Archive for Sex+ Spirituality

December 1st, 2014

Welcoming December with an Award and a Guest Post!

RLFgemsAwardI can hardly fathom that it’s December already (I’m still looking around wondering where summer went)—but it is, and that means I have a couple things to announce today!

First, I truly could not be more honored to have received the Top Blogger Award from Romance Lives Forever for the month of November. I had an interview featured there November 10, and the award means that post received more page views than any other of the month (with the exception of the Top Blogger post itself, posted on the first of the month, and the post for a unique blog event in November that was in honor of Veterans’ Day). I really can hardly believe my post gleaned this honor, and I feel so truly, profoundly grateful to everyone who visited and/or shared it. Thank you.

BBIn addition, I also have a guest post up today at the remarkable Brit Babes blog, a site run by eight magnificent UK-based authors: Lily Harlem, Victoria Blisse, Lexie Bay, Tabitha Rayne, Sarah Masters, Lucy Felthouse, Kay Jaybee, and K D Grace. I am delighted to have the chance to spout off offer a perspective in me on their blog today.

As I mention in the post itself, the topic I chose to write about is not new (either its existence or a response to it). But I’d found the topic in my consciousness recently and felt compelled to muse on what I saw as its implications. The result was “The Art of Perception: Sexuality, Society, and Realness”—and what better place to offer it, it seems to me, than Brit Babes? :)

In case I’ve seemed coy about the actual topic, my post deals with the response to the claim that erotic writing is not “real” writing. A very thoughtful friend of mine postulated the question to me in a theoretical sense—as in, how would I respond to it were someone to seriously ask me—and this post is, for now at least, my answer. :)

Love,
Emerald

“I myself see the perspective in question as much more related to society’s perceptions around sexuality than about anything to do with either literary or erotic writing.”
-from “The Art of Perception: Sexuality, Society, and Realness”

November 29th, 2014

Come See Me at Beyond Romance!

flIt is truly my honor to be appearing today at Beyond Romance, the blog of legendary Lisabet Sarai. Lisabet’s was one of the very first names I ever learned in the realm of contemporary erotica, as I ran across it in short order when I first discovered the Erotica Readers and Writers Association website, which could be considered a catalyst into my long-dreamed-of foray of publishing work as an author.

Speaking of catalysts, my post today on Beyond Romance is titled, “Conflicts and Catalysts: Exploring Self-Awareness in Story and Life,” and it includes a giveaway—all you have to do is comment, and you’ll be entered to win a $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble. :) (I’ll draw the winner Tuesday.) I am so grateful to Lisabet for graciously inviting me to be a guest on her blog today, (truly, I’m a bit awestruck to be there), and it was a pleasure to ruminate on the topic I did—namely, how almost all the stories in my two new collections, If… Then and Safe, have a “conflict” with the self at their core.

Hope to see you there!

Love,
Emerald

“Truthfully, that might be the gist of it: it seems to me that one’s inner landscape and level of personal consciousness is really the ultimate ‘conflict’ in all circumstances—that regardless of what is happening, that is what it invariably comes down to. So perhaps I just want to cut to the chase. ;)”
-from “Conflicts and Catalysts: Exploring Self-Awareness in Story and Life”

March 31st, 2014

Partners in Passion Walking Their Talk

PartnersinPassion_cover

I was first exposed to Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson when I attended their Tantra-related session at the inaugural MOMENTUM Conference in 2011. I felt deeply affected by both their presence and their presentation, and when I heard of their new book, Partners in Passion (published by Cleis Press), I knew I would want to read it. I was thus delighted to volunteer to participate in the blog tour dedicated to the book—which, incidentally, I enjoyed even more than I anticipated.

It’s felt a bit difficult to me to formulate this post in an aim to do justice to the way I experienced Partners in Passion without going on for indeterminate pages. I found this book to be an extraordinary combination of explanation of pertinent history and cultural context; affirmation of readers’ uniqueness as both couples and individuals; invitation to personal exploration; and practical considerations, resources, and/or recommendations. I was also struck by how comprehensive the volume is. It contains an incredible range of information and covers an array of topics to a surprising degree of depth. Need an overview of sexual anatomy? See chapter six. Interested in Tantra? Check out chapter seven. Curious about swinging or other forms of nonmonogamy? Visit chapter nine. Wondering about sex and parenting issues? Reference chapter eleven. Incidentally, any time you want more information about almost any area covered, you can check the vast resource guide that comprises chapter thirteen.

The authors establish their orientation to and respect for the importance of sexuality in the preface in a way that resonated with me deeply. They relate how, when they first met (as two individuals already interested in or practicing Tantra), they proposed a suggestion to explore Tantric sexual practices together. “By putting our interest in sex on the table from the start and being clear that it was very important to both of us, we bypassed a lot of the game playing and manipulation that is so common in the dating scene” (p. xxx). While I don’t have any experience with Tantra to speak of, I relate to this desire and approach strongly, and for me, it immediately affirmed the credibility and authentic perspective of the authors in relation to their subject matter (which admittedly wasn’t in question due to my previous experience of meeting them in person).

What perhaps remains one of my favorite parts of the book came very early on in the form of utterly fascinating revelations about the original implications of fairy tales and their contrast with contemporary interpretations. I found this short section riveting, and the introduction of just how culturally formulated (rather than somehow intrinsic to the human experience) our cultural perception of romantic “happily-ever-after” is was truly revelatory for me. The earliness of this subject matter was not a coincidence, of course; the contextual relevance of this collective shift in perception served as a backdrop for much of the authors’ offerings about relationship and connection throughout the text.

The nuanced and clearly presented perspectives Patricia and Mark offer that in some cases fly in the face of social strictures or indoctrination were like a breath of fresh air to me. The book elucidates and invites exploration of such provocative statements as:

“The real secret of great lovers is in their ability to get pleasure from giving pleasure” (p. 64).

“We all have entrenched beliefs about ourselves, and it can be very unsettling to recognize, let alone embrace, the fact that our sexual proclivities don’t always match our self-images or what we would like our partners to believe about us” (p. 83).

“Statistics and studies can be informative and often make for great sound bites; however, they can’t give you any specific information about your own life” (p. 106).

“Trust is not based on a commitment or a promise” (p. 213).

“Many predispositions are formed at an early age and have nothing to do with the dynamics of your relationship” (p. 229).

“The tools it takes to have a vibrant, fulfilling, and expansive sex life are the same ones that can be used to create a satisfying long-term relationship” (p. xxix—the authors’ first line of the book).

None of these was presented bombastically or with any hint of shock value. Each is surrounded by the authors’ explanation of perspective and unyielding support for the reader in exploring these conceptions in the context of his/her/their own relationship. While most of these perspectives either already resonated with me or presented new angles I also found resonant, even if they don’t (right away), it seems to me they offer the opportunity for expanded consideration or jumping-off points for one’s own exploration of what does resonate. Indeed, since I interpreted the authors as claiming that the very devotion of time and attention to sexuality as a subject invites an expansion of sexual connection, the invitation itself to consider these ideas seems potentially self-fulfilling.

The openness of the authors’ sharing around, for example, their experience with BDSM established a relatability around the kind of process I perceived them as advocating in sexual adventuring. The sharing of this particular evolution thwarted any potential impression of condescension or dismissiveness in the context of the authors’ offering advice about sexuality and relating—it is clear they have undertaken their own process in general; in this instance, they approach an area around which they feel some initial trepidation with sincere interest and enough respect for the possibilities to want to know more. As usual, they take into this exploration an underlying orientation toward self-awareness and the aim for its development. Their personal sharing of this with us as readers is reminiscent, to me, of their general recommendation to treat one’s partner with respect, caring, and consideration; here, and indeed throughout the book, they are demonstrating this themselves in the way they treat the reader.

Indeed, to me it felt impossible not to be affected by the kindness and sincerity with which the authors write, and perhaps the aspect of Partners in Passion I found most affirming was the constant emphasis on respect and kindness toward each other—even (perhaps especially) in the face of challenging times, situations, or conversations. I experienced this perspective as so seamless and consistent that it felt clear to me that the authors embody it themselves with a degree of consciousness and practice that makes it seem effortless—or, perhaps more accurately, simply a way of being. As Tammy Nelson, PhD, states in the foreword, “Michaels and Johnson write what they know because they are living what they write” (p. xxvi).

Partners in Passion is not, in any way, a clinical, detached, or “how-to” guide that glosses over anything in the name of quick fixes or empty suggestions. Rather, it is a sincere, depth-filled, conscientious exploration imbued with the sense that the authors have walked (and are walking) their talk and are inviting you to learn and walk along with them at your own pace and in your own way. As a truly affected and appreciative reader, I add my voice to that invitation.

Purchase Partners in Passion from the authors, the publisher, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble (or your own preferred online retailer). Elsewhere online, you can follow the book and the authors on Twitter, visit the authors’ website, and watch Mark and Patricia on video. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Love,
Emerald

“Being sexually free in a society that remains at once extremely sex-negative and overly obsessed with sexuality takes courage.”
-from Partners in Passion, p. 84

March 21st, 2013

A Mere Few of the Reasons I Found CatalystCon East Awesome

CatalystCon East '13

I am on vacation right now, having left for Sanibel Island, Florida, early the morning after the end of CatalystCon East (which reminds me to recommend this marvelous post by Reid Mihalko about taking care of yourself following a conference…). However, I feel it would be truly remiss of me to not blog right away about the amazingness I experienced over the weekend. (And if you’d rather check out the live-Tweeting that occurred yourself, you can do so on Twitter here.)

Admittedly, I expected it to be fabulous. Every sexuality-oriented conference I have had the privilege to attend the last few years, from the first and second Momentum conferences to the Erotic Authors Association conference in Las Vegas to last fall’s 2012 Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, has struck me as resounding with rejuvenating energy, inspiration, and insight. It has been my utter pleasure to attend all of them.

I experienced this one as a little bit different. I won’t say I enjoyed it more, but the energy was slightly distinctive. I suspect the biggest reason for this was that I was participating as a speaker at this one. It was my first time ever being in a speaker position at a conference like this, and it was quite a new perspective to be at the front of the room during the panel on which I sat. Even before the panel took place, the energy of being at the conference in this capacity felt enhanced in some way to me, in a way I am not sure how to articulate.

Our panel was titled “How to Become a Successful Erotic Writer.” I was deeply flattered when editor Rachel Kramer Bussel asked me if I would like to be on a panel about erotica writing at CatalystCon East. (Incidentally, the gratitude I feel for the degree to which Rachel has supported my writing is probably unknown even by her, and I want to take the opportunity right now to express it.) When I found out the panel was also to include Carol Queen, I felt stupefied for a moment or two or 10,000. Actually, I was still stupefied by it when it was time for the panel to start. In addition to Carol Queen and myself, Rachel also asked editor and author Kristina Wright, whom I adore, to be on the panel with us. It was an honor (and in fact a bit surreal) to be speaking about writing in such company. At the last minute, Bethany from Blushing Books joined us as well to speak from the publishing side of the business.

I won’t rehash everything we talked about here, but I truly hope those who attended our session found it useful or helpful in any way (even though we ran out of time and didn’t get to take as many questions as we would have liked!). I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to speak for their benefit and am honored they spent the time they did to listen to us. Our hashtag was also #cconwriter, so if you’d like, you can see the Twitter stream here.

Following the panel, I got to meet a representative of the new Pique online erotica zine, which bills itself as “sexy. smart. shameless.” I was very excited to meet her and learn more about the Pique venture. Do check out their site—and if you feel so moved, submit!

cconprizeOverall, I found CatalystCon East stupendous. I saw people I haven’t gotten to see very often (and in general have only seen at conferences like this) like Greg DeLong (co-founder of njoy), Charlie Glickman, Reid Mihalko, Robin Mandell, and the conference organizer herself, Dee Dennis. There were also those I’ve gotten to see more frequently but am delighted to get the chance to again whenever I can, such as Robin Sampson and Susana Mayer of The Erotic Literary Salon (as well as Rachel and Kristina, who were on the panel with me). And there were some I’ve long admired from afar to whom I personally spoke for the first time at this conference, including Tristan Taormino, Metis Black of Tantus, and Constance Penley (more on that in a bit). Many other people I didn’t get to personally meet but vastly appreciated the commentary from (like Dr. Hernando Chavez during the opening keynote).

One of the highlights of this conference for me was personally connecting with Constance Penley. (It still took my breath away a little bit to type that.) I learned of Dr. Penley’s existence at the first Momentum conference in 2011 when she filled in at the last minute for a session speaker who had canceled. Constance teaches a class on pornography in the film and media studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2010, she was called as an expert witness in the U.S. government’s indictment of John Stagliano on obscenity charges. This is what she spoke about at 2011’s Momentum, and I found her account of the process riveting. I was all the more enamored of her experience and contribution given my interest in public policy and fighting censorship. Had I not been leaving for Florida early the next morning, I would have loved to talk with Constance a lot more (probably about as long as she’d let me!) this past weekend. Ever since I saw her at the first Momentum, she has been one of the people I admire most in the sexuality professional field.

Another highlight (and I very much guess not just for me) was the closing panel titled “Afternoon Tea with Carol Queen & Robert Lawrence.” In gathering for the erotica panel Sunday morning, I got to meet Carol’s partner, Dr. Robert Lawrence, for the first time. I would later experience him during the closing panel as one of the most extraordinary individuals I’d personally witnessed in some time. I admit I do not know what to even say about this closing session because it feels like an experience all but impossible to capture in words, but, of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention it.

I found the format of the closing session very accommodating to what was presented. It was informal, and Robert and Carol simply alternated back and forth speaking conversationally about their decades of experience in sexual subcultures and sexuality education. I already knew I found Carol Queen a pioneer and an inspiration. That was reiterated tenfold during their session. This conference was my first time being exposed to Dr. Lawrence in person, and to be frank, I was blown away. I have rarely had the delight of observing and receiving the words and energy of a more genuine, aware, unassuming, astute individual in the context of sexuality education. It was tremendous. I felt the following tweet from the official conference photographer summed the experience up well:

I also won the awesome raffle prize in the picture in the middle of this post thanks to conference sponsor Sportsheets, and I decorated my own mask courtesy of ArtPulp, who was there offering them as a fundraiser for Scarleteen. I really don’t know how to thank CatalystCon organizer Dee Dennis, her support staff, and all the volunteers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees more for their contributions to the weekend. It was, as I experienced it, a beautiful conference.

Love,
Emerald

“For just one fleeting moment, the answer seemed so clear, heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear…”
-Garth Brooks “Belleau Wood”

March 3rd, 2012

An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh

March 3 is International Sex Worker Rights Day. My post in honor of it is combined with a few other things I want to address and is in the form of an open letter to Rush Limbaugh.

Dear Mr. Limbaugh:

From what I have interpreted in the last week, it seems you do not like the idea of birth control being funded by health insurance companies. It further appears that you found it appropriate to speculate about the personal life of an individual who disagrees with you about that and spoke about it before members of Congress.

Do you have health insurance, Rush? Would it be safe to say that you feel you should be able to eat all the french fries you want and that your insurance should still pay for treatment for you were you to develop heart disease (I certainly do not wish this on you or anyone), and that if you did happen to experience a heart attack, insurance should pay for your medical care during and after that as well? If so, we are on the same page.

If not, then for whatever reason, we do appear to disagree. Not that I would describe the above situation as taxpayers being asked to satisfy the eating habits of radio personalities, but if we are going to have a system of health insurance, it seems appropriate to me that it should cover the health care needs of the people it insures—even if those health care needs seem influenced by the lifestyle choices the holders of it, citizens of a free and democratic republic, make.

You mentioned that you felt that Sandra Fluke, who spoke before a congressional forum about contraceptive coverage in relation to health insurance, was a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she she feels birth control pills should be covered by health insurance. “Slut,” of course, is a subjective term—since it seems to me it has no actual definition, it would be hard to claim it to be slanderous. Furthermore, some of us don’t see it as a denigrating label. You could call me a slut, for example, until you’re blue in the face, and it wouldn’t disquiet me in the least because I simply don’t perceive the word as an insult.

Similarly, I don’t see labeling someone a prostitute as an insult. In the case of that word, it does refer to an actual job, so the label could be incorrect. Claiming that I am a prostitute at this time, for example, would be incorrect, but it would hold about as much power to insult me as claiming I was an accountant. Both are erroneous, but I don’t take offense to either.

Because we have ignorant, puritanical, and inappropriate laws in this country about it, however, prostitution is illegal. So stating that someone works as a prostitute is claiming that person does something illegal. Thus that, if not true, is slanderous. I wish Ms. Fluke all the best in introducing legal action against you as such should she choose to.

Probably you didn’t know that today, March 3, is International Sex Worker Rights Day. One of the things supporting that means to me is advocating for the decriminalization of prostitution so that one day what you said about Ms. Fluke would not be slanderous because 1) it wouldn’t be accusing someone of doing something illegal, and 2) the ignorance and judgment of collective society would have subsided so that what you said would not even be perceived as an insult.

Of course, the energy with which you said it would probably still make it an unsavory thing to say. It wasn’t the words but the judgmental and disrespectful energy with which it was said, the relatively unconscious place from which it came, that made it so unfortunate.

To be frank, it would seem to me that one who underwent what became a public challenge with substance addiction as you did would have developed more empathy both for the basic struggles of your fellow humans and also for those whose personal business is intruded upon by a culture that seems to find it okay to do so to those considered famous or public figures. Why that didn’t appear to happen, I don’t know, but it seems doubly sorrowful to me because I suspect it means you are suffering all the more in order to close your heart off to the natural development of empathy.

I don’t doubt that you struggle a lot. Anyone who treats others with the degree of vitriol and contempt I have observed in you almost certainly feels those things toward oneself, whether it is realized consciously or not. I wish you all the best with the struggles and challenges you experience. In truth, it is not actually hard for me to do so—I recognize that we are ultimately all One, and even when I feel enormous frustration with what I perceive to be the ignorance or unconsciousness someone displays, I am still aware that there is something much bigger than that.

The truth is, Rush, I suspect that someday you will perceive and feel true regret for the degree to which you’ve treated your fellow human beings with disrespect. It may be on your deathbed, perhaps before. Or, perhaps it will not happen at all. I just suspect it will. I don’t want to intrude on your process, so I beg your pardon for saying that; it is not for me to speculate, really. It’s just something that has occurred to me as I have observed this situation. Remembering that reminds me of the compassion I feel for you, as true compassion (which I feel we all have the intrinsic capacity for, whether we recognize it or not) is compassion for everyone—it’s indivisible.

I wish you all the best, and indeed I do plan to continue to have as much sex as I want, with however many partners as I want, as often as I want. That happens to not be the reason doctors have recommended birth control pills as part of my health care, but it is a choice I make just like many citizens who choose to eat french fries and still receive health care for heart and other diseases. As long as I work for or pay for health insurance, I expect it to cover my health care needs to the same degree it does the rest of the citizenry, regardless of what my employer finds appropriate.

Sincerely,
Emily McCay
aka Emerald

Tell your leaders love’s in town, to turn this whole thing upside down, yeah, we can’t take it anymore…
-LIVE “Transmit Your Love”