Tag Archives: feminism

Why don’t you? The appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey

10 Mar

“Why don’t you write something like Fifty Shades of Grey?”

We romance writers get asked this question by friends and family. I have to admit this question puzzles me. Each time I’m asked I wonder:

  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something about two people seeking love and connection?
  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something erotic?
  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something that pushes the boundaries of relationships?

I only wonder these things because me asking them aloud would draw attention to the fact that the person asking the question hasn’t read any of my books. Of course, I don’t care whether or not the person has read my stuff but …well, I don’t want to make things awkward by pointing that out. Besides, as a writer, here’s the question that makes the most sense to me:

  • Do you mean why don’t I write something that sells millions of copies and creates just as many devoted readers and fans?

That one I don’t have an answer for. Nobody does. Many–many–of us writers have tried to figure out why that series in particular took off like that.

50 2

In my other life, I teach freshman composition at a college. We write essays, the standard sort that college freshman have been writing for years. Thesis statements, MLA formatting, research. All the usual stuff. One place where I get to mix things up is in the prompts. So, wondering what my students think of the 50 phenomenon, I include a prompt about the widespread popularity of the series. The prompt encourages the students to question the contrast between the book’s content, the relationship between the two characters, and the current wave of new feminism. Bottom line–why do women connect this book?

As you might imagine, the prompt generates interest. After reading seve50 3ral essays I’ve found a distinct difference between the younger, 18-20, and older, 25-30 women in regard to Mr. Grey’s relationship appeal.

The younger women find him super romantic. They are drawn to the idea of having a man so dedicated to you that he is “interested” in every aspect of your life. They don’t find him stalky or boundary-crossing, they find him devoted. These younger women write very little about the sex; they write almost exclusively about the attentive relationship. It seems that while young women view career and societal contribution as essential and validating, they still long for a dedicated partner.

The older women write about the sex. They are drawn to the idea of an extremely intense almost completely sexual relationship that has no emotional commitments. These women reflect that while they hope to have an emotionally intimate relationship in the future, they are, at present, busy with school and work and don’t have time to develop “that sort of thing” right now. This staying-single-longer, waiting-for-real-commitment life plan is on the rise,  but as noted above with the younger set, this older set seeks devotion. They simply define devotion in a different way.

If you’re one of the thousands, maybe millions, of people who’ve had this conversation–why is 50 so compelling–we’d love to hear what you think. Give us a shout in the comments.

And – follow us here at Lady Smut. We’re always here to inform, entertain, and keep you up to date.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers.

“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.

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In the End, Women Always Win

15 Nov
In our world, women win every time. Click to buy.

In our world, women win every time. Click to buy.

By Alexa Day

The first version of this post was much angrier. In the days since then, I’ve walked things back a little. I don’t feel great about doing that because it feels like I’m giving in, but the truth is that I’m exhausted. I’m not interested in going high. As a woman of color and a daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, I have serious concerns about the future, and smiling through it isn’t going to address any of those concerns. I’m grateful to, and grateful for, those people who have fearlessly called out wrongdoing and ignorance. I’m grateful to and for those people who have quietly stood up to support and defend those who need it. I’m so happy those people exist and that they’re coming forward.

But we live in a huge world.

Having said that, I need you to understand that I’m also not interested in defenses, justifications, or any attempts to belittle, mock, or minimize my position. I don’t like the way I’m looking at people after last week. I don’t like the position I’ve been placed in. I don’t like having to walk myself back or talk myself down. Make no mistake. I am still very, very angry. If you don’t see why that is, or if you feel that I should feel something a little more convenient for you, I don’t know that I can help you.

Okay? Great.

I spent part of last week trying to figure out how I could most be of service now. Where am I needed? What can I contribute?

Like many others, I checked in with friends and colleagues, allies and advocates, to let them know that I stand ready to assist them. A month or two ago, I had considered surrendering my law license. I’m glad I didn’t go through with that. I’ve never been more grateful for it, which is saying something after almost twenty years of calling law school the biggest mistake of my life.

Then, after taking a bit of time to regroup, I returned to my writing. I have projects already in motion, and I can neglect them no longer.

This was not an easy decision to make.

In the wake of last week’s events, I asked myself if there was any point to continuing to write empowering stories about black women. I would never have imagined that I live in a country with so many people who either fully embrace bigotry and hatred, or are simply apathetic toward it. Why should I keep creating strong female characters, especially women who look like me, in this toxic environment?

I eventually arrived at a conclusion.

I have to keep writing romance because women always win in romance.

Last week, I watched the documentary Love Between the Covers again; it’s a film about romance fiction and the women who read and write it. I’ve probably seen it four or five times already, but this time, I heard its message a bit differently. The romance genre is dominated by women. When the stories are not about women or written by women, they are designed for women’s consumption. The world of romance is a woman’s world.

It is immense, and it is immensely powerful. It generates the revenue that sustains genre fiction as a whole. It is a force to be reckoned with.

Romance is home to thousands of women-owned businesses. It enables women to support their households and families.

Romance gives women artists a voice and a massive stage from which to reach a hungry audience of women.

The women who drive romance, both as content creators and as readers, are thriving. Women will desperately need an environment in which to thrive in the coming days, months, and years.

But consider the stories themselves.

In a romance novel, a woman will come out of the darkness, and she will win.

A woman will overcome her fears, and she will win.

A woman will survive impossible odds, and she will win.

A woman will decide her destiny, and she will win.

A woman will discover her power, and she will win.

No matter what happens to her, in a romance novel, a woman will win. The lone exception to this is the male/male romance, and even then, a woman will likely win as a consumer or a content creator.

I predict that romance, which has always been the target of misogynistic abuse, will come under unprecedented attack in the new regime. The new regime fears a world where women are always victorious. It will do whatever it takes to suppress this world. It will try to convince women that this is foolish or unimportant or unrealistic. It will use women as the means to subjugate a world designed by and for women.

I cannot stand by and permit this to happen.

My mission is to continue creating worlds where women win.

Every time. Every single time.

I am delighted to report that I have returned to work.

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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.

P*ssy, Unchained

18 Oct
Ready to grab your own? Click to buy.

Ready to grab your own? Click to buy.

By Alexa Day
A few days ago, at the Washington Romance Writers Reader and Blogger Appreciation Luncheon, my mom and I shared fried zucchini and conversation with Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Sarah said she was reading The Infamous Miss Rodriguez, which I later used to demonstrate the power of Amazon’s 1-Click Button for Mom. Mom talked about her favorite male/male romances; she’s partial to rock star heroes these days.
And then Sarah asked what I was reading.
“P*ssy,” I said.
Sarah and I were across the table from each other. I wasn’t altogether confident that she’d heard me, but the table went still, so I guess I didn’t have to worry about that after all.
“What?” she asked, tucking one finger behind her ear. The rest of the table might have heard, but she hadn’t.
“P*ssy,” I repeated, just a bit more loudly. I wasn’t trying to get the attention of the entire room, after all. But this time the whole table leaned in, looking for a confirmation that would lead to laughter and relief. Ohhh, everyone would say. We thought you said p*ssy.
When I said it the third time, I felt like E.F. Hutton. And then I felt really, really old for thinking of E.F. Hutton. Does anyone even remember E.F. Hutton? They’re still around, or I would put an ad here.
My point is that “p*ssy” is a loaded word. Just about 24 hours after the Republican candidate for President of the United States bragged that he could, with impunity, “grab [women] by the p*ssy,” here I was, trying not to shout the word over the appetizers. As a culture, we’ve been uncomfortable with the word “p*ssy” and what it represents for a pretty long time.
Enter P*ssy: A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauer. Put very, very simply, the premise of P*ssy is that a woman’s sexual energy is the most powerful force in existence … and that most of us have lost sight of that. Society has made the study of women’s sexual pleasure into something dirty. It has made women’s sexuality subject to the patriarchy. If women don’t want what men want, in the very specific way that men want it, then society decides that we are in need of correction and guidance. The result is that many, many women lose sight of what they want. Their desires are buried and ignored, and they are themselves diminished as a result.
I would submit that a patriarchal society isn’t always to blame for the suffocation of women’s desires. I thought I was in close contact with what I wanted, especially because I have so few people of influence in my life. But it’s been quite a year. Fear around the loss of one job. Frustration with another. Pressure from tight deadlines. A long, long list of tasks left untended for too long. For a long time, all I wanted was to be left alone — not a great place for an erotica writer to be.
The solution? Living a more “p*ssified” life.
P*ssy describes a course of action, a series of lifestyle decisions, and more than one event that had me wishing that I lived in a more sexually open place. (Is there a Demonstration of Extended Massive Orgasm course near me, I wonder?) Along with the guided tour of the female anatomy, P*ssy invites the reader to invest more time in self-pleasure of the sexual and non-sexual kind. The more time we spend exploring our desires and opening ourselves to the sensual world around us, the more powerful we become. We are receptive and transformative. We become “able to live a life that is based on [our] dreams rather than the agenda other people have for [us]” (page 46).
P*ssy leads us to reconnect to feminine intuition, to the deep well of emotion, to the broad spectrum of desires that have all been stifled by the world’s desire to see us safe, nice, and frankly, more manageable. No matter how we might have lost track of that tremendous feminine force — and so many of us remember exactly when that happened — P*ssy reminds us that it’s never too late to find our way home. The journey definitely has its roots in the sexual; you will spend a great deal of time touching and talking to yourself. Ask Your P*ssy, Panty-Free Friday, and an intense study of “Cliteracy” are definitely highlights of the book. But orgasm is a gateway to exalting the entire body. Dance, luxuriant meals, and indulgent self-care soon join a regimen of self-pleasure, which in turn leads to self-discovery and self-knowledge.
Alexa is not about to share Ray Donovan. Click to get your own.

Alexa is not about to share Ray Donovan. Click to get your own.

It all starts with p*ssy. In my case, if you’re interested, I finally determined that what I wanted was to spend a great deal of time watching Ray Donovan. In his own way, Ray is more overwhelmed than I am. But the ugly truth is that I would rather watch Liev Schreiber be overwhelmed than be overwhelmed myself. (Unless we’re thinking … well, you know.)
I gave Sarah Wendell and the rest of my lunch companions a much abbreviated version of all this. (I left Ray Donovan out of it. I didn’t even really want to tell you about that, but sharing is caring.) Whether people were interested in just the title or in the premise of the book, I’m not sure. At length, Sarah nodded at me.
“I read something much like that once,” she said thoughtfully. “It was called C*nt.”
No one asked her to repeat that.
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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 recovering 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. Check out her new release, Illicit Impulse, for plenty of sex, (experimental) drugs, and friendships with benefits.

Cuckolding: the femdom lifestyle

8 Jul

By Isabelle Drake

A married woman having sex with a man who isn’t her husband? Yes. A married woman having sex with a man who isn’t her husband–and he arranges it? Yes. And–he watches it? And likes it? Yep.

About two years ago, before I was a Lady Smut regular, I wrote a Fetish 101 post on cuckolding. I offered up the basics: a cuckold marriage is one in which the husband selects men for his wife to have sex with. As with all sexual preferences, there are variations. The husband may or may not watch the couple having sex. He may or may not participate.

There are commonalities. Most often:

  • The husband is the one who first suggests they adopt the lifestyle.
  • The couple has been married for ten or more years and consider their marriage a happy, successful one.
  • The couple hides their choice because mainstream society has a harsh, negative view of this lifestyle.

Order-cuckoldry-ca1815-French-satireIt’s this last point that intrigues me. Ever since I began writing cuckold stories, I have found that many people, even those who consider themselves accepting and open-minded, disapprove of this type of marriage. Errol Gluck, a radio host, did an hour-long radio show,  Cuckolds: Men Who Share Their Wives, on the topic. Although he claimed to be open to the idea of accepting the practice, it is clear that he did not. Questions such as What do they tell their children? show both his lack of respect for the married couples and his inability, or maybe its unwillingness, to take the topic seriously.

To be clear, a cuckold marriage is not an open or a polyamorous one. Those marriages are, in my mind, more fluid in definition and in practice. Specifically, both partners are involved in sex outside the marriage and both partners may develop deep emotional bonds outside the two-person pairing. In a cuckold marriage, the wife alone participates in sex outside the marriage and that sex is for physical gratification only. She does not love the sexual partners as she loves her husband. Her deep emotional loyalty belongs to her husband alone.

In our culture, we value the emotional loyalty of monogamy. Dr. Shirley P Glass, in her book NOT “Just Friends”: Protect your relationship from infidelity and heal the trauma of betrayal , writes in great depth about the new threats to marriages. “In the new infidelity, one doesn’t have to have sex to be unfaithful. In fact, secret emotional attachments outside a marriage can be just as great a betrayal as extramarital sex. When sex and emotional involvement combine … the threat to the marriage is more catastrophic-much more so than traditional affairs used to be. In the current crisis of infidelity, men are more likely to fall in love with their affair partners-in the past, they were more likely to have uncomplicated sexual liaisons. Today, women are also getting more sexually involved than they did in previous generations.” Using extensive research, she supports her position that more now than in the past, men are seeking deeper emotional connections while women are seeking greater sexual satisfaction. Given that the cuckold marriage provides for both of these needs, perhaps it is not surprising that the practice of this lifestyle is on the rise.

Who, you ask, are these individuals picking up this not-so-unique habit?  Anneli Rufus may have been the first to dub this particular fetish The Intellectual Sex Fetish, but others have also supported the idea that it is a more common practice of highly educated professionals. The theory is that these individuals are better able to understand the complex psychological dynamics behind the practice and are therefore better able to exploit them to their benefit. One of these dynamics is the element of erotic humiliation.

Theories that seek to explain why erotic humiliation works focus on the physiological and emotional responses to humiliation. The area of the brain that responds to emotional tinydickcuckold1pain, including humiliation, is the same as the one that responds to physical pain. Thus, humiliation is a very strong emotional trigger. That emotional trigger requires a significant amount of mental manipulation as the person being humiliated finds a way to “deal with it.” One method of “dealing with it,” or managing the emotional pain, is to disassociate, to set aside ones normal identity. This break from identity leads to a temporary loss of self-awareness, loss of focus on oneself as seen by others and ultimately relaxation. This combination naturally enhances sexual pleasure and allows for the husband to enjoy watching or thinking about his wife being sexually active with another man. And so, when a person is humiliated to the point of loss of self-awareness, and physical pleasure is introduced, the likelihood of ultimate sexual release and satisfaction is achieved.

Do I have more to say about the complexities of the cuckold lifestyle? Such as the intricate differences between male and female orgasms and how women are aroused by different types of men at different points in the menstrual cycle? Yes, I do. But  I’ll save those for next time.

For now, I’ll offer up a short excerpt from the first in my Cuckold Beach series. So you can get a taste for how this lifestyle can make a hot, fun fantasy.

~~~

Pink Bow

Get your copy for .99.

Cuckold Beach 1: Pink Bow excerpt:

Troy didn’t say anything as we passed through the towns along the water. It wasn’t the kind of quiet when he’s upset, but the kind when he’s excited or anxious or just considering something important. So I didn’t worry about him not talking. I looked out the window and tried not to think about the fact that only a tiny layer of fabric separated my bare pussy from Troy’s view.

As we went farther down the coastline, the buildings became smaller and closer together but it was obvious that everyone who lived along the coast was loaded. The yards were landscaped with flowers, beach grasses and fan palms, and lit with soft spotlights. Many of the houses were tall and narrow, with parking garages on the ground level and living spaces above. It was a neighborhood way out of our price range, that was for sure.

Another thing I was sure of—we didn’t know anyone who lived here. Or maybe it was just me who didn’t know anyone, otherwise why would Troy bring us here?

After a long while, Troy turned off the main road and started checking the map on his phone. My curiosity was making me so jittery, each minute dragged, but finally he parked. Once he cut the engine, he turned to me and put his hand on my leg. “You know how much I love you, right?”

“More than the moon loves the stars,” I said, repeating our special phrase.

“That’s right. And I always will.” He slid his hand up my leg. “I know about the porn.”

My mind went blank.

Was that what he’d been thinking about during the drive? Heavy silence settled between us until I broke it with words, even though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. I explained about a girl at work telling me to check out a particular site and how the site made me curious, so I kept looking… And I kept babbling, telling most but not all of the truth, until he cut me off.

“It’s okay. I love you, Abby. And I know what you need—so I’m going to make sure you get it.”

I started to talk again, telling him how much I loved him and that he always satisfied me, but he cut me off a second time by kissing me firmly on the mouth. His hard kiss stirred up all that lust that had brewing since he’d told me to change clothes. Within a minute, I was panting and reaching for his belt. He guided my hands away with a smile and laugh.

“No, no. Tonight is going to be different. For one thing, you aren’t in charge.”

“What else?” I asked, eager to know.

He shook his head and climbed out of the car. “Follow me and find out.”

~~~

Here at Lady Smut we know you want to be informed, entertained, and kept up to date. So follow us, and ‘cause we’re here to make sure you’re satisfied.

~~~

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers. You can also check out her erotic, zombie erotica right here, every Sunday, on Lady Smut.

Girls and Women and Sex and Pleasure: Are We Forgetting Something?

5 Apr
If we don't talk to girls about sex, who will?

If we don’t talk to girls about sex, who will?

By Alexa Day

Last week, I was reminded of just how small a world ours really is.

I read this article about Peggy Orenstein’s book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. To research the book, Orenstein spoke to 70 girls and young women, between the ages of 15 and 20, to learn about their attitudes and perceptions about sex.

I’m not sure what I expected to hear about this, but the truth saddened me a little.

Orenstein’s research turned up a lot of young women who are very comfortable with the idea of sex and sexual attitudes as communication, and the notion of sex as currency. They just don’t seem to place a great deal of importance on their own pleasure. A blowjob, for instance, may or may not actually be sex, but it’s a near foolproof way to get a guy to stop hassling you about what you will or will not do for him. The notion that reciprocal oral seems to disgust these guys … well, Orenstein’s subjects didn’t think to be offended by that.

Orenstein goes on to observe that if young women do not prioritize their own pleasure, it might be because they come from households that make their sexual selves invisible. How many girls know nothing of their own sex organs? How many are discouraged from questioning or exploring sexuality in general? How many are being taught — sincerely or otherwise — that sexual things are naughty or dirty or morally deficient?

When was the last time you saw or heard someone refer to erotic romance as naughty? A dirty little read? Something for bad girls, about bad girls, or both?

Was it you?

I know that if you’re here on Lady Smut, you probably don’t think there’s a thing wrong with sexual pleasure. Hey, I get it. But this notion that sex exists in a context dictated by male partners … that idea came from someplace. This concept that a blowjob is just a way to get him to leave you alone, that of course he won’t go down on you, that our own sexual pleasure as women is an afterthought at best, that something is wrong with us if we demand that pleasure … all that came from somewhere. Shouldn’t we try harder to mitigate it?

Last week, I also attended a screening of Makers: Once and for All, a documentary about the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. You can actually watch the documentary in its entirety online. Women from all over the world converged on China for the conference, endlessly curious about each other and the roles women played in various cultures worldwide. As I listened to the participants share stories about the conference and the Platform for Action that emerged from it, I realized that the world is not such a huge place after all.

Consider this: somewhere in the world, a woman doesn’t know that sex is something she can choose for herself. Try that on for a minute.

Now try this: somewhere in the United States, a woman doesn’t know that sex is something she can choose for herself.

How does that feel? Obvious? Uncomfortable? Both?

How about this one: somewhere within half an hour’s drive, a woman doesn’t know that sex is something she can choose for herself.

How are you going to live with the truth of that? How will the generations of women that follow us live with it?

And what role do our pleasure-infused stories play in this new world?

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Marbles in Your Panties And Harry Potter with Multi Award-Winning Author Cecilia Tan

4 Sep

by Elizabeth SaFleur

The list of kudos, awards and testimonials for writer, editor and activist CECILIA TAN, if listed here, would break this blog. She has been inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT Writers, won a coveted RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance, the Maggie Award for Excellence, and TAN herself was awarded the RT Career Achievement Award in Erotic Fiction and the RT Pioneer Award in Genre Fiction for Erotica at the last RT Booklovers Convention.

That’s the short list.

CECILIA gives us imaginative, heart-felt, well-crafted stories that’ll melt you like a latex body suit. After reading Slow Surrender, I have never looked at marbles the same way. If I ever re-read the Harry Potter series, I’d likely say the same about Harry after the Magic University series. (All good.)

Oh, and in addition to writing many books, she is founder and editor of Circlet Press.

“Cecilia Tan is simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature.” ~Susie Bright

She has a passion for baseball (and has written several baseball nonfiction books) and TaeKwon Do and plays several musical instruments. She once was a professional ski instructor and taught mime and Spanish to elementary school kids.

Who else feels like an underachiever right now? <<Raising hand>>

But CECILIA also is really nice and approachable in person. She was the keynote speaker at the BDSM Writers Con two weeks ago, where her table at the book fair never went unvisited by admiring fans.

(My favorite quote from one of her many presentations at the Con: In “real” dominant-submissive life, “subs will endanger themselves to please their tops. Tops have to accept this irrationality about bottoms. Submissives fear disappointing their Dominants more than bodily harm.” For a writer that provides all kinds of fodder.)

Speaking of ideas and wisdom . . . CECILIA stops by today and shares with us what’s next, writing-wise, and how she got started — among many other insider anecdotes, such as how Slow Surrender was born. An amazing story.

Welcome, Cecilia! Thanks for talking with us at LadySmut. First, of all the writing genres you could write, why erotic romance?

Erotica and sexuality have always been my number one topics to write about, going all the way back into my childhood writing days. I always knew I was going to be a writer. I thought when I was growing up that I was going to be a science fiction writer, but when I started publishing professionally in the early 1990s it was clear the place where I really found my “voice” and the stories I was burning to write were erotic science fiction and fantasy. Erotica is still my main theme, whether it’s wearing the label of romance or urban fantasy or women’s fiction.

You write magical realism, fan fiction, science fiction, contemporary and more. That’s quite a mix! I might be making this up, but I sense a theme of “out of the ordinary.” Would that be an appropriate way to characterize your work? 

And cyberpunk and LGBT and high fantasy… et cetera. The main thing is all of them are erotic or exploring sexuality and sex in some way.

You liken writing Fan Fiction as “a professional ballet dancer going out to a disco or dance club.” Have you had any pushback from fans of the Harry Potter series when you published your Magic University series?

Not that I’ve heard. I’m deeply embedded in Harry Potter fandom, both online and in real life through Harry Potter conventions and regional meetup groups, and the reaction has been universally positive. Potter fandom is incredibly accepting of alternative sexuality and supportive of creativity, as you might expect from a book series that has tolerance and diversity as a main theme. (The final book in the series comes out next week–September 15!)

magic-u-forthcoming-banner

In your award-winning Struck by Lightning series, you have one very reluctant rock star/artist who begins an unconventional relationship with the heroine, a grad student/waitress. How did the series idea come about? Was there an “inciting incident” (I’m picturing you at a rock concert!) where the story just came to you?

The “inciting incident” was that my agent called me on the day that 50 Shades of Grey was on the front page of the New York Times. That was a Friday. She said, “Because of this, on Monday, my phone is going to ring off the hook because every editor in New York who has been telling me for 15 years ‘Cecilia Tan is too kinky for us,’ is going to call and say ‘get me Cecilia Tan right now.'” So she advised me to cook up a proposal over the weekend. I cleared my schedule, sat down with my laptop, and wrote the entire first two chapters–the meeting in the bar, the game with the marble down her panties, the walk down the Manhattan street while he watches from the limo–pretty much all in one day. I simply started with a blank page, heard Karina’s voice in my head, threw a mystery man at her, and we were off to the races! My agent was right: that book launched a three-book series at Hachette/Forever.

1578983991n6AN28TPL3ebfd6ba3ac3dc5f15b4e68b1945d282How does a book start for you?

That’s pretty much my process described above. “Hey, Cecilia, write something!” “Okay.” I sit down with a blank page and everything that has been stored up coalesces into fiction. For the big publishers I do have to write an outline, but often I write very very sketchy outlines because I really do not know what is going to happen until it does. I don’t know the backstory of the characters, I don’t know their quirks, none of that. I know there are writers who make out very detailed character histories, and have photos of actors who look like them, and know what flavor of ice cream they like and what brand of car they drive and all that. That would absolutely bore me to tears and pretty much kill any interest I might have had in getting to know that character “in person.” In my MFA program they called what I do “writing for discovery.” In the romance writing world they call me a “pantser,” i.e. I fly by the seat of my pants. Discovering the story locked in my subconscious can only happen through writing the actual story. if I dig it out any other way, it comes up broken and flat and no fun to write. Writing is a joy for me.

I understand your consult Tarot cards when writing. What a fascinating way to access choices, plots and decisions. Do you use the Tarot cards for all your writing? How has it helped you?

I mostly used Tarot cards when writing the Magic University books, where the magic of the Tarot is a big part of the plot and a recurring motif. But if I get stuck on a character or a plot point, they’re useful All the Tarot do, like a Rorschach test, is force you to look at what’s inside your subconscious. That’s what writing is: revealing the story in your subconscious to your conscious mind. So it’s just one more tool for doing that.

What is your definition of erotic romance versus steamy romance?

Is there such a thing? I’ll confess I’ve never seen the label “steamy romance” applied to a book before. Erotic romance, to me, means a romance where the romantic bond between the characters is built up throughout the novel through sexual interaction. Thus a romance that has some graphic sex scenes but only at the very end might not count as “erotic romance” to me. I find romances where the characters fall madly in love before they’ve ever had sex to be unbelievable, though. I just can’t suspend my disbelief that much. That’s so opposite to my personal experiences of love, I can’t relate.

Do you have a favorite writing “moment?” 

My favorite writing moment was when I was writing the first Magic University book, The Siren and the Sword. Like the Potter books there is a mystery in each volume, plus an overarching plot that carries from book to book. As I was writing the big climax scene where our hero catches the culprit I have him holding hands in a group dance with two characters. One was supposed to be the culprit and the other an innocent bystander. WAIT, I thought, what if…the innocent bystander was the culprit all along? I ran with it and finished writing the book with that as the culprit and then I went back to rewrite, thinking well, now I have to put in all the clues that point to this new change I made. Right? Wrong. All the clues were already in there. My subconscious knew perfectly well who the culprit was, but just didn’t see fit to reveal it to ME until I actually wrote it. This is why I have learned to trust my subconscious and trust the “write for discovery” process.

What is next for you, writing wise? 

Well, for those who love rock stars, there’s more in store. Not only is my gay series Daron’s Guitar Chronicles continuing–we just released book eight in that series and book nine will be coming in November–I’m writing a followup to Struck by Lightning for Hachette that combines BDSM and rock stars again, too! The new series is called Secrets of a Rock Star, and the first book, TAKING THE LEAD, will be out in January. (Amazon already has it up for pre-order!)

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Anything exciting you right now?

What’s exciting me is that now that the world is finally ready to read my sexy, sexy books, I get to be the rock star! Well, sort of. I get to travel the world and wear fabulous outfits from time to time and meet people and inspire their erotic fantasies (through my books). That’s as close to being a rock star as I’m ever going to get!

Thanks for stopping by, Cecilia. Best of luck with Taking the Lead. We look forward to reading what you come up with next!

Hook yourself up with some CECILIA TAN books:

The Siren and the Sword (Book one of the Magic University series)
Slow Surrender  (Book one of the Struck by Lightning series)
Preorder for Taking the Lead

Connect, Follow, Like, Share and Socialize with CECILIA TAN:

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That’s Nice, Dear: Why I’m Afraid of Magic Mike XXL

19 Jul
I guess I'm just not feeling it. Heyo!

I guess I’m just not feeling it. Heyo!

By Alexa Day

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Magic Mike XXL.

Sure, I intend to go at some point. I’m just not excited about it.

This was not the case with the first Magic Mike. I was excited about that. I live in a conservative place that’s doing its level damnedest to pretend it isn’t conservative, so the male revue is hard to come by. My crew of conservative friends, though I’m sure they’ll deny this, hesitates to admit that they’re interested in That Sort of Thing. But ultimately, we went to one of those dinner-and-movie places and had a delightful time.

My litmus test for stories is simple. At the end of the show or the book or the movie, I ask myself if the story surprised me. Was I finishing sentences? Did I see that plot twist coming?

In short, if I know what’s going to happen next, I’m disappointed.

(This is why I’ve given up on the rom-com, by the way, but that is another story for another day.)

Even though watching hot, scantily clad dudes dancing provocatively around the big screen (or the stage, whatever) is absolutely My Sort of Thing, I’m going to need to see a story. The original Magic Mike supplied a story. From time to time, hot, scantily clad dudes talked to each other. They struggled with their off-stage goals and aspirations. They had problems. Sometimes things got a little scary. Characters surprised me and disappointed me and I found myself hoping that this one or that one would manage to survive the film without doing anything too stupid or self-destructive.

The analogy isn’t perfect, but Magic Mike worked for me the same way that Boogie Nights worked for me. Then-boyfriend and I went to Boogie Nights expecting a movie about porn and the people who make it. Two and a half hours later, we left the theater unable to listen to “Sister Christian” in the same way. I respect that. Boogie Nights is a story that doesn’t really care that people came in expecting to be titillated.

Magic Mike worked for the same reason. My crew and I came in expecting to be titillated, and we were, but we also spent part of that time tense, frustrated, curious, you name it.

Fast forward to Magic Mike XXL.

I think I started hearing that Magic Mike XXL was a “feminist stripper movie” as soon as I knew what the release date was. (Esteemed colleague and fantastic reviewer Kiersten Hallie Krum supplies her review here; be sure to check that out!) I myself tried to avoid the media coverage — remember, I like a well executed surprise. But before long, I started hearing from any number of media outlets, in essence, that this was the stripper movie I wanted. You know, as a woman.

Well, that’s a problem. See, I thought I already had the stripper movie I wanted. As a woman.

Magic Mike XXL, so far as I can tell, is about Cute Boyz Doing Stuff Girls Like. They’re super sweet! They, like, ask questions and stuff! They’re really interested in women’s lives! And women tell them what to do and they do it!

You know what that sounds like to me?

An interesting problem to have ... but still a problem.

An interesting problem to have … but still a problem.

Remember the scene in Coming to America when Eddie Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem, is introduced to the woman his parents have chosen for him? This is the scene where the gorgeous woman in the beautiful gown hops on one foot and barks like a dog because the prince told her to. Remember that? She’s willing to behave like that, to bury all her interests and desires and everything that makes her an actual person, because she thinks it’s the only way to get the prince’s attention. There’s nothing behind her perception of what he wants, and her perception is flawed. She’s pretty to look at, but the poor dear isn’t good for much else.

Similarly, Hollywood seems to have figured out that women were willing to travel with other women to drop loads of money on hot, scantily clad dudes dancing around the big screen. Hollywood has taken the unusual step of supplying us with more of what they think we want — BUT they’ve removed the rest of the story. Now, I haven’t seen it, and this is just what I’m hearing, but my impression is that everything gritty and complicated and potentially unpleasant or challenging has been excised from the storyline established by the first movie. This has given rise to the complaint that there is no story, which in turn elicits the response, “Well, sweetie, how much story do you really need here?”

There’s your feminist stripper movie, friends. Hopping on one foot and barking like a dog.

Whatever yoooou like.

I haven’t seen the movie. It’s altogether possible that I’m going to be surprised, frightened, disappointed, and — dare I wish — shocked by the characters and their behavior. And if I’m wrong, I will absolutely come back here and eat every one of these 800+ words.

But in the meantime, I’m adjusting my expectations.

What say you? Are my fears entirely unjustified? Let me have it in the comments.

And follow Lady Smut. If I have to eat my words, I think you will want to be here to see that.

Princess Peach, Bud Light, and the Trials of Being the Cool Girlfriend

10 Jul

So you decide to be the “cool” girlfriend…MKSC_Princess_Peach

…and hang out with your boyfriend and all of his friends. You can be one of the guys too, right? You show up with pizzas and a 12-pack. Most of the food gets devoured seconds after it’s placed on the living room table. Your guy says, “Play Mario Kart with us” and thrusts a wii-mote at you. All the guys look at you with anticipation and for that split second you are the center of attention. It’s fabulous.

Ready to seize that moment, you take a seat on the Doritos-dust covered couch and try not to think about the fact that the hideous plaid thing was probably garbage picked from a frat house that got condemned by the CDC. You’re given a hasty tutorial on what the buttons do. The guys deliver it with such enthusiasm and look super cute but the info only confuses. Still, you’re committed so you choose Princess Peach and before you know it the race starts.

images (1)Your previously slug-like, couch-potato guy friends are suddenly filled with life. They spring off the couch, onto their feet, screaming. They yell at each other, at you, at the pictures flashing across the screen. You think you might be in last place but nobody seems to notice. Someone gets a “blue shell” and your boyfriend starts swearing like a twelve-year-old who finally got to sit in the back of the bus. Four minutes later, it’s all over. You finished 6th out of 12. Not last! Everyone crashes onto the couch. You flop down next to your guy. Someone spills beer on you reaching for a pepperoni that fell to the floor from earlier but you don’t say anything because right now you’re the cool girlfriend, one of the guys.

The ritual from before is repeated, and repeated, and repeated.

Two hours of bumping into walls, getting taken out by bananas, and driving off cliffs. You want to be done, but you’re in it for the long haul. Surely they’ll get bored of it soon. Before you know it, it’s 3 a.m. and your thumbs are starting to cramp up. You realize you’ve been sitting in that same spot for eight hours and you smell like Bud-Light and Doritos and cheap pizza.doritos1

You open up Snapchat and look at all the fun your friends are having at the club. But quality time with the boys is more fun than that, right? You turn to your boyfriend. He’s snoring away, using the towel someone used to clean up the beer spill from earlier as a blanket. Everyone else lumbers off to bed and you guiltily send an SOS then steal a few Cheetos from a bag left open on the floor. The friend you called arrives so you give your sleeping angel a kiss goodbye then leave.

The Objects Of My Desire

19 Nov

Woman in white bra with hand on man's abs

By Elizabeth Shore

We’ve all by now seen the video of model Shoshana Roberts walking the streets of NYC and receiving over a hundred catcalls during a 10 hour period of time. It sparked a firestorm of debate. “Verbal harassment!” said many feminists. “Giving a woman compliments!” argued a vocal group of men – and some women. Fox News got it on the action, with their political pundit Bob Beckel saying on air about Ms. Roberts – and I quote – “damn, baby, you’re a piece of woman.”

The two-pronged argument by those who dislike catcalling is first that it allows men to exert power over women by making them feel scared and threatened merely by walking down the street, and second that it makes women feel like nothing more than a hot piece of T&A for men’s sexual gratification. We are, the objectors say, objectified.

It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, and nearly always in the context of women being made to feel that way by men. Fellow writer Elf Ahearn and I were talking about this very thing the other day when she mused out loud, “are women objectifying men the way they do to us?” Interesting question. Are they? The answer, I’ve come to learn, isn’t all that simple.

Look up the definition of objectifying someone and you get a response along the lines of: viewing a person merely as the sum of her parts with no consideration of emotions, feelings, or thoughts of her own. So if a woman sees a guy and yells out, “Hey, Stud, oooooh! What’s going on with that rise in your Levis?” hasn’t she just objectified him? Strictly speaking, she has. Except wait! There’s more …

An interesting article on everydayfeminist.com by writer Shannon Ridgway points out that a fundamental difference between a man feeling objectified by a woman versus a woman feeling the same way by a man is that “men haven’t experienced systematic, centuries-long objectification like women have.” They may be insulted or demeaned by a woman commenting on their “package,” for example, but the occasional insult cannot be compared with what women have endured for centuries.

If you watch the video, some of the comments do seem to come across as men simply being flirtatious. “What’s up, Beautiful? Have a good day,” says one guy to Ms. Roberts as they pass one another.” Harmless enough, right? So say many guys, bemused by women feeling threatened by those comments. Video blogger Red Pill Philosophy taped a response to the video in which he questions feminists’ “petty, elitist, victimhood mentality.” Victim of what?! he demands to know. “Of too many men begging to hand over their money and energy to please you? Feed you?”

Red Pill is forgetting the Native American saying about not judging a person until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins. He’s not capable of understanding how it feels to be a woman, preyed upon or threatened by a man’s unwanted attention. Watch the guy in the video walking next to Ms. Roberts for five minutes, refusing to realize that she doesn’t want him there. Would a man feel threatened by a woman doing the same thing? Generally speaking, men are bigger, stronger, and faster – so why would they? If a women whistles and makes obscene hand gestures, a guy can easily laugh it off. Or even, as some would argue, take it as nothing more a harmless compliment. So do they feel objectified? And if they do, do they care? Is the romance genre and our focus on the hot bodied males of our dreams make us any less guilty of objectifying men than they do to us with their whistles and calls?

DarkDesiresLet us know how you feel in the comments below. And for more thought provoking posts, remember to follow up here at Lady Smut. We won’t object.

 

 

 

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