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'09 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Digital Publishing & Print
Common Myths of Epublishing
Ebook Formats and Devices


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
Compelling Characters
Point of View, Part I
Point of View, Part II
Learning to Love Conflict
Story Structure
Keep ‘em Guessing
Keep it Simple
Keep Your Writing Real
The Importance of Pacing


Literary Streetwalker
by M. Christian
New World of Publishing
To Blog Or Not To Blog
Meeting & Making Friends
Thinking Beyond Sex
Selling Books
Walking the Line
e-book, e-publisher, e-fun
Still More E-book Fun


Shameless Self-Promotion
by Donna George Storey
Our Journey Begins
Pitches and Bios
Websites, Blogs & Readers
Publicists, Press Kits and...
Viva the Internet
Adventures in Cyberspace
Promoting In the Flesh
Make Your Own Movie
Bigger is Better
Looking Back, Planning Ahead


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Questions to Ask Yourself...
Tough All Over


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Ideas
Practice Makes Prefect
5 Books for Fiction Authors
Poetry In Motions
Six Serving Men
Ashley Lister is Anal
Stealing Ideas
Celebrating Poetry


2009 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Myths
Graduation


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
A Year of Living Shamelessly
Adultery, Exhibitionism ...
John Updike Made Me Do It ...
Story Soup: Forbidden ...
Lessons from Amazon
Naked Lunches ...
Erotic Alchemy
Secrets of Seduction
Are You a “Real” Writer?
Don’t Fondle My Sentence


Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
The Passionate Taphophile
Havens on Earth
A Knight Without Armor
Jail-Baiting
Magic Carpet Rides
Getting Hammered
Keep It Quiet
Hang Around for a Spell


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Worked Up About Why
Worked Up About Why, Part II
All Worked Up About Porn
The Catholic Church
Purity Movement
The National Crisis
The Future
About Homosexuality
Public Indiscretions


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Premature Ejaculation
Auctioning Off What?


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Who's Who Around the Table
Retro-Shame
Ritual Sex
Mixed Legacy
The Spectrum of Consent
Drawing the Line
Marriage without the Hype
The Distracting Smirk
Innocent Guns
Gardens of Earthly Delights


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Anneke Jacob
D L King
Kristina Lloyd
Lisabet Sarai
Mitzi Szereto
Portia Da Costa
Shanna Germain
Sommer Marsden
Susan DiPlacido


Guest Appearances

Marketing a Self-Published Novel
by Jeanne Ainslie

Sex Is All Metaphors

by Jean Roberta

Retro-Shame, or the Persistence of the Past

 

Jean

I saw my first live performance of the opera La Traviata ("The Wayward Woman") as an adult, but I learned the basic story when I was much younger. The novel version, La Dame Aux Camellias ("The Lady of the Camellias") is based on the life of a popular French courtesan of the early nineteenth century who died of a lung disease (probably tuberculosis, then called "consumption") in her twenties, at the peak of her beauty and scandalous reputation.

According to the story, death tragically claimed her when she was about to redeem herself by marrying the man she loved, and who loved her against the odds. As shown in the opera, Violetta the "prostitute" is financially supported by one man at a time, much like a middle-class wife of her era. When her current "protector" moves on, she must find a new one, much like a modern woman who remarries after each divorce. When a respectable man proposes to make an "honest woman" of Violetta by marrying her, his father bursts into operatic rage at the disgrace this will bring on the family. Violetta is not accepted into polite drawing-rooms.

Does this plot sound like a quaint relic of vintage sexual morality? Girls don't really fall into a pit of shame when they have sex for the first time these days, do they?

When I began dating in my teens, the boys I knew all claimed to be hip, modern—even radical. They wanted me to realize that sex was healthy and natural. This was the age of Masters and Johnson, when books and articles on sexual fulfillment were starting to appear everywhere. Boys wanted me to give up my supposedly irrational inhibitions about having unprotected sex as well as an irrational feminine tendency to demand an emotional commitment, since none of us could predict how we would feel tomorrow, or next week.

At the same time, all the boys I knew had a vocabulary of ugly words for girls who had "been around."

As a young feminist in the 1970s, I explained to everyone who would listen why a double standard of sexual morality was grossly unfair. I was no longer a virgin, and I didn't really want to languish outside the closed doors of respectable society and die for my sins while still young (even though this image appealed to my love of drama). When I preached sexual justice and logic to a non-feminist, male or female, that person usually stared at my small chest and asked why girls like me were all burning their bras. I felt marked like Violetta.

In the early 1980s, a new disease called "gay pneumonia" appeared in the media as a killer of young, promiscuous gay men. It seemed like a spooky return of the “consumption” that consumed the most vulnerable people in the past century, after making them weak, pale and (supposedly) introspective and remorseful. When the new epidemic was redefined as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), media efforts to suggest that it was a natural punishment for unnatural (same-gender and multi-partner) sex failed to explain why it was steadily spreading through the population at large. Both the mainstream and the “gay” media began announcing the end of a Golden Age of sexual freedom or decadence, and the return of long-term monogamy and traditional standards.

I’ve never been convinced that widespread sexual freedom for anyone really existed before the AIDS epidemic. Sex is a consolation prize for people who can’t afford more expensive pleasures, who are stigmatized for it whether they’re doing it or not, and who party hearty while they can because they have reason to believe that their lives probably won’t last long. None of these conditions look like evidence of true freedom to me.

Outside certain “minority” cultures, heterosexual monogamy has been the only acceptable context for sex in North America for many generations. Despite predictions that a rising divorce rate signalled the end of legal marriage, men and women married each other in large numbers in the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and post-2000. Since same-sex marriage was legalized in certain jurisdictions, an increasing number of same-gender couples have officially tied the knot.

Back in the 1960s, optimists predicted the decline of double-standard sexual morality. So why do women and not-strictly-straight men still live in the shadow of insulting terms for those who are assumed to have had too much sex under the wrong conditions? And why does no one seem to recognize that double-standard morality is a thinly-disguised form of ageism? Any older person has a longer past (which usually includes past sex) than a younger person.

Now, in the 21st century, too many American high school students are getting sex education which includes sermons on the value of abstinence and the untrustworthiness of devices designed to prevent unwanted pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The results of this campaign are easy to predict: more unplanned pregnancies, more epidemics and a traditional stigma on “bad girls,” the ones who get abortions or become young single mothers, and who can be held responsible for any cooties they pick up or pass on.

Several years ago, I noticed a surprising (to me) number of heterosexual romance novels, some historical and/or paranormal, in which the heroine is a virgin until she meets Mr. Right. The only context in which this looks both likely and believable to me is a historical setting, a culture dominated by a fundamentalist religion, or a story which opens on a school playground, yet the heroine is usually presented as an adult, and her lack of experience is often presented as normal  for all times and places.  I suspect that the innocent maiden as central character is part of the policy of some romance publishers. The message, as in La Traviata, is clear: young women who are untainted by sex deserve Love; most others deserve death—or at least oblivion.

Recently, an editor asked me to revise a non-erotic story I had submitted for an anthology on bisexuality. In my story, a man and a woman (A and B, who identify as “gay” and “lesbian” respectively) drop a bombshell on their same-gender dates by telling them that A and B had a friendship-with-benefits in the past. A and B want their friendship to continue, but they have agreed that the sex needed to end so that their current relationships would have a chance to develop.

The editor claimed that this story is about “unlikeable characters” who “treat each other shabbily” and that it confuses bisexuality with cheating and deception. Once again, I felt marked like Violetta. I doubt if the editor and I could reach any agreement, but I have been trying to understand her reaction.

It is hard for me to have any perspective on something I wrote recently, but I know that none of the characters in my story were meant to be “unlikeable,” and I fail to see the shabbiness, the cheating or the deception in the plot summarized above. In fact, I still wonder whether the conflict is too neatly resolved.

Does having a past sexual history count as "cheating,” either in fiction or in real life? Is a confession of past sexual experience more problematic than the experience itself? Is it reasonable for any adult in a new dating relationship to expect the other person to be a sexual blank slate?

Most of the adults I have known (and who have honored me with stories from their sexual past) have been bisexual over time: they have had sex with at least one man and one woman. Is it more shocking to hear that someone’s past seems to clash with his/her current sexual identity, or that this person has committed sex at all, with anyone?

I sometimes wonder whether Violetta would be condemned today for her lurid lifestyle of serial monogamy. In an era when sexual morality is more diverse and contested than in the nineteenth century, a personal double standard seems easier to apply than ever before.

I wonder why sex is usually treated as an exceptional activity which must be judged differently from every other kind. Most people acquire job histories over time as well as sexual track records, yet few middle-aged brain surgeons are permanently stigmatized for having flipped burgers in a part-time job as pre-med students. No one wants to be defined for all time as they were in the past.

I’ll probably continue to ponder these issues until I am far too old to be seen as a babe, if I haven’t reached that point already. The fact remains that I have “been around.” I should probably start preparing my deathbed aria.

How retro. How unreasonable. What a joke.

Jean Roberta
February 2009


Follow Jean Roberta's trail to Sex Is All Metaphors in 2009 ERWA Archive.

______
"Sex Is All Metaphors" © 2009 Jean Roberta. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written


About the Author: Jean Roberta is the thin-disguise pen name of a writer who teaches mandatory first-year English classes in a Canadian prairie university and who writes fiction (erotic and otherwise), research-based articles, opinion pieces and reviews. She joined ERWA in December 1998, and has never looked back. Several of her stories can be found in the "Treasure Chest" gallery. Over sixty of her erotic stories have been published in print anthologies, and Eternal Press has released her single-author e-collection of erotic stories in various genres and flavors, Obsession (2008).
Jean is a staff reviewer for the monthly reviews site, Erotica Revealed (edited by D.L. King). She blogs on Livejournal as "Lizardlez" and at www.goodsturdyjeans.blogspot.com. Her website (www.JeanRoberta.com) is a work in progress.
Read Jean's full bio at Erotica Readers & Writers Association.



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'09 Movie Reviews

Blame It On Savanna
Review by Byrdman

Cry Wolf
Review by Spooky

Faithless
Review by Spooky

Heaven or Hell
Review by Oranje

House of Wicked
Review by Diesel

The Office: An XXX Parody
Review by Spooky

This Ain't The Partridge Family
Review by Spooky


'09 Book Reviews

Anthologies

A Slip of the Lip (ebook)
Review by Jean Roberta

Best Women's Erotica '09
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bottoms Up
Review by Ashley Lister

Enchanted Again
Review by Victoria Blisse

Frenzy
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Girls on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed
Review by Ashley Lister

Libidacoria (Poetry)
Review by Ashley Lister

Licks & Promises
Review by Ashley Lister

Like a Thorn (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Mile High Club
Review by Ashley Lister

Nexus Confessions: Vol 5
Review by Victoria Blisse

Nexus Confessions 6
Review by Victoria Blisse

Oysters & Chocolate
Review by Kristina Wright

Playing with Fire
Review by Ashley Lister

Sexy Little Numbers Vol 1
Review by Ashley Lister

Up for Grabs
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Novels

A 21st Century Courtesan
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Ages of Lulu
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Amanda’s Young Men
Review by Kristina Wright

As She's Told
Review by Ashley Lister

Bedding Down
Review by Victoria Blisse

Broken
Review by Ashley Lister

Brushes & Painted Dolls
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Cassandras Chateau
Review by Ashley Lister

The Edge of Impropriety
Review by Kristina Wright

Exposure
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Free Pass
Review by Ashley Lister

The Gift of Shame
Review by Victoria Blisse

Kiss It Better
Review by Ashley Lister

The Melinoe Project
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Mortal Engines & The ...
Review by Ashley Lister

The New Rakes
Review by Ashley Lister

Ninety Days of Genevieve
Review by Victoria Blisse

Obsession: An Erotic Tale
Review by Kristina Wright

Sarah's Education
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduce Me
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Lesbian Cowboys
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Night's Kiss
Review by Jean Roberta

Where the Girls Are
Review by Jean Roberta

Gay Erotica

Animal Attraction 2
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Boys in Heat
Review by Vincent Diamond

Faewolf
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Low Road
Review by Jean Roberta

Personal Demons
Review by Jean Roberta

Ready to Serve
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Secret Tunnel
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Shuck
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Transgressions
Review by Vincent Diamond

Non-Fiction

Best Sex Writing '09
Review by Kristina Wright

The Big Penis Book
Review by Rob Hardy

Erotic Encounters
Review by Rob Hardy

The Forbidden Apple
Review by Rob Hardy

Hollywood’s Censor
Review by Rob Hardy

Lady in Red
Review by Rob Hardy

Licentious Gotham: Erotic...
Review by Rob Hardy

Live Nude Elf
Review by Rob Hardy

Live Nude Girl
Review by Rob Hardy

The Other Side of Desire
Review by Rob Hardy

Scripts 4 Play
Review by Ashley Lister