Archive for December, 2012

December 27th, 2012

Reverence, Connection, and Universality: My Experience of Duty and Desire

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Duty and Desire: Military Erotic Romance, edited by Kristina Wright and published by Cleis Press! You can follow along the other tour stops at Cleis’s tumblr page and, while I’ll remind you of this later, you can purchase Duty and Desire any time in Kindle or print from here. :) (Spoiler: I highly recommend doing so.)

I’ll be honest—when I saw this call for submissions, I felt a slight twinge of apprehension. I personally feel deeply disturbed by war and by what seems to be humanity’s collective propensity to see it as inevitable. I feel no resonance with nationalism at all. I don’t know that I would necessarily label myself “patriotic,” though I appreciate where I live and a lot of things about where I live. In some part of my consciousness I felt a small degree of concern that I might see the final version of this anthology as filled with “us vs. them” bravado, anti-“enemy” sentiment, and/or lacking the considerable reverence I feel even a peripheral association with the topic of war calls for.

When I mentioned this to my partner, I interpreted him as pointing out that sex and romance could develop even in circumstances of military and war. I immediately agreed, elaborating that that wasn’t my concern and that I too felt and feel romance—and most definitely sex—may arise within virtually every circumstance. (It’s one of the reasons I love erotica: there is infinite opportunity to explore this.) I did realize when he said that, however, that this book wasn’t likely to be focusing or commenting on war much but rather on the universality to which he had just alluded—namely, that of erotic and personal connection.

I found that to be the case, and I further discovered my concerns to be entirely unfounded. Never in these stories did I feel that a reverence for this theme wavered in a way I found discomfiting. This I found not only a relief but also something that noticeably impressed me, and I appreciate the (unsurprising) sensitivity with which I feel Kristina compiled this anthology, as well as the depth and sincerity the authors brought to each of the contributions within it.

In fact, the stories here also made me feel more connected, reminded me that sexuality is a universal subject area, and like effective erotica, it brought me to that place regardless of the actual context or circumstances. Throughout them, I myself also detected a tone a bit more reverent, more serious, than most of the erotica or erotic romance anthologies I’ve read; a constant undercurrent of solemnity I found fitting given this volume’s theme.

It would be disingenuous of me to not also admit that frequently, I found the subject matter very hot. In the course of the inner Work I have been doing for several years, I have come to realize that protection and safety are trigger areas for me, both positively and negatively, and that means (in my experience anyway) that they seem to have an intense potential to stimulate. These stories happened to be filled with those themes, and I will admit there was a part of me that found the electric evocation of arousal in them difficult, if not impossible, to resist.

Each of these stories touched or affected me differently. I am aware of that, but I also feel aware of an unusual (in my experience) cohesiveness, of how this volume affected me as a whole, not even as a collection of stories but as a work encompassing a theme I approached with slight trepidation and emerged from with profound desire, even yearning, and gratitude for the universal oneness we share (whether we realize it or not). Whether I wanted it to affect me that way—and before I read it I might have questioned that—and whether I feel comfortable with what about it did so, it nonetheless did.

That, of course, means it is an opportunity for me to learn about myself. Which is one of the opportunities I appreciate most in life.

That kind of depth aside, I truly found this book beautiful. It may sound flippant, but I am not intending to be so when I say I feel these authors outdid themselves, offering stories of a world with which some of us are wholly unfamiliar and possibly can hardly imagine and illuminating what is both unique to that and what is universal—the expression of that universality being, again, something I see as a hallmark of successful erotica writing.

Incidentally, it’s unusual for me to have felt turned on by almost every story in an erotica anthology. I can easily enjoy or appreciate an erotica story without feeling turned on, and for me, that doesn’t lessen the story’s appeal. It happens that in the case of this anthology, that point was moot—story after story left my breathing faster, my heartbeat accelerated, and lower parts of my anatomy pulsing (I suppose I could say “pussy,” but it seems to interrupt the flow of a serious exposition on a literary work, don’t you think…?).

A couple asides: Being a considerable fan of references to safer sex in depictions of sexual interaction, I was delighted to see the condom mentions many of these stories exhibited. (“Snake Dance”‘s was actually a special treat given the protagonist’s inner narrative of, “That was good; she was on the pill, but that wouldn’t prevent anything else.” Exactly!) Additionally…did I mention this book has what I find a ridiculously hot cover??

The collection starts off with a bang with Delilah Devlin’s “The Long Ride Home.” This hot, fast tale sets the tone for the scorching heat that is to come. It’s followed by the flawlessly rendered “Night Witch,” (Connie Wilkins) which sets the tone for the profound emotion, sacrifice, and connection I experience as frequently depicted as a part of this anthology’s theme.

When I was considering the ambiguity of how I felt about the theme of this anthology before I read it, I did note Shanna Germain‘s name in the table of contents and felt an unquestionable confidence that the volume contained at least one story that held almost no chance of eliciting any kind of the discomfort I feared. That’s simply the level of respect the way I’ve experienced Shanna’s writing has imbued in me, and that assessment was indeed accurate in this case. Shanna did her usual, in my experience, extraordinary job of displaying humanity, arousal, connection, and challenge through the medium of words.

Sacchi Green‘s offering, “Sergeant Rae,” struck me similarly. Of course, I found Sacchi’s writing so exquisite it almost distracted me from the story’s actual content, but only almost—I certainly appreciated “Sergeant Rae” for the remarkable tale I found it to be.

As I see it, Craig J. Sorensen nailed everything beautiful about this anthology with his story that was one of my very favorites, “The Grunt and the Ditty Bop.” This story stayed in my consciousness for days after I read it, often coming back to me in visual form due to the clear view of the setting Craig’s evocative prose elicited in me. Lynn Townsend‘s “Snake Dance” (another favorite) had the same effect on me; I found myself recalling her main female character’s lushly described physical appearance numerous times after I’d finished the story.

“Against the Wall” (Catherine Paulssen) struck me as a story with both intense heat and literary beauty at the same time, rich with imagery and boasting an ending I found exceptionally captivating and well-done. I went back and read the last several paragraphs more than once as I finished the story. This story also held a special place in my reading appreciation for its depiction of soldiers on “enemy sides,” reminding us of the humanity in every soldier regardless of his/her/their military affiliation.

Numerous other stories, such as “Fighting for Fresno” (Ericka Hiatt) and “Passing out Passion” (Lucy Felthouse) struck me in various ways (with character description I found unusually sharp and humor and lightheartedness that made me smile or even laugh even as it turned me on, respectively), and overall, I experienced this volume as profound, beautiful, moving, and well worth both reading and owning. I am so very glad I did (and do!), and I extend true admiration and gratitude to editor Kristina Wright for conceiving and compiling such an extraordinary collection, as well as certainly to the authors for surprising and moving and arousing me with their resplendent offerings I didn’t even know how to expect.

Once again, Duty and Desire: Military Erotic Romance is available for purchase here, and thank you for visiting my stop on the virtual tour, of which it is my honor to be a part! :)

Love,
Emerald

“Would you cry if you saw me crying, would you save my soul tonight…”
-Enrique Eglesias “Hero”

December 26th, 2012

Recommended Reading #130: (United States) Public Policy, Pt. II



      “Confession #3: The Things They Ran Through the X-ray” at Taking Sense Away (Sociology, Sex and Culture) 11/12/12

Nicely put. I appreciate the commentary on U.S. TSA flying rules and tone in this piece, and of course I find the concluding paragraphs simply lovely. (Link thanks to Violet Blue.)

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      “Can America Be Great Again?” by Alec Baldwin (Non-Sex-Related, Politics, History) 9/24/12

This is outdated, of course, I am relieved that President Obama was indeed re-elected. I still appreciate this piece, however, and the way I perceive it as outlining implications of current and historical states of affairs.

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      “Celebrating the Prince of Peace in the Land of Guns” by Michael Moore (Non-Sex-Related, Sociology, Politics) 12/24/12

I don’t necessarily agree with every assertion in this, but I certainly appreciate the examination in general, and I particularly appreciate the musing on other countries’ feeling less “ME” than the U.S. perhaps pertaining to their comparatively lower murder rates. There are many other things I appreciate in this piece as well, and I will say I feel it increases his credibility that he acknowledges certain uses of guns. I myself don’t feel particularly strongly about gun laws (which doesn’t mean I agree with them or demands for more of them and also doesn’t mean I disagree with them or demands for more of them), mainly because I see our issues as so very much deeper than that and don’t tend to feel laws are the answer to everything. Overall, this kind of contemplation and many of the implications I interpret him as stating here strike me as resonant and relevant.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

December 19th, 2012

Recommended Reading #129: Questioning the System(s), Pt. III



      “do we really want to protect ‘our’ children?” by Jen Cross (Non-sex-related, Youth, U.S. Public Policy, Media) 12/18/12

I have not commented on the recent events in Connecticut because I simply don’t feel they are for me to comment on. I am heartbroken by the tragedy, and to say I wish every bit of the best for all affected doesn’t seem to begin to do justice to how I feel—but I wish that all the time, for everybody. What we have become aware via media happened in Connecticut is a horrifying, harsh tragedy…and tragedies occur all over the world all the time. That’s not meant to undermine the gravity of or reverence for any of it. Basically, I just agree with what I interpret in this piece. It may sound blunt, but I don’t understand why the media needs to feed a frenzy for the whole nation to foam at the mouth to hear about and talk about this kind of thing, as though we forget that every day sees children starving to death, killed by warfare, and affected by violence all over the planet. :(

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      “Marriage is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.” by Amanda Hess (Sex and Culture, U.S. Public Policy, Sociology) 11/6/12

I don’t personally feel very much of an investment in the social institution that is marriage, but I do see the significance with which society seems to imbue it as having important implications. As such, I find this an interesting article. I wholly agree (and have stated so many times) with Bryce Covert’s assessment, as well as Zak Stone’s. The parental rights issues Steven Horwitz and Joanna Schroeder allude to seem to me things we must be examining now, and the alternative ideas I interpret Nona Willis Aronowitz and Ann Friedman as offering strike me as well worth considering. Alyssa Royce’s and Hugo Schwyzer’s perspectives resonate particularly strongly with me as conscious and articulate offerings that are extrapolative beyond the immediate issue of marriage into how we perceive and function in relationship in general, as well as the contextualization of relationship with government and education.

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      “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Sext?” by Sabrina Maddeaux (Youth, Sex and Culture, Gender Socialization, Slut-Shaming) 11/15/12

I simply find this fabulous and spot-on.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

December 17th, 2012

Red, White, and the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

RedandwhiteToday, December 17, is the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I meant to post this earlier today, but that isn’t how the day has gone. So I shall post it now, in hindsight rather than anticipation.

The symbolic color for this day is red (the general symbol for sex worker rights is the red umbrella). Over the past few days I’ve been reflecting on this color and my perception of its relation to sex worker rights. In the Diamond Approach, red is the color of Strength and capacity. In Five-Element Acupuncture, it corresponds with the heart, the element of Fire, embodying joy and connection. The red or root chakra relates to our grounding, our “I am”-ness, our very survival.

I wore red today to honor the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I feel moved by considering these symbolic invitations of red as well as how they fit into the support of sex worker rights and the rights and love of all.

In my own journey, I seem to be entering a phase related to the color white. In the Diamond Approach, white is the color of Will. Will is what enables us to stay with what is true, even when it feels overwhelming or terrifying or both. A new area of inner Work has seemed to open up before me within the last week, and Will will be essential in working effectively with it. Will enables and supports us in following Truth.

Thus I wore white today too.

From a Diamond Approach perspective, I dressed to honor Strength and Will tonight. In this consciously-chosen outfit, as I accompanied one of my closest friends to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, I displayed reverence for what December 17 has been invited to represent and for my personal Work and journey. This is my contribution this year…while it may seem minuscule, for some reason it feels important to me.

Peace and love to all.

Love,
Emerald

“Then I stepped into my satin dancing dress, it had a split in the side clean up to my hip; it was red with velvet trim and it fit me good, and standing back from the looking glass, there stood a woman where a half-grown kid had stood…”
-Reba McEntire “Fancy”

December 12th, 2012

Recommended Reading #128: Autonomy, Pt. II



      “Parental notification reconsidered — and rejected — by the father of a daughter” by Hugo Schwyzer (Youth, Parenting, Reproductive Rights) 3/25/10

The minor (in this context) issue of my general eschewal of the word “God” notwithstanding, I adore the entirety of this piece intensely. I love the intersection of personal, philosophical, and insightful that I see it as embodying (I just realized I’ve often noticed a particular knack for that in Hugo’s writing), and I couldn’t agree more with its content.

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      “Quick Hit: The Smiths believe in raising a girl in command of her own body” by Syreeta (Parenting, Youth, Gender Socialization) 11/27/12

This strikes me as simultaneously so obvious and yet so woefully commonly unrecognized. I also find it profoundly important and so appreciate that Willow’s parents embody and set this example.

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      “Blind Iowa Man Empowers Disabled Students to Follow Their Dreams” by Kristin Kloberdanz (Humanity, Disability, Non-Sex-Related) 10/17/12

I find this deeply beautiful and inspiring.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday