Fiction: “The Second Sun”

I know I’ve been rather quiet over, of late (more on this later), but how about a little lady-loving-lady themed reading material, to start your Monday off right?

A story by my… associate, 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata), illustrated by the fantabulous beili, is appearing in the current issue of Shousetsu Bang*Bang: Special Issue No. 9, “Earth, Wind, and Fire”.

The Second Sun” by 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata)
illustrated by beili

Isabel runs out of money in Stockholm. 

She could write to Sophy, of course; she did, in Vienna, where Bettina had said, We can’t have a mind like yours wasting away in that pit of a boarding house, only to abandon Isabel five days later to the company of her brother’s friends; and later in Berlin, where Alexander had said, very quietly, I don’t believe it is safe for you here, is it?, and Isabel had lived for some time under the protective watch of him and his servants: both, by long practice, most painfully discreet. Alexander had been a friend to her: he had even invited her to Paris, but she feared to overstay her welcome, and rode instead with Cenek Pechácek and his bad reputation to the university in Prague, where she picked up enough Czech to not be taken for a German and learned to drink with the scholars without ending the night vomiting into the snow; and when the eyes that fell upon her there began to stay too long, she went by carriage to Krakow, where she was dismissed from the observatory after a week and a half and, instead, bent her head over her calculations by wavering candlelight long into the night. She’d not given those sooty addresses to Sophy, no more than she’d written of the rattling carts that smelt of hay and dung; or the reek of tar and river-fish on her hands, or the expanse of ocean that finally at the end of summer lay itself at her feet at her in Danzig: lit in lavender twilight, her own silver road. 

London, she had thought with a shudder in Danzig; and then, Paris, but of course Alexander had been called back to Prussia; and then: North, towards the comet in the belly of Ursa Major, with Polaris above her shoulder. North, to Erik Gärnö, formerly of the observatory in Lund—or to Teodor Wåhlin, perhaps, known to grind his own lenses and returned from Uppsala. North, to Stockholm: where the air has snapping teeth, and one never runs out of sea. 

Read “The Second Sun” at SS*BB, or view the entire issue.

All characters appearing in this work are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. As always, this story is rated explicit and appropriate for adults only.

My fabulous illustrator beili also has an absolutely goooorgeous stand-alone piece in this issue: “With the sky full of diamonds“. Check it out and tell her how much you love it!

Fiction: “Average Joe”

A story by my… associate, 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata), is appearing in the current issue of Shousetsu Bang*Bang: No. 43, “Heroes and Villains”.

Average Joe” by 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata)

“Christ,” Joe gasps, as Fist of Justice spits into him, bending down with a groan. Joe blinks, hard; sweat is dripping down his face, rough with plaster dust and gritty in his eyes, and—and Jesus, Jesus Christ, if he’d known that there were good odds he’d end up with superhero tongue up his ass he would’ve started getting captured by psychotic villains ages ago.

Read “Average Joe” at:

All characters appearing in this work are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. As always, this story is rated explicit and appropriate for adults only.

Wherein Miss Clara investigates a logical fallacy.

The thing about being raised by English professors is that it warps you mentally, for life.

By the time I was ten I had acquired, through endless exposure at the dinner table, a number of bizarre intellectual interests, a healthy respect for etymology, and a deeply compulsive sense of annoyance when people make certain kinds of rhetorical errors. (Things I did not acquire at the dinner table at any point: the ability to spell without computer assistance; a reliable detector for homophone errors; the ability to tolerate large doses of academic politics.) I mean, I was raised by people who taught rhetoric, composition, and critical thinking, and now this is how weird I am: I have a favorite logical fallacy. I see red when people use misuse the word implies. I can’t stand the science reporting in the NY Times, not because of the frequently suspect science, but because of the frequently terrible logic—though those do often amount to the same thing.

My favorite logical fallacy is actually cum hoc (ergo) propter hoc, but today I want to talk about a different one, because it’s been coming up so often in the arguments over gay marriage that Feminist Hulk tweeted about it.

Here is a statement which is true: it is discriminatory to permit a right to one class of people and deny it to another. (1)

Here is another statement which is true: marriage is, traditionally, a deeply problematic, heteronormative, and misogynistic institution. (2)

The SCOTUS cases surrounding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are bound up in a lot of legal contortionism, but to the limited extent that they address either of these issues, they exclusively address (1). They have absolutely nothing to do with (2). It is completely possible to support SCOTUS overturning Prop 8 and DOMA and still have serious issues with marriage as an institution; it’s just completely, 100% irrelevant. The problematic, heteronormative, and misogynistic problems with marriage are just not on the table. They’re not being asked, they’re not being raised, they’re not being argued. The only thing that’s actually at issue is (1): a group of people (opposite-gender couples) is, at present, being afforded a right which is denied to another group of people (same-gender* couples).

Here’s the thing that’s got me all het up over this here bucket o’ gin: there’s a significant group of people within the queer community who oppose same-gender marriage because of (2). Because marriage is traditionally a problematic, heteronormative, and misogynistic institution, they are arguing against the elimination of the discriminatory principle, as in (1), that is intrinsic to granting one group of people (opposite-gender couples) a right which is denied to another group of people (same-gender couples).

This is both bad politics and bad logic.

I don’t know how I feel about marriage, as in, for me personally; I’m almost completely aromantic, so the odds of it ever coming up in my case are slim to vanishing. But my parents have been married for forty-five years, and I’m happy for them; and my sister can’t marry her lady of over a decade even if she were to want to, and that pisses me the fuck off. The issue with granting same-gender couples the right to marry doesn’t have a damn thing to do with whether or not marriage is a good thing, or a bad thing, or a one-way ticket to bed death, misery, and emotional resentment, or the be-all and end-all of gay rights (spoiler alert: it isn’t). The only issue here that real people care about (as opposed to issues that lawyers care about—separate post entirely) is what circumstances under which the government can justify granting a right to one group of people, and denying it to another.

And if sexual orientation is one of those circumstances, that is very, very bad news.

I wholeheartedly support discussing the problems with marriage. Marriage can be a problematic thing! But it’d be one thing if the thing that was up for discussion was whether we should grant same-gender couples the right to marry, XOR** we should grant no one the right to marry.  But that’s not the question that is currently up for discussion. The question that is up for discussion is whether we should grant same-gender couples the right to marry, full stop. And given that opposite-gender couples have the right to marry, yes, we should grant same-gender couples the right to marry.

The thing that’s at issue here is solely whether it’s discriminatory to let straights marry and queers not. YES. YES IT IS DISCRIMINATORY. This is not rocket science. No one—not even queers!—will be forced to get gay married if gay marriage is legalized! All us queers up in this joint can keep fucking wildly in sin and laugh riotously at the people trooping dutifully up to the altar!! The only thing that will happen is that the government has one fewer niche in which it is acceptable to tell Group A “yes,” and Group B “no.” That’s it! That’s all that will happen!!

And that’s a damn good thing to have happen, even if marriage does lead to inevitable bed death, misery, and emotional resentment.

Please don’t say that (2) marriage is, traditionally, a deeply problematic, heteronormative, and misogynistic institution, and therefore not (1) it is discriminatory to permit a right to one class of people and deny it to another. You are wrong. You are just wrong. You are wrong, wrong, wrong; and my ability to tolerate it is not actually increasing with the increasingly liver-destroying quantities of gin I am swallowing. The only thing that is at issue in the SCOTUS decisions is (1), and (1) is just plain straight-up true. So. Can we please stop arguing about (2) as though it somehow has something to do with (1)? It doesn’t. It’s a good conversation to have, but it’s about as relevant to (1) as my BA is to my employability prospects (i.e., not at all).

* As I understand the legal issues, in some states, at least, transgender people can marry opposite-gender partners without surgery, which is why I’m kind of leery of using the phrase “same-sex” here, but please correct me if I am misreading that article. I’m not a lawyer; I’m just a drunk with a laptop.

** Um, I actually can’t figure out how we say “XOR” in English—see above, re: gin—but “XOR” means “exclusive or”: or, “OR, but not AND”—either A or B, but not A and B. It is possible that I am a little drunk.

Fiction: “In Portland”

A story by my… associate, 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata), is appearing in the current all-ladies special issue of Shousetsu Bang*Bang: Special No. 8, “Tea for Two”.

In Portland” by 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata)
Illustrated by staringatsuns!

The redheaded barista has rounded, soft-looking shoulders and impossibly elegant curves of arm; when she’s behind the bar, she ties her thick masses of hair back from her face with one of an apparently endless number of floral printed kerchiefs; and she works from 1 P.M. to the cafe’s 10 P.M close, every Tuesday through Friday, and sometimes picks up half-shifts on Saturday night when the huge barista with the brown-blond dreads gets a gig.“Smith-Cooper Enterprises” is supposed to be hyphenated. Amy fixes it.

Read “In Portland” at:

All characters appearing in this work are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. As always, this story is rated explicit and appropriate for adults only.

Yes, it does say “pornographer” in the header.

I don’t really get enough questions on Tumblr to make an FAQ, but there is one question I do get frequently, and it’s this:

“Why do you call yourself a pornographer? What you write is really more erotica!”

I’ll be honest, this one kind of flummoxes me, because I feel like in 2013 the distinction between pornography and erotica for textual fiction is kind of… irrelevant. And nonsensical. But mostly irrelevant.

I mean, here’s the thing: usually the way people distinguish between “pornography” and “erotica” is with some variation on the theme of “pornography” being something where the purpose is titillation, and “erotica” being titillating fiction that also has some higher purpose.

There are some problems with that.

For one thing, what counts as a higher purpose? Cinematographic beauty? Physical beauty of the characters? Emotional connection? A gripping plot? A political statement? Side-splitting humor? I absolutely have seen all of those things in straight-up no-holds-barred actual filmographic pornography, as in, porn flicks, made in porn studios, with porn actors, to be sold in porn shops, or shipped to you at your home in a discreet brown paper wrapper from an online pornography emporium. Don’t believe me? Check out The Intern (contains NSFW dudes), or the Crash Pad series (contains NSFW ladies). And it’s not, like, just in a few titles, here and there; in general, the porn that I look at for more than about four seconds—and believe me, I look at quite a bit of porn (NSFW, obviously)—contains at least one and frequently several of those things. Especially humor. I haven’t done, like, a statistical analysis or anything, but my intuitive impression is that most porn, especially contemporary porn made for our present post-hipster-irony age, is funny. And, like, self-consciously, deliberately funny, not just funny by accident because genitals are hilarious. (Though genitals are hilarious.)

To me, this assumption that when you are talking about textual sexual content, what divides “porn” from “erotica” is that there be some higher artistic quality to the work is completely at odds with what happens in visual sexual content, which doesn’t really have an “erotica” category at all. There’s porn, and then there’s soft-core porn, and then there’s literary filmmaking that includes sexual content, but that three-way breakdown really doesn’t map onto textual fiction. The logical thing to do might be to think of the parallel three categories in textual fiction as “porn”, “erotica”, and “fiction with adult themes”, respectively, but textual fiction that gets called “erotica” is very much not the same thing as soft-core porn. Anyone who’s read any decent erotica will tell you that in fact stuff that can be legitimately called “erotica” can be both way less dirty than some literary filmmaking that includes sexual content and way dirtier than huge swathes of the mainstream porn industry. Usually what divides porn from soft-core porn has to do with how much genitalia you see, and what’s going on with it while you’re seeing it; but that’s not a good metric for textual fiction, where a lot of things other than how down and dirty the characters are getting—point of view, identification, connection, mood, theme—can determine how graphically, and with what language, the down-and-dirtiness is being described. (If you want a good example of this process in action, I highly recommend Peggy Munson’s excellent story “Fairgrounds”, which appeared in Best American Erotica 2006; you can read part [though not all] of it here, via Google Books. It’s very, very dirty. It’s also incredibly beautiful, complicated, creative, metaphorical, and lyrical.)

Which brings me to a corollary of this first argument: if what makes “erotica” different from “porn” is a higher purpose, there’s an embedded value judgement in that that really raises my hackles. Specifically, it’s the judgement that <Thing X>, this abstract higher purpose in fiction that erotica has and porn skips, is in fact a higher purpose. That lyrical prose, or what have you, is in fact more important than making you hot. It’s not just extra; it’s better.

I think that’s a really dangerous idea, in large part because desire can be, in and of itself, such a tremendous revelatory tool. Characters tell us things about themselves when they’re turned on. Desire exposes and unfolds them as people. Sex is a really important thing: how people do or don’t want it or have it or like it or think about it is very often a major part of who they are, especially in certain stages and contexts of their lives: young adulthood, midlife anxieties, the uncertainties and self-renovations that go along with aging; in new relationships, relationships on the edge, relationships in flux. Negotiating sex—articulating what you do and don’t want, and finding someone who gets something out of giving it to you—is a hugely important and challenging thing, and it’s not like you do it once and then stop. You have to do it over and over and over again, and it’s hard every time. And part of what happens between an author of dirty stories and their reader is that an author of dirty stories can create a space, this magical little ten thousand or thirty thousand or one hundred and twenty thousand word space, in which the reader has not only permission but encouragement to experience desire, and, a lot of times, to experience desire in ways and contexts that the reader would not feel free to enter on their own.

That’s. Enormous. That’s absolutely huge, and it’s rare, and being both important and unusual means that it is a precious and valuable thing. And, I mean, you know, please forgive me re-mounting my feminist soapbox and so on, but it’s especially precious and valuable for women, who are under an enormous amount of pressure to experience their sensuality and sexuality within the lines.

In general, for me, a more interesting line to draw would be between “boring fiction” and “interesting fiction”. In boring fiction, things are predictable and tidy and clean. The decisions people make are easy and the end result can be seen from a mile away. In interesting fiction, things are chaotic and messy and hard. Characters are complicated and uncertain and they lie to themselves and each other. They have to work to see things correctly. They have to struggle to figure out what is right. They have to compromise. Events might mean one thing or many things or nothing at all; they might mean one thing to one character and something completely different to another. Sometimes mundane things happen and people get hung up on them and blow them way out of proportion because that is how things happen in real life. Sometimes people screw and it’s bad. Sometimes they screw and it’s amazing. Sometimes people fuck because they are seeking affection and connection and comfort and touch, and sometimes they fuck because they’re horny. Sex can be hot, funny, injurious, a terrible idea, a fantastic idea, solo, with a buddy, with multiple buddies, with multiple electronic buddies, whatever, and the characters have to make it up as they go along. The characters have to figure out how to say, “I need you to tie my hands behind my back and fuck me against the door, if this partnership is going to work,” and that’s not easy; and they have to figure out how to say, “I need you to help with the household chores, if this partnership is going to work,” and that’s not easy either.

I love those stories. I read the fucking hell out of those stories. Those stories are the ones that get under your skin and won’t get out. They’re the stories that make your eyes leak because you are running out of room inside. And the way they do it is by putting hooks inside you and dragging you through what the characters are going through, whether that’s love or sadness or hope or uncertainty or fear or anger or desire. And yes, if it is important that the reader feel love and sadness and hope and uncertainty and fear and anger, if pulling the reader through those emotions is part of the author’s goal, then yes, if the characters are experiencing desire, then it makes sense for the author to want to pull the reader through desire, too.

I hope my stories are interesting. I hope that when you read my stories you follow my characters through their love and sadness and hope and uncertainty and fear and anger and, yeah, through their desire. If the desire weren’t important, I’d leave it out! This is Editing 101: if a scene isn’t important, if it isn’t in some way revelatory, it shouldn’t be in the story. Maybe I don’t always hit that—I know I don’t always, actually; I definitely didn’t with “Flight”, which is why I haven’t archived it off Shousetsu Bang*Bang; I have a lot of problems with it and I want to rewrite it—but that’s what I’m going for. That is the goal: to pull the reader through everything that my characters are experiencing, with all the parts of themselves, without discrimination or distinction. So yes, when there’s sex in my stories, I hope it makes my readers hot. No: I hope it makes my readers fucking scorching. I hope it makes them catch their breath and bite their lips and squirm. I hope they enjoy it extensively, and at their leisure, and with whatever companion(s) and/or technological assistance they desire; and I hope they come back for more. If that weren’t important to me, the sex wouldn’t be in the damn story at all.

And that’s why I call myself a pornographer: because if you’re reading my stories, I sure as hell hope you’re having a damn good time.

Three moans for…

I’m still antsy over this Fifty Shades business. It seems like the whole “mommy porn” phrase keeps turning up every time I turn my head. (You know what we should call porn intended for moms?? “Porn.” Full stop. Or possibly, “woman-oriented porn,” or “porn intended for a female audience.” Then I won’t have to stab anyone in the eye.) But I’m still reluctant to speak in greater detail on something on which I feel very ill-equipped to discuss as an expert, i.e., dirty books, good recs for people who enjoyed Fifty Shades, that perhaps don’t cause as much hair-pulling from long-time enthusiastic readers of dirty books. (I would, however, like to invite reader submissions for well-written M/F and menage BDSM erotica or erotic romance in comments or via my Tumblr ask box; I really would like to make a list, and I will happily read all the porn in the land curate. Ahem. Yes, curate.)

But in the meantime, let’s talk about places to buy sexy stuff. Like, lube, and sex toys, and safe sex supplies!

I am not going to give recommendations for specific items, because everyone’s junk is a unique and special flower of nature and what works for one of us almost certainly will not work for all. However, here are some places where you can go to read about things! And possibly have someone ship them to you in discrete wrappers:

Like most California girls of a certain age, I grew up with Good Vibrations, and I think Good Vibes is a massively important entity, but it’s also gone downhill since its sale in 2009. My number-one pick is therefore…

  • Babeland, which is a Seattle fixture that also has three stores in New York, as well as events all over and a first-rate online store that ships internationally, though not everywhere. They have tons of sex education info on their website as well and are (in my experience) not unnecessarily gender-specific in terms of the quality of their advice and customer service. This may vary by location and when you visit, but the Seattle location was much more welcoming to trans* people than is the case for a lot of other sex stores I’ve been in.When I lived in Seattle, I knew a handful of people who worked in Babeland’s retail shop, and I legitimately can’t imagine a more open and nonthreatening group of people with whom to discuss your unique and special flower of nature. Their website is packed with product user reviews, and you can also chat online with a salesperson if you need some advice but can’t make it into one of their brick-and-mortar locations.

Also worth a mention: The Pleasure Chest, which has locations in Chicago and New York, Feelmore in Oakland, and Come As You Are in Toronto (Canada), all of which I recommend on the strength of second-hand reports and, in the case of The Pleasure Chest and CAYA, their online stores. (Feelmore’s online store is attractive, but doesn’t have many reviews yet—perhaps we can help out?) I’ve also heard good things about Sh! in London (UK), but haven’t ever visited them, and I find their website a little off-putting because I don’t like their color scheme [I’m sorry :( ]. Sh! is woman-focused and requires that men clients be chaperoned by a woman except for a two-hour window on Tuesday nights (which is either a pro or a con, depending on who’s reading this).

I also want to point out that while I think it’s better to support the indies when you can, Amazon has an enormous “Sexual Wellness” store, with the usual problem with Amazon reviews, but still: huge huge huge selection. Lubes, condoms, bondage gear, whatever. Personally, I probably wouldn’t buy from them unless I was purchasing a consumable product like lube or condoms, but your mileage may vary, and Amazon ships almost everywhere.

What about you all? Any suggestions for good spots to stop for supplies? My recommendations are obviously geographically biased!

(As usual, I don’t work for any of these places or get paid money for you clicking on those links.)

Seeing red… and grey.

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of something kind of… interesting, and important. Fifty Shades of Grey first topped the New York Times Bestsellers list in March, and stayed there until September.

Interesting, no? I mean… it’s certainly interesting to me.

First, since people I know—both in real life and online—keep asking: no, I haven’t read them. Nope! No, I just… haven’t read them. Second: no, I’m not going to, because—like most adult readers—I can read a book summary and tell when it is simply not for me. But I am really glad they were written, and I’m really glad they made it big.

This is not in any way a statement intended to imply any value judgements of the content of the books themselves; again, I haven’t read them, so I’m not qualified to have all that much of an opinion on what goes on in them, though it sure seems like there’s plenty there to have opinions about. But think about this, for just a second: an erotic novel, a series of erotic novels, in fact, written by a woman, for women, topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

An erotic novel. Written by a woman. For women. Topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Here’s the issue with Fifty Shades of Grey: it’s easy to criticize. And, I mean, I think we should criticize it, where it merits criticism (which, again, I am reluctant to do in any very specific sense, because I haven’t read it, and don’t intend to). It’s important to talk about sexism, and about what constitutes healthy and consensual behavior in BDSM and fetish contexts and what constitutes abuse; and it’s important for authors to work to not make their style make their own writing become a parody of itself—an issue which I struggle with daily, for the record, and I’ll be really fucking impressed if you can show me an author who doesn’t. It’s important to talk about why this book, and not all the other erotic novels out there written by women, for women, was the one to make it big. It’s important to think about what we do and do not permit women to desire.

What bothers me about the criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey is this kind of stuff: phrases like “mommy porn,” tossed about in quote marks so that no one has to take responsibility for the offensiveness of it as a term; or discussions of the content of the books by people—like me!—who haven’t read it, but who are nonetheless experts on how degrading its content is to women. I’m not saying the content isn’t degrading to women; I haven’t read the books, and lots of stuff out there is degrading to women, so I’m perfectly willing to nod along if you say this is. But specifically why Fifty Shades of Grey gets lambasted so universally is because it made it big, and because it’s about sex. It’s about a woman having lots of sex. And—as far as I can tell, because, again, I haven’t read it, but I understand that orgasms feature largely—enjoying it. A woman, enjoying sex. Enjoying lots and lots of sex. In a book written by a woman. For other women.

Women are  constantly—constantly—subjected to a broad and public discussion about how they are and are not allowed to have sex, or enjoy sex, or think about sex. All women enjoy oral! But if you just do it long enough and hard enough, they’ll come from vaginal, too! Women don’t get off on images of hot people, having hot sex; they only like textual descriptions of love and romance! Straight women only desire manly, manly muscle-bound manly men! A feminist woman could never want to be tied up and flogged! Dominant women are all crazed maneaters with limp, pushover male partners! Butch or femme? So she’s the man, in the relationship? Do you just like, eat each other out in heels all day or—fisting?! And, I mean, you must like anal; all women like anal—unless you’re a lesbian—except no women like anal, because anal is what gay dudes do with each other, and also it’s gross because that’s where the poop comes out. That woman will give it up to absolutely anyone. I can’t imagine a woman looking like that ever having sex with anyone. That woman is so uptight; what she needs is a—

This shit? Makes me sick. And I hear it all the time. And a lot of the time, I hear it from other women.

Sure, men have a really intense interest in controlling and dictating how women do and do not experience desire, that’s old news; but—and this alarms me just as much if not more—so do other women. For example: consider the Wikipedia article on Tribadism (contains NSFW images). If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s the more-or-less parallel term, for women, to frottage, for men: i.e., focused genital rubbing for the purposes of having totally rad orgasms. Tribadism is sometimes referred to as scissoring (though scissoring is used sometimes to describe a very specific position [image, NSFW], as well as tribadism in general; this leads to confusion). The Wikipedia article notes that “Some lesbian and bisexual women… feel that [the scissoring position] is not representative of lesbian sexual practices and is more attributable to the male fantasies of the heterosexual porn industry,” and that it is “a position debated among lesbians.” It also quotes The Raw Story in order to note that “Whether [the scissoring position] describes a traditional or even common lesbian act remains up for debate.” All of this is of course perfectly true: most women who have sex with women, like other human beings, do things in bed that others don’t; many women who have sex with women, like other human beings, aren’t into doing stuff in bed that others are just totally nuts about. But it’s very interesting to note that the Wikipedia article on a sex act performed between women reflects some pretty substantial anxiety whether or not that sex act is mainstream.

Isn’t that interesting? Yeah, I think it’s real fucking interesting.

Here’s what I have to say about Fifty Shades of Grey: I look very sweet and innocent and about twenty years old, so I prompt certain confidences that I think maybe you don’t prompt if you don’t look sweet and innocent and about twenty years old. And a lot of women who bring Fifty Shades of Grey up with me really, genuinely find it salacious. And titillating. And exciting. And I think that’s fantastic! I think it’s awesome that there’s a book that everyone knows the title of that is about fucking, written by a woman, for other women, so that lots of women could read about fucking. I think that it’s fantastic that a lot of women read it and got a little hot and bothered. I want more women to get hot and bothered, over whatever it is that gets them hot and bothered. Maybe Ana is their avatar! But… then again, maybe Christian is. Any woman who reads a lot about gay dudes having sex knows that it is definitely possible to be turned on reading about something being experienced by someone with a different gender. Maybe these readers have some fantasies that they thought were just totally weird and out there, like, oh, I don’t know, receiving pain or humiliation or submitting to someone, or inflicting pain or humiliation or dominating someone, and this was the first book where they really started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t quite so weird or out there after all. And maybe they started to talk about that stuff and then maybe they started to, I don’t know, Google. Maybe someone gave them recommendations for further reading, both fiction and nonfiction. I hope so! I mean, I do my best, but my reading proclivities (i.e. mostly gay and lesbian, and only rarely BDSM) don’t tend to make me the ideal person to hand out reading assignments to women who thought Fifty Shades of Grey was spicy and delicious.

But what I really hope didn’t happen, but almost certainly did, is that people said, Oh my God, how can you read that crap? I hope that those women, who got hot and bothered over Fifty Shades, weren’t told that the sex was badly written, not hot, not accurate, sexist, demeaning, a terrible representation of what women want, and—God, this phrase pisses me off—”mommy porn,” complete with air quotes, as though the idea that a woman who has given birth might potentially enjoy a little pornographic fiction while the kids are at soccer practice is just too hilarious for words. God, cut a woman some slack; once you’ve given birth I feel like you ought to have hot models of your preferred gender(s) hand-delivering you care packages of porn to your door, all right? It seems like the least the universe could do in thanks for pushing something the size of a melon out of your vagina. Come on.

Basically, I think it’s great that Fifty Shades of Grey got written, and I think it’s great it got published, and I think it’s great it made it huge. It’s not my thing. I think if there are incidents and lines and depictions in it that are problematic—as I have been reliably informed there are—we should absolutely talk about why those incidents and lines and depictions are problematic. But I think it’s insulting and inappropriate to talk about how uniformly terrible the books are, because there are women out there who found it hot. They read it. They thought it was sexy. And that’s something that women are prevented from doing often enough.

Oh, and for the record, I’m a woman who sometimes has sex with other women, and scissoring is fucking amazing.

Fiction: “Grapple”

A story by my… associate, 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata), is appearing in the current issue of Shousetsu Bang*Bang: No. 41, “Hookers and Blackjack”.

Grapple” by 菊菜 瞬 (Kikuna Matata)
“You all right, man?” Phil yells to Joaquim, patting his shoulder. The promoter’s assistant, the skinny Asian guy with hipster glasses and a blue plaid shirt, is still watching them so intently Phil can feel it.
Read “Grapple” at SS*BB, or view the entire issue.

All characters appearing in this work are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. As always, this story is rated explicit and appropriate for adults only.

Wherein Miss Clara lays down some relentless, hot and heavy, hard-core… civics lessons.

There’s a lot of things I don’t like. I feel like that should go without saying, but just in case: I, like most people, sometimes don’t like things. For example: I don’t like nattou. I feel like I should like nattou, because it’s great for you and in general I like things with that kind of salty-savory flavor, but the texture is just way beyond anything I can handle. So, yeah. I don’t like nattou. I also don’t like wearing shorts (they make my knees feel surprised), scary movies, or roller coasters that go upside down. I in general try to focus on the things that I do like, when saying things publicly on the Internet where people can read them, but that decision mostly has to do with why I am on the Internet: usually I write dirty stories and sometimes I write about writing; do you really care that shorts make my knees feel surprised? That decision doesn’t really have anything to do with whether or not there are things I don’t like. There are in fact a bunch of things out there that I don’t like! There are even people out there that I don’t like! But again: do you care that I don’t like Sally Orangutantina** who used to stick “KICK ME” signs on my back in the third grade? I feel like you probably don’t! I also know that I have things that I did in the third grade (or, like, last week) that make me feel terrible when I think about them, and maybe that’s Sally Orangutantina’s thing that makes her feel terrible when she thinks about it, all those “KICK ME” signs when we were in the third grade, so I kind of feel like bringing it up might accidentally and unnecessarily ruin her day—but that’s kind of an essay for another time.

What this essay is about is freedom of speech.

Here are some statements that don’t mean the same thing: “Speech should be free,” and “Speech should be free of consequence.”

Or maybe: “You have a legal right to say whatever you want,” and “You have a social right to say whatever you want.”

Or, better yet: “We should, as a society, treat all opinions as equally valid and valuable,” and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

What “freedom of speech” actually means (in an American context) is that you have the right to say things and not be put in jail for them. Not be put in jail, or muzzled by the government, or subjected to organized, state-sponsored persecution that deprives you of your freedom or your livelihood (as you can see, we don’t always get it right). It doesn’t mean that you get to say whatever you want and have everyone like you, support you, and pay for your creative work.

And yeah. I’m talking about Superman. Specifically, I’m talking about this wonderful radio essay by Glen Weldon, and the kind of irritating number of responses where phrases like “free speech” and “censorship” and “witch hunt” get tossed out there without any regard for what those ideas actually mean. (For the record, the exact same thing happened with Chick-fil-A over the summer, and it was annoying then, too.)

The tricky thing about throwing “free speech” around the way it tends to get thrown around on the Internet is that it doesn’t actually usually apply to the things that people try to apply it to. Orson Scott Card does, in fact, have a legal right to say whatever he wants about gays and gay marriage. But he doesn’t have a social right to say whatever he wants about gays and gay marriage. In some parts of the Internet, everyone will be patting him on the back, I’m sure, for his (hateful, bigoted) behavior towards the queer community, but no one actually owes him that. That’s just, like, a free bonus he gets for there happening to be other hateful, bigoted people on the Internet. The broader social contract doesn’t include “Let everyone who espouses prejudiced opinions slide; I mean, whatever, it’s all cool; let’s go share a blunt, man.” In fact, I’m pretty sure the social obligation to protect the basic human rights and dignity of the queer people toward whom Orson Scott Card and NOM are hateful and bigoted far outweighs anyone’s hurt feelings. If Sally Orangutantina had been a terrible homophobe who harassed and bullied me over my sexuality, then my calculus for whether or not I want to try to avoid ruining her day might change, because oppression is systemic and inescapable and poisonous and invisible, and as a result, oppression is always—always more painful to the people being oppressed than it is to the people who are being called out on doing the oppressing. (Again on the essay-for-another-time front: this is why if someone is saying something about you that you don’t like, it doesn’t mean you are being oppressed. Until it is systemic, inescapable, poisonous, and invisible, you’re not being oppressed. You’re just being criticized. It’s not the same thing.)

All people are equally valid and valuable. Not all opinions are equally valid and valuable. Some opinions are wrong. One of the opinions that is wrong is that not all people are equally valid and valuable.

I feel like this idea is much harder to grasp than it needs to be. We as a culture—and really, I’m talking about the English-speaking Internet, here, not so much American culture in meatspace, but the problem definitely does exist in both places—have a really hard time with understanding the difference between “You are a valid and valuable human being who has important things to contribute to the world around you” and “All of the things you think inside your head have the right to go unchallenged.” A huge percentage of the bullshit that goes down on the Internet goes down because people can’t tell the difference between someone attacking their opinions and someone attacking them as a person—and to be totally honest, part of that’s because people have a hard time phrasing their attacks to direct them at the opinion, and not the person, but again, essay for another time. What’s really going on here is that Orson Scott Card, who is, just like the rest of us, a valid and valuable person, is being criticized by his fellow valid and valuable people because he espouses a wrong opinion. And then other people are saying that that criticism is somehow abridging his freedom of speech, which it can’t, because—among other reasons—the criticism is being conducted by Orson Scott Card’s fellow valid and valuable people. Not the government. So that argument is very stupid.

I mean, there actually is a kind of interesting discussion to be had about what is owed to a, you know, valid and valuable human being with wrong, terrible, offensive, bigoted opinions, but it seems kind of bizarre to argue that economic support of their wrong, terrible, offensive, and bigoted opinions would be part of that. In part because that seems like it would imply that there’s definitely somewhere I can sign up for my intrinsic rights to economic support for my filthy gay porn. I mean, if there is and I just didn’t get the email, please, let me know, but in the meantime I’m going to assume that my understanding of how people get paid for creative output—you create something, you put it up for sale, people who anticipate that they will enjoy it give you money for it—is still in effect, and, you know. I’ll just keep working on that one.

When someone criticizes someone else’s opinion, they are not abridging anyone’s free speech. When someone calls for or participates in a boycott, they are not abridging anyone else’s free speech. Free speech protections have to do with the law. They have to do with the government. They have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I give DC Comics money for something I don’t want to read, because I expect that I will find it offensive, or pay money for, because I don’t want to financially support the person who will get that money on the other end. If you have really strong feelings about why I should give nattou, or wearing shorts, or upside-down roller coasters another shot, you have a legal right tell me all about it! That’s fine! And I have a legal right to think you’re annoying, bin the nattou, wear skirts instead, and not get on the roller coaster until you promise me in writing that when I get off I can throw up on your shoes.

** Both name and person are completely made up. [Back]

Recommended Reading: Once a Marine, by Cat Grant

Riptide Publishing had crazy mega-cool Valentine’s Day hourly flash sales last week (@RiptideBooks, is all I’m sayin’), and I’m using laundry day to get acquainted with a few of my purchases, more or less at random. I just motored my way through this one, Once a Marine, by Cat Grant.

Here’s a summary, copy-pasted from the Riptide website:

Love is a battlefield.

Discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, former Marine major Cole Hammond is struggling to find a new identity. But PTSD casts a pall on everything, and his hard-nosed, homophobic father can’t even bear to look him in the eye. To top it all off, he’s pretty sure he’s flunking out of law school.

Marc Sullivan is a kind, sensitive romance author-slash-waiter with a thing for men in uniform. Cole’s not wearing his anymore, but there’s no mistaking the warrior Marc meets in the diner one rainy afternoon. Cole’s sexy smile and Carolina drawl prove irresistible, but Marc’s played this game before, and he always loses. Once a Marine, always a Marine, and if there’s one thing Marc knows about such men, it’s that they all leave him in the end. It doesn’t help that Cole’s practically closeted in public, or that he refuses to seek treatment for his PTSD.

But like any good Marine, Cole’s willing to fight for what matters. And like the characters in Marc’s stories, he’s certain that if they try just hard enough, together they can find their own happily ever after.

This is straight-up grown-up relationship porn, which is very possibly my favorite thing in the entire world. Yes, there’s sex (and yes, it’s super hot), but the thing that makes this book so engrossing is that the characters actually have actual, legit problems, which they actually, legitimately try to deal with, even when the choices that they’re facing really don’t have ideal options. This book contains adults making mistakes and then admitting to them, and trying their hardest and still sometimes fucking up. Marc and Cole are both damaged in believable and difficult ways, but their past damage isn’t used as an excuse for the pain they accidentally inflict on each other; they expect themselves and each other to man up and be better people as necessary to carve out a life together. They make demands of each other, and those demands aren’t treated as unreasonable or overbearing, but as an important part of making a life that involves more than one person. And the fact that it isn’t easy, that they succeed in fits and starts and fail in between, makes this book about infinity percent more relatable than a book where the conflict is manufactured and the resolution is all in the yielding. I want more books like this, where characters ask for what they need and get it. I want more books like this, where compromise is actually compromise.

Basically I’m being gross with feels all over my copy of Calibre, is what I’m saying. And I love it. This book is just… difficult, romantic, and satisfying. Really, really first-rate.

Cat Grant writes “books to make you purr”. You can pick up Once A Marine from Riptide Publishing, in print ($16.99), as an ebook ($6.99), or both together ($16.79). I am reviewing my own copy of the ebook, and I don’t get paid either for this review or for you clicking on those links.

(Aside: I’m still getting my Twitter/Tumblr cross-posting from WordPress hammered out, so my apologies if it looks weird while I do. ♥)