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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

The Spectrum of Consent

 

Jean

In March 2009, the President of Afghanistan signed a law which is widely interpreted to give all husbands in that country the right to force sex on their wives, as well as to keep them locked up at home. The exact wording of the law isn’t clear because the Afghan government hasn’t publicized it widely.

There has been a storm of protest over the issue of “legalized rape” in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has been accused of sacrificing the rights of women to the interests of the most conservative Muslims in his country.

How times have changed. For many years, married women had no legal right to refuse sex with their husbands anywhere in the world. Even forced sex by an ex-husband was hard to prosecute. The widely-understood concept of a husband’s “marital rights” in the English-speaking world dates back to an English judge’s comment in 1736: “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband.” The “marital rape exemption” (a husband’s right to sex with his wife regardless of her consent) was only abolished in England and Wales in 1991. In other places, changes in the law have proceeded unevenly since the 1970s.

The concept of consent is at the heart of most conflicts over sex practices (oral, anal, vaginal, the use of toys), sexual orientations (hetero, gay, lesbian, bisexual, Dominant/submissive), and sexual representation (where and how certain images or words can be displayed or sold). To those on opposite sides of a conflict, consent is a clear-cut issue. According to homophobes such as my ex-husband, sex between members of the same gender (leaving gender-ambiguity aside for the moment) could never really be consensual, since no sane person would consent to it if they really knew what they were consenting to. According to the late Andrea Dworkin, feminist crusader for anti-porn legislation, all sex between men and women is essentially “rape” (not fully consensual) when it occurs in male-dominated cultures, as it usually does.

Her opinion of BDSM (bondage / discipline / sadism / masochism / submission / Dominance), especially perpetrated by men on women, was that it was “rape” amplified. Many Second Wave feminists of the 1970s agreed with her. At that time, most of the feminists I knew liked to point out that male-female sex should only occur when the woman wants it. (Most seemed unable to imagine any female sexually abusing any male.) The more Dworkinite faction seemed to doubt whether any marriage (such as mine) could really be sexually democratic. Surely I gave in to my husband’s “sexual demands” (my mother’s term) just to keep the peace?

Yes and no.

On principle, I’ve always opposed any law that gives anyone unlimited access to another person’s body. A law like that seems at odds with the spirit of Enlightenment that was already gaining ground at the time that the judge made his smug comment about what a wife has “given up.”

If push comes to shove, I say, the person who says “no” should have the last word.

On the other hand, marriage is generally understood to be a sexual relationship, unless both spouses have consented NOT to have sex. (Certain religious and philosophical groups have advocated celibacy within marriage, and for many couples in the past, it was the only foolproof way to avoid producing more mouths to feed.) If Person A and Person B are married, and Person A refuses consent for days, weeks, months or years, is Person B simply out of luck? If Person B then turns a trick or has an affair, is s/he guilty of “cheating”? If Person B leaves the relationship because s/he isn’t getting any, is s/he being unfair?

The same questions apply to any sexual relationship, regardless of its legal status. A relationship of any kind is a kind of verbal or assumed contract between two or more people. If the relationship is understood to be sexual, how much right do any of the parties have to refuse sex without breaking the contract?

Strangely enough, I found myself agreeing with some of the comments of an Ayatollah (Muslim clergyman) who was quoted as defending the new law in Afghanistan. He said that no man should force himself on his wife, but women should be willing to negotiate the frequency of sex in marriage with their husbands, bearing in mind that they have a duty to meet their men’s  needs. If this duty were assumed to be mutual, I wouldn’t be aghast at it.

Have I become a doormat, or a submissive admirer of religious dictators? No such thing. Rest assured that I haven’t become less assertive or morally righteous than in my youth. On the contrary.

Here is the sexual secret of my brief marriage, now revealed at long last: I believed in getting it on with my husband even when I was only lukewarm while he was red-hot. Why? Because I had noticed that our cycles of desire didn’t necessarily match – in fact, we were often at different points on a scale of arousal, and I’m sure this is true for many other couples.  I had also noticed that there is a scale of arousal, not a simple “on” or “off” button, and that I could choose to feel sexy, regardless of what my partner might be doing (or not doing) to get me “in the mood.”

Before we even tied the knot, I realized that I wanted to live in an atmosphere of sexual generosity rather than in one of sexual scarcity. I really hoped that if I gave him sexual relief when he wanted it, he would return the favor. (This rarely worked as well as I hoped, but I never regretted my policy.) I really wanted to avoid a sexual standoff in which each of us would use sex as a weapon to be inflicted OR withheld to defeat the other person.  Ecch, I thought. When a sexual relationship comes to resemble a strike, a lock-out or a duel to the death, it’s time to ride off in separate directions.

Ironically, it was the climate of feminist opinion (not the climate of patriarchy) that discouraged me from saying any of this at the time. I didn’t want to risk hearing from the women I respected that I was “brainwashed” into behaving like a “sex slave” and that if I ever had sex to please another person, I was being “raped.” I certainly didn’t want to be told that I was “in denial” about my own experience.

Several years before, I had seriously wondered if I would lose my mind when a male psychiatrist repeatedly encouraged me to take responsibility for my experience of unwanted sex. (I had said no, no, no to a man of my acquaintance, who then invited me to a campus cafeteria “just for coffee.” I consented to that, but he pushed his way into my room in a dormitory.) According to the mind doctor, what happened to me was not a “real rape” because I should have known that “coffee” was a code word for “unprotected sex.” I had supposedly brought it on myself, and I was “in denial” about this.

Just as there is a scale of arousal, there is a spectrum of consent, ranging from “no, not on your life,” through “maybe at a better time,” to “that feels good, keep going” to “do me now!” Extremists on one side mistake “not on your life” for “I want you to use force,” while extremists on the other side mistake “sure, let’s do it” for “I’m only giving in to avoid worse treatment.” There is actually a lot of middle ground between extremes. And I haven’t even tackled the issue of “consensual non-consent” in a context of negotiated Dominance and submission.

My favorite judge of all time is someone who never really existed: Shakespeare’s character Portia (from The Merchant of Venice) who disguises herself as a male judge to settle a legal dispute over a pound of human flesh as collateral for a loan. She tells the court: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.” We are all entitled to rights over our own bodies, but a little sexual mercy on all sides would prevent a lot of misery. Unfortunately, if truth is the first casualty of war (including a war of ideas), empathy and kindness are in the direct line of fire.

Jean Roberta
May-June 2009


If you have any comments or insights to share about this column, please send an email to: Jean Roberta

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
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Faithless
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Heaven or Hell
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The Office: An XXX Parody
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'09 Book Reviews

Anthologies

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Best Women's Erotica '09
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Bottoms Up
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Enchanted Again
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Like a Thorn (ebook)
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Up for Grabs
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Novels

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The Ages of Lulu
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Amanda’s Young Men
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As She's Told
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Bedding Down
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Broken
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Brushes & Painted Dolls
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Cassandras Chateau
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The Edge of Impropriety
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Exposure
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Free Pass
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The Gift of Shame
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Kiss It Better
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The Melinoe Project
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Boys in Heat
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Faewolf
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The Low Road
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Personal Demons
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The Big Penis Book
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