Writing Prompt – He dared not refuse the queen

writing prompt - queen

Apples, she said. Apples were what she craved, above all else. Quickly, he slipped his shirt back on and laced his breeches. Slipping quietly out of the room, he padded swiftly down side hallways of the great castle and back into the orchard. The recent frost left the ground cold, but if he moved quickly, he didn’t notice it on his bare feet.

It was dark, and the light from the torches was just enough for him to peer at the apple trees and realize that her request wasn’t as simple as he thought it would be. The yard girls had stripped the lower branches bare in anticipation of the Apple Festival, and even the upper branches were picked through.

He looked around for a ladder, but the yard girls were too efficient, and there was none to be found. Well, it had been a few years since he’d climbed a tree, but that wouldn’t stop him. He leaped into the air, easily grabbing one of the lower branches, then, swinging back and forth, he used his momentum and upper body strength to get him started. He worked his way from limb to limb, but was thwarted until he reached the upper parts of the tree. He was, at last, able to discover a few apples in the highest branches, and he took his shirt off to create a makeshift satchel. As he balanced precariously from one of the smaller limbs, he turned, seeing the castle through the trees and the mist. His heart swelled as he suddenly realized that he was looking at his new home. Quickly, then, he tucked the apples into his shirt and then he heard a crack as he felt the limb he was balancing on shift and fall beneath him.

He reached out wildly with one arm as he fell, managing to slow his momentum but still hitting the ground with a thud. His face, chest and arms were scratched, and he was sure he’d added another bruise to his backside, but he’d held securely to the bundle and hoped he had enough apples to please the queen.

He slipped easily back through the orchard, but narrowly missed being spotted by a man-at-arms as he made his way back to the castle entrance. It would never do for a servant to catch the king in such a state. He approached the door to the room where the queen awaited and knocked softly until she bade him enter.

Upon entering, he swiftly removed his breeches again, then knelt humbly before the queen, his offering in his outstretched hands. She selected, then discarded, several apples and he began to fear that he had disappointed her. Finally, though, she seemed satisfied. She looked at him and smiled.

“Open your sweet mouth, my king.”

He obeyed.

She shoved the apple into his mouth, stretching it wide, then bent him over her knee and resumed his spanking.

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(Lack of) Feminist Perspective in SEO Writing

I write SEO Content for a few (and I mean a very few) extra bucks. It’s always a little strange for me to switch into that mode, because, in that gig, I am writing for the norm – which comes with its own set of assumptions and mores.

mouse and keyboard

Here’s an example of what I mean. I know some people who are child-free by choice. I know other people who can’t have children, and I recently struggled with fertility issues of my own. But when I’m writing a blog post about TV Installation services in the suburbs? The audience I am picturing is the bill of goods I’ve been sold – it’s that white, Christian, heteronormative, middle class family with 2.5 children in the suburbs. And if I need to throw in the necessary navigation of children’s toys as some color and an extra seven words, I’m going to do it. I’m going to write the breadwinner role as a male, and the stay-at-home parent as a female, and I’m going to write Easter dresses and Christmas cookies and going to church on Sundays and fitting the laundry in before picking the kids up at school in your minivan. Even if I don’t personally believe in any of that. (Except Christmas cookies. Everybody loves Christmas cookies!)

There are times I think about subverting this, and find myself wondering if I can do it in a way that doesn’t get me fired, but I get paid by the word, so I’m not always concerning myself with whether or not I’m falling into paradigms that I’ve been actively resisting since I was old enough to understand that women are people. So instead of thoughtfully considering how the words I’m writing perpetuate the stereotypes I despise, I toe the line and write with those stereotypes in mind. And as quickly as possible. Because if I’m not churning out at least 1200 words an hour I may as well get a job at Starbucks, and I don’t want to get a job at Starbucks, I want to write my own damn novel in any minute I can carve out.

I’m not saying I like it.

And yes, there are times that I feel pretty crappy for contributing to the noise that’s on the internet, thank you for asking. And yes, whenever possible, I try to use gender-neutral pronouns or examples that don’t rely too heavily on tired assumptions about how “normal” people live.

But mostly? I’m just trying to make enough money to pay the electric bill.

Writing Rape

Trigger Warning: I discuss rape in the below – in case you couldn’t tell from the title.

In my post, Writing Consent, I discussed the question of consent in fiction, and whether something can be steamy and hot if the need for consent is part of it. In Jenny Trout’s (writing as Abigail Barnette) amazing, steamy, compelling, couldn’t-put-it-down-read-the-entire-series-in-three-days “Boss” series (which you should go buy and read right now because it is awesome and the first book is free) consent is ever-present. There are a few times it’s almost annoyingly present, but I get it, and I applaud it.

So, the flip side of that is writing about rape. Which is really a completely different question. Is it necessary? Does it glamorize rape?

Woman_on_bench

I’ve written a date rape scene for one of my characters. It’s not that I wanted her to be raped, it’s that one in six women are, and it’s part of her story. But I’m having mixed feelings about whether or not to include it. I know that it’s important to her character, and I know that it figures in to what happens later, but I’m struggling to make sure there is nothing titillating about it. Because most of the lovemaking in my stories involves kink, I don’t want there to be any confusion about what constitutes rape. But I also want to be true to my own experience, and what, I suspect, is the experience of many, and that is the mixed feelings that my character has about the rapist and about the rape itself.

I don’t want to give to much away, so let me pull back a little and talk about rape culture. This is the part where I tend to start beating myself up a little, because I’ve always had a problem saying, “No” and I have, too often, bought in to the idea that I somehow “owe” someone something because he or she invested time or money into me, or because I showed up at their house, or because I flirted, or teased, et cetera. This has landed me in situations where I ended up having sex, even though I didn’t want to. And I closed my eyes, and gritted my teeth, and got through it.

That’s why consent is so tricky, and so important. That’s why rape culture is such a problem. Yes, I had a responsibility to myself to be vocal about what I needed and wanted and, more importantly, DIDN’T need or want. But didn’t my sex partner have an equal stake in making sure that I was fully present, and fully involved in what was going on?

This kind of consensual interaction can be something as innocuous as communicating to your partner what you want them to do, through telling them that what they are doing isn’t really turning you on, and goes all the way through to no, I really don’t want to have sex with you right now, I don’t care that you are horny and that I am wearing next to nothing because it’s 98 degrees outside, what I want to do right now is watch The Gilmore Girls and suck on ice, you know where the vibrator is.

And I need to capture that for this character. I really feel like I have an obligation to do so. This isn’t a dramatic, Hollywood, black-and-white, strangers-abducted-and-raped me situation. This is exploring the issue of consent, the idea of both partners being equally invested in each other’s pleasure, the concept that, while No absolutely means NO, sometimes no isn’t said, sometimes it’s “wait” or “Um” or “Not there” and that doesn’t absolve the other partner of their responsibility. The idea that, just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean you get to do it again, and the agonizing betrayal of ones own body when it responds to something your mind or heart doesn’t want.

I don’t love the idea of writing anything for which I feel obligated to provide a trigger warning. I honestly hate putting my character through it. But I also need the ten people who eventually read my book (HAH! I hope ten people read it!) to be involved in that process with my character, and to understand what it means to advocate for one’s own sexuality, and to, maybe, absolve themselves of some guilt for any of their own not-completely-consensual experiences.

And maybe I just need to write it to do all of the above for myself.

Trump Exists Because We Let Him

I just read this terrific article about Donald Trump’s comments Friday night, written by Stassa Edwards for Jezebel.

Here’s the part that has stuck with me all day:

Perhaps it’s because the Republican party had a very ugly realization. Namely that if Trump speaks a certain truth—as John Kasich claimed during the debates—or that his bold honesty reveals the restless id of the base, then that base revels in pits so repulsive, and holds fast to “truths” so vile, that they might be more dangerous to unraveling conservative ideology than any mere Democrat.

The laughter and applause that Donald Trump got from the audience after laughingly acknowledging that Rosie O’Donnell is the person he was referring to when he called women fat pigs, slobs, and disgusting animals was almost as appalling as the comments themselves.

THEY APPLAUDED. They applauded a candidate for President of the United States for making schoolyard taunts about women. Is it because she’s fat? Is it because she’s gay? Why is it ok, why is it funny, and why on earth is it acceptable to call women any of the things he did?

I was going to use a meme of Donald Trump, but I started vomiting. So here's Picard instead. There, now don't you feel better?
I was going to use a meme of Donald Trump, but I started vomiting. So here’s Picard instead. There, now don’t you feel better?

The thing is, Donald Trump exists only because we allow him to. He is a caricature of himself. He has no value outside what we assign him. His wealth was inherited, and he’s a bombastic fool. BUT HE’S ALSO THE REPUBLICAN FRONT RUNNER. That means that his 5th-grade vocabulary and bullying tactics are appealing to an alarming majority of republicans. We have somehow created an environment in this country in which this kind of behavior is acceptable.

When George W was elected? I cried. Actual tears. I couldn’t believe we’d come to that as a country.

When Barack Obama was elected, I was giddy. For an entire day, I felt like the world had changed. But in the intervening years, it seems to me that racism in this country has gotten worse, only it’s more covert. Every decision he makes, every Executive Order he issues, all of the rhetoric spewed by the pundits, it’s just too much. So much of what is said about him and his policies is so detached from reality that the only explanation for it is that it is a thin cover for racism. And it’s wearing thinner.

So after eight years of this, Trump steps into the spotlight as another Presidential candidate. And the only explanation is that the ugly racism at the root of the Tea Party has metastasized, creating something worse. And somehow we are letting this happen.

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a solution. It does make me want to scrape my pennies together and start donating them to Planned Parenthood, or NOW, or the NAACP (check it out, I included handy donation links in case you’re feeling the same way.)

I’m just tired of it.

Edited to Add:

SO HAPPY to see someone else calling him and the audience out on this shit:

http://www.shewired.com/need-know/2015/08/11/chely-wright-comes-rosie-odonnells-defense-blasts-donald-trump-supporters

What’s Your Currency?

I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. (And, ok, I’ve already tweeted about half of it, leave me alone).

This line. This line went straight to my heart:

“Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”
Amy Poehler, Yes Please

So guess what? For about, oh, I dunno, most of my life, I’ve expected most of my currency to come from my looks. Not that this is unusual for women, and not that some of my currency hasn’t come from my looks, just that, at age 42, I don’t feel like I have a lot of this left in the bank. It doesn’t help that I am about 50 pounds overweight and struggle with self-esteem anyway, but even if I thought I was hot shit, I don’t really believe, in my heart of hearts, that my self-worth or value to others should be dependent on my looks. Caveat to follow.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not bad to look at. On most days I would be called pretty. On really good days, I’ve been called gorgeous, and not just by friends, family, or lovers. But weirdly, one of the first times I realized that I was actually just sort of middle-of-the road was when I went to the mall with my friend Clarissa. We were college roommates, and we were in theater, and I’d seen her dressed up and I’d seen her dressed down and I’d somehow never been aware of how pretty she was until I went to the mall with her one day and saw the crowds part. I saw the looks she was getting. And I’ve gotten a few second glances myself in my life, so it was weirdly painful to see just how much she overshadowed me. Tall, blond haired, blue-eyed, Clarissa was traditionally, non-threateningly, pretty. I’d gotten dressed up and put on makeup to go to the mall – she was wearing an old t-shirt and sweatpants. And it was like I was invisible.

Now that I’m 50 pounds overweight and in my forties, I’m realizing that I invested too much in that currency in the first place. In my life, I’ve been called fat, blubber, cow, cunt, “A little thick for me” – oddly one of the most painful – or just been referred to by my bra size. I’ve also been told I have a nice ass, a beautiful smile, an infectious laugh, great tits, and even, on several occasions, been called flat-out gorgeous.

So here’s the caveat. I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, or at least I think I would be if I were more accepting of how I look. Back when I believed in god, I thought that he (intentionally lower-case, because I’m an atheist, and this is my blog, so fuck respect for a mythical being) made me fat to keep me from being too slutty. As it turns out, I wasn’t fat, and I was plenty slutty. Even now, my sexual fantasies have a great deal to do with being objectified and used. And yes, please do note that I slut-shame even myself.

But when you’re in your forties, and you realize that, even for a not-ugly slut, you’re no longer relevant as a sex object, and your self-esteem is fragile at best, you kind of have to wonder what value you do pose if you haven’t put something in the bank already.

And again, I think I’m pretty lucky, because I had grandparents who adored me and thought that I was brilliant and talented and funny and interesting and taught me to love books and art and gave me the tools to have a pretty rich imagination. And if it weren’t for all that, my darkest days would be even darker than they are.

My point is, I’m still struggling to figure out what my currency actually is. And with this new chapter of my life, I’m hoping it’s writing. But it could be painting. Or knitting. Or sewing. Or, I don’t know, making soap. And maybe my I should count myself lucky that I have this whole rich past to pull from, and not bemoan the fact that I’m no longer considered a sex object by random people on the street that I don’t even give a fuck about.

I also find it horrifyingly backward that I still think this way. I mean, if my best friend told me that she was depressed because she was no longer considered sexy by the masses, I would slap her silly. And tell her how very very valuable she is for everything that has nothing to do with sexiness, and how fucking insane it is to wish to be objectified by random strangers and to base her self-worth on that.

So, part of trying to figure out what my currency is is really trying to re-educate myself in who I really am, what I’m really about, and how to make a living and a life out of that.

So. What’s your currency?

Writing Consent

I’ve been writing kink for years. I’ve never published anything, only shared it with a few friends, and occasionally a sex partner. With dozens of stories written and hundreds more in my head, I’m finally exploring publishing, and I’m even about halfway through my first novel.

In writing a book, I’m attempting to write intelligent, kinky characters who practice SSC or RACK without bogging the narrative down in mundane details. It seems like a lot of kink porn is written with a disclaimer – the idea that you are supposed to assume that boundaries and limits have been negotiated beforehand, and that both parties are completely invested in and have agreed to the madness that’s about to take place. Or that, even though it’s clearly meant to titillate and entice, the graphic non-consent is purely a work of fantasy and you shouldn’t take it literally.

My problem with this is that I think it’s teaching us – and I may just mean me, I grant you – is that communication isn’t sexy. Negotiation isn’t sexy. Fuckery can’t be had if it has to be parsed out in detail beforehand. So in my writing, I’m attempting to address this. I may be getting bogged down in the details, but I want it to be sexy and funny and REAL and hot. I want you to finish reading with your hand between your legs and your brain buzzing with how the next negotiation with your top or bottom is going to go. And I want to be able to do that without having to imply that consent should be assumed.

And there’s a mea culpa here. The biggest challenge in my kink is me. I clam up when asked to talk about what turns me on. My screams turn into a whisper when I’m asked to engage in a conversation about how I’d like a scene to go. Something about being a sub or being raised in an environment where women’s voices were often suppressed causes a lot of self-censorship. And when I first discovered the world of BDSM, I was the most gullible, naive, trusting slut you could imagine. It still amazes me that I survived. So in writing, I’m not just trying to educate – I’m trying to reprogram.

I think this also parallels rape fantasy. From as long as I can remember, I was simultaneously repulsed and turned on by even what were meant to be non-erotic descriptions of rape. Being raped myself didn’t really do much to change that – or might even be part of it. I do think that rape is depicted too much in storytelling. I always ask myself if it’s necessary to tell that story, or if it’s just somehow glamorizing rape  in some way. All too often for my own comfort, I find myself turned on. This doesn’t do a lot to reframe the idea of negotiation in my head.

So I loop back, again and again, to the necessity of consent and negotiation in erotica. I try to write male characters who have respect for women, hoping that these intelligent, compassionate, feminist men actually exist somewhere in the world. I try to write intelligent, confident female characters who depend on each other, learn from each other, and back each other up, all the while I’m hoping that not only do these characters exist, but also that they are sexy, and interesting, and having amazing and sometimes funny and almost always kinky sex.

And the more I learn about consent, and rape culture, the more I go back to some of my old stories and have to ask myself what the fuck I was thinking. Where was I getting this crap, and why was I getting off on it?

I don’t have any answers – at least, I don’t have any answers that won’t take years of therapy to wade through – but I do think that I’ll take these stories, and rewrite them with consent /RACK/SSC in mind, and post them here. If nothing else, it will be interesting.

50 Shades of No, Thank You

I’ve never read 50 Shades of Grey. When the book first came out, I was intrigued, but refused to read it because it was so popular that I figured it couldn’t be that great. Not that it’s such a terrific litmus test, I did the same thing with Harry Potter, and when I finally caved and read ALL SEVEN BOOKS IN THREE WEEKS last summer, I realized that maybe not everything that’s popular is horrible. Like bacon. Bacon is popular and AWESOME. But then, I’m also pretty particular about my bacon. It has to be nitrate free, humanely raised, – well I’m getting off topic. Anyway. I decided that I didn’t want to spend any money on 50 Shades of Grey, but that I would read it when it was free.

Then I started seeing “50 Shades Starter Kits” in some of my favorite sex toy stores. And I was equal parts disgusted and understanding – you have to market to your audience, and it’s really just good strategy to capitalize on the popularity of that title, no matter how crappy it is.

THEN THEY MADE A FUCKING MOVIE.

I remember going to one of my favorite movie theatres the weekend it opened. It’s a theatre that I go to, even though tickets there cost a bit more, because they have great sound, they don’t play commercials, they do cool indie stuff, and they have good food and beer. And 50 Shades of Grey was playing on two screens. Hordes of people were there to see 50 Shades of Grey. It wasn’t the usual crowd I see when I go to that movie theatre. Since no one I know who actually engages in what I would consider BDSM play (I’m talking beyond vanilla people who use handcuffs or play at spanking once in a while) would go to see this movie, I kept looking at all of these vanilla people wondering why the fuck they were going to see this movie. Because if you’re not kinky, what’s in it for you? What is tantalizing or appealing about it? The nudity? The excessive display of wealth? And if you are kinky, aren’t you just cringing the entire time at how wrong it is? Because according to everything I’d heard about it, E.L. James knows jack about kink. But still, I thought, “ok, when this movie shows up on HBO or Showtime, and I don’t have to pay to see it, I’ll watch it.”

And then I saw THIS and THIS. (And mad thanks to the amazing Laci Green for reading and parsing it for me, because now I don’t have to.) But after watching those, I no longer had any interest in supporting this book/movie/enterprise.

And then #AskELJames happened on Twitter, and I couldn’t avert my eyes. Some of my faves:

“AskELJames, How much money does a partner need to earn for them to be ‘romantic’ instead of abusive? Asking for a friend.”

“AskELJames I have a lot of respect for you actually, you’ve proven that you can succeed without having any talent. It’s remarkable.”

“AskELJames
what do you hate more?
a) good literature
b) consent
c) women
d) healthy relationships
e) all of the above”

There’s a part of me that thinks, hey, she was just writing some fanfic! It’s fantasy. I’ve sure as hell read some erotica that blurred the lines of consent. Do we have to pick on her so much? Did she have any idea that it would get this big?

But then I stumbled upon some actual quotes from the book. Let me give some credit here. Here are some from Digital Spy that are horrible or creepy or both. Then there are the remixed posters from the sixth siren that really bring the abuse home.

So. Yeah. I’m going to stick to my original plan and eschew everything popular. Excuse me, I need to go stand in the shower.