I have always been a reader. I remember even before 5th grade, I would spend long hours sitting on the floor of the bathroom reading, my parents thinking I was sound asleep in my bed. A book has always been in my purse. Thank god for the Kindle device, I could finally stop carrying 10 paperbacks with me on vacation! When I saw the Erotic Journaling challenge this week, I knew I could find something to say, though this might be a rambling one, as I have different directions I can go in.
As a young teen in a very strict religious home, my reading was rather tame. Classics, Christian young adult fiction, and Christian magazines. But during this time a series of books was published, depicting the lives of “wayward” teens and how they were able to overcome dark, difficult places to become good Christians and safe from harm’s way. Carmen, a paperback picked from the Christian book section at the grocery store, was one of these books. The story of a 14-year old homeless girl who had been forced to turn to drugs and prostitution. It was a world so completely foreign to my own small-town Christian upbringing that I was quickly absorbed in its pages, intrigued and appalled in equal measure.
The funny thing is, despite the purpose of these books- to teach people about God’s grace and ability to change lives- what it really taught me was, what a pimp is, how a bottle cap can be used to cook heroin, and what a teenage girl wore as a street corner prostitute in the 80’s. I discovered a world in which sex wasn’t just monogamous “until death do us part.” A world where sex was dangerous, edgy, dark, maybe even a little thrilling.
I am 100% sure this was not the intent when my mother spent the $3.97 on the book. While it was not enough to make me want to run away, do drugs, or become a sex worker, it did open up small cracks in my mind leading to the idea that life in the “outside” world doesn’t always look like it did in my own little safe corner of the planet.
I have a confession. I write smut and erotica, but I really dislike reading sex scenes in books. I skim over them quickly looking for the last time the words “his throbbing member” is written so I can continue on with the story. Too often the sex scenes feel contrived, forced, and serve no purpose. I’d just rather not.
I am currently re-watching the Outlander series. I rarely re-watch TV nor do I re-read books, but I’ve read the books twice too. I love historical fiction, and like so many others I fell in love with these characters. But one of the things I love about these books is the sex! (I know, I know what I said above but just wait…)
When Galbadon writes about sex, she connects it to the character’s stories. She connects their coming together to their relationships. It never feels like someone dropped some sex down here just because it was 50 pages in and time for more smut. There are loving, sweet connections, and angry passionate “I hate you today’ connections and everything in between. The sex flows the way it does in real life, well closer than many books I have read anyway.
This impacts my own writing in a few ways. First, I try to make my sex scenes realistic. If I am writing about a real encounter and there was something funny or awkward that happened, I don’t usually leave it out. I write about it because sex can be weird and awkward and messy and emotional. That’s the reality, and I prefer my sex realistic.
When I am writing longer pieces, I am very conscious of where sexual encounters come into play. Do they move the story forward? Do they connect the characters more deeply? Do they represent their relationship realistically? This, of course, can be more difficult to do in shorter pieces for blog posts, etc. but I still try to think about these things when I am writing the shorter pieces too.
Finally, I use real language and real people. I don’t think in today’s sex blogging/erotica writing world I could get away with heaving bosoms and throbbing members anyway, but let’s hope I never find out. Using real words for body parts starts us on the road to less body shaming, less fear about women’s sexuality and more all-around openness.
Also, I always hope my characters seem representative of real people. When I talk about myself, I try to use language that is realistic. I don’t want you to meet me someday and think, “Wow! She is not who I expected!” I want you to expect an older, fabulous, chubby, tall, blond, who loves people, smiling, and sexy times! (Hopefully, you already think this is who I am!)
(I warned you this would be a rambling post.) We can’t have a post about reading without mentioning erotica. We all knew it finally had to come here, didn’t we? Some of my very first online and kinky sexual explorations were on the Literotica site. I mostly read stories of women loving other women. I especially liked stories about women dominating other women. For many years that was my primary sexual fantasy. (I have thoughts about why that is, but for the purpose of this post, it just is.)
Reading stories, both well written and trash taught me so much about what I might like sexually and what I do not care for at all. So many of us start out exploring these sexual “taboos” online, watching porn, looking at images, reading stories. It really helped my imagination and helped expand what I even knew was possible.
Way back then I even wrote a story and uploaded it. I am sure it was awful, but I wanted to explore how it felt to “say” the things in my erotic imagination, not just read them, or think them. It felt great! It took me another 15-20 years before I started doing this as a “thing,” but reading erotica was one pathway into this journey.
Finally, relationships. Once I knew I wanted to explore open-relationships and polyamory, I picked up every book I could find on these topics. I wanted to understand what this whole thing was about. How does it work? What do I need to do? What do I need to know? What do other people think and know? I felt compelled to learn it all. I learned most of that through reading. My Kindle is full of books on the topics of ethical non-monogamy, open-relationships, and polyamory.
I learned about jealousy and compersion. I learned about communication, how to talk about things I had never really need to talk about before. I discovered ways to set boundaries and feel secure that I had never known. I started to ask myself questions, to learn about who I am. and what I want from my romantic and sexual relationships. Reading led me to the place I am now. It helped provide a framework for all the feelings, ideas, and thoughts I had and helped me sort them out so I could figure out specifically what works for me.
Thank god for the books!
So there we go. A few thoughts on reading and sex. How has reading impacted you and your sexuality? Check out the Erotic Journaling Challenge and let us know and read what others have said!