Archive for November, 2011

November 30th, 2011

Recommended Reading #75: Relationship, Pt. II



      “Before Your Next Fight, Read This” by Daniel Shapiro (Non-sex-related, Psychology, Self-Awareness) 10/2006

I love the emphasis on empathy in this offering, and the offering in its entirety strikes me as resonant and powerful. It also seems filled with self-awareness, which I appreciate. Overall, the title, as farfetched as it may sound, actually seems to me a fair suggestion!

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      “A Revolutionary Relationship” by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Non-monogamy, Sex and Culture, Psychology) 11/30/04

Like Rachel, I feel pretty blown away by Ms. Dodson’s offerings here, and the perspective she offers seems so important to me, if only to invite awareness of self-love (and it’s un-overstatable importance, as far as I’m concerned) and an alternative to the monogamy-as-standard/default perception that seems (still!) so pervasive in contemporary (Western, at least) culture.

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      “Relocation…? Bonus.” by Mollena (Relationship, Monogamy, Self-Awareness) 10/6/11

I love—and found downright mesmerizing—this contemplative offering from Mollena, especially since it so clearly outlines and expresses the internal process and self-awareness it encompassed. I also personally appreciate the reminder (as I interpreted it) about how beautiful some people experience monogamy as and why and how they feel drawn to it. It reminds me how obvious it seems to me that honoring oneself, the expression of others’ preferences and perspective, and the uniqueness of each situation and connection are the cornerstones of—perhaps all that is really important in—relationship.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

November 23rd, 2011

Recommended Reading #74: Parenting, Pt. III



      “I’m Proud That My Mom Got Arrested” by Amelia McDonell-Parry (Non-sex-related, Activism, Sociology, Politics) 10/4/11

I found this a moving, compellingly-written account of a daughter’s perception of her mother in the context of a larger picture about activism and United States public policy and, as a quote in the article calls it, fundamental infrastructure. I agree that the point of the article is not to comment or persuade about said protest or circumstances; nonetheless, I found the implications intrinsic to the context powerful. Overall I found this a beautiful and poignant piece.

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      “Respect the ‘No’” by Marlo Gayle (Youth, Consent, Bodily Autonomy) 11/11/11

While the message of this may seem obvious, I agree with the author that, “As a culture, we treat children as community property.” What I interpret as being stated in this short piece strikes me as an important recognition and offering.

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      “Raising a Strong-Voiced Girl” by Lynne Marie Wanamaker (Non-sex-related, Psychology, Self-Awareness, Youth) 1/18/09

I have little to add to his. On a personal level, I felt virtually speechless (pre-verbal) when I finished it, so saying something about it doesn’t feel forthcoming…. There is much I appreciate here in terms of self-awareness and the relevance of that to parenting. I especially herald the perspective on which I perceive this article to be based of one’s child’s full humanity—that they are not simply small extended versions of the parents but entire autonomous beings of their own. The delineation as such of “mid-wifing the child’s creation of itself” versus wanting the child to be “good/obedient” here strikes me deeply.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

November 21st, 2011

Flowers, Precipitation, and Arousal: Women in Lust

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Women in Lust, the latest erotic anthology edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel! It is my pleasure to be participating in the virtual tour, the full schedule for which may be found here at the anthology’s own website, which also contains story excerpts, a list of places to find the book for sale, and the full table of contents and introduction.

The cover of Women in Lust is, of course, featured above—and speaking of it, I want to mention that I was delighted to see the tagline “Erotic Stories” at the bottom of this book rather than the “Erotic Stories for Women” line I’d seen on a number of previous anthologies. I found it very refreshing not to see a gender assigned (arbitrarily, it has seemed to me) to whom the book may appeal to! Yay! :)

Another mention I’d like to make is that I was so pleased by the plethora of condom references in the stories in Women in Lust. I have discussed how I feel about the depiction of condom use in erotic fiction here before, and it is a huge personal preference of mine as a reader to see them mentioned in fictitious depictions of sex. I was delighted by the prevalence of this I saw in this anthology.

Women in Lust has a table of contents that includes some of my favorite authors (such as Charlotte Stein, editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, Justine Elyot, K D Grace, Shanna Germain, and Donna George Storey), which is a draw, of course. In addition, I was compelled by perhaps my favorite line in the anthology’s introduction. Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel writes of the stories’ heroines:

“Either way, their lust is a valued part of their lives, not a pesky afterthought or a to-do list item on ‘date night.’”

And there it is, really—one of the most salient considerations about sexuality I have observed in the aura of our culture. It has often seemed to me that sex is viewed not only as a “separate” part of life, disconnected from the rest of it, but that also this “separate” part is not nearly as important as “real” life considerations and may easily and reasonably be one of the first things to be dismissed or dropped by the wayside on the quest of, as they say, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

How absurd.

As befits its title, lust could be a motivator, even an overwhelming one, in the pages of Women in Lust. But this book was not simply filled with indulgent, un-contextualized references to this intriguingly powerful urge. There were additonal emotions, contexts, and considerations amidst any sense of lust—even if lust ended up overpowering them.

Sometimes, though, it did not—and there was nothing less hot about those times. On the contrary, these were complex characters, so the story was often not just about unconsidered obedience to a sexual drive—Women in Lust included discerning, aware choosing where lust was concerned. To me this was epitomized in Brandy Fox’s “Unbidden.”

I was fascinated by the considerable journey that unfolded in “Bite Me” and the engaging turn(s) of events in “Ode to a Masturbator” (Lucy Hughes and Aimee Herman, respectively). And the book closed with “Comfort Food” (Donna George Storey), one of my favorite stories by one of my favorite writers—I’ll be honest and say I looked forward the whole book to reading it! As with a luscious dessert, the anticipation was justly rewarded. :)

I myself experienced a kind of climactic trifecta toward the end of reading this anthology. It began with “Orchid” (Jacqueline Applebee), which I found not only scorchingly hot and quite delightful but also hilarious, which was of course a treat. (Truly, I laughed out loud more than once while reading it.) “Orchid” was followed by “Cherry Blossom” (Kayar Silkenvoice), which continued the extraordinary momentum I was experiencing with its gorgeous imagery and intricate depictions of the narrator and her lust interest.

After “Rain,” by Olivia Archer, which was next, I took a break. I’ve been known to do that while reading a collection of stories after I’ve found a story so beautiful, so striking and affecting in a breathtaking mosaic of ways that I don’t want to continue yet (even if the next story is by one of my favorite authors, Justine Elyot!) because what I just read has possessed my consciousness such that I know it needs time to process, to settle, to land—to have that space to occupy unencumbered the notice it has just seamlessly commanded.

I was still remembering “Rain” hours after I put the book down.

I was reminded while reading Women in Lust that for me, erotica really isn’t just about fantasy, and the truth is, how I feel about it is not even determined by whether it turns me on or not. I find sex such a compelling subject that I simply don’t require arousal to appreciate it artistically—sometimes very deeply. I realize I may be in the minority about that, and of course that is fine—I’m not suggesting everyone’s perspective should mirror mine! It simply occurred to me as I was reading that erotica, to me, is not necessarily writing that turns me on. Rather I see erotica as writing that approaches sex/sexuality not with gaze averted and posture defensive or salacious but rather with the same curiosity and truth with which it approaches any other aspect of humanity/experience/life. It lets sex do what it does, whatever feelings, acts, contexts may be involved. If it does that with ease, curiosity, and not with any professed—implicitly or explicitly—”literary,” “moral,” or other formulated standard that intrudes upon the place sexuality takes in life, it seems, to me, erotic writing.*

Often, this does turn me on not by virtue of what specific sex acts are described or included but from the core of the connection, the desire, that emerges from the words on the page. I have historically felt no sexual desire for women, for example, but the imagery and pull I experienced reading “Cherry Blossom” altered my breathing and indeed aroused me in a way different from the way I seek when I’m simply looking to get off—arousing my being, my senses, my awareness, not just my genitals and a base urge I have historically easily reached orgasm via the stimulation of.

It’s not that one is better than the other. I just find them different. And erotica is usually something I seek to (and have) appreciate(d) beyond simple sexual stimulation (for the pursuit of which I have usually used video porn).

Historically I have not postulated an inherent difference between “pornography” and “erotica.” I still don’t. This has mainly been because the concept has almost always seemed to contain judgment—arbitrary and unhelpful judgment, as far as I’m concerned—with the “pornography” label frequently postulated to be at least inferior and at most inherently unfavorable. (I’ll add that it’s seemed to me that most of the time, if it has occurred to someone to ask, this is likely the case.) I subscribe to no such perspective, so I have not found making a distinction between the two words a compelling endeavor.

If, for me, there personally is one, this is it—pornography is what I use (and love) solely to get off on; while erotica is the unabashed exploration of sex I find fascinating and affecting. It doesn’t mean the sex itself has to be or is unabashed—it is the exploration of it, the sharing the author is offering, that I wish to be unencumbered by virtue of its subject. The subject being sex, sexuality, and its incumbent, myriad, contexts.

Sometimes, of course, it happens that there is overlap: I find a story simulating on numerous levels and discover the pleasant effect that it has turned me on as well. When I returned to Women in Lust, it happened that I experienced this with a vengeance. Following “Rain” in the table of contents is Justine Elyot’s “The Hard Way.” I’ve loved Justine’s work, so I wasn’t surprised that I loved her story, but I will say I think this was one of my favorites of hers that I’ve read.

And right after “The Hard Way” was K D Grace’s mind-blowingly hot “Strapped,” which really almost took my breath away. It was clever, beautiful, and held the considerable appeal for me of depicting a scenario I wouldn’t have predicted would turn me on or perhaps even interest me—and unequivocally doing both.

I am sincerely glad I took the time to read Women in Lust, which contained stories I found delightful, intriguing, compelling, and breathtaking. In places, in fact, this anthology included some of the most impressive work I have experienced in the erotica genre. It has been my pleasure to share this ode to what I loved about it.

On that note, once again the schedule and attendant links for the rest of the blog tour may be found here, and the book is of course for sale on Amazon as well as at this list of retailers found on the book’s website. Thanks so much for joining me at my stop on the Women in Lust virtual book tour!

Love,
Emerald

*If it describes actual act(s) of harm that happen to involve sexual contact, that to me is not an act of sex but something different, encapsulating other aspects of experience that do not to me seem focused on sexuality; thus, such for me would not fall into the category I described.

“I wonder if you feel the same way I do, I can see it in your eyes, I entice you…”
-Toya “I Do”

November 16th, 2011

Recommended Reading #73: Digging Deeper



      “The Difference Between Talking About Sex And Having Sex” by Dr. Charlie Glickman (Sexuality Education, Youth, Sex and Culture) 10/20/11

I find this article excellent. Charlie points out in a lucid, calm, sensitive way why talking about sex to, for example, children, is not the same (or even close to it) as “sexualizing” them. As has often seemed the case to me with Charlie’s writing, he presents something with which I wholeheartedly agree but had not quite noticed or articulated myself. Much appreciation to him!

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      “SlutWalk NYC Speech” by Audacia Ray (Activism, Sex Work, SlutWalk) 10/1/11

I find this relatively short speech high on complexity (not surprising, coming from Audacia), and basically I feel she says quite a lot with rather few words. The observations she offers about intersecting identities and different forms of privilege and oppression strike me as starkly relevant and reminiscent of the complexity of human rights/social justice advocacy and of everyone’s experience. I especially appreciate the perceptoin, as I have seen stated before, that solidarity and respect for human rights includes allhuman rights—and that advocacy for any requires this awareness of the desirability of all.

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      “Don’t EVEN Get Me Started, Mythical Bootstraps College Student” by Buster Blonde at Persephone Magazine (Non-Sex-Related, Economics) 10/21/11

10/21/11
I don’t claim to know much about economics myself, but I frankly certainly find (what seem to me) blasé arguments about how easy or at least doable it is to support oneself in the current overall systemic economical and cultural environment of the United States without a whole lot of factors already seeming to be in one’s favor frustratingly, sometimes maddeningly, dubious. I appreciate the time and breakdown the author offered here in response to such a presentation. (Note: The few comments I chose to peruse on this post included some that seemed to offer considerable disagreement. There may be merit in those too; again, I don’t claim to be an expert in economics. A lot of what I interpreted from this post, though, rang true to me and seems important to me to be pointed out.) [Thanks to Graydancer for the link.]

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

November 9th, 2011

Recommended Reading #72: Reproductive Choice, Pt. II



      “The Men Behind The War On Women” by Laura Bassett (Religion, United States Public Policy, Politics, Law, Reproductive Rights, Abortion) 11/1/11

I simply find this infuriating. While that does not make this piece seem particularly inspiring to me, it seems desirable for citizens of the United States to be aware that this insanity (yes, that really is what I consider it) is taking place and the astoundingly inappropriate degree to which representatives of the Catholic religion are intruding on the workings of the United States government and, by extension, the lives of the country’s population.

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      “Come to Me for Plan B” by Lorraine at culturekitchen (Reproductive Rights, Youth, Politics, United States Public Policy) 8/24/06

I feel quite the same way I interpret the author as stating she feels in this article—I also said as soon as Plan B was allowed over-the-counter status but only for people 17 and over that I would unhesitatingly procure and provide it to anyone who needed it without a prescription and wasn’t old enough to get it. I also very much appreciate her point about why she finds it important to speak about the availability of Plan B, and I relate to her own story—I once found myself at a regular gynecological checkup staring at my longtime respective health care provider as she told me she would not write me a prescription for Plan B because she “didn’t believe in it.” (She was not a health care provider of mine after that.) I was a reproductive rights activist, and even I sat there feeling stunned and even a little bit shamed, or at least embarrassed, as the person with a certain authority in that exchange denied me a perfectly legal prescription I, as a patient, was asking for. (I also, a different time, encountered a worker at a pharmacy who refused to fill a prescription for Plan B for me.) It makes me appreciate the author’s assertion that she “[has] the wherewithal to fight [those who would deny women Plan B], but many, many women—those who feel shame about having sex in this culture don’t have the resources to fight you. And so I’m fighting this on their behalf.” I feel exactly the same way.

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      “The Personhood Ballot in Mississippi: ‘Sluts,’ ‘Good Girls,’ and the Increasingly Blurry Line Dividing Them” by Amanda Marcotte (Gender, Sex and Culture, Reproductive Rights, Politics) 11/6/11

I agree with and find astute the perception delineated in the first part of this article. The last paragraph offers a stark and ominous framing of the implications of the proposed Initiative 26 in Mississippi that was voted on yesterday, and, I feel profound relief to say, did not pass. Why the movement would suddenly make such a move and include all women rather than just those they perceive as “sluts” in the agenda of controlling their bodies and autonomy is not covered here as far as I see, but whatever is going on, it certainly seems to me something to watch.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday