Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sexual truth-telling for pleasure and liberation!

June is national effective-communications month, and as soon as I read that, of course, my mind went to erotic communications. Most of my stories are about characters trying to articulate their desires, not just to each other but also to themselves. In the first piece I had published, (“Bedrock,” in Set In Stone, Alyson, 2000), a pair of butch lesbian buddies struggle against community norms to say that they want each other. While this doesn’t happen every time I write an erotic story, I got wicked turned on while writing this piece: the moment when someone admits a terrifying desire, when a character speaks what was up until then wholly unspeakable, is my favorite moment in any story.

Erotic communication is hot, scary, and transformative stuff: saying, clearly, what we want, in the moment that we want it—not to get all heavy on you, but that’s the stuff of liberation. In 8 years of leading erotic writing workshops, what I’ve found is that once we learn to do that about our sex, we find it more compelling to say what we want for and in other parts of our lives as well: at the office, from our friend-love relationships, with our families—erotic honesty has that kind of ripple effect. There are so many walls built around us clearly articulating our desires, so when we cross those societally-sustained boundaries by saying what we want/need/are curious about, something opens in us. We have freed ourselves to risk—and though maybe it never gets easy, I think the first times are the hardest.

Dorothy Allison, in an interview with Michael Rowe (in Writing Below the Belt (Richard Kasak Books, 1995), says, “Sexually, I have a fetish about truth telling. It does help in my work. I find it profoundly arousing to watch somebody struggle to articulate their desires. One of the things my girlfriend and I say […] is that you can have anything you want if you have the courage to ask for it. But having that courage to ask for it, wow! So we set up situations where you can have anything, honey—you just have to be able to ask for it” (p. 18).

This erotic engagement with desire-naming absolutely resonates with me, and feeds my own writing. I read this quote as a prompt at my erotic writing workshop a month ago, and then wrote the following in response:

Jaden has put her in front of him, on the shaggy old rust-colored couch, and Cara’s hair falls, mussed and fair, around her flushed cheeks. He says, “Say it again.” Then a pause. “Please.”

They’d been making out against the inside of her front door, she’d clutched hard to his neck, his growing hair, the place on his chest they call pecs now. She’d leaned in chest first, was learning not to lead with thigh-to-crotch during a make-out session, was learning not to feel through layers of denim for the heat of a cunt, she was unlearning lesbianism on her ex-girlfriend-now-boy-trick’s new body.

Cara says, “It’s still true. You know me. You can have whatever you want.”

His dark eyes serious, Jaden tries to hold his dinner down, so horny and terrified he could die. His palms sweat against his thighs; he feels the material darken.

“But I want to hear you say it, Jaden,” she continues. “You have to tell me.” She throbs hot, rough, with the speaking of it. The dim light in her Haight flat grows shallow as the summer fog rolls in outside.

When they’d been girlfriends, though at first the sex was molten, J– wouldn’t speak, refused to say what s/he wanted. Refused to admit s/he ached. It’d made Cara crazy with the echoing silences inside her, and she longed to physically pry open J–‘s mouth, force the words out. She could deal with being shoved around, as long as she’d been asked for it—but the silent, intense fucking they did made her feel like she was in high school still, and she was ready to be a grown up. So she’d left.

Three years later, it’s Jaden, not J–, here across from her, sitting on the ottoman. He opens his thin, red lips; his fingertips shake.

“I want to—” His voice high, thin, he clears his throat. Begins again. Deeper. Steady. “I’m going to stand and drop these pants. I want you to stay right there. I want you to look at me, then I want you to take me in your mouth, Cara.”

And again: “Please.”

The desire to shove him over, take him, rushes through her and she has to sit on her hands. He unbuckles his wide dark belt, pauses.

“Ok?” One eyebrow cocked, and that bare grin just pushing at his cheeks.

“Yes, Jaden. Ok,” she says, holding his gaze down into her. “You asked for it. It’s yours now.”

Jaden stands then, a little unsteady, his hands still on his belt. He knocks the ottoman back a bit on the scratched hardwood floor with the heels of his worn boots. He unbuckles and unzips and drops, and Cara has before her again those thighs, that fur, that she’d known and not known, had ached for and barely been allowed to look at, let alone stroke with hands or tongue. His cock sits small and hard, new, nothing reconstructed, just released finally by T and Jaden’s own need. The flanks that had been flush and rounded are now covered over with denser hair, were newly angular. Cara doesn’t want to mourn for what was lost, just lets that recognition wash through her, then she raises her eyes to Jaden’s face.

He watches her, doesn’t know what to do with his hands, has never asked anyone to taste his flesh. Not ever. The street noises get thick outside the windows as nighttime crowds in around the edges of their silence. Cara holds her tongue, her mouth flooding. Jaden wants to do this, right, wants her mouth all around him.

He says, “Slow, now, I want you to get on your knees.”

Cara lets herself fall forward, just in front of his boots, onto her hands. Slips off the couch, then pushes back up onto her knees, thighs, snags her hair out of her eyes. She doesn’t drop her mouth open. Not yet. But wants to. She can smell him, like an echo of his old musk with this new self lanced through, not chemically, exactly, but heavy.

She wants that scent all over her face.

He says, “Now—now. Put your hands on either side of my cock. Like, on my thighs.” His voice is wavery, like he had to push it through glass to slow it down.

She grins against her wet teeth, lips slipping open easy. She puts her hands, finally, there on Jaden’s body, tries not to think of J–, not on the slipping thumbs in, pressing open. Jaden puts his hands on her face, then, pushes her hair back.

I want to get you ready.” He puts his thumbs between her lips, then draws out her saliva, that thick wet, and spreads it across her lips, holds her jaw open. “No, stay just like that” when she tries to move in, close her mouth around his flesh, suck hard, claim what was finally his and about to be hers.

He draws his hands away from her mouth, then says, “Now I’m gonna take your mouth, babe. You ready?”

Cara nods, mouth open, lips slick with what he’d thumbed over her, throat dry. She nods and nods.

“You have to tell me you’re ready, Cara,” he grins a little, that flash-sharp cheek-splitting grin J– used to give her, and she doesn’t tear up. Her cunt drops open with joy.

She says, “I’m ready. You might not be, though,” and grins herself. They hold each other that way, gazing back and forth at past and now, just for a moment. She lets him lead her open mouth onto his hot, tight flesh, she suctions on with a fierce kind of desperation to the root of him, and listens as he finally cries out for want of more of her touch, for more of her mouth, for more—

What desires are your characters hiding from, too scared to say out loud? I encourage you to set them in a situation where they finally have to speak the words—then just stand back, keep your pen moving, and watch the sparks fly (on the page and in your own good self).

Bio: Jen Cross is a writer, performer, facilitator, and femme dyke incest survivor. Her writing appears in over thirty anthologies and periodicals, including Make/Shift, Nobody Passes, Visible: A Femmethology (Vol. 1), Best Sex Writing 2008, Best Women's Erotica 2007, and many more. She tours with the Body Heat Femme Porn Tour, for which she’s produced two chapbooks: unconsummated and pink and devastating. She’s featured at such Bay Area literary events as Femina Potens’ Sizzle, Writers With Drinks, the National Queer Arts Festival, Perverts Put Out, the Queer Open Mic, and LitQuake’s LitCrawl. Jen has facilitated sexuality and survivors writing workshops since 2002, and leads workshops at Writing Ourselves Whole in San Francisco and at colleges and organizations across the country. She received her MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College, and is a certified facilitator of the Amherst Writers & Artists method. Visit to learn more!


  1. Hello, Jen,

    That's powerful stuff. I was trying to say exactly the same thing with regard to D/s interactions. The thrill of admitting that you want to submit, of breaking the taboos, builds trust and sets you free. I see this in your incredibly intense excerpt.

    Thank you for joining us and sharing your perspectives, experience and wonderful smut!


  2. Jen,

    Wonderful post, and thank you for the great topic!

    You're right - it's powerful when someone admits what they want. It can be so hard to do. It's the ultimate exposure.

  3. @Lisabet: "The thrill of admitting that you want to submit, of breaking the taboos, builds trust and sets you free."

    yes! And I love how you describe this in your post--no matter how we get there, that sometimes-giant leap of speaking our erotic truth breaks down some big doors!

    @Kathleen-- thank you! And thanks so much, all you Get A Grippers, for your fantastic writing! So honored to get to share the space with you for a cyber-minute...


  4. Whoa Jen!

    I was amazed at your credentials at the end, you;re very active. You're totally out there, its wonderful.

    I want to add my cheers also to the way you unpack a scene. Very robust writing. Thank you!


  5. Hi Jen,

    Fascinating and intelligent post.

    I'm sure I live in the wrong part of the world. I would dearly love to attend one of your workshops.



  6. This was thrilling to read. Thanks for sharing, Jen! I also have a lot of work that seems to surround characters trying to articulate their desires...I find it very cathartic to write, as my characters learn I do too. :)

    Rock on,
    Maisha :)

  7. @Maisha: thanks! You said, "as my characters learn I do too" -- that totally resonates with me! And I love that process, getting to be in the unfolding/unpacking along with the characters, getting worked up and even scared right along with 'em! :)

    Thanks @Ash -- I'd love to bring a workshop to where you are! :) So great to get to read your work as well...

    @Garceus -- thanks for the comment! It's great to get to connect with so many different writers and readers, in many different ways!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.