I imagine Teen Vogue has picked up a lot of readers who don’t mind flipping past the story on six quick dorm-room breakfasts to get to the political coverage.

Don’t flip past that breakfast article, by the way. It’s sound advice. I actually eat two of the six featured breakfasts regularly, and I haven’t lived in a dorm in almost 30 years.

But what about the nudity itself?

I’ve always thought that a woman’s decision to pose nude for a magazine is just that — her decision. I can’t police that for her. I wouldn’t police it for her if I could. I’m never going to do it because nudity is a hard limit for me, but if it gives another woman pleasure to be photographed in the buff, I say go for it. Sure, people might point and leer, but I myself want to preserve the freedom to point and leer at unclothed men. Besides, I’m not sure we should let our presumptions about What Other People Think govern other women’s decisions. That position isn’t moving any of us forward.

The return of the nude pictorial is announced in the March/April issue with a cover announcing that “Naked is normal.” But if that raises the spectre of that one creep everyone seems to know, the one whining that “naked is normal” when he’s trying to convince you to cross a boundary, take heart in this month’s short story. In “Supercops,” an 18-year-old girl makes the decision to lose her virginity to an older man, so that she’ll know what sex is like before heading to college. The encounter is not described in any detail — indeed, the protagonist reflects on it with some regret — but her thoughts on the matter are significant.

“[A]fter graduation,” Meredith muses, “a woman not only had the right, she had the responsibility to use her body the way she saw fit—or what was feminism for?”

If feminism isn’t a woman’s decision to do what she damn well pleases, whether that’s choosing the princess life, attacking the glass ceiling, or posing nude for Playboy, then what is feminism’s purpose, in the final analysis?

Playboy’s official position is similar (careful, that link comes with music). In a world trying to decide “what freedom is, and what it looks like, for all of us,” the magazine wants to examine “how freedom, feminism and nudity intersect.” The new issue includes an essay on the topic from Scarlett Byrne, whose nude pictorial is also featured this month. Scarlett Byrne’s fiance is the magazine’s chief creative officer, but if you think she got here on her cup size, you might be part of the problem, she says.

“[W]hen women associate themselves with anything involving ownership of their sexuality, they’re often perceived as having abandoned their intellect,” Byrne writes. There’s a great deal of truth to that. It’s an accusation leveled against many a romance writer, especially those of us writing erotic romance, and we are in turn quick to point prudish fingers at others. Byrne goes on to say that she was hesitant to appear topless on this month’s Playboy, heralding the magazine’s return to nudity, but that she changed her mind when she considered a longstanding double standard.

“Was it just me who thought it was absurd that if Playboy published a topless woman on the cover and Men’s Health put a man on the cover in a similar pose, Playboy would be the one to be put behind blinders?” Byrne asks. “When I considered that fact, it became clear in that moment that it didn’t have anything to do with Playboy. It was about the double standards still being applied to gender roles.”

I wish Playboy a long and happy future. And if nudity is what it takes to secure that, then I guess I support the nude pictorial as well.

Still, I’m curious to see what lies ahead.

Follow Lady Smut. We promise to keep it tasteful.

If You’re An Alpha Female Looking For Love You’re Totally Doomed

1 Mar

By Elizabeth Shore

Are you an alpha female? Do you, for instance, always need to be right? Are you a perfectionist or overachiever? Are you a drill sergeant?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, you are, according to author and frequent Fox news contributor Suzanne Venker, an alpha female. And if you’re an alpha female, and you happen to be married, well, good luck with that, honey. Your marriage is screwed.

See, according to Venker – the niece of rabid conservative anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly – in her new book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Love and Marriage, “If you took the alpha wife quiz and determined you’re an alpha, I have some news that at first will be hard to swallow: you’re going to have to cede control. If you don’t, your marriage or relationship will continue to be one giant fight.”

Yowza! That sounds ominous. I don’t want a bad relationship. Or “one giant fight.” Who does? Well, apparently, all those evil feminists, that’s who. Feminists are the cause of all relationship ills. Did you know that? Me, neither. But Venker’s book includes former Fox news anchor E.D. Hill’s assertion that her need for self-reliance led to a “power struggle” with her husband and that, “along with other issues” (who knows what those were), led to her divorce. This leads Venker to the following conclusion:

“Thanks to feminism, this ‘power struggle’ Hill describes is par for the course. Women today are effectively at war with the men in their lives, sometimes unknowingly. Even women who don’t consider themselves feminist have a feminist mind and as a result don’t understand men and marriage. The idea that the sexes are “equal,” as in the same, has supplanted what past generations have always known: that men and women are vastly different creatures. And that dismissing those differences makes marriage hell.”

Huh. So, wow. There’s a revelation for you, right? Men and women are vastly different creatures. Who knew! Well, apparently only past generations and not the dim-witted alpha females of today. So asserts Ms. Venker. And if you’re not bright enough to acknowledge those differences – and cede all control, let’s not forget that – then you’ve just punched your ticket to relationship purgatory. Take that, alpha female.

But, wait. About that quiz…above I only pulled out 3 of the 13 questions that help you determine whether you’re an alpha female. To help you out, the whole quiz is listed below, taken directly from Suzanne Venker’s website:

  • Do you feel nervous or out of control when you’re not the one in charge?
  • Are you a perfectionist or an overachiever?
  • Do you sometimes feel superior to your husband, as though he needs you to show him how to do things? (How to dress, what to say, how to grocery shop, how to parent, etc.)
  • Do you take your everyday frustrations out on your husband as though he’s the cause of those frustrations?
  • Do you generally expect your husband to go along with your plans, as opposed to the other way around?
  • When you listen to your husband, are you immediately formulating a response in your head before he’s finished speaking?
  • Do you roll your eyes when your husband says something with which you disagree or disapprove?
  • Do you frequently contradict your husband? (If your answer is no, would your husband agree?)
  • Are you a drill sergeant?
  • Do you tease your husband in front of others in a manner that could be construed as disrespectful?
  • Do you need to be right?
  • Do you frequently interrupt your husband or talk over him, even in public? (If your answer is no, would your husband agree?)
  • Does your marriage feel like one giant power struggle? (If your answer is no, would your husband agree?)

The more questions to which you answer in the affirmative, says, Venker, the more alpha you are. Well, hold on there, missy. Here’s my quibble with the damn quiz. In my world, if someone publically humiliates her spouse, or frequently contradicts him, or rolls her eyes when he’s speaking, I wouldn’t call her an alpha female. I’d call her an a**hole. Behaving like that isn’t asserting your alpha, it’s just being rude. Call me crazy, but to me an alpha female is a strong, confident, hard-working woman who knows what she wants and has the courage to pursue it. You know, kinda like an alpha man.

Some additional relationship insight from Ms. Venker: “insisting that a woman doesn’t need a man is a terrible precedent for marriage.” Again, I’ve gotta disagree with you there, Suz. I don’t think the basis for a good marriage is “needing” a man. I think it’s wanting him. Wanting the love, respect, support, and partnership that we should all receive in a relationship. Isn’t that the reason for having one in the first place? What it doesn’t mean is having to “cede” all control and letting the man always be in charge. Sometimes he is; sometimes you are. You find the balance that works for you both.

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: