The “Fifty Shades” phenomenon has given a boost to BDSM erotica these days. Your works have some marked differences, such as how you portray submissives.
They’re not helpless or naïve waifs, that’s for certain. Tara [from The Landlady’s Girl] and Naomi aren’t seduced or coerced into exploring their desires; they know what they want, and have the assertiveness and clarity to negotiate with their partners. Naomi also remarks that submissives like her have their own inner strength. A far cry from Anastasia Steele.
And your dominants are nothing like Christian Grey.
Heavens, no! They’re emotionally healthy, and show genuine concern for their submissives. They’re more like regular people, much like the subs, so I believe my readers can better identify with them. Most importantly, they actually negotiate play and relationships to assure consent, safety and pleasure. And the doms and subs in my stories are part of a larger community, just like in real life.
That’s another thing about your stories – they’re more realistic. Any reason for that?
Yes, there’s definitely a rationale behind that impetus. Wild fantasies may be enticing, but I’d also like my readers to come away with an empowering sense of imagining: “Yes, I could do that.”
Consent also plays a big factor in how your characters interact.
Absolutely! Even when a submissive engages in resistance play, for example, I make it clear that she wants to do that, and that the parameters have been negotiated. Right now, the idea of what consent really means is just entering our public discourse, such as California’s “affirmative consent” law. But laws like that are just the first step, because young people need to be taught how to negotiate consent around sex and relationships, and more motivated. It’s not enough to say that consent protects people, that it’s morally right. We need to convey the message that consent is sexy, because it’s such a thrill and a charge to hear someone you desire say: “Yes, I want that, I want you.”
You also incorporate practical safety tips, like how Madame Véronique instructs Naomi on enemas, and Miss Connie tells her not to rub her rope tracks.
There will always be people who do stupid things based on what they read in fiction. I can”t do anything about that, but at least I can set an example, and perhaps encourage a few to think before they act. One can only hope.
You’ve now begun a series of novels. That sounds exciting!
Yes, it started with Peri’s Bliss, which is now on Amazon. A significant element in the setting and plot is a fictional sex-positive religion called the “Free Spirit Connection” which regards consensual sexual expression, including polyamory and BDSM, as a form of spiritual communion. The second novel is Bridget’s Calling, which focuses on a woman who consciously chose to enter sex work, and who even considers it her “calling” in life.
Tell us a little more about this, and how you’ve become a vocal ally in social media for sex workers.
Before I began work on Bridget’s Calling, I had supported some form of legalization, to let states and localities license brothels and escort services, but not streetwalkers. My friend Desmond Ravenstone, who had helped me with Peri’s Bliss, has been studying this for decades, and he and I talked a long time about it. He explained to me that there was a very big difference between legalization and decriminalization, with the former being more about government control of sex work, rather than actually empowering sex workers to take control of their own work and lives. He even made the case for defending street-based sex work, with reasonable measures to assure the safety of providers and their clients. I’ve become even more supportive of the “decrim” position as I listen to sex workers’ stories, and realize that police often form a bigger threat to their safety and well-being than anything else.
What do you think about the so-called “Swedish model” being promoted by many radical feminists and anti-trafficking activists?
Oh yes, decriminalizing the sale of sex, but criminalizing the purchase. Quite ludicrous, really. Plus we’re seeing more and more evidence that it’s not really reducing sex work, but it has given police and social service agencies the motivation to make life much worse for sex workers in Sweden, Norway and other countries. And the current “anti-trafficking” hype has really oversimplified and distorted the picture. Not only do they conflate actual sexual slavery with consensual sex work, they try to deny that sex work can be consensual. Yes, there are abuses, but outlawing sex work only takes power away from the people who are best qualified and motivated to address those abuses – sex workers themselves. The whole politicization of sex and sexuality frightens and angers me. I can understand how religious fanatics get involved, they always need something to demonize. But there are women, so-called feminists, who seek to use the state to repress people’s sexuality in the name of liberating other women. It’s downright Orwellian how they twist things around.
Gail Dines is one of these activists who comes to mind.
Oh, you had to mention her! I’ve actually met a few of her former students, and they all look back at her classes and find them laughable. One of them commented how ironically easy it was to pass one of her courses, just by regurgitating what she told them. She’s not really educating or doing real research, she’s indoctrinating people to believe some dogma. But dogma doesn’t liberate people. That comes from affirming their power to choose. From what these women told me about how she runs her classes and how she sees the world, I’d hate to live in a society run by a Gail Dines. I’m no psychiatrist, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out there was some pathology behind her desire to control and repress everyone the way she does.
Well, to wrap things up, what advice would you give to someone else who is thinking of writing erotica?
Good erotic writing is like good sex. The people participating have to have chemistry and communication. Flesh out your characters, describe their sensations and emotions, and have them talk to one another. Part of what can make sex of all kinds exciting is the sense of anticipation, from planning a fantasy role-play to the gradual building of foreplay. And with sex, as with any passionate endeavor, there’s a dénouement. Give your characters time to rest, talk, eat, sleep. Ultimately, good sex writing isn’t about sex so much as it’s about how people have sex as part of their daily lives.