Friday, March 31, 2017

Sex and the Law

by Jean Roberta

Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: American Sexual Representation in the 1970s, edited by Carolyn Bronstein and Whitney Strub (Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016).

The War on Sex, edited by David M Halperin and Trevor Hoppe (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2016).

Several weeks ago, I agreed to review these two books for a glossy magazine, The Gay & Lesbian Review. The editor wasn’t sure if either of them have much relevance for an LGBT readership, but the books had been offered to him, so he sent them along to me.

Even though I was a young adult in the “free love” era of the 1970s, and I felt directly affected by the drastic change of zeitgeist in the 1980s (apparently brought on by the rise of AIDS, the galloping-capitalist policies of Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and the Feminist Sex Wars), there was a lot I didn’t know before I read these books.

Regarding the insane extension of laws against various forms of consensual sex in the current age, I was in a bubble of ignorance. This is partly because I haven’t lived in the U.S. since the 1960s, and both these books focus exclusively on the status of sex in that country. However, I suspect that even many Americans don’t know the real state of the law if it hasn’t affected them personally.

Despite unprecedented improvements in the legal and social status of gay/lesbian/bisexual citizens (not so much the gender-nonconforming), the consensual sex lives of Americans are now more policed than ever before.

Did you know that everyone convicted of a non-violent (note the emphasis) sexual offense in the U.S. has the orange letters “SEX OFFENDER” stamped on his or her ID for the rest of his/her life? This is the modern equivalent of the scarlet letter “A” (For “Adulteress”) which Hester Prynne has to wear on her bodice in the Puritan community of Boston in the 1640s in a famous historical novel, The Scarlet Letter.

Cole's Note on a Much-Studied Classic:
This novel was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1840s. He was descended from English Puritan colonists, and found them to be fanatics, even by the standards of nineteenth-century New England. In the novel, Hester’s own community eventually lets her take off the letter of shame after she has served her time as a social outcast and shown herself to be both a talented seamstress and a good mother to her “illegitimate” daughter Pearl. Even Hester’s much-older husband, who was originally offended by her affair with the local Puritan Minister while husband was away, makes Pearl his heiress. The ending of the novel is not exactly happy, but in some sense, Hester and her unfortunate lover are redeemed (in his case, by death), and their innocent child is “legitimized.”

So apparently the strict sexual standards of Massachusetts colony in the 1600s, as seen through a nineteenth-century lens, were more humane than current American legal standards. A young, single adult man (say, a 20-year-old) who has a consensual relationship with a single girl he believes to be 18, but who is really 15, can be convicted of statutory “rape,” sent to prison, then kept on a kind of probation until he dies.

In my youth, that kind of relationship was expected. Since teenagers tend to be reckless, then and now, sex in the back seat of a car often led to a shotgun wedding. Aside from that, the law was not involved.

Note that a very wide legal definition of sexual “offenses” has not done anything to decrease actual rape, i.e.: sex forced on unwilling victims. The fact that force was used to obtain sex is still much harder to prove in court than the fact that sex occurred at all. This helps explain why assailants (especially if white, male, upper-middle-class) are free to target potential prey (especially in venues such as university campuses, where young women are found in large numbers), while relatively harmless people are effectively forced into a permanent underclass.

How did things get to this point, and why is there so little protest against it?

According to the contributors to The War on Sex, traditional hysteria over “perversion” (same-sex activity, highly illegal in the U.S. before the late 1960s) never really went away. It simply changed form into panicked efforts to protect “children” (including teenagers) from all sexual experimentation, to criminalize HIV-positive status, and to shut down both the sex trade and sexual representation in words and images.

The fledgling feminist movement of the early 1970s included demands for reproductive freedom and protests against rape, sexual harassment, and human trafficking (all non-consensual activities). This led to protests against “porn,” some of which glorified the abuse of women. However, legal remedies were and still are largely in the hands of conservatives who reject most of a feminist agenda.

It became easy for homophobic, “pro-family” rabble-rousers such as Anita Bryant to associate every form of sex that wasn’t sanctified by Christian marriage with sexual violence, including several high-profile murders of children by pedophiles. Registries of “sex offenders” that originally targeted gay men who solicited undercover cops in bars were allowed to lapse after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, but these registries were revived to target “pedophiles,” including young men such as the one mentioned above, whose girlfriend is younger than he thought.

To a much greater extent than I knew, people who test positive for HIV can be charged with “aggravated sexual assault” for non-disclosure of their status to consensual partners, even before they themselves have been tested. And this law is enforced here in Canada. Do you see a pattern here? Ignorance is apparently no excuse.

Just as feminist objections to forced sex (including rape in marriage) have been transformed into the persecution of various consensual activities, feminist objections to human trafficking (which enslaves vulnerable people for various purposes, not only sexual) have been transformed into a campaign to end prostitution. Anyone who sells sex in the U.S. is now more at risk for legal harassment, imprisonment and a permanent stigma than for being abused by a “bad trick.”

Increasingly harsh laws against sex have been passed by various levels of government (mostly in the U.S.) without much opposition. Just as few Americans defended same-sex “perversion” in the past, few are brave enough now to publicly distinguish private, consensual sex acts from sexual violence. The difference is crucial.

These two books tell a chronological story if read in the right order. Porno Chic and the Sex Wars describes the decline of the American economy in the early 1970s, and the corresponding decay in “inner cities.” Times Square in New York City became a mecca for sexually-oriented businesses, including movie theaters that showed sex films in a time before the internet and the video-rental business. At the same time, neighborhoods such as “the Castro” in San Francisco were increasingly occupied by young, LGBT refugees from Small Town U.S.A. The rise of “porno” films and magazines, a few of which achieved mainstream status (e.g. Deep Throat), coincided with the rise of a visible “gay” community. In fact, there was more overlap between “gays” and sex workers than is usually acknowledged today.

Of course, there were problems with the visions of utopia expressed in the “porno” of the time. Heterosexual plots in sex films often featured a kind of female sexual “awakening” in which a man raped a young woman, who then admitted that she loved it. There were logical reasons why feminists picketed the venues where such films were shown or sold in the 1970s.

The Spirit of the Eighties (if there was such a thing) was largely about “cleaning up” the messy freedom of the seventies. Government studies of “porn,” the sex trade, and the sexual abuse of “children” (including teenagers who go “all the way”) were produced in the U.S. and Canada, and these were the basis for new laws.

Remember Linda Lovelace, star of the 1972 hit sex film, Deep Throat? Ghost-writers produced three books, supposedly “written” by her, which changed in tone from the first to the last. In the heyday of her stardom, she gave numerous interviews in which she claimed to be a liberated woman enjoying sexual pleasure. Her situation was problematic: her “boyfriend,” pimp or handler, Chuck Traynor, had a degree of control over her that was noticed by most other people who came in contact with them. Nonetheless, Linda seemed to have enough freedom to leave him, had she wanted to. Her third book, Ordeal, produced in the 1980s, describes her as a victim of trafficking who had been forced into becoming a “porn star.” By then, apparently, she wanted only to be a monogamous wife living below the public radar.

I always found the changes in her story bewildering. If she had no control over her life as a porn star, how much control did she have over the words attributed to her, but written by other people? In an insightful essay in Porno Chic, “Making Sense of Linda Lovelace,” Nancy Semin Lingo discusses Linda’s real-life circumstances, including the car accident that left her with scars that damaged her confidence—before she moved in with Chuck Traynor. In the aftermath of Deep Throat, Linda apparently tried to get work as a serious actress in Hollywood, with no success. The reasons aren’t hard to guess: screen acting is a very competitive business, and Linda’s only assets were physical. Desperate for money, she and her new husband found a new ghostwriter who offered a financial life-raft in the form of a new book which would tell her “true story,” one that would appeal to a contemporary audience.

Reality tends to be messy and complex, but mass-market paperbacks tend to be easy reads that reflect current trends. Like other sex-workers, Linda did what she could to survive as well as possible. Tragically, she didn’t live into self-reflective old age; she died in a fatal car crash in 2002. As the essayist sums up: “Her life story beings up questions about women’s bodies, sexual freedom, and agency that defined public life in the 1970s, and are still, to a large extent, unsettled today.” I think I’ll end there.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Next? #amreading

by Giselle Renarde

Today I finished reading a boring book that's not worth mentioning, but that means tomorrow morning I'll need to choose a new book to read. I've got a stack to select from. Maybe help me pick?

Most of the books on my to-be-read list came to my from library sales and other people's garbage. (That's right--I'm not above reading garbage!) I grabbed this particular garbage book because I have no friends or influence and it's so notorious it naturally piqued my curiosity:

Another potential read jumped out at me at a sale of discarded library materials. God, I love libraries. They provide me with novels like:

This next one's from a Little Free Library. I couldn't believe my luck in finding a Robertson Davies book I haven't read. Only thing is it's a really thick book and I'm a slow reader so I'm scared once I start on it I'll be married to it until the year 2525:

The only Stephen King book I've ever read is On Writing. Considering he's my girlfriend's favourite author I'd say it's high time I read some of Stephen King's... you know... fiction. I picked this one up at a shop called Books Ends, which is a permanent location that sells discarded library materials and donated books, CDs and DVDs to raise funds for library programming:

There we have it. What should I read? After looking over the book blurbs when I was pulling those cover images from Amazon just now, I'm leaning toward American Dervish. Anybody read it, or any of the other books on my little list?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

LOL God - You up?

The Franciscans describe it as sitting on the bottom of a river, with your legs tucked under you, the heavy slow breeze of a soft current embracing you and looking up see the bottoms of small boats going by overhead.  You might get up and swim to the surface to be inside a boat, maybe without even knowing you're doing it, or you may just as well magically find yourself sitting in it.  You don't get attached to the boat.  You don't scold yourself for being in the boat.  You just hop overboard and go back to sitting in silence at the bottom of the river as the little boat bottoms pass overhead.

Where people so often despair of learning to meditate is that moment when they keep finding themselves in the next boat.  The boats represent thought.  Your attitude towards finding yourself in the boat - wrapped up in thought - is actually the important part of what you're trying to do.  Silence is a nice thing, but most of the time you're diving over the side of the boat.  Meditation is more about letting it go without attachment and moving back into silence.

But what if you keep floating up?  There is a sacred word of your choosing that you can hang onto, as though grabbing a fistful of seaweed to anchor yourself.  You bring your thoughts there until silence returns to you.  You are after all, only clearing a path for God to touch you.

I am a mystic.

A mystic is a very distinctive thing, as a belief system and as a distinctive approach to God.  I like to say that Christians want to be God's children.  Muslims want to be God's servants.  A mystic wants to be God's lover.  A mystic wants to climb naked into bed with God and . . . .  hook up.

I had thought that mysticism was dead in Christianity.  I thought the Catholics had stamped it out as a heresy going back as far as the Gnostics, but I'm delighted to find out that I was wrong.  The Franciscans and Benedictines have been keeping Christian contemplative techniques and beliefs alive for hundreds of years by discreetly not calling much attention to them.  What is most thrilling to me is that Christian "contemplative prayer", preserved in monasteries over the ages is identical to Transcendental Meditation.  "TM" is almost identical to Buddhist "Shamata" meditation.  You have three distinctly different belief systems, Hinduism-Vedanta, Buddhism, and Christianity that have independently arrived at the same meditation technique, with the same attendant explanations and the same aspirations.    Like three scientists testing three experiments and getting the same data.  This is as close to actual science as actual religion ever gets.

It isn't just one book I've been reading on this, when I get excited on a subject I often read syncretistically, that is, several books on the subject at once.  The two books I've whittled it down to are "Open Mind Open Heart" by Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, and -"Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening" by Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest .

They have both written several books on Christian mysticism it turns out, including a few by Father Keating on straight up Catholicism, to just to show he's the real thing, but the best one to begin with is "Open Mind Open Heart".  If you've studied the method of contemplation presented you've essentially learned Transcendental Meditation for free, just like if you learn Latin you've learned Italian.   

Mysticism, Christian or otherwise, is about experiencing God directly.  It represents also another view in Christianity, kept alive by Unitarian-Universalists - my people - that there is no final disposal of the wicked, "Universalism".   This is the belief we are all destined for divinity eventually even if some of us get pretty lost along the way.  The worst of us carries the spark of divinity by nature because there is no creator and there is no creation.  From quarks to the most massive black hole,   there is only God.

This is a non-dualistic viewpoint of God and Man and reality.  Technically a mystic like myself is an atheist, because I reject a more personal image of God, even though I believe in God.  The best analogy I know is the ocean.  A wave rises on the surface of the ocean.  A wave is the ocean in an individual expression, and may forget the ocean exists, maybe even deny the ocean exists, yet the wave is always the ocean in a brief individual expression.  There is no difference between the ocean and the wave, they are the same.

A theistic, dualistic view of God and Man takes the position that God is all goodness and purity and human beings are broken things that cannot approach God directly.  We need a middle man or a belief system of priests and right beliefs.  The non-dualistic approach is that there can never be a separation between the wave and the ocean it rises from, it just has to find a way to look down and re-discover the ocean it belongs to and has always belonged to.  "Thou art that, I am that, all this is that" say the Vedantists.  "Amen", say the Franciscans, crossing themselves.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Learning from Reading

There are two common paths to coaching, I’ve found.  There’s the expert who has tons of personal experience and then transitions into coaching — think of a tennis star who has had years of competitions and tournaments and, when she can no longer physically keep up with the younger players, transitions to coaching.  Then there are the experts who have little to no personal experience, but are able to excellently coach others in the field — I used to take personal training from a bodybuilder, but when he was ill for a couple weeks, a really out-of-shape colleague of his (who had never been a bodybuilder) became my personal trainer and worked me just as hard, giving me tips that the bodybuilder never mentioned.

Personal experience in a field doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite for coaching.  Instead, it takes a deep understanding of the field — the rules, both written and unwritten, the techniques, and the strategies — and a keen sense of observation to identify weaknesses and strengths.

As I’ve mentioned a few times here on Oh Get A Grip, I’ve got a publishing company that specializes in erotica and erotic romance.  In its initial planning stages, the company was going to specialize in gay erotica and nothing else, but then expanded to include MM romance and then to include all romantic pairings.  I soon thought I was out of my league — I just don’t write romance.  I write erotica with highly charged feelings of lust that border on love… so it’s romance-ish, but I don’t do traditional erotic romance.  I know the basic structure of the romance plot and I know how to write it… but, weirdly, I can’t seem to do it when I try it myself.

So with the publisher, when I started taking on some editing roles, I was worried I’d be over my head real fast.  What I found interesting is that, while I can’t write a romance, I definitely know how to read a romance with an eye for coaching and editing.  I’m able to identify areas that can be expanded or condensed to heighten emotions and build up for the right emotional payoff, I can help an author manage the right dynamic between the romantic leads (because, more often than not, in romances the leads are antagonists to each other for the bulk of the story), and I can give the author workable suggestions for structural edits to set the right pacing.

This fortnight here on Oh Get A Grip is “What are you reading?” And other than the obligatory Star Trek book, which right now is Star Trek: The Next Generation: Headlong Flight by Dayton Ward, I’ve been reading nothing but erotic romances.  And most of them are of the MF variety — so for a gay guy who’s never been with a woman, this has been an interesting couple of months of reading. I’ve read straight erotica and erotic romance before, but I think in the past two months I’ve read more of it than in the last ten years.

I’ve always sort of thought that the best coaches are the ones that have the most personal experience. After all, when I was taking personal training at the gym, it of course seems more logical to take my lessons from the body builder who regularly wins competitions than from the guy that looks like a desk jockey that hasn’t played a sport in decades… yet it was that desk jockey that I found more helpful as a trainer than the body builder. In the world of literature, I recall reading that Donald Maass, agent extraordinaire, doesn’t write books and has no desire to write books, yet he keenly understands what makes a bestseller and how an author can fix a book to make it excel.

While I hold no illusions that I’m the erotic romance equivalent of Donald Maass, I do find some resemblances.  The authors I work with have thanked me for the edits, saying that I’ve got a keen eye for their story.  I seem to be able to coach an author in writing a romance so that it becomes a riveting book… yet I have no desire to write an actual romance.  Any time that I feel I want to try, I end up with erotica with hints of love, which is something different than romance.

I can't do it... but I can coach it.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is The President And The Rentboy (co-written with Sandra Claire). He is also the publisher and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, a publisher of erotica and high-heat-level erotic romance. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Community of Readers (#amreading #marketing #socialmedia)

Books and Flowers

By Lisabet Sarai

Want to know what I’m reading? Check out my bookshelf on Goodreads!

I can’t remember why I joined Goodreads, but my profile tells me it was more than seven years ago. Probably someone suggested that the site could provide another social marketing tool. For the most part, I haven’t really used it that way. I haven’t joined many groups (which I’ve been told is the way to reach readers) or engaged in much chitchat via the messaging facilities. As is the case with all my other social media, I have very little time to devote to such activities.

Of course I set up a profile as an author, to “gather” my books in one place (40, according to my last check). I also linked my blog feed to my page on the site. There are a few people who “like” every single post—even though for some reason Goodreads (or possibly Blogger) royally screws up the formatting!

I have 189 “friends”, mostly though not exclusively fellow authors I know from other contexts. Once a week (frequency customizable) I receive an email with notifications about what my friends have been doing, including the full text of some of their reviews.

Despite being ridiculously busy, I almost always read that email, because some of my Goodreads friends write truly remarkable reviews. The email includes a button next to each entry which takes you directly to Goodreads and adds that book to your “Want to read” bookshelf. I really like this feature. Before Goodreads, I kept scattered notes on interesting books I encountered, in a highly disorganized fashion. As we prepared for our ritual pilgrimage to the Strand Bookstore in New York, during each trip to the U.S., my DH and I would try to compile all those titles into a single list. A real pain!

Now I just go to the site, select the “want to read” shelf, set the number per page to 100 (there are currently 93 titles on my list) and print!

Indeed, I’ve started to use Goodreads to keep track of titles I find elsewhere (for instance, some of the amazing books mentioned by my fellow members of the Grip). It takes no more than a minute or two to bring up the site, search for a book, and add it.

Of course, another reason to read that email is occasionally someone has actually reviewed one of my books....! In addition, Goodreads lets me go to any of my titles to see 1) how many people have read it; 2) how many people have reviewed it; 3) the average rating (top is 5 stars). For instance, Raw Silk has 36 ratings, 8 reviews and an average rating of 3.97. (Those numbers are actually a bit depressing, considering how many years the book has been available!)

Because I’m an author and I know how much it means, I rate every book I read, and write at least a short review of as many as I can. A few months ago I got an email from Goodreads congratulating me for being such a frequent reviewer, within the top 10% on the site. Yeah, that made me feel good, until I realized that there are very likely millions of members who never post a single review!

I also “like” other people’s reviews, and occasionally leave comments. However, I have not tried in any sort of systematic way to increase my “reach” or draw readers into my circle. Although Goodreads has all sorts of marketing tools for authors, I’ve hardly used any of them. The site is now owned by Amazon (though it was originally independent), so of course it offers advertising, organizes giveaways, and so on. Although I personally approach Goodreads primarily as a community of readers, I know the real focus is on profit. People can buy books (surprise, surprise!) directly from the listing. There’s a big button for Amazon, plus a dropdown list labeled “Online Stores” for everyone else...

I’m sure I could leverage Goodreads to increase my sales. Certainly, as a social network, it makes much more sense to me than Facebook. I mean, if I’m looking to let people know about my books, what better place to do this than a site where the members are self-selected book lovers?

Like all the other marketing stuff I don’t do, Goodreads might make a difference in my sales. Or it might not. Meanwhile, I enjoy the interactions I have with my friends on the site. Though I have a small network, it includes many people whose opinions I respect. It would be more fun, of course, if we could get together in person, drink wine, and compare notes on our reading. Still, Goodreads offers a satisfying (and convenient) alternative.

And by the way, right now I’m reading three books: Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord, by Louis de Bernières; Travels in Siam, Cambodia, Laos, and Annan, by Henri Mouhot; The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 11, edited by Maxim Jakubowski. When I get on the plane to the US in a few days, I’ll crack open A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the Game of Thrones series, which I’ve been saving for the twenty-odd hour journey.

Drop by Goodreads in a few weeks if you want to know what I thought about these books!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kiss, Suspended, Witnessed ( #BDSM #Rope #Suspension )

by Annabeth Leong

I once watched a woman get tied up for a low suspension. Her lover pulled her in close, stripped her slowly, and led her to lie facedown under the frame. Softly, touching her with the rope as gently as he did with his fingers, he tied her hands, feet, torso, hips. Then he lifted her, just a little, so she hung, spread-eagled, only a few inches off the ground.

He settled below her, still fully clothed, and began to make her swing, using light pushes on her shoulders or her hips. As she swung, her body brushed against his. He reached up sometimes to tease her nipples or caress her side. He lifted his head to kiss her, then pushed her away to swing again.

It was one of the most erotic scenes I’ve ever witnessed, intimate rather than virtuosic, executed with skill but not for skill’s sake. I still think sometimes about that gentle, sexy swinging, the low light, the music of the party.

I’ve had only one experience with being suspended myself. Suspension wasn’t something I particularly sought out. I’d heard for such a long time about “flying” on the ropes, though, that when I found myself at a bondage party with a woman I trusted to hoist me up that way, I agreed to give it a shot.

We had only just started dating, and I was so hungry for her touch that the main thing I remember was the way I shivered every time her fingers brushed me. I stripped down to a camisole and tights, and she gradually assembled a variety of harnesses (which are used to distribute weight more evenly).

The actual experience of being suspended, however, was anticlimactic for me. She spun me around a bit—which I didn’t like for the same reason I don’t like the tilt-a-whirl. She tried hanging me upside down for a little while, but pretty much as soon as the blood rushed to my head I wanted to come down.

I might have different feelings if pain had been involved in that scene. If the idea of it had been to suspend me like a fly in a spider’s web and hit me with stinging evil sticks while I well and surely couldn’t get away, I’d probably have been more turned on. But if you add pain to just about anything, I’m interested, so that’s not a very strong argument for suspension. I’ve seen plenty of people, though, who chase suspension for its own sake, and I’ll leave it to them.

Though, if they let me, I do like to watch them swing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bowling Night

 by Daddy X

Well, no experience in swinging per se but thought this added little ditty at least fell into the realm.

But I have had sex with women while their husbands were in the house. Not all at one time (shucks) but on several occasions (over the years) with different women. Not that we didn't go round two or three times. Yeeeeow. There's something to be said about getting away with something. Something dangerously erotic, plus actual danger of getting caught.

Well, this flasher doesn't have anything to do with sex in the coat room or getting away with 'love banditry' as we used to call it back in the day. Would that count as swinging? When only two partners from two couple get together? Or is that just cheating?

                                                       Bowling Night

The Crawfords hadn’t drawn their curtains that night. At least one of their guests should have noticed. Maybe at that kind of party, people don’t mind being observed. They certainly weren’t embarrassed going naked.

“Sharon!” I called. “Up here, quick! Check this out. From the bedroom window.”

Next door, Marge Crawford, sat on her haunches in the middle of a rug, sweaty head bobbing at some guy’s crotch, lips sliding along his shaft while the crowd stood round clapping in rhythm. Hugh appeared delighted when Joe Crawford’s wife took the load in her eyebrows.

“Wow,” said Sharon. “Can’t imagine Marge doing that. She always seemed so straight.”

“Ooo. See that little blonde?” I said. “Trying to handle—Jesus—what a thick cock! Getting it from behind! What a fucking doll.”

“Yeah. Great ass too,” Sharon agreed. “And what capacity!”

“Look at the grin on the guy. Bet it won’t fit; not the whole thing.”

“Probably not. Do you suppose they left the curtains open for our benefit?”

 “Why would you think that?” I asked.

“We were invited to go over there tonight.”

“What? You said ‘no’?”

“How was I to know? Plus, it’s your bowling night.”

This flash fiction piece (and 54 others) available Sept 24 on the release of 'Flash Daddy' from Excessica

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On dangling upside down from a pole...

“I’ve been told I have to take my pictures down from Facebook!”

This was the lament of a friend of mine, Jenny, a couple of months ago. Jenny and I share a hobby, though I think it’s fair to say her execution of our common passion is somewhat more deft that mine. We both like pole dancing. Or pole fitness as we prefer to call it. We meet up once a week or so to dangle from poles under the watchful and sometimes exasperated supervision of our instructor, Hayley.

I took up this unlikely pastime a year or so ago. It’s good for keeping fit (well, fitter) and I hate going to the gym or running or any of that other stuff. So, pole fitness was the one for me. It’s sort of girlie, but not in a giggly way, a very feminine form of exercise and the sexy aspects make it more fun because this is just for us. No audience, no judging, and not a shred of lycra in sight.

But back to Facebook. Jenny is a Beaver Leader. For those not familiar, Beavers are the little kids’ version of Scouts and Cubs, for children aged about 5 and 6. Jenny had managed to pull off a particularly showy pose at our pole session one evening, and Hayley photographed it for her. Jenny then posted the picture on her Facebook page for all her friends and fellow polers to admire. She’s a show off, my Facebook is adorned with no such images and never will be, mainly because I look crap and Jenny doesn’t. But I digress.

It seems one of the parents of a little beaver saw the pictures and complained. ‘Conduct unbecoming a Beaver Leader’, they wailed. ‘Not a suitable role model for young and impressionable minds, quite inappropriate.’ Scouting has an image to maintain, one of decency, propriety, respectable behavior. Dangling upside down, half-naked from a pole is not deemed suitable. Not at all. The Grand Beaver called Jenny in for a telling off and insisted she had to remove the offending images at once.

“But it’s private,” insisted Jenny, “and none of their business. And it has nothing to do with Beavers.”

Ah, but such is the power of social media. Nothing is private, and, apparently, Beavers are all-powerful and nothing lies beyond their reach. Jenny had to choose, and the pictures were duly deleted.

I tell this story partly because pole dancing is as close as I suspect I shall get to swinging, but it surely counts. Also, because of the salutary lessons it offers on the dubious notion of privacy in a digital world, misconceptions about pole fitness, and arguably the scouting movement who are not entirely beyond reproach, and perhaps the difficulties in trying to compartmentalise our lives. I could go on, it’s a rich vein. But mainly I value this little insight into the vagaries of morals in public life for the inspiration if gave me to write a short story which has just been accepted for an anthology of ménage stories.

Every cloud, and all that…

Here’s the (draft) blurb for my story, entitled A Very Private Performance. It should be out by July.

For the avoidance of doubt, please be informed that you are a pair of arrogant, self-serving sh**s. Further, you are bigoted, self-righteous phonies.

Not exactly the best way to address the directors of the law firm if I want to hang on to my job, but I’ve had up to here it with James and Daniel Morgan. If they object so strongly to what I do in my spare time they shouldn’t snoop into my Facebook account. Not that any of this self-righteous indignation is going to help me. I’ve been fired.
So, what are they thinking now? First James and Daniel have me dismissed, then they turn up while I’m clearing out my desk as though nothing is wrong and invite me out to lunch? What are they up to? And why am I even going with them?
They may be handsome as sin, the pair of them, and now that they know I’m a pole dancer in my spare time they seem to think I’ll sleep with them to keep my job.
Not that the idea doesn’t have its appeal, but they’re wrong. I have my standards too … and not the double standards these two seem to live by.
If I decide to give James and Daniel Morgan a very private performance it will be on my terms, not theirs.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Swing and a Miss (#Play Parties #Floggers #Slings #Voyeurs #Whips #BDSM)

Sacchi Green

I’ve been around here so long that I’m not only repeating myself, but repeating those repetitions. My wild and crazy second adolescence has been mined so deeply that you can bounce echoes off its walls, and there was never all that much of interest in the first place. Just the same, here we go, because the closest I’ve come to our theme of “swinging” isn’t the couples-trading-partners kind, but just the play party kind, which may have included the occasional partner-swapping by some of its participants, but the ones I knew about always ended badly. Let’s not talk about those, okay?

I was introduced to play parties a few years after I’d started to write and publish erotica, at an age when I was old enough to know better but also old enough not to give a damn. I’d met a couple of other writers who been living a virtuous rural life together for twenty years, but were beginning to reestablish contact with city friends who were involved in a women-only BDSM club. I went along for the ride. And the research. I discovered much later that the club’s founders had already bailed when there got to be too much wrangling over rules and by-laws and committee elections, but there were still useful demos at meetings on everything from do-it-yourself sex toys to fisting to obligatory safety training. (Admit it, you thought I was going to talk about another type of do-it-yourself, and, in fact, there was some of that, too.) And, increasingly, there were invitation-only parties.

Most of these parties weld held in a loft-apartment high up in an old factory building, with the owners’ living quarters curtained off except for the small kitchen we could use for pot-luck snacks to keep our strength up. Hey, even just playing the role of a voyeur can be strenuous work. There were two spacious rooms for play, one usually darkened and relatively quiet, with bondage tables and various odd contraptions like a huge wheel-shaped thing that was said to have been hospital equipment for turning burn victims over without putting pressure on their injuries. The other room was well-lit, with such accouterments as swivel inserts in the ceiling with ropes to dangle from, spanking benches, and whatever people might have brought along to use and share, like folding slings (which are pretty close to swings, right? Entirely appropriate to our theme.) Floggers and whips might be used in either room, depending on how crowded the spaces were. There were a few regulars who were real artistes with whips.

Then there were the parties in hotels, especially during the annual Fetish Fair Fleamarkets that had been put on for years at a venerable city hotel, until some reporter did an article with photos of costumed (or extremely noncostumed) party-goers in the elevators, resulting in public outrage and the necessity of moving the event from venue to venue, motel to motel, until finding what may now be a permanent yearly home in a big airport hotel near another city not too far away. The event was a party of sorts all by itself—I remember the pony room fondly, although all I did was watch—but there were also parties in hotel suites, and the club I’d joined always had a good one. I went to these Fetish Fairs as a vendor; I still owned an eclectic college-town store then, and some of my employees liked to go and help out, so we could sell enough in the way of belly-dancing gear, gypsy skirts, assorted humorous/libidinous magnets and buttons, jewelry, and suggestive tarot decks to pay for the trip with a little left over.

What? You think I’m avoiding the interesting parts, like what I actually did at these parties? Well, not all that much. I was mostly a voyeur. Too old to be a beginner, my only tenuous appeal was to role-play a mean old teacher, and I gave it a try a few times, but my heart wasn’t in it. I did try my hand (hah!) at spanking, once, with some success—I think I already told that story here, and got a story out of it that was published—but there were complex emotional things going on at the time, and I never got as good a chance again, or really wanted to.

When I went to the parties at the Fetish Fair I got my kicks out of taking along one of my employees who loved to be flogged and spanked and tightly bound and pretty much anything else, all for the endorphins. The more she was punished, the more she giggled and laughed. People gathered around for the fun of hearing and seeing her. I only flogged her once myself, at a poorly-attended party when there was no one else I’d trust to do it, but on the whole I drew the line at playing that way with an employee, especially since after her mother died I’d taken on a role like a kindly aunt who could be confided in, and with both the employer and semi-parental vibes it felt wrong to get into sexual power play with her.

Flogging was about as far as I got with anything. A good friend gave me one of her floggers, and some instruction, and I had several friends who were into getting flogged without complications, so I did get some vigorous exercise that way. But this is where the swing and a miss part comes in. The first time I felt confident enough to wield the flogger at a really big party, it went well, and my floggees were very impressed. But I'd hoped my friend would be impressed, too, and it didn’t work out that way. She’d recently met two much younger girls somewhere else who came to this party for the first time, and they put on a dancing-slave-girl show for my friend, who watched like a sultan from a pile of cushions, and pretty much everyone else was just as entranced.

It’s been a long time now since I’ve been to a kinky play party. Gasoline got so expensive about then that I stopped driving almost two hours into the city and then back late at night. I did go to the Fetish Flea parties for several years, until the employees who had helped out got involved in other things, including the one who loved to be tied up and beaten. She’s married now with a great little kid, and the other two who helped out are married now to each other and have two great little kids. I sold my store to that couple eventually, but they couldn’t make a go of it and closed it after five years. I was too busy with writing and elder care (my dad) and various things to go back into the retail business.

I did get something important from my not-really-immersion in the world of kink. I understand things I never would have understood otherwise. I’ve seen deeply into people’s needs and desires in ways nothing else would have shown me. I know people I’d never have met anywhere else And as a writer, I can merge my mind convincingly, I think, into characters who are deeply moved by power play and the various other aspects of BDSM. I know myself, who I am, who I might have been, and who I’m not. I did, at least, swing, and if I missed, for many complex reasons, it turns out to be just as well. I still have miles to go, and as a writer, I can, with the utmost respect, walk some of those miles in other people’s metaphorical shoes.          


Friday, March 17, 2017

My Fabulous Imaginary Sex Life

by Jean Roberta

My story about the conception of King Arthur, "Under the Sign of the Dragon" (available on Excessica) is about a legendary triangle. This seems to be as close to swinging as I get.

According to Wikipedia, “swinging” is “an arrangement in which partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others.”

To my own amazement, I’ve never done this. When I’m committed, I’m monogamous. Between relationships, of course, I’ve had some fun encounters, including hotel-room trysts with married men when I was working for several escort agencies in the early 1980s. I’m fairly sure my johns didn’t tell their wives about me, and I often wondered how they kept their spending habits secret.

My sex life according to other people has been unbelievable. I sometimes wish I had recorded some of their stories on tape or disk. None of these urban legends involved swinging, per se, but my phantom encounters could be classified as another sport—maybe trampolining.

Some of you might remember my late ex-husband from the 1970s. I’ve introduced him here before. He was a refugee from the Nigerian civil war of the early 1970s when I met him in London, England. I eventually sponsored him into Canada as my fiance, and we were married in 1975.

Before he arrived, I rented an apartment for us in the downtown area of Regina, capital city of Saskatchewan, and furnished it on my savings. Everything I bought was on-sale or second-hand. One piece was a very comfortable green armchair with broad arms that I bought for $5 Canadian. (Who could resist such a bargain?) It had a white stain on one arm that wouldn’t come off with water alone, and I was afraid to use any cleanser on it for fear of damaging the upholstery.

Fiance arrived, and he was not impressed with our honeymoon suite. He seemed to think my parents would be supporting us, which they never promised, and I didn’t expect. I looked forward to our wedding as a rite of passage that would launch me beyond my parents’ control. This certainly wouldn’t work if they held the purse-strings.

Fiance and I were like two people in a rowboat in a vast ocean, frantically trying to reach land by rowing in opposite directions.

He was not happy that I was already on the birth-control pill because I didn’t want to get pregnant too soon. He was beyond unhappy about the armchair.

One day, he asked me if the stain was caused by “juice.” I said it probably was.

Fiance’s eyes grew large, and he seemed about to explode. “You’re telling me that’s juice?!” he demanded.

“It could be,” I said. “I don’t know. It was like that when I bought it.”

“So that’s juice!” he yelled. “You just told me it’s juice!!”

I didn’t know why he was erupting like a volcano until I realized what kind of juice he had in mind. He thought I had been fucked on the arm of the chair, and the juice of my overstimulated girl-fruit had flowed all over.

I decided to try any means necessary to scrub the stain off the chair. I used some household cleanser, and it worked. New Husband (as he was by then) felt this was proof that the stain was caused by my love-juice. Of course, if the stain had been permanent, that would have proved the same thing.

When the Stain on the Armchair came up again and again as a topic for argument, Husband reminded me that when he first asked me about it, I confessed to leaking “juice” onto the chair. Nothing would shift him from his position, which showed the chair’s ability to trap the unwary.

Does it surprise you that when I left, I didn’t take any furniture with me?

Then there was the Pizza Orgy.

I was a university undergraduate, and I told Husband that I wanted to join the staff of the student newspaper. I wanted to get some experience doing layout by literally cutting-and-pasting articles on a light table. (Computers were a thing unknown.) Putting the newspaper together had to happen after classes, and it could be a lengthy process since a few veterans knew what to do, and they had to explain the steps to us newbies. Husband didn’t object when I told him I had to stay late to “put the paper to bed.”

He soon changed his mind. When I tried to calm him down by phone, he demanded that I come home at once to cook supper for him, since it was my turn. I told him I would trade turns with him. He told me he was very hungry and would stay that way until I came home like a decent wife. I invited him to come to the university, meet all the rest of the staff, and help us finish faster. He refused to meet people who clearly had no respect for him as my husband.

The last straw for Husband was that someone on the newspaper staff ordered a large pizza so we could eat something and keep working until we were finished.

When I came home, Husband demanded food, then grilled me as I cooked. He asked if there were men in the student newspaper office. I told him there were students of both genders. Apparently this meant I had spent a shocking amount of time in close contact with men. When he learned about the pizza, he decided that I had gone out with a group of men to dine on pizza while my husband starved at home.

And so my newspaper experience became (in the many arguments that followed) the Great Pizza Party. I resigned from the newspaper staff after that evening, but the story continued to expand like dough.

Incidents continued to pile up during the two-and-a-half years of our marriage. Eventually, Husband told me he would take our baby daughter home to Nigeria to rescue her from me, even though he was probably not her real father. He warned me that if I stole our daughter (who was somehow his property, even though he claimed he had no obligation to support her), he would tell the whole world the disgusting truth about me.

He called a travel agency to ask about a flight to Nigeria. I was terrified of losing my baby, so as soon as he left the house, I escaped with her and went to a women’s shelter.

Like a large container of moldy pizza, rotting upholstery or sour milk, Husband’s version of our marriage was spilled on all our friends and acquaintances soon after I left. After baby and I had spent a week in the shelter, my parents invited us to move in with them, so Husband called them numerous times to tell them the unabridged version of What I Had Done.

My mother finally shut him up by telling him she wouldn’t listen to him unless he could provide incriminating photos.

I had to make plans for my future as a single mother, and eventually my parents agreed to support me through an Education degree so I could teach English in a local high school. While running errands, I often ran into people I knew. Most of them told me it was really too bad I had ended my marriage with Husband instead of resolving our problems. They told me he had explained everything to them, and they were not willing to take sides.

Only my best friend could look me in the eyes. She didn't hesitate to take a side, and I loved her shamelessly partisan approach.

In the late 1980s, when my girlfriend (now my spouse) and I were planning to move in together, several other lesbians told her about an orgy at which I had been the most popular participant, thus proving that I was not ready for a committed relationship. No one knew who had hosted this soiree, and none of the witnesses had been there themselves. They all knew the story was true because they heard it from someone who heard it from someone.

I wondered whether my reputation from my daring escape in spring 1978 had continued to fester and grow among people I had never met.

Much as I admire the uses of imagination, I decided to use mine by writing stories about unreal characters. I like to believe that my sex stories are stranger than truth, and not libellous.

It seems I am the star and producer of many an amazing scene that never took place on this planet. Am I or have I been a swinger? According to legend, I’ve swung, bounced, rocked and rolled. I can only imagine what will be said about me once I've left this world.