Sunday, January 31, 2010

Just Sex

By Lisabet Sarai

"I am going to tie you to the bed, Colette, unless you tell me to stop. You don't have to be afraid. I've done this many times before."

Jealousy flared up, replacing the fear. Who else had he used the way he was using me?

"So, I'm just another conquest for you?" Ryan looked surprised at my outburst. He sat down beside me on the bed and took my hand.

"No, of course not. You know better than that. You know that you're special."

"I'm sure that you tell every one of your women that."

"But it's true. I knew it the moment I saw you. You have a precious gift, a sexual intensity that you can't hide, though you try. A craving for the extremes of sensation. Overwhelming curiosity and insatiable appetite. The rare ability to surrender completely to pleasure."

His touch was making me weak, but I still tried to resist.

"In the stories, the doms always say that. They know how to push the right buttons. They seduce their victims into thinking that there's something magical and deep about their interaction. When after all, it's just sex -- kinky, perverted, but in the final analysis, just sex."

"Just sex?" Ryan leaped onto the bed, straddling my body, pinning my wrists to the sheets with his huge hands. Then he kissed me with a ferocity that literally took my breath away. His tongue forced its way into my mouth and tangled with mine. He gnawed at my lips, mashing them against my teeth. I tasted blood.

I struggled against him for a moment, then relaxed and let his mouth ravage me. With that release came pleasure so acute that it washed away all thought. I was floating in a sea of pleasure: the tingling in my nipples where his shirt rubbed against them; the sparks flashing across my belly from the pressure of his hidden cock; the exquisite contractions rippling through the depths of my cunt.

I writhed against him, unable to control myself, not caring what he thought or what he did. I opened myself to the pleasure and let it take me away.

"'And if the body does not do as much as the Soul? And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?'"

Ryan had relinquished my mouth and was peering down at me. His long black hair half-obscured his blazing eyes.

I gasped for breath. "Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass." The pleasure had subsided somewhat, but I knew that it lay waiting for me to claim it again.

"Yes. 'Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, the atmosphere and the clouds, and what was expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now consumed.' That's what he was talking about, you know. Sex. 'Just' sex."

I nodded. I knew.

"Let me bind you, Colette."

I nodded again.

My bed had no hooks, no attachment points. Ryan simply fastened one end of the rope around my wrist, then threaded it under the bed and up the other side to wrap my other wrist. My ankles he secured in a similar manner. Simple and efficient. I lay quietly, feeling the pleasure trembling beneath the surface whenever he touched me.

Before long he stood over me. I assumed that he was admiring his handiwork.

I had imagined this, but the reality was far more intense. I was helpless, unable to move or escape. Truly in his power. My body was displayed, shameless, available for him to use in any way he desired. I have never been more frightened. Or more excited.

-- From “Body Electric” by Lisabet Sarai. In Yes, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission,edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Cleis, 2008.

The story quoted above is very personal. While the characters and the action are imagined, the central question in “Body Electric” is one that I've considered many times during my five-odd decades. I've had some sexual experiences that could only be called transcendent. They overwhelmed me. They changed me forever. What does that mean? How can I reconcile this fact with the popular wisdom that desire and sexual pleasure are somehow lesser experiences than “love”? The notion that sex is something basic, primitive, animal, and instinctive, whereas love is an expression of humanity's higher nature?

Of course, the sexual experiences to which I refer were not primarily physical. Especially in BDSM, at least for me, the physical is simply a gateway to a different psychic state, a lens that focuses the emotions. Meanwhile, I'll admit that I've always had difficulty separating sex and love, to the extent that I've started to wonder whether the distinction isn't completely artificial.

In my wilder days, I had – I was about to write “many lovers”, but I realize that description will mean different things to different people. So instead I'll say “multiple lovers” and leave you to interpret that as you will. With one or two exceptions that still leave a bad taste in my mouth, I felt that I loved them all. Even with the occasional one-night stands, there was tenderness and warmth. As for the person who introduced me to BDSM—well, I still call him my lover and my master, more than thirty years later, despite the fact that I'm twenty seven years married (to someone else) and we haven't shared a “scene” in almost that long. I love him dearly. Did the lust and excitement transmute to love? Did I have to love him first, in order to trust him the way I did, the very first time we were naked together?

Is there an answer to this question, any more than there's one to Walt Whitman's? “And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?”

These days I spend a lot of time (more than I'd like) pondering the dichotomy of erotica and romance and trying to walk the fine line between them. Perhaps that line is illusory, too. True, each genre has its own conventions, but are they really different in some fundamental way? I wrote Raw Silk as erotica; it is now marketed, more or less successfully, as erotic romance. In today's romance, the intensity of the sexual connection between the protagonists is a mirror of their love. Not infrequently, the physical communion appears first.

Some erotica authors can write about sex without any overt recourse to love. Remittance Girl and Mike Kimera particularly come to mind. Even with these authors, though, sex transforms their characters. Desire is an alchemy that transmutes sweat and semen, saliva and pussy juice, into something rarer, finer, closer to what makes us human. One of those abstracts that we write with implicit capitals. Beauty. Truth.

Sometimes, too, I wonder if I can love someone without feeling, at some level, desire. I was startled to realize, in my late teens, that I not only loved and admired a close girlfriend—I was aroused by her. Parents, siblings, elderly relatives—okay, they don't turn me on. But there's at least a hint of a sexual dimension in most of my other relationships.

Am I abnormal? Confused? Deviant? Maybe. But perhaps not. So many people travel through life deliberately distanced from their sexual selves. They reject their lust as shameful and unworthy. I've never felt that way. That's one reason I can write what I do without blushing or making apologies.

Sex or love, Ashley asked in his topic for this week. As for me, I'll take both, thank you.


  1. Lisabet,

    A scintillating response to the question, and a wonderful teaser for Yes, Sir (which sould be on everyone's book shelf).

    A wonderful, personal and intelligent post.



  2. That is always the question, Will it be just sex, or sex you'll you'll remember forever?

  3. Very insightful, Lisabet. Thank you.


  4. Hi Lisabet!

    Really good post. Once more I envy you your life experience. You have so many rich memories to draw on.


  5. I'm honoured by the mention, Lisabet and especially the company I'm mentioned in.

    You wrote: "I've always had difficulty separating sex and love, to the extent that I've started to wonder whether the distinction isn't completely artificial."

    I'm absolutely convinced that it often is. I think we make the distinction to save ourselves from being hurt. Another cause of the artificial distinction might be because we have a model of what it means to be in love that is so rigid: that real love should be eternal, singular and about mutual ownership.

    My characters rarely admit to falling in love, but it doesn't mean they don't.

  6. "the popular wisdom that desire and sexual pleasure are somehow lesser experiences than 'love'?"

    Which strikes me, please excuse the lack of eloquence, as complete bullshit.

    I still feel amazed that such determination to postulate boundaries, separations, judgements of all kinds in this (and many other) context seems to so pervade the human collective. On some level, I understand there to be no separation at all, so to postulate a separation of, for example, "body" and "spirit," especially on what seems such a literal level, seems truly astounding to me.

    Thanks for sharing this except and the perspective in you. :)

  7. P.S. Of course by what I said above I mean no offense whatsoever to Ashley's choice of topic for this week. I really hope it didn't come off that way....

  8. Hello, Ashley,

    Sometimes it's hard being the first on each topic!

    I'm looking forward to what others have to offer.

    All the best,

  9. Hi, Secretia,

    The interesting thing is--you don't remember the sex itself. At least I don't. The sensations fade. It's only the emotions that remain.

    Thanks for commenting.


  10. Hello, Mary,

    Thank you for taking the time to drop by!


  11. Hi, Garce,

    Yes, I'll admit to feeling pretty lucky!


  12. Hey, RG,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    I know that your characters do sometimes fall in love. I understand this. I wrote something to that effect in the intro to your Coming Together collection, if you recall.

    If "Motorcycle Hug" isn't about love...but then it's definitely about sex too...

    Case closed.


  13. Hi, Emerald,

    Yes, I agree. And your analysis of why people think this is interesting.

    I think that it's also the result of all the guilt-mongering: sex is dirty, sinful, ugly. Whereas I see it as, quite literally, one road to enlightenment.


  14. Just sex? Because you are always so honest, Lisabet, I will volley back with honesty. I've never had just sex.
    I've been with only a handful of men, so I either convinced myself I was in love with them or i truly was. My friend and I talk about this all the time - about how we just liked our husbands = the way they kissed, made love, not considering much else. And both of us are struggling now in our midlife marriages. So the concept of 'Just Sex' seems very appealing to me now. Like you, Lisabet, I have always owned my sexuality. I was trying to explain this to my friend's 17 year old. I think she got it. I hope so. I will end as you did, sex or love, I want both...Mary Kennedy Eastham

  15. "Whereas I see it as, quite literally, one road to enlightenment."

    I wholeheartedly concur.

  16. Looking at it from a biological stand point, you can't really separate sex and love. A lot of the feelings we call "love" are caused by hormones that are so closely linked to sexual activity, the two might as well be one and the same. You mentioned having loving relationships where you had no sexual feelings - grandparents, parents, cousins, etc. But you still had love. Oddly, love is tied very closely to the hormone oxytocin, which I believe is a hormone released after orgasm. And also released in a woman's body when she nurses a baby... It's the relaxation and bonding hormone, which makes me think we are wired to associate close physical contact of any kind with love.

    Or something like that. Michelle is the biologist, so she could probably explain it better ;)


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