Archive for August, 2010

August 30th, 2010

On the Fast Track

Welcome to my stop on the Fast Girls virtual book tour! I am delighted to be participating in said tour for the recently released erotica anthology Fast Girls*, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press.

In addition to a beautiful cover, Fast Girls also has a book trailer! I have posted it here for your viewing pleasure:

(I love the way Rachel blows the bubbles away at the end!)

When I first read the introduction to Fast Girls, I knew immediately that I wanted not only to read the book but also to participate in the virtual book tour Rachel was announcing. I was compelled by the book (at least in part) because the table of contents included so many writers I already know and love, like Donna George Storey, Kristina Wright, Tess Danesi, Charlotte Stein, Saskia Walker, Andrea Dale, D. L. King, and Rachel herself. I was moved to volunteer for the virtual book tour by what I found to be the book’s striking introduction, written by Rachel and with which I felt a nearly uncanny personal resonance.

To be quick and dirty (which of course I love to be), I found Fast Girls one of the most exceptional erotica anthologies I’ve read.

To expound (which I also seem to like to do), I found working my way through Fast Girls a delectable experience for more reasons than one. Sure, I had my personal favorite stories. (I felt a special appreciation for the stories that included references to condoms/safer sex in scenarios not involving obvious monogamy, as that is a personal preference of mine in erotica.) It is not unusual for a story by Donna George Storey to be one of my favorites in any given anthology, and “Waxing Eloquent,” with its nuanced subtlety intertwined with an almost surreal-seeming fantasy—pulled off, to me, with unquestionable aplomb—was no exception. I found “Winter, Summer,” by Tristan Taormino truly mesmerizing. Since I have historically felt no sexual interest in women at all, a story with F/F sex in it that I find the slightest bit hot (certainly I can and have appreciated such stories in a literary sense, just not usually felt turned on by them) is one I find extraordinarily impressive—and “Winter, Summer” was one. I laughed out loud several times as I read “Married Life,” experiencing it as shining with what I’ve found to be author Charlotte Stein’s trademark charm and subtle humor. “Playing the Market,” “Flash!,” and “Princess” all had me panting.

But it wasn’t just the heat of the stories, which I indeed experienced consistently, that I appreciated about this book. It was reading stories from writers I already love so much and feeling thrilled that they had offered once again pieces that struck me as thoughtful, sexy, and delightful. It was experiencing every story and the volume as a whole as a work of art, moving and memorable and inspired. It was finding, as a writer myself, the gorgeous prose and compelling imagination this book encapsulated downright inspiring. And perhaps most of all, it was feeling so impressed by the stories these writers composed (and this editor compiled) that I simply felt a thrill observing the quality and creativity currently offered in the erotica genre.

It seems to me that regardless of how one personally experiences each story in this anthology, the genuine encompassing of heart, body, and mind is evident in all of them. This is erotica as probably anyone reading this knows it can be: conveying sex as transcendence, sex as understanding, sex as connection, sex as art. Even if a story doesn’t happen to reflect one’s particular erotic sensibilities, arousal is just one of the ingredients these works have to offer. Indeed, some of the stories that didn’t so much press my erotic buttons, if you will, stayed with me in other ways, impressing upon me something else or something bigger the way writing has the potential to do. If I didn’t find it arousing, I still found it extraordinary.

There were singular lines in this anthology that repeatedly struck me, like song lyrics that I love and quote and remember long after the music is over, that in and of themselves can make a whole song. Lines that with either their content or their composition or both cut through to my core, snap my attention into focus, and/or take my breath away. Lines that slice like lasers through the glowing prose surrounding them, gleaming even out of the contexts of their respective stories. Lines that show why the writing in this anthology impressed me so much.

For example:

I should have stepped away from the window to avoid getting caught staring but I didn’t. At thirty-seven, I was entitled to peer out my window without being shy.
-“Temptation” Kayla Perrin

He’s between my legs now, curling his hand around my mons almost reverently.
-“Waxing Eloquent” Donna George Storey

I anticipate and anxiously await being bound in leather restraints or some elaborate rope work, but instead she ties me up with one quiet breath.
-“Winter, Summer” Tristan Taormino

I vow that I will be as decadent and liberated in my sexuality as she is.
-“Communal” Saskia Walker

He stepped closer, his eyes scanning the Old English lettering [of the protagonist photographer’s tattoo]: THAT IS THE BEST PART OF BEAUTY, WHICH A PICTURE CANNOT EXPRESS.”
-“Flash!” Andrea Dale

It sounded so innocent, so full of promise and terrible hope; the harmonic resolve that all the terror and pleasure and sorrow could rest together.
-“Waiting for Beethoven” Susie Hara

Love is my communion and sex the sacred, blessed wafer.
-“That Girl” Cherry Bomb

“You might recognize this,” he said after the first blow struck me hard, and I knew: he was using Adrian’s belt, yet it felt different, and I realized that he could hit me as hard as he wanted, but it was never going to feel like it did with Adrian.
-“Whore Complex” Rachel Kramer Bussel

That and the pain that comes in waves, crashing hard against the shore, sending salty spray high into the air and then ebbing, making it impossible for me to venture a guess.
-“Lessons, Slow and Painful” Tess Danesi

That list is nowhere near exhaustive.

And last but not least, my favorite line from Rachel’s introduction was this: “But most of all, I’m excited that [these fast girls]’ve broken free of whatever messages we all receive about how a woman is ‘supposed’ to act, and instead they are bent on acting however they damn well please.”

Ah, that description itself practically makes me hot. It’s one of the things with which I most resonated when I read the introduction and that made me so excited to read the book and indeed participate in this virtual book tour (the full schedule and accompanying links for which you may find here). I hope it has the same effect on you, and if so you can find Fast Girls for sale on Amazon and/or read more about it at the Fast Girls blog. For me, the pages that followed that introduction were even more dazzling than expected, comprising a work that exemplifies the educational, erotic, recreational, inspirational, artistic, and literary potential erotic fiction holds.

Love,
Emerald

*The subtitle of this anthology is “Erotica for Women,” which I will say does not resonate with me. I do not know what “erotica for women” would mean, as it seems to me to imply that women as a whole like some particular thing other groups wouldn’t (none of which has seemed evident to me). I appreciate that I have noticed several Amazon reviews by men that seem to note similar observations about said subtitle.

“In this book, fast is as much a state of mind as a state of motion.”
-Rachel Kramer Bussel, from the introduction to Fast Girls

August 25th, 2010

Recommended Reading #9: Sex Work Beyond Stereotypes



      “Feminism and Whores” by Douglas Fox (Sexual Culture, Sex Work) 8/13/10

I love that this piece really delves in to the gender stereotypes and sexual oppression/repression related to the criminalization and social denigration of sex work. Specifically this piece addresses the movement of feminism and its historical relation to other social movements juxtaposed with a current claim of feminism within an anti-sex-work perspective.

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      “The Shit Stops Here” by Veronica Monet (Sex Work, Sex and Spirituality) 7/17/09

I have long been a fan of the public/activist offerings I have seen from Veronica Monet. A retired escort, Veronica talks in this blog post about psychological phenomena of projection and lack of introspection or self-awareness and some of the ways she has experienced others’ perceptions of her former livelihood.

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      This professional companion bio (Sex Work)

This is one of numerous lovely bios I have read on a number of professional companions’ (beautiful!) websites. I do not know this individually personally; I was just struck by the bio she provides and recommend it not only because of its loveliness but also because it may expand one’s view and understanding of working as a whore, why one may choose such work, the integration of other aspects of one’s life with such work, etc.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

August 20th, 2010

At the Risk of Repeating Myself…

I feel like I’ve said this all before. Yet I seem to continue to encounter some of the same assertions, postulations, perspectives about sex work, specifically the decriminalization of prostitution, to which I still feel, and have felt in the past, compelled to respond.

In this case, as I mentioned in my recent post about human trafficking, there was more to which I wanted to respond in the two articles I referenced. That post of mine focused on the (erroneous) conflation of sex work and sex trafficking, and as I said then, in the interest of post length I didn’t want to get into the things in both articles with which I disagreed about the principles of prostitution and its decriminalization in general.

That I saved for this post.

Philosophically, in addition the fallacious perspective that equates prostitution and sex trafficking, the perspective offered in these two articles seems to find the current and continued criminalization of prostitution advisable and desirable. Michelle Brock, the author of both articles, asks in the second one,

“If you were a trafficker, would you be drawn to a country where men were criminalized for giving you business, or to a country where they felt free to roam?”

And that seems to me an interesting question. The first answer that occurs to me is that since trafficking of human beings is (appropriately) illegal, I don’t know whether the legal status of the places traffickers are going would seem of particular importance to them. If what they’re doing is illegal anyway, it doesn’t seem obvious to me that they would be seeking out legal enterprises or environments in which to operate. Dealers of illegal drugs in the United States, for example, don’t seem to have avoided bringing said products to the country despite their illegal status. If such drugs were decriminalized, I don’t feel sure that the same covert mechanisms and tactics for provision would still be necessary and that current dealers of illegal drugs would suddenly flock to the United States where they were “free to roam.”

And actually, it seems to me that the traffickers referred to in the question may prefer the former—being somewhere where the demand was criminalized. If they are doing something illegal to provide a service, why would they go somewhere to provide it where the practice is not criminalized? Essentially it seems this would eliminate or at least decrease the demand for their services. If the service were freely or easily accessible and legal, why would illegal means be necessary to further provide it? Such may in fact create an environment in which traffickers might not feel so comfortable operating.

The same article states,

” … I have read in most other government and NGO documents that many victims are afraid of telling police the truth, since they are threatened and by traffickers.”

That strikes me as truly ironic. I don’t doubt that it’s true (and find it tragic). I wonder why it doesn’t seem to occur within this context that when prostitution is criminalized, virtually ALL working whores, trafficked or not, feel exactly this way by the very law in regard to reporting crimes and telling the truth? If they do experience some kind of assault, especially on the job, the exact description cited above fits that which every sex worker (in an environment in which said work is criminalized) may face—sometimes afraid not of traffickers, but of the law and officials employed to uphold it.

Incidentally, since decriminalizing prostitution certainly doesn’t mean decriminalizing human trafficking, nothing about the above would presumably change in the face of the decriminalization of prostitution. What would change, rather, is that the many working in the sex industry by choice would legally hold more recourse in reporting abusive or unlawful acts without (so much) fear for their own freedom or safety. In addition, law enforcement would be in a position to devote more attention to actual situations of abuse and coercion since the law would not call on them to identically pursue incidents of consensual sex work.

Going back to the first article,

“Paying to have sex with a prostituted woman/sex worker is inherently dehumanizing because it takes the wholeness out of the woman’s humanity.[Emphasis theirs]

…What in the hell does that mean? I’m really not being a smart-ass here—I truly do not understand this. What exactly is the part that’s “dehumanizing”? The having sex? That would seem to be quite the assertion (though not unheard of, I guess). The being paid for it? Um, is most gainful employment dehumanizing, then? What about, for example, writing, which is something I have loved to do since I was seven and that I feel has been a significant part of my existence—and for which I have also been paid. Is that dehumanizing? How about professional psychologists? Are they “dehumanized” by being seen for their training and education when one buys their services, taking the “wholeness out of [their] humanity”? Feel free to insert virtually any profession you’d like to in the above statements, as I don’t see exactly what is differentiating one from another. Why is this profession somehow more “dehumanizing” than the other services we perform for money in a capitalistic social and economic system?

Moving on to practical matters (still in the first article):

“If you throw in some drugs, second-hand clothing, and the watchful eye of a pimp, you’ve got yourself a more realistic picture of what the majority have for a work environment.”

First, I really wonder how one claims to know that this represents a “majority.” But second, why, why, why does it not seem to occur to us that this may be in huge part because the industry is forced underground due to its illegal status? I really don’t understand why this does not seem more commonly recognized. Does it really seem like the above would need to or likely be the case in a non-criminalized industry?

Maybe an example would help this seem clearer. Let’s pretend that we decided to criminalize, say, soccer for some reason. Do you think soccer would remain just as it is now, with the same audiences, environments, and performing conditions? Does it seem that perhaps the aforementioned factors may be affected by its suddenly having lawfully punishable status? That viewing it, following it, participating in it would suddenly need to be done covertly, so that the methodology(ies) arranged to employ this may shift, take on a different feeling, be exploited in different ways? Seriously, ponder that. And if this were the case, does it seem obvious that this would be not because of soccer itself but rather because of its illegal status?

Then there is the line at which I just sigh:

“This means she [Pye Jakobsson] cannot speak on behalf of the sex trade industry, specifically when it comes to trafficking victims.”

I wonder why, then, Ms. Brock feels that she can? I wonder who exactly can speak for sex workers if not sex workers themselves? This is not the first time I’ve seen or heard such an assertion—you’re “an exception”; “most” sex workers are like this. How do the people purporting this know this (even more pointedly, know this better than sex workers themselves)? Why does it seem so commonplace and cavalier to blatantly disregard, particularly as “atypical,” sharings from sex workers who have chosen to work in the industry and who express their perspectives? At what point is it appropriate for those perspectives to be taken into consideration? Why have they seemed so consistently ignored? What constitutes a “valid” sex worker perspective worthy of attention? Perhaps most pointedly, why would someone who has not worked as a sex worker seem to feel so strongly about wanting to speak for them while ignoring expressions from those who have or do work as sex workers as they speak for themselves?

For the record, I don’t claim to speak for all sex workers, nor do I feel I have some magical understanding and knowledge of the majority of sex workers’ experiences or working environments or contexts. I frankly don’t know how virtually anyone feels like s/he knows this, especially in an area of work that tends, contemporarily, to be so covert. What I do feel is that, as I have said before, in a capitalistic environment, I see no justification for the arbitrary disallowance of sexual services to be recognized as among the myriad services legitimately offered for financial compensation. In addition, to purport to speak for the workers comprising an entire industry without necessarily even speaking personally to any of them, much less what may be construed a representative sample, seems inappropriate, or at the very least, subject to scrutiny, to me.

Love,
Emerald

“Everybody’s talking all this stuff about me, why don’t they just let me live?, I don’t need permission, make my own decisions, that’s my prerogative…”
-Britney Spears (originally by Bobby Brown) “My Prerogative”

August 18th, 2010

Recommended Reading #8: Sluts

(Note: I am taking to subtitling Recommended Reading posts, just to give a little context and because I have found myself usually arranging them somewhat thematically.)



      “Slut is Such a Pretty Word” on Gentle Nibbles (Sexual Culture) 4/8/10

This was one of the first things I ever read on Gentle Nibbles. I simply loved it.

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      “How Many Partners Makes You Promiscuous?: More On The Never-Ending Debate” by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Sexual Culture) 8/7/08

Rachel Kramer Bussel takes apart the ridiculous preoccupation with number of sexual partners and its objective relevance to…well, much of anything.

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      “My Sluthood, Myself” by Jaclyn Friedman (Sexual Culture) 7/26/10

This is one of the most amazing (and appreciated) things I have read in a while.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

August 16th, 2010

Coming Up Fast!

It’s halfway through the month, and in case you haven’t been following along, the virtual book tour for Fast Girls, the latest anthology edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, is already halfway over!

I don’t have a story in Fast Girls, but I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour myself in a couple weeks. The Green Light District is the penultimate stop on the month-long virtual tour, so feel free stop back August 30, when I would love to host you!

And if you haven’t, I highly recommend picking up your own copy of Fast Girls. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve found what I’ve read so far so extraordinary that I feel no qualms about recommending the volume based on it alone.

You can find links to the stops that have already occurred so far on the tour, along with the upcoming schedule for the rest of it, right here on the Fast Girls blog.

See you August 30! :)

Love,
Emerald

“Ladies and gentlemen please, will you bring your attention to me?…hold tight cause the show is not over, if you will please move in closer…”
-Saliva “Ladies and Gentlemen”