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”

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4 Responses “Flowers, Precipitation, and Arousal: Women in Lust

  1. Erobintica says:

    Wonderful review! I loved reading about your response to certain stories, and some of the ones that moved you also did me. Would love to chat with you about them sometime!

  2. Justine Elyot says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful and thoughtful post. I think there is so much value in your approach to erotica – if only everyone was so open-minded. Fiction that concerns itself with sex doesn’t deserve to be ghettoised in the way that it is.

    (And I’m very glad you enjoyed the story.)

  3. Emerald says:

    Hi lovelies!! Sorry for my delay in response here—the Internet was down most of the day for some reason and just came back on.

    Thank you Robin! Indeed, I would love to discuss such with you! I was at a workshop over the weekend and offline the whole time, but I know I owe you an email! ;) Thanks so much for coming by.

    Hi Justine! What a lovely comment—thank you so much. And indeed, I loved your story! Xoxoxox

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