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.