Thursday, 20 July 2017

What Women Want

I fell unexpectedly into writing erotica and erotic romance. I don’t mind saying that it was a scary
journey in the beginning. My first novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly, was both one of the hardest and one of the easiest things I’d ever written. It was an erotic fantasy romp that took me to places in my imagination I would have never thought were even there, places that embarrassed me, intrigued me, even frightened me. What was much more difficult that the writing, though, was the allowing those words, those dark kinky images from my imagination to go out into the world for everyone to see, and to tell the world that yes! I wrote them! I wrote every one of them, and I want you to read them. But once that initial hurdle was crossed, what I felt most about that strange and unexpected beginning was empowered. I felt as though my voice was being heard.

There’s an old tale that rears its head in multiple places in multiple forms, but the two most memorable are The Wife of Bath’s Tale in the Canterbury Tales, and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell. In both stories a knight is forced to marry a hideous hag. On their wedding night, the hag offers her bridegroom the choice to have her beautiful in their marriage bed for his eyes only and hideous during the day, or to have her beautiful during the daytime for the eyes of the world while reverting to a hag at night. In both tales the knight leaves the choice to his bride, and by doing so, she rewards him by always being beautiful. When I first read these stories, I remember thinking how interesting it was that the true beauty of a woman comes through when she has a voice, when she gets to choose. There’s nothing beautiful about victimhood, nor about being powerless. And when our voices are not heard, we are powerless.

I’ve often shared this story since I began writing erotica and erotic romance because erotica and romance are places where women have a powerful voice. I don’t think it’s any surprise at all that most erotica is written by women and for women, nor do I think it’s any huge surprise that more and more men are reading it as well. I also don’t think it’s a surprise that romance is by far the best selling genre, nor that at long last, it’s being given more of the respect it deserves. Wise men, as the stories tell, listen to women’s voices. Wise men want to know, understand and make space for what women want, because wise men know that what’s good for women is ultimately good for them too.

In the years since Ms Holly, I’ve written some pretty kinky, pretty dark stories, stories that at one point in my life I would have been embarrassed to read, let alone write – stories that I would have been afraid to write because … well what would other people think about me. The fact that I have confidence to write about sex, to write about women’s sexual fantasies, the fact that a fabulous group of women like the Brit Babes and the Brit Babes Street Team even exists is a celebration of the reclaiming of women’s voices. I think that’s also a part of why erotica is such a powerful genre on the one hand, while on the other, one that’s not taken as serious literature.

One of the most disturbing questions being asked in the post 50SOG world, and one of the most important is, does erotica feed societies stereotypes? I would suggest that the media and the publishing industry’s controls on erotica, controls that are not placed on any other genre, is a way of reinforcing society’s stereotypes, a way of controlling women’s voices. While it’s a given that ‘boys will be boys’ and they’ll fantasize about all sorts of filthy things, our own fantasies and our desire to express them through erotica, or porn written and directed by women, must be controlled ‘for our own protection.’

Sadly the idea that the only truly ‘good women’ are either virginal innocents or good mothers and dutiful wives is not something that got left behind in the 19th century. The restrictions placed on the erotica genre alone reenforced the idea that if we’re given free rein with our fantasies and our creative voice, as the weaker sex, we might not be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Worse yet, we might find that we’re not satisfied with the roles that we should aspire to. The media is full of what we should look like, what we should want, how we can best please. But if we make the choice, if we let it be known, as Dame Ragnell did, what women really want, what we really fantasize about, how we really view our sexuality; if we own the fact that we are a product of evolution, a part of nature, that we do have fantasies that may involve bondage, submission, transgressive sex, or even just good old fashion romance, then we once again find ourselves dealing with the mind-set of the 19th century.

One of the best part of being an erotica writer is that I do get to choose, that I do get to stand up defiantly and say what women want – or at least what this woman wants. Maybe by doing so I, along with all the Brit Babes, can empower other women to do the same. I want to be free to view the darker sides of who I am, the animal side of myself, the parts of me that don’t go away just because
the 19th century mindset tells me I shouldn’t feel that way. Erotica is a powerful way of legitimizing our fantasies, our desires. It’s a powerful way of voicing loudly that we know our own minds, and our own bodies. We want to explore the depths and the richness of what women want, what women can create. We want to more fully understand what it truly is that makes us beautiful, powerful and dangerous. When we let it be known what women want, we become a force not only to be reckoned with, but a force necessary if we’re ever to move beyond the 19th century mind-set.

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