Sex: Two Very Different Positions

How’s that title for click bait? No, this is not an uber-abridged Kama Sutra. This is discussion of two different views of a tricky topic: Women seeking sexual satisfaction outside of marriage.

Shamelessly Hilarious

shameless

Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner, by Pamela Madsen, describes how the author – a married mom and fertility activist – experiences her sexual coming-of-age well into middle age.

Funny, using humor that often verges on slapstick, the author shares her journey to sexual fulfillment, from a sensual massage delivered with all the finesse of a meat tenderizer to eventual satisfaction at the hands of a gay sexual healer.

Fast Girls Finish Last

fastgirl

In Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness, former Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton reveals how a sexual adventure with her husband (with a lot of help from undiagnosed bipolar disorder) leads to her living a double life as a Vegas call girl.

An honest and dramatic memoir, Fast Girl details Suzy’s slide from All American people-pleasing good girl to the woman who all but abandons her husband and young daughter to lead a life of unrestrained hedonism.

Both books cover the same territory – women who transgress the norms of society and, with their husbands’ knowledge if not full approval, explore their sexuality outside of their marriage.

Both Pamela and Suzy – at least at first – are rewarded for their deviance.

Both women find freedom and release in their extra-marital explorations. They describe a feeling of finally being their true selves, of shucking off the shell of the expectations placed on them by others and revelling in pleasure. Sex empowers them.

And, naturally, both women are eventually punished.

Pamela Madsen is asked to leave the infertility foundation she created when her coworkers discover the pseudonymous blog she keeps detailing her adventures. And when a journalist reveals that high-ranking Vegas escort Kelly Lund and squeaky-clean motivational speaker/real estate entrepreneur Suzy Favor are one and the same, her carefully separated worlds collide in scandal and shame.

However the tone and the message of the two books couldn’t be more different.

Shameless is a comedy, both in the modern sense, as in, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, and in the Shakespearean sense, in that everyone lives happily ever after.

Shameless is also blatantly sex-positive. Madsen believes that despite her old life and career being shattered, her sexual explorations have led to both personal empowerment and a new purpose in life, that of a sexual activist. She wants to share what she’s learned with other women and encourage them to pursue pleasure without shame.

Fast Girl is a different story. While not a tragedy, it is definitely a drama, and a story of renunciation and redemption.

While Favor makes it clear that she has no problem with prostitution, she also states that the behavior she engaged in as a working girl was not her, but her disease. She, like Madsen, is an activist, but her focus is on the mental health issues that led her to pursue sex work, specifically bipolar disorder. Sex isn’t on the agenda.

Reading these very different, yet somehow similar books has left me with a lot of questions. Here are just a few:

Can consensual sexual exploration outside marriage ever be a good thing?

Why does society judge women’s sexual transgressions so much more harshly than men’s?

Does the sex industry benefit society in any way, and if so, why are women almost exclusively “product” rather than “consumer”?

And finally, which woman is “right”?

Is it Favor, who has rejected her life of sexual excess and become the (slightly tarnished) Good Girl again? Or is it Madsen, who has embraced her awakened sexuality without shame?

I would like the answer to be “both”. If the author of The Sex Myth is to be believed, however, it’s “neither”.

But that’s a story for another post. Watch this space!

 

Beauty is a Beast

 

Beauty with Flowers

I just finished reading a novel by a popular erotic romance writer well known for her BDSM lite. It’s the first in a series that revolves around the shenanigans of three female submissives and the manly men who get off on tanning their pert little tushes.

What struck me about the book was not the development of the central love story or the steaminess of the sex scenes or the insane amount of spanking that went on. (There was a loooot of spanking.) It was that everyone was so damn good looking.

Sculpted abs, bee-stung lips and glossy hair galore. And that was just the men.

It got me thinking about beauty and its role in romance.

Have you ever read a romance where the heroine was just kind of average? Downright ugly? I haven’t. I’ve heard rumors that they’re out there, but they are as elusive as low-fat donuts.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m as guilty as the next romance author of filling my pages with specimens of pulchritude. Erotic romance is all about attraction, after all. The leads have to see each other as attractive.

But my heroines always have a self-perceived flaw. In Please, mother-of-two Elizabeth is shy about revealing her A-minus cups to new lover Sebastian, keeping her bra on though she obeys all his other commands. And Sherry, the tough-girl heroine of Dance with Me, sticks to jeans and cargo pants to cover up “the Wong tree-trunks”.

Romance may be fantasy, but for me, it needs to be grounded in reality. And, sadly, what woman isn’t the tiniest bit insecure about some aspect of her appearance?

At least romances tend to be equal-opportunity when it comes to the attractiveness. Contrast that with another medium of titillation and fantasy, porn. Most straight porn (or so I’ve heard, ahem) centers on average Joes with exceptional endowments getting it on with big-haired, lush-bodied beauties. We romantics, at least, insist that both hero and heroine be cover model-worthy.

But I wonder. Is appearance the final diversity frontier?

The romance community has accepted “Rubenesque” heroines, LBTGQ couples, interracial and multicultural couples, even interspecies couples (Twilight, I’m talking about you.). What about the appearance-challenged?

Are romance readers ready for heroes and heroines as flawed on the outside as they are on the inside?

Because, surely, even the less than perfect could use a good spanking.

Sexy in the City

 

woman in city

Some people are drawn to the coziness of small towns. Others crave the serenity of the wide open plains, the woods, or the mountains. I get that. I can see the allure of small-town life, all vanilla-scented neighborliness. I even fantasize about buying an acre or five in the middle of nowhere and going off-grid. Of course, I know I never will. I’m a city girl and always will be. At least in my writing.

Over the years I’ve lived in a lot of different cities and visited many more, and the settings of my short stories and novels reflect that. London. Rio de Janeiro. Chicago. Dubai. But there’s one city that I keep coming back to, again and again. New York.

It’s not just that NYC is the iconic urban jungle, the most contemporary of settings for a contemporary erotic romance. New York is one sexy city. The sexiest, I think. Here’s why.

New York is full of beautiful people

Just take a walk down Madison Avenue or a stroll through the Village. Sure, there are plenty of average folks. But most people in New York look amazingly good. They work out. They groom. They know their product. They care about what clothes they wear. A lot.

It probably helps that NYC is America’s leader in both the fashion and modeling industry and has its fair share of actors. Average salary and disposable income surely come in to play as well. But on a purely anecdotal level, there is an unholy abundance of eye-candy that you just wouldn’t find in, say, Cleveland.

New York has your favorite flavor

If you’ve got a type, you’ll find him (or her) in New York. Black, white, Latino, Samoan, gay, straight, bi, trans, hipster, goth, rockabilly, retro eighties punk python lover, they’re all there. You could literally come face to face the man of your dreams. What could be sexier than that?

New York is throbbing with desire

The old saying still holds true. Ask ten people on a New York street where they come from and only one will say New York.

Why do people move to NYC? Because they want more. Because they want to be actors, writers, cutthroat lawyers, and Wall Street rainmakers. Because they want, period. All that naked ambition, all that intense desire to have, to do, to be is a palpable force. An enlivening energy. And that’s undeniably hot.

New York has so many sexy spaces

Whatever your definition of a sexy setting, New York’s got it. Sleek minimalist penthouse? Check. Arty bohemian loft? Check. Leather and chrome S&M dungeon? Check. Its public spaces are pretty damn sexy, too. From the stripped down post-apocalyptic vibe of the High Line Park to the bars and clubs that cater to every imaginable aesthetic, NYC’s got it covered. Got a fantasy sex setting? You’ll find it there.

New York cleans up well but is dirty deep down

It’s no secret that NYC has a dark and gritty past. While these days you probably have as much chance of getting mugged in a suburban mall as on most streets in Manhattan, it wasn’t too long ago that the City was a dangerous place. And like the romance novel hero with a shadowy history, there’s something incredibly hot about that. An unpredictability. The feeling that if you just scratch the surface, something you never expected will be revealed. It’s compellingly layered, intriguingly unknown. Just like a good erotic romance.

And that’s why I heart NY.

How about you? Where’s your sexiest city?