Saturday, January 9, 2010

Skin Deep


By Shanna Germain

They say I am the Beauty. Capital, like that. Beauty. In a softly brushed script that makes you feel safe, that gives you images of beauty beyond your imagining. Sometimes with flourishes and fleur-de-lis and a bird tucked into the bower of the B, as though all of those things will make it true. They even named me Belle. Which, in some ancient country, stands for beauty. All those Bs, the way they roll off the tongue. B. Buh. Buh. A stupid sound, for a stupid, pretty girl.

But B can stand for so many other things, can it not? Beast. Bad. Bare. Bones. Bitch. Blood.

I am all of those things inside. Aren’t we all?

The above is the opening to my fairy tale-themed erotica story, "Skin Deep," (which recently appeared in Circlet Press' collection, Like a Thorn). In the story, I twist all kinds of paradigms: Beauty is the dominant one. She's also a serious bitch. The pretty prince is too soft for her tastes. And in many ways, Beast is the true beauty of the story, both inside and out.

I write a lot about beauty. Of course I do: I'm a sex writer. And we all know that sex and beauty go hand-in-hand, right?

Mn. Wrong. At least not in my book.

When I think about the people I've fucked in my own real life (it's a small sample pool, but fairly diverse), I realize that the people that I've enjoyed the most, the ones who brought me the most pleasure were NOT the drop-dead gorgeous ones. The gorgeous ones wouldn't fuck if they felt fat or if they had a zit on their chin. I dated one guy who wouldn't let me touch his hair, lest I mess it up. The sexiest-looking man I ever dated was lousy in bed. And, in return, I always felt like the "beautiful people" were always evaluating me: Had I gained some weight? Was I not pretty enough to fuck today? It began to wear on my usually high level of confidence after a while.

Okay, so I'm reaching a little here: Not everyone who's beautiful is also vain and self-focused. But I have found that typically, the closer someone fits into the "accepted" idea of what's beautiful, the less time I want to spend with them, in bed or out. This is also true of the books that I read -- and write. Don't get me wrong -- a hot bod is never a bad thing, and a pretty face is likely to fill me with lust, but there's a big difference between looking and touching.

What I consider to be beautiful are the things about a person -- or a character -- that are truly theirs, that aren't mainstream or perfect. The flecks of brown in his eyes when he's aroused. That kitty-corner curl of her lips when she's reading a book she likes. The laugh lines that edge a mouth. A confident walk in a skirt. How his hair looks in a ponytail. The fact that the delightful upward turn of his cock fits inside perfectly. I like imperfections too -- Tina Fey's scar alone is enough to send me into throes of lust, forget the rest of her (and we don't have the time or space here to go into "what's really beautiful," in which case my answer has a lot to do with smarts, sense of humor and self-confidence).

I think that perhaps there are two definitions of beauty.

1. The mainstream one, which is really designed to make us feel bad about ourselves and thus, sell products. The beauty this offers -- a look, but don't touch beauty -- seems detrimental to our confidence, our sense of humanity, and our sex lives.

2. The real one, which is about our own visions and desires, about enjoying someone whose beauty suits us and completes us, in any sense of the word. This is the beauty that I try to find when I'm writing, the one that isn't obvious, the one that takes work and that changes perceptions.

It isn't always easy to accomplish this, of course. At first, when writing "Skin Deep," I found myself struggling with how to describe the Beast, how to present him to the reader, so that they would see him for the beauty he is. In the end, I just let Beauty have her way, as she is wont to do, because only she knows what makes him beautiful to her:

My heart hammers to see him. Such a huge creature he is. Such big hands. Long claws, those fine points at the end. I wonder at his teeth, the tapered sheen of their curves. At the wide pink tongue that rests within the cage of his menacing mouth. His eyes golden-brown as ripe pears, soft and tender in contrast to that sharp mouth.

And then he kneels before me, his forehead nearly brushing my covered breasts. His head bowed so that I can see the back of his neck, the tendons and muscles that strain his shoulders and upper back. I want to drag my palms over the jumping swathes of skin, pull at his hair. But I stay standing, only his breath touching me, the low snarls of want that heat the space between my thighs.

Beauty isn't just in the eye of the beholder -- it's in the eye of the reader and the writer too. One of my jobs as a writer is to show readers beauty where they thought there was none. To arouse them, not with the a fairy-tale-perfect princess in a gold lame dress -- that's too easy -- but with the dark side of the beast.

***

Shanna Germain loves to write about things that go bump in the night. Thus, her two favorite genres are horror and erotica. Her work has appeared in places like Absinthe Literary Review, Best American Erotica, Best Gay Romance, Best Lesbian Erotica, Blood Fruit: Queer Horror and many more. Visit her online at http://yearofthebooks.wordpress.com/

7 comments:

  1. Hi Shanna,

    Welcome to the Grip.

    I like your two definitions of beauty, although I have to admit that my preferences leans toward the second one you mention.

    Brilliant post and some very exciting writing.

    Best,

    Ash

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  2. Hi Shanna!

    welcome to OGG. I like this post, and I think it had a lot of thoughtful ideas in it. I thought it was especially interesting to hear from someone who had had experience with both "beautiful" and ordinary looking folks and found sensuality was more common in the ordinary folks. Makes me feel better about myself. It seems though hit sin;t so much who is beautiful as who is attached to their beauty, such as it is really about who has the capacity to let go of the self consciousness and express themselves erotically. Its funny how there are some women who are not beautiful or even pretty or young but when they walk by me I look up and I see other men turn and look at them also as if they are trailing some magnetic current in the air. Pheromones? Its a mystery.

    I like erotic horror too. And erotic fairy tales too. Both of these are difficult genres to write well. You sound good.

    Garce

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  3. Heya Ash,

    Thanks so much! And, yeah, I agree, that's the definition that I like best too. Seems like we could use more "thoughtful beauty" in the world, doesn't it?

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  4. Hi Garce,

    Thanks so much for the comments! I loved this idea, as it makes a lot of sense to me, and it's something that I strive for:

    "really about who has the capacity to let go of the self consciousness and express themselves erotically. Its funny how there are some women who are not beautiful or even pretty or young but when they walk by me I look up and I see other men turn and look at them also as if they are trailing some magnetic current in the air."

    Best, s.

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  5. I love the clarity with which you've homed in on these insights, and the precision and vividness with which you've expressed them.

    In other words, you're being your usual brilliant self. : )

    What I consider to be beautiful are the things about a person -- or a character -- that are truly theirs ...

    That is so profound—and quotable!

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  6. Ooh, Jeremy -- You know how to flatter a girl! Now, see, how can I help but find you beautiful? :)

    XXOO, s.

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  7. Dear Shanna,

    Thanks so much for joining us here at the Grip and for sharing snippets of your wonderful story as well as your insights on the true nature of beauty. I couldn't agree more. Some of the high points of my erotic life have involved people whom the world would never label as "attractive"--but that didn't get in the way of the connection.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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