Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Saturday, July 25, 2015
by Jean Roberta
I learned a new word recently, and that’s always a good thing for a writer.
While reading a list of available books for review that was sent to me by Dr. RS, long-term editor of The Gay & Lesbian Review (Massachusetts, formerly produced at Harvard University), I noticed this title:
Love’s Refraction: Jealousy and Compersion in Queer Women’s Polyamorous Relationships by Jillian Deri (University of Toronto Press, 2015).
I asked RS if I could have it for review. He said I could, but he suggested that a shorter review might be better than a longer one, even though another member of his posse of reviewers had advised him to devote a theme issue to polyamory. He suggested to me that any book with the word “compersion” in the title is probably too abstract and obscure for readers of a scholarly queer magazine.
He sent me the book anyway, and I soon learned that “compersion” means the opposite of jealousy: a feeling of shared joy that results when one’s lover acquires a new playmate or friend-with-benefits. The fact that “compersion” is less-well known than “jealousy” is a clear sign that in Western society, only monogamous couples are considered normal, and that jealousy (even when it inspires murder) is assumed to be the normal reaction to any violation of the monogamous bond.
Even for those who have been “out” as gay men, lesbians, bisexuals or transpeople for many years, the dominant model of sexual/romantic commitment has enormous gravitational pull. RS’s comments about the large, fascinating concept of polyamory showed what looks to me like a queer (inconsistent) streak of conservatism. Although we have been exchanging emails for years about books which may or may not have relevance for an educated LGBT audience, we haven’t had any direct philosophical debates about our personal moral codes for engaging in sexual/romantic relationships.
RS did tell me that he considers polyamory to be a largely imaginary condition, i.e. many more people think about it than put it into practise. This seemed to be his main quibble about running a theme issue: is there an actual polyamorous community? If so, where are these people? (When I mentioned the above book to a friend and colleague who grew up on the West Coast of Canada, he suggested that all the women who were interviewed for the book probably live on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.)
When I mentioned RS’s quibble to the local director of the campus LGBT center, s/he (born female, now identifying as male) laughed and said he could put me in touch with quite a few folks who identify as polyamorous, if I want to interview them for a theme issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review. Egad – I already have enough writing to do, even during my summer break from teaching, but what an intriguing research project. The journalist/researcher side of me wants to meet as many polyamorists as possible, and hear more about how compersion actually feels, since I’m fairly sure I haven’t felt it myself.
If there is a thriving community of practising polyamorists in the small city/large town where I live (population about 200,000, government seat of a Canadian prairie province and home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), there is probably a bigger tribe of them under RS’s nose in Massachusetts. Their reasons for keeping a low profile seem painfully obvious to me. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that divorce, the sex trade, and homosexuality couldn’t be mentioned on television.
One of the reasons suggested itself when my spouse (the woman with whom I’ve lived for 26 years) asked why I was reading that book, and why the topic interests me. Her anxiety was clear: was I suddenly planning to hook up with women, or men, or both? If so, was I simply going through a kind of post-menopausal frenzy, or was I planning to embrace a new lifestyle? If I was standing on the edge of a cliff, contemplating a leap onto a dozen mattresses already occupied by welcoming bodies, was I planning to discard her as an outworn First Wife?
I assured her that my interest is scholarly, more or less: as an erotic writer, I have already described polyamorous relationships that are intended to last for a lifetime, but I need more information about how such complex connections actually work, and why/when they don’t.
Lest my spouse sound more suspicious or insecure than I am, reading this book has reminded me of painful experiences in my dating past, when “I’d like to see other people” generally meant “We’re done, so get lost.” Women, in particular, are raised in most cultures to be polite and avoid scenes, which might be good training for humans in general, except when it prevents honest communication. The women I dated before the beginning of my current relationship in 1989 often tried to leave me behind by dropping hints and pulling away rather than by rejecting me directly. Their ambiguous behavior included “friends” who suddenly seemed to occupy so much of their time that they hardly had any left for me – but when I asked, they would assure me that we were still an item, and they certainly weren’t breaking up with me. I would rather march through a field of stinging nettles than go back into that swamp of doubt, dread, humiliation, and resentment.
Re the possibility of my spouse jumping off a cliff onto the mattresses below, I’m sure she could find welcoming bodies down there. In her sixties, she is still attractive, engaging, and a long-term community organizer who seems known to half the town. Years ago, when she made an unusual visit to the local queer bar by herself, she was apparently enticed by a male/female couple who regularly trolled the bar for individuals (usually female) to join them for threesomes. Apparently they assured Spouse that they would treat her well and that she had nothing to fear, but (according to her account the next day), she was turned off by their unvarnished lust, and said no. When I heard this story, my feelings were more mixed. Of course they found her appealing, which validated my taste. I knew who they were, and they had never approached me that way – was I less of a babe? What if she had said yes, and what if the couple had wanted to see her regularly, without me? Hookups that turn out to be peak experiences are not guaranteed to stay casual. I was relieved by her ironclad refusal to even consider it.
Reading a book seems safe enough. And I’m committed to the belief that knowledge, even when it’s painful, is usually better than ignorance, even when it's comforting. For the foreseeable future, I’m willing to continue down a path of asking questions and seeking answers. Comments welcome.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
by Lucy Felthouse
I don't really post exercises here, but I used this recently at a talk I did at the Romantic Novelists' Association conference in London, and it seemed to go down really well with attendees. So here goes... I hope you're inspired ;)
I’m going to give you a theme, and I’d like you to write something down that’s outside the box. You may or may not use it in future, but I think if it sparks your imagination, it can only be a good thing!
- Curvy men or women
- Sex at work
- Twenty-four hours in a city
The reason I included the twenty-four hours in a city example is because I’m Managing Editor for the City Nights series from Tirgearr Publishing. These are novella length (25 – 30k) contemporary erotic romance stories that take place within a twenty-four hour time period in a city somewhere in the world. They’re all completely standalone stories, and we’re releasing one per month, with a break in December. We’ve just released the thirteenth! So if this is something you’re interested in, the full submission guidelines are on their website. I'd love to see some more submissions!
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Girls on Campus: Lesbian Erotica
Editor: Sandy Lowe and Stacia Seaman
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Deadline: September 15, 2015
Publication Date: Spring, 2016
Payment: $50 and 2 contributor copies
Theme: College setting lesbian erotica. Erotic romance also accepted.
College: four years when anything goes and rules are made to be broken; a time for freedom, experimentation, and guiltless pleasures. Come join the co-eds for a homecoming bash, crash a girls-only party and enjoy study hall where the topic is Eros. From roommates with benefits to sexy sorority initiations, hot professors demanding extra credit after class and summer vacation threesomes, this collection is required reading for anyone looking to earn an A in sex-ed.
Submission details at:
A Dose of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem
Editor: Nicole Gestalt
Publisher: House of Erotica
Deadline: October 31st 2015 (Early Submissions are preferred.)
Editor/ Author Nicole Gestalt is looking for stories with the theme of murder, mystery and mayhem. For years the mystery story has been king. With old classics such as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple being read consistently as well as being regularly shown on TV. There has been a revival in the cosy mystery over the most recent years and Nicole would like to heat it all up with a good healthy dose of erotica. Who says you can't get all hot and bothered when dealing with a mystery?
Submission details at:
Is is tides, stars? This wordless urge timed to the night, cyclic surge like circadian clocks? Ages old, pure and irrational— whiskers twitch, eyes widen, skin quivers, shadow caress materialized out of telephone wires and strange desires crystallize over two thousand miles. Volatile, visceral, ancient, amoral, crazy chemicals burning and blind, making me wild. My mind protests. The wires whisper “mine” “no choice” and reasons whither, helpless, limp as I hurl myself from the Santa Cruz cliffs.
The line between delight and pain you're teaching me to tread. Again your leather licks along my spine, your fingers in my hair entwine, your blades their bloody trails incise; the line between delight and pain grows blurry as you kiss my eyes and dive for pearls between my thighs, splayed and shackled. Now your cane paints ruddy stripes across my flesh, the line between delight and pain: ecstatic, luminous, insane. With blood and tears, with spunk and sweat you baptize me. Appalled and wet I teeter on the edge again, the line between delight and pain.