Archive for May, 2008

Interview with Dirty Girls contibutor Tenille Brown

May 16, 2008

The latest contributor interview from Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women

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Tenille Brown’s writing is featured online and in several print anthologies, including Caught Looking, Ultimate Lesbian Erotica 2007, A Is for Amour, D Is for Dress-Up, and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers. She obsessively shops for shoes, hats, and purses and keeps a daily blog on her website www.tenillebrown.com.

Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.

I am 30 years old. I was raised in the south where I now reside with my five-year old twins. In my other life, I work in law enforcement.

What was the inspiration for your story, “The Change of Life?” Do you feel that older women aren’t as well represented in the world of erotica as they should be?

At the time I began writing “The Change of Life,” I was still in my twenties. However, I was a new mother to two very demanding babies and it suddenly occurred to me that these two little people would encompass my life. That, coupled with my being married at the time, I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I was a wife and a mother, period. I started thinking, already, about empty nest syndrome and pondering “what’s next?” and out the story came.

I feel that older women have been very under-represented in erotica, and I always strive to do something different, to do that thing that might make an editor take a second look at my work, so it was my goal to sort of go against the grain in that aspect. I’ve actually been using older characters for as long as I’ve been writing erotica, and I was in my early twenties when I started. I mean, when I’m in my 40’s and 50’s, hell even in my 60’s, I fully intend to still be having mind-blowing sex and I want this to come across in my writing.

You write: “Bernard, honey, if you don’t mind, could you kiss me a little more and when you touch me, could you not stop at my breasts? And honey, if it’s not a problem could you let me get on top this time, do things my way?

But she couldn’t say those things to the man who had been nothing but good to her, who she had led to believe was satisfying her every need for the past eighteen years.”

It turns out that Bernard might be more accommodating than Doll gives him credit for. What advice would you give to a woman like Doll, who is clearly unhappy with the sex she’s (not) having in her marriage?

The advice I would give to a woman in that situation is to be as verbally free as she is sexually free. Saying what you want can be as sexy as getting what you want, and you never know, your man may simply be waiting for instructions.

Your story is one of many in Dirty Girls where there’s not necessarily a “happily ever after” ending. Is this a deliberate choice? What emotions are you trying to provoke in readers with the story?

It’s not that I don’t believe in happy endings, but I am a realist. And yes, the ending was definitely a deliberate choice. While I wanted to address the issue of the empty-nest and sexual repression, I also wanted to be sure I didn’t give people false hope. Let’s face it, so many women stay in unhappy marriages. So many women “just deal with it” and I wanted my story to be a realistic portrayal of this. And, admittedly, I was feeling pretty hopeless myself at the time.

I suppose one of the main emotions I was trying to provoke was hopefulness. Even though things didn’t end the way Doll had hoped, she still left. She was still out there pursuing a different life. Maybe this situation will give her the strength the try again, and maybe this time she won’t simply retreat into what’s comfortable and familiar.

What’s your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you’re inspired?

I almost laughed out loud when I saw the words “set schedule.” In my dreams, it would be that way. I’d have my own little writer’s nook. I’d carve out four hours of quiet time to write each day. I’d produce new stories at an astonishing pace.

In reality, I write very sporadically. I go through periods of feeling ultra creative where I’m writing and writing and periods of feeling like I absolutely suck and I won’t even touch a notebook. Lately, I’ve just been too tired and I’m not disciplined enough to make myself do it. But, when the inspiration does hit me, I have to write then and there. The words may be on a grocery store receipt, on the back of an electric bill or on my kid’s homework assignment, but they get written.

What do you see as the connection, if any, between erotica and feminism?

Though it’s become much more mainstream these days, erotica is one of the boldest genres of fiction out there. I think the power writing erotica gives you is the main connection to feminism. There’s the freedom of saying everything you want to say, the leaving your inhibitions at the door. It shows strength and determination. It shows courage.

What do you think makes a good erotica story work?

Anticipation in an erotic story is always good. Surprise me. Have my panties wet before the characters even touch each other. I enjoy the build-up sometimes more than the act itself. Also, to me, a good erotica story is one that’s outside the box yet believable. Not all sexual escapades start at a nightclub and they don’t all end at the altar. I enjoy stories that stray from the norm, like funny sex stories or sad sex stories, stories when the ugly guy gets laid, or when the shy girl gets the fucking of her life. I enjoy the unexpected.

What are you working on next?

I am always all over the place with my writing. Sadly, most times I don’t complete all the projects that I start, but I always have something in the works for almost every call that’s out there. Right now, I am writing an airplane sex story called “Liberation” and that one might actually get finished.

Interview with Melissa Gira

May 10, 2008


Photo by Melissa Gira via Flickr

(From Rachel: I changed Melissa’s book bio to better reflect what she’s doing now – this is a blog after all. She’s also got a Tumblr.)

Melissa Gira (melissagira.com) is a blogger, a writer, an editor of Sexerati: Smart Sex (sexerati.com), and a contributor to $pread magazine and the blogs BoundNotGagged and Valleywag. An advocate of international sex workers’ rights, a mobile media maker, and a shameless sex futurist, she fully unpacked three times in the last year and prefers to work out of her purse-size office: cell phone, wireless keyboard, and DV camera—wherever a cheap GPRS signal and fancy lip gloss can take her.

Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what’s in your official bio.

I’ve been writing about sex since I was 8, started publishing my essays in zines and underground rags when I was 14, and online when I was 16. But “A Prayer to Be Made Cocksure” is the first piece of erotica I’ve ever written for publication.

What was the inspiration for your story “A Prayer to be Made Cocksure?” How long did it take to write and what was the most challenging part?

I was living in absolutely historic and uncared for 1920’s apartment, a little bachelorette studio. It’s so small that I could only bring anyone over to fuck them in it. There was really no other reason to invite anyone up; I was newly single, for the first meaningful time since I was 14, and I was also very sad. I’d broken up with the man I moved to San Francisco and also with the boy who had become my lover as that breakup took over my life. My whole life really broke: I needed a new home, but that home was colored with all of this memory already.

I felt like an old woman in the wooden elevator that took me up four floors every night. I would sit in my bed and try not to see the cockroaches rambling along the kitchen floor. I cried a lot, and jacked off a lot to get to sleep. I’d write myself smut to get off to, put on headphones and let my MacBook Pro read it to me in TextEdit. That’s how the first and last paragraphs of the story came out, in the dark. I filled in the rest over the next few months. The hardest part was taking out this whole undergirding that had supported the story, a reverie on the Hindu creation myth. It’s still in there, a little bit. But that’s what I get for having a boy with hippie parents fuck me.

What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

That sex isn’t always hot because it’s erotic, but because it’s changing you — literally, melting off layers. That vulnerability is sexy. That blowjobs are sex all in their own right.

How do you feel upon rereading the story now?

At the Cafe Royale reading in San Francisco a few weeks ago — when I came to the bit about not getting fucked, I started to cry. My longtime lover and new lover were in the front, and they noticed. The story now is solidly nostalgic. It’s about a sex I’ll never have again, but then it keeps on going without me. Who knows who else will have sex with my story. Actually, they should totally write to me if they can to say how and when they did.

You write in the story, “There is a great before that lovers can never return to, that time that starts before they meet, so by definition, it can’t be measured, unless one counts one’s birth as the beginning.” Can you elaborate on this thought?

I have this ethos, that I don’t always live up to, of never ending things with a lover entirely. Never becoming the enemy of someone I adored that much to let into me, even if it was only for a day or two. So if a love affair is never going to end, then how can you tell when it begins? With your first date? The first time you heard about each other? It doesn’t matter, almost, because you can never go back. You can never be who you were before you came together.

You primarily write non-fiction about sex, for the sex worker advocacy site Bound Not Gagged, for Sexerati, and for Gawker Media tech blog Valleywag. How does writing fiction differ for you from those endeavors?

If we can even call it fiction, right? I’m not sure I’m capable of writing fiction anymore. Which is probably why I write so little porn. I also don’t keep my weird theorizing and bad public intellectual habits out of the bedroom. It’s always politics and pop culture and gossip as pillowtalk. All of it overlaps for me, all of it is arousing; what comes out published is due to the good graces of an editor knowing when to tell me what’s masturbation and what’s good for the audience.

What do you see as the connection (if any) between feminism and erotica, or feminism and sex writing more broadly?

Can I defer to Hélène Cixous? She advocated for women to adopt l’écriture féminine, and so did Anaïs Nin. A lot of my female role models as writers wove sex and theory together that way, valued the personal dimension of sexuality as greatly as the political dimensions of gender, class, and power. I see the connections, but I also wouldn’t stay in bed wanking and writing and call that my patriarchy-smashing gesture. What does obsess me now is how the business of writing about sex, as women, is so fraught — we’re all either desperate Carrie Bradshaws or conniving sluts looking to topple men with our “confessions.” When really, as Tracie Egan just wrote at Jezebel, “the only void [many of us ]are looking to fill is “the one between [our] legs.”

What’s your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you’re inspired?

Most of my erotica is written on my phone or in a notebook and in transit. I still write the most hardcore stuff on planes, where the work has to substitute for masturbation. The furthest most of those stories go is my lover’s inboxes, but that’s what inspires me: that very private audience, writing for them in semi-public where no one knows what’s really going down on the page.

What are you working on next?

I’m headed to Mexico City this summer for the International AIDS Conference, my first. I’ll be presenting on how social media improves the social networks and health of sex workers, based on a series of blogging and podcasting classes I’ve been offering on my own since 2005 and with the St. James Infirmary, a free community clinic for sex workers and their partners based in San Francisco. So gearing up for that — doing interviews and handling a lot of audio gear — and also being a good San Francisco Web 2.0 kid and having a lot of fun planning a startup dealing with sex. I’m going to let someone else gossip about its launch, of course.

Podcast, reviews, excerpt and more

May 5, 2008

So much has been going on with Dirty Girls, I don’t even know where to start, but here’s a few things:

Listen to a podcast interview with me on the Seal Press site about the book

Read an excerpt from Carol Queen’s story “Shocking Exposé! Secrets Revealed!” about the Lusty Lady peep show, at Tango magazine

A review of Dirty Girls in Lucrezia Magazine

However, Dirty Girls is certainly not just for girls alone. As Bussel was quick to point out at the New York launch party, which I attended, the book’s original title was Dirty Girls: Erotica by Women. Anyone with a love of erotic fiction can explore his or her dirty side with this volume. And I guarantee anyone will want to.

Get the best seats in the house at the Lusty Lady Theatre in the legendary Carol Queen’s “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!” Explore a tangle of the senses and a melding of two strangers’ bodies in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s expertly crafted tale “Icy Hot.” Encounter the post-structuralist implications of ownership and autonomy within a relationship as Isabelle Gray’s “In the Name Of …” sees a couple exploring sensual pleasures outside their marriage for the first time. And delight in a darkly-tinged, BDSM tale in Alison Tyler’s provocative “Like a Good Girl.”

A rather negative review of Dirty Girls (scroll down) in Erotica Revealed

And in me news, here are some recent Q&As:

Sex Files in Gotham Digest

Q&A in Minneapolis’s vita.mn by Alexis McKinnis all about erotica and sex

Q&A in Minneapolis alt weekly City Pages