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: 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


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!


Feeling the Magic

big magic

It’s been radio silence for a while here at Hazel Hughes Romance. Crickets. But I’m back, thanks to this book – Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Er, what does that have to do with erotic romance? Nothing. And everything.

See, when I first started writing, I was all about squeaky clean chick lit. Think Emily Giffin or Jennifer Wiener. That was who I thought I was and definitely who society wanted me – a teacher, wife and mother – to be.

But my characters thought otherwise. They kept trying to get it on. And not just lights out, whispers and moans and euphemisms. They wanted to do it with the lights on with people who weren’t necessarily their husbands. They wanted to talk dirty and act naughty, sometimes in public.

So I went with it. The mainstream success of E.L. James not long after I had finished my own story of sexual-domination-leading-to-love gave me some confidence. Enough, in fact that I decided to self-publish Please and start a blog where I would promote my erotic romance and explore some of the issues around sex and love that interested me.

Then I freaked out.

To be fair, at the time I was in a country where many of the experiences my characters were having – infidelity, homosexual encounters – were not only frowned upon by polite society but punishable, possibly by death. Each time I published a blog post or posted a story, I wondered, was my blog being monitored? Would I be arrested? Deported?

But it wasn’t just that. I was an educated woman. An English teacher. None of my friends read the kinds of things I was writing. Talking about my work made me feel like justifying my love of Doritos to a bunch of Paleo-diet health freaks. So I stopped.

I stopped blogging. I stopped promoting Please. But what was worse, I stopped writing.

I tried to go back to chick lit. Messed around with political suspense. Even started a memoire. But nothing stuck. I just wasn’t that into it.

When a friend recommended Big Magic, I didn’t jump on it immediately. Sure, I had read Eat, Pray, Love, like everyone else. And I liked the way Gilbert wrote, conversational and down to earth, like a wise friend or big sister. But Creativity Beyond Fear? That sounded a little too self-helpy for me.

Well, sisters, sometimes even the best of us need a little help.

My takeaway from Big Magic?

  • Creativity is not reserved for the chosen few. We all have it, and we should all use it. Writers, painters, scrap-bookers, trapeze-swingers, get your creativity on! Why? Because it makes you happy.
  • Creative works don’t need to have any redeeming qualities. They don’t need to promote a cause or be educational. “Because I like it” is reason enough.
  • There will be haters. Naysayers. People who just don’t get why you do what you do. Are you going to let those party-poopers kill your joy? Hells, no!

Is there some creative path you’ve wanted to explore but haven’t? Why not take just one little step down that path today? It could lead to something magical.