Archive for Sex+ Freedom/Rights
Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Sex and Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays (on sale now at Amazon and iBooks), the inaugural single-author book from prolific sex writer, erotica editor, and cupcake connoisseur Rachel Kramer Bussel! I am delighted to be participating in the tour, which you may find and follow along with here. In addition, Rachel is holding an in-person book release party on November 17 at Sweet Revenge—find all the details on that on the Facebook invitation.
This may sound far-fetched, but the fact is, the first paragraph of the introduction of Sex and Cupcakes captivated me. Intensely. Those six sentences resonated with me so much and struck me as so full of insight that I came to write this sentence down literally before I’d even gotten halfway through the introduction. Upon finishing the introduction, I honestly didn’t know how one could not find it electrifyingly intriguing. I certainly did.
Full disclosure: Rachel has bestowed upon me the honor, many times, of publishing my work in her anthologies. Exactly half of the stories in my first single-author short story collection, If… Then, were previously published in anthologies edited by Rachel. Three of the stories in my second collection, Safe, were. She has published me more than all the other editors who have combined (not counting, of course, the publisher of said brand new collections). I have loved working with her and am truly honored to have made so many appearances in her compilations.
So one could say I might find it difficult to offer a “fair” or “objective” review of a volume she penned in its entirety.
Perhaps. But one could also say that I have felt drawn to submitting to her anthologies and working with her because I have familiarized myself with and followed her work, much of which has included nonfiction writing for a variety of publications, and found it consistently resonant and compelling. That would be accurate, and I suspect it goes far in accounting for the enthusiasm and appreciation I feel for her first single-author volume of nonfiction essays. I guessed that I would like Sex and Cupcakes enough to rave about it, and I was correct.
Sex and Cupcakes is a compilation of nine of the author’s luminous essays in one place, offering a (luscious buttercream frosting) taste of her extensive examination of, as she herself puts it, “how ideas about sexual freedom impact our society.” In addition to penetrating explorations on universal themes of life, sex, connection, society, and various correlations therein, the author also delves deep into her own personal experience, offering memoir of a captivating and illuminating nature that, we eventually see, frequently harkens back to these universal themes and macrocosmic observations of social phenomena.
To me, “My Boyfriend’s Fat” exemplified this juxtaposition, gracefully weaving the author’s inner perspective on her intimate relationship with insights into society’s (astonishingly intrusive and, as I see it, relatively arbitrary) relationship with fat, adding in level-headed recognitions about how the circumstances of said fat affect her and her boyfriend’s lives. It was one of my favorite pieces.
I also found myself loving and strikingly relating to “Monogamishmash,” an essay that, as I experienced it, displayed a trait I noticed throughout my reading of Sex and Cupcakes. It is that Rachel doesn’t hold back from displaying her personal vulnerabilities and uncertainties in the memoir within these pages. I found this to make the writing more authentic, engaging, interesting, and relatable. I have the feeling she writes with not only a desire to express herself but also to offer connection to her readers, who may find things here to relate to, discover about themselves, feel relief about seeing in another. In short, as Rachel puts it herself in the title essay, “I hope … my books and writing have helped open other people up as well.”
Speaking of the title piece, which is, of course, called “Sex and Cupcakes,” it seemed to me to be the highlight of the compilation. This was not just because it is significantly longer than the rest of the essays but also because it offers a comprehensive glimpse into these two aspects of the author’s life that have become, somewhat unexpectedly, so pivotal to her everyday existence and her career. Their juxtaposition and the author’s presentation of how she experiences the professional, social, and personal implications of each not only makes for interesting reading but is also, as usual, filled with the incisive observations and assessments the author has established as characteristic throughout the volume.
It’s worth noting that in addition to the curiosity, contemplation, exploration, and openness Rachel offers in these pieces, she is also simply a skilled writer. Thus the content she provides is not only compelling to peruse but is noticeably complemented by clear, lovely prose to express it.
Never, as I interpret it, does the author presume she is speaking for or representing anyone but herself, which I find a grounding and ingratiating characteristic in almost any writing but particularly in memoir or social commentary. As she says in “Sex and Cupcakes”: “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend to. What I do have is a curiosity about my own and others’ sexuality, about what turns people on and how those interests relate to the culture at large.”
Those two sentences encompass a summation of how I ultimately experienced Sex and Cupcakes: as a diverse collection of curious, probing, sincere musings of someone who is truly and unapologetically fascinated by sex. As one who has that in common with the author, this book was an endeavor I actively appreciated.
If you’ve ever read the author’s work online (and if you have an interest in relationships, sexuality, and/or memoir, you probably either have or will want to) and appreciated it, Sex and Cupcakes is something you’ll almost certainly want to devour as a comprehensive taste of the thoughtfulness, relatability, and insight she has to offer. If you haven’t yet been exposed to her work, I recommend this volume as a superb place to start.
In the title piece, Rachel says (accurately, it seems to me), “Focusing on sex as an intelligent point of conversation, as something lively, worthy and interesting, is beyond the pale for a lot of people.”
It is certainly our gain that the author is not one of them.
“There is a particular kind of venom that comes out when you speak and write about sex, whether it’s autobiographical or not. You reveal a vulnerability and tap into the dirty little secret of our supposedly sex-saturated, anything-goes American culture: that deep down, we are pretty prudish.”
-Rachel Kramer Bussel, in the title essay of Sex & Cupcakes
Like many of Scarleteen’s careful, thorough, detailed posts, this post may seem long. I implore you, please, to read it anyway.*
May 1 is my birthday. I would truly prefer it not also mark this year the day Scarleteen had to shut down any of its vital services because of a lack of funding.
I participated in Scarleteen‘s fundraising blog carnival a few years ago, and as I said in that post, from the time I considered creating my own website, I knew Scarleteen would be the place to which I linked on my entry page for potential visitors who were not yet eighteen. It is that way on my site now, and it has been ever since it was launched.
I am one of those people Heather refers to that raves about what Scarleteen does and refers people there regularly but in the midst of whom Scarleteen still has not been able to adequately financially support itself. And she’s right that it’s (past) time for me to step up and support Scarleteen financially in addition to supporting them the other ways I do. After I read her post, I did. I hope you will too, if you are in a position to. I recognize the particular importance of this in that a lot of the people Scarleteen helps aren’t in a position to offer financial support—the organization is specifically geared toward young people, who often don’t have such disposable resources.
I’m reminded as well of a post I wrote a few years ago thanking sex educators. I still feel this way, earnestly, and I see Heather Corinna as truly one of the pioneering ones of these—she supports, without judgement or condescension, and with caring and an obvious deep well of knowledge, young people: some of the people society most seems to want to deprive of support and understanding around sexuality and to whom this deprivation does a unique disservice.
I truly hope all reading this will consider donating to Scarleteen and/or helping however they feel they can. I see the work of this organization as phenomenal, and I promise you, Heather and Scarleteen, I am pulling for you. It has become a birthday wish for me this year that you get the funding you need and find yourselves in a position to continue the monumental, deeply relevant work you do.
“And when the hardest part is over we’ll be here, and our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear…”
-Brandon Flowers “Crossfire”
Today, March 3, is International Sex Worker Rights Day. I interpret this as a day to educate about, support, and advocate for the rights of sex workers everywhere. I have blogged about this day here at The Green Light District since 2010, when I first learned of it.* This year, as I did in when I first blogged about it 2010, I’m going to offer a small roundup of pieces that, to me, celebrate the progression of sex worker rights and sex worker rights awareness in the last year. (Some of these will have appeared in Recommended Reading.)
Before I do, I’d like to comment briefly on one thing I haven’t covered a lot in my posts here about sex work. That is the idea of the “Swedish model,” or criminalizing the purchase of sexual services rather than the actual act of selling them (i.e., criminalizing the client instead of the practitioner).
I’d like to ask anyone reading this and/or who supports such legislation to imagine the purchase’s of the service or product you sell in order to make a living being criminalized. Not the service itself—you go on about your merry way making a living selling it—only the purchase of it. That way they’re taking it easy on you, right? They won’t criminalize the way you make a living. Whew! They’ll just criminalize the act of actually purchasing it from you.
Please consider how that would affect your business. Truly, please consider it. And while you’re at it, please consider what kind of clients you’d get. (In case it isn’t obvious, I’ll give you a hint: you’d get ones who don’t mind breaking the law.) Feel safer now doing your job?
If you’ve spent more than seven seconds on my blog, you probably know I support the decriminalization of all forms of sex work (and certainly do not support criminalizing the purchase of these services if sex work is decriminalized). Sex worker rights, of course, extend beyond criminalization, but legal status is one of the most prominent areas in which sex workers’ health and lives are endangered because of (as I see them) misguided laws and subsequent labor rights infringements.
Without further ado, following are a few measures since last March 3 that seem to indicate a widening of the understanding of sex workers’ rights and the ways laws have inhibited and still do inhibit them:
Happy International Sex Worker Rights Day 2014!
“Sex worker wins harassment case”
March 1, 2014
This is truly heartening to see.
This contains so many important and helpful distinctions and insights. I was thrilled to discover it. (It is not dated, but it was new to me, and the comments on it appeared earlier in 2014.)
“Sex worker fights for victims of rape, assault”
December 14, 2013
While I could hardly stand to read that this kind of legislative initiative had been allowed any credence whatsoever, since it was, I appreciate this article (and certainly that said legislation was rejected) even more.
“Does banning prostitution make women safer?”
July 8, 2013
I’ve long appreciated the in-depth and articulate responses Laura Agustin has managed to give to repeated questions like this via her extensive research on sex work in myriad geographical regions and contexts.
(Bonus commentary: Speaking of Laura, if you are interested in reading a longer discussion from her on this subject, I recommend this from August of last year: “Prostitution Law and the Death of Whores.”)
Last summer, the “No Condoms as Evidence” bill, which disallows the use of condom possession as evidence of practicing prostitution, passed the New York State Assembly. While prosecutors in New York had already stated they would not accept condoms as evidence of prostitution, legislation prohibiting the practice would protect sex workers (and others) from the atrocious application of law enforcement’s confiscating and presenting condoms as evidence of intent to partake in prostitution.
I blogged about this years ago, as I was and am appalled by the idea of making the receipt of funding for HIV prevention contingent on overtly opposing prostitution. I was/am so pleased to see the Supreme Court overrule such an absurdity on First Amendment grounds.
“International Sex Worker Rights Day 2013” (2013)
“An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh” (2012)
“Bittersweet Balloons” (2011)
“International Sex Worker Rights Day” (2010) “Further division is not the answer—division is not the answer…”
-Ben Lee “I Love Pop Music”
Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. I acknowledge I have not yet planned or composed a blog post for the day—but I don’t feel I ever want the day (or International Sex Worker Rights Day on March 3) to go by unacknowledged on my blog, even if it is just a placeholder post to announce that that is indeed what day it is.
At the least, I traditionally light my red candle today. I just searched for it and don’t seem to know where I put it after last year’s lighting. So I just called Rick Write to ask him to pick me up a new one on his way home, and I will light it as soon as he gets here. Though it won’t be lit very long today, as we have plans away from home for most of the evening, it is done with full reverence for all sex workers who have experienced violence in the context of their work. The flame itself may be relatively brief, but the ongoing fire of love and support for my fellow former and current sex workers is always in me.
And, of course, I hold in love all who have ever experienced or perpetrated violence and hold a deepest wish for our awakening out of the unconscious constraints and limitations that drive it.
Love to all, everywhere, always,
P.S. As I finish and post this, my red candle has arrived and is now lit.“What will I tell my daughter, what will you tell your son…that we were nothing but a shadow, a faceless generation void of love?…”
-LIVE “What Are We Fighting For?”
I’ll be frank: this piece is about something I’ve found vaguely annoying for some time. I was reminded of it when I encountered a couple days ago yet another spielabout women’s pubic hair and why they’re supposedly doing and/or should or should not be doing whatever they’re doing with it.
I truly don’t understand what I’ve perceived as the intensity of some responses about the deliberate presence or absence of pubic hair. It seems to especially be an issue when it concerns female-bodied people removing their pubic hair or not, and I really don’t understand why anyone seems to think it’s his/her/their business what anyone else does with his/her/their pubic hair. Seriously, I am baffled by this.
I’ve seen some male-identified people say things like, “Please, stop shaving your pubic hair. We like it to be there!” (I’m not sure whether every man in the world congregated to let these particular ones know what they all like—and that it, astonishingly, happens to be the same thing—or how else any respective man feels justified proposing this, but that may be another post…or, perhaps, I’ll just let this little parenthetical speak for itself.) I’ve seen female-identified people, as well, seem to lament some current “style” of pubic hair for women and appear to proclaim what women “should” do with it.
In the case of the former, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, gentlemen, but I don’t shave my pubic hair because I think you like it or because you want me to or really because of you at all. I do it because I prefer it that way. Does that seem so surprising? For a variety of reasons, I prefer my vulva to be shaven, and I frankly don’t see that as anyone’s business but my own.
As far as the latter, if you don’t feel you need to or should need to remove your pubic hair to feel or look attractive, by all means don’t. I can hardly imagine why someone would feel pressured to do something with her/his/their pubic hair that was unwanted because of some perceived “style”—and I’ve worked as a porn performer, webcam model, and stripper. For whatever reason, I didn’t ever encounter pressure one way or the other (aside from customer requests) from anyone about what I did with my pubic hair in any of those contexts. I was generally either trimming or shaving at that time, so maybe that’s why, but I never interpreted anyone’s seeming to find it an issue or insist on anything one way or another.
When I got my hair cut last summer, I didn’t experience anyone’s saying to me, “Oh, dear, you cut your hair. I wish women would quit cutting their hair because they think it makes them more attractive to men! Please, just leave it long!” I presume that’s because it’s understood that it is up to me how to wear my hair and not the place of anyone else to suggest to me what I should do with it or why.
Why would that seem different with pubic hair? So what if something is “in style”? We don’t seem to complain a lot when people cut the hair on their heads a way that is in style. More to the point, why do we presume it is anyone’s business but the person’s in question what someone’s pubic hair “style” is?
Once in a great while I have encountered a piece on this subject I’ve found very cool—like this one from Alyssa Royse last year. But the very reason I find it cool is because it was obviously about what she wants to do and why. Why anyone would say much of anything else about pubic hair style, I truly don’t know.
-Jimmy Eat World “The Middle”