Friday, May 24, 2019

Secret Sins

By Tim Smith

We’ve been discussing taboo desires this month, and the stuff some of you have posted! Everything from BDSM to same-sex attraction and other points in between. Such goings on! I had a high school English teacher who referred to these as “secret sins,” the off-limits desires you may think about but never share with anyone. It strikes me that many of the things people consider taboo depend on when and where you grew up.    

I came of age in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, during the sexual revolution. Look at all the taboos that were broken during that period. Mainstream magazines like Penthouse and Playboy broke the ban on featuring full-frontal nudity with their models. Prior to that, if you wanted to see pubic hair in a photo spread, you had to buy one of the under-the-counter skin mags that came in a plain brown wrapper. Secret sin number one.

Then came the dismantling of the movie rating system, allowing filmmakers to feature nudity and adult content with a parental guidance warning. It coincided with the so-called porno chic era of films like “Deep Throat” and “Behind the Green Door.” This was followed by celebrities baring it all for magazine spreads and movies, thus removing another taboo barrier. The main purpose this served was to answer the question on the minds of many warm-blooded males, the one that went “I wonder what she looks like naked?” Secret sin number two.

And how about the taboos in mainstream literature? During this same era, writers like Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann were considered “dirty” because they took off the gloves when it came to sex. True, their stuff is tame by today’s standards, but at the time, you couldn’t purchase one of their books unless you were an adult. These were the books we’d sneak peeks at when the grown-ups weren’t around to see what all the fuss was about. Secret sin number three.

An earlier post delved into the subject of masturbation. How many of us heard the horror stories about this natural adolescent activity when we discovered fun ways to entertain ourselves after lights out? “If you keep doing that, you’ll go blind!” Being the perennial smart-ass, I had to ask “How about until I need glasses?” Secret sin number four.     

And now for secret sin number five, the big one. The town where I spent my formative years was what they used to call a suburban white bread community. Translation: not many minorities. It wasn’t until I went to a liberal college in the ‘70s that I had my first full-on exposure to women of color. They were considered forbidden fruit where I came from. This might explain why I write so many interracial romances, featuring Caucasian males involved with African-American and Hispanic women. In my home town, dating someone who was of a different ethnic background was considered taboo. And if you did, more often than not you kept it a secret. For the record, I was never shy about who I went out with, and I’m still not.    

With regards to writing interracial romances, the only time I heard a slight concern was when my first romantic spy thriller, “Memories Die Last,” came out. The main characters in that series are a Caucasian male and his love interest, who hails from Barbados. The attraction between these two is very strong, and the sex is hot. I was actually cautioned in the early editing stages that it might hurt potential sales in some southern states, where interracial pairings were still a sensitive topic.

And I didn’t really care.    


  1. You and I are obviously contemporaries, Tim.

    I remember passing around some of Ian Fleming's James Bond books in study hall, with the "good parts" marked!

    I'm glad you mentioned inter-racial relationships as a taboo. That's actually a very fraught topic for some people. I've written a good deal of multi-cultural and inter-racial fiction myself, mainly because I like variety in my characters. I'm always worried someone's going to accuse me of exploitation.

  2. Thanks, Lisabet. I'm still surprised in this supposedly enlightened era we live in when I hear remarks and attitudes about multi-cultural relationships. And your Ian Fleming reference brought back memories of doing the same thing with Mickey Spillane books when I was in school. We are definitely contemporaries.

  3. I think an even more taboo pairing is a Caucasian female with an African American male, which has multiple layers of questionable attitudes.

  4. A sex (BDSM) educator named Andrea Zanin, one of my friends on Facebook, posted recently about an adventurous bike ride, followed by an Uber ride, across town to attend a discussion of "The Happy Hooker" in a public library. That was a groundbreaking book in the 1970s, and probably the first defense of sex-worker's rights to reach a mainstream audience. I read it when it was new, though I tend to believe Andrea when she says it contains statements that are cringe-worthy today. I would have to look it up again. Apparently the author claimed she could "convert" any gay man. Groan.

  5. Ah yes, The Happy Hooker, where I learned how to judge what a man's package would be like aroused, by looking at the length and width of his fingers. Lots of disappointments, some real surprises when they didn't match up. But mostly a true way to anticipate, as I verified with a few willing men over the years.

    I write inter-racial romances because I find them to have an extra frisson of excitement, when other people might not like their pairings. But I don't write stereotypes...I write about people of every race, for whom their race isn't their defining attribute--it's only a part of who they are.

    There are a lot of black women, to judge by some blogs and chat rooms I've been in, who are really disappointed that the eligible black men they know lust after white women. So they'd LOVE your romances, Tim, since you feature BW/WM. They're also interested in BW/AM, and BW/almost anything other than BM!


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