Monday, March 7, 2016

Guiltless Pleasure, Pleasureless Guilt

Sacchi Green

It’s a sad thing to realize how boring one’s life has become. I’m no stranger to guilt, but pleasure has seldom been in that mix. I suppose failing to do something because it’s just too hard seems, at the time, to be less unpleasant than actually doing it, but that doesn’t make it pleasant.

There is something, though, that I do often enjoy, even though it makes me feel guilty (which tends to lessen the pleasure.) It’s an addiction, in fact. A case could be made for most addictions being guilty pleasures.

My failing is procrastination by way of the internet. If there are any possible directions to ramble online where there might be something new of interest, I’m driven to exhaust all such possibilities before I get down to writing, or serious reading. A looming deadline can get me to shape up and do real work, but it has to be looming pretty ominously, and the figurative pile of books I should have read and would have enjoyed looms high enough to block out the sun.

Fortunately I do manage to get myself out under the actual sun fairly often, and I’ve been wise enough—or miserly enough—not to invest in the sort of device that would let me noodle around online even while I’m hiking along a woodland trail. If I had such a thing, I’d probably have broken my neck by now tripping over tree roots or stone outcroppings (or moose or bears.) Getting outside and walking even saves my writerly bacon from time to time by letting solutions to plot problems float up out of my subconscious and call attention to themselves, something that doesn’t happen while I’m following seductive links on Facebook. No, not that kind of link! More like odd historical bits and scientific discoveries and information about people and places that interest me. Sometimes, it’s true, I do come across information that I can make use of, or that sets off a productive train of thought; such serendipity is more than I deserve when I’m just web-surfing as a means of procrastination rather than dedicated research.

The guilt is a sort of background music in my consciousness most of the time when I’m procrastinating like this, especially if I’m not getting any actual pleasure out of the process. All too often I just forge ahead taking any route to keep from doing what I should.

Like I said, boring. Guilt that comes with sex at least is likely to be paired with pleasure. It’s true that I don’t associate sex with guilt much, but even that indicates how boring I am. Still, there’s one kind of sex, masturbation, that most of us would rather no one knew we were enjoying, or at least (with some exceptions) would rather do in private. That’s not guilt, exactly, but it’s the closest I can come, and even then I’m not going to come any closer that resorting to an excerpt from a story where pleasure mingles with rage, and guilt. Yes, this is cop-out. I feel guilty about it. But the main pleasure involved is that I’m finding a way to fill out my post this week, on time, with hardly any procrastination.

This is from a heterosexual historical romance story I wrote for Delilah Devlin’s Hot Highlanders and Wild Warriors. I only did it because I’ll take almost any chance to write historicals, and the Mongol Invasion of Europe interests me. Plus, falcons! (Uh oh, have I quoted this bit before? If so, yeah, I feel guilt, and without the lube of pleasure.)

From "A Falcon in Flight"

By Connie Wilkins (my alter ego)

When word of defeat came from Georgia’s capital, Father Kristopor searched out Ardzvik on the mountainside where she hunted with her falcon Zepyur. She knew, seeing him from far above, what his mission must be, and cursed fate for robbing her of the longed-for solace she reserved for such fine, cloudless days when the blue sky went on above forever and her hawk soared high and free with no likely prey in sight. At least the priest had not discovered her in the midst of what he would surely consider sin.

“Now is the time,” he called, and then, when he was closer, “Send at once to the Mongol General. Say that the Province of Aragatsotn in Armenia has long been a vassal of Georgia, so it is only right that its people offer fealty to the new rulers. I will bear the document myself. The Mongols are quick enough to sack churches, but I have heard that they retain some degree of respect for holy men of any faith.”

“Surrender without a battle.” The words, bitter on Ardzvik’s tongue, burned even more in her heart.

“Without blood. Surely they would rather have the wine of our vineyards and grain of our fields than the lifeblood of those who tend them. Dead men cannot be taxed.”
So it was done. Ardzvik Zakaria, lady of Aragatsotn, signed above the seal presented to her father’s father in Tbilisi by the legendary queen Tamar of Georgia.

As soon as the priest rode his mule northward, Ardzvik retrieved her falcon from the mews and rode again high onto the mountain. Zepyur was still as swift and graceful, the sky as blue, but now the lady of Aragatsotn could not shed her duty, her constraints, and be pure flesh and spirit.

Lying back on tufted mountain grass, she envisioned, as she had so often, the airborne mating dance of the wild falcon pair that had produced her own sleek hunter, but she could not rid her mind of earthbound turmoil.

Her hands knew all the ways to pleasure herself, the places to twist or stroke or beat with rough force while a part of her soared aloft with the hawks, the earth dropping away, away, until they plummeted together as one through space. Falling, falling, diving faster than anything could fall, cold air ripping past, battering, the ecstasy forced deeper and deeper, keener, unbearable...and her own ecstasy bursting forth at last like the cataclysm that had torn open the mountain’s peak.

But this time, no matter how hard she rubbed or deeply she probed, she achieved only a sharp burst of sensation, as much pain as pleasure. The scream forced from her throat was of rage, not triumph, and tears flowed hotter on her cheeks than the rivulets of sweet release between her thighs. Surrender without battle. Dishonor. But duty nonetheless.

Hmm. Maybe I did get some pleasure after all from revisiting this story. And there’s no need to feel sorry for Ardsvik: this is what (or who) the Mongol General turns out to look like:


  1. Interesting that your characters seems to be experiencing a sort of guilty pleasure.

    Thought provoking as always, Sacchi.

    1. I realized too late that the character here was feeling guilty while grasping at pleasure, but the pleasure wasn't what she felt guilty about, so it didn't really work for this theme. I should have used an excerpt from another story where the character felt "survivor's guilt" when she started to enjoy something. Still not quite what we're discussing, but closer.

  2. I'm with you on the struggle to find examples of guilt and pleasure combined, Sacchi! :)

    1. And then there's the consideration of whether guilt increases the pleasure, or decreases it. "Different strokes..." etc.

  3. Sacchi, is that Yul Brinner in the pic? He was quite a hunk of beefcake in his time! Great excerpt. I couldn't think of anything to write to submit to the "Hot Highlanders" antho because I thought it sounded like traditional Romance (heroine with heaving breasts in the arms of muscular man with square jaw). However, your excerpt features a strong heroine in an interesting period of history. I wonder if there has been an era when Armenians were not trampled on.


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