Life Without Sex?

By Lisabet Sarai

Back in the days when I was a sex goddess, a fair fraction of my life was devoted to the erotic. If I wasn’t involved in some sort of delightful sexual activity, I was replaying the last such experience, or anticipating the next one. It would be an exaggeration to say that sex was the most important thing in my life, but certainly the notion of life without sex was horrifying—unthinkable.

I remember a conversation with my mother around that time. She would have been in her fifties, past menopause I believe, but considerably younger than I am now. After a rough struggle with addiction, she had embraced religion. “I’m so glad,” she told me, “that I don’t have to worry about sex anymore.”

I was appalled. She had always been an extremely sexual person. Her nude drawings exuded sensuality. I’d acquired my taste for slinky clothes and flashy jewelry from her. That she would willingly give up sex—it was inconceivable to me.

Now I understand that she always felt guilty about her sexuality. For her, a decision to forgo sex relieved the discomfort of those feelings (though I wonder whether she really succeeded in sublimating her libido as completely as she would have liked). At the time, however, I really could not imagine a life without sex.

Now, well into my sixth decade, I have a confession to make. I haven’t had sex in months. Even more astonishing, I’m neither totally miserable nor crazy with unsatisfied lust.

The sad truth is that my sex drive has declined as I’ve gotten older. This shouldn’t be surprising, but it surprised me. I guess I underestimated the importance of hormones. There’s also the fact that it’s more difficult to feel desirable as your body ages. I’m moderately well preserved, but still, I’m acutely aware of all the previously perky places that now sag, all the flexible parts that now feel rusty, all the hair that has migrated from attractive to unattractive locations.

Meanwhile, my husband is more than a decade older than I am. His libido has dwindled as well, much to his consternation. Fortunately we’re both intelligent enough (not to mention busy enough) not to dwell on the question to the point of misery, or to blame one another.

It’s not that I have lost interest in sex. I still become aroused when I’m writing, or reading, a steamy scene. And I still have intensely erotic dreams, in which I desire and am desired by both men and women. In fact, as I’ve become older, my dreams have become more explicit and more taboo.

It’s just that, more and more, my sex life takes place in my mind as opposed to in my body. This means I don’t have to deal with annoying physical issues like arthritic joints or a lack of vaginal lubrication. I can imagine myself back in my sex goddess years, or later, during the period when my husband and I were experimenting with swinging and polyamory. I can revel in dreams in which I’m a willing slave, offered by my master to a room of strangers, or a mature but not decrepit woman seducing a delicious young thing who’s drawn to my aura of experience.

Occasionally in my dreams I remember my age. Mostly, I’m still in my twenties, nubile and eager. 

As my physical sex life ebbs, my writing takes on a new importance. Writing erotica and erotic romance keeps the flame alive. I can summon the dangerous thrill of an anonymous encounter or the deeply fulfilling connection with a love-time lover. I can revisit my many adventures, reshaping them for my readers, or create new ones.

It’s all happening in my mind, but my body reacts, too. I’m not usually aware of my arousal while I am writing, but later I often find myself drenched. And fundamentally, that’s the mystery that keeps me coming back to erotic fiction—the near magical way that a story, a mere figment of my imagination, can trigger physical reactions.

So ultimately, I don’t have live without sex after all. And hopefully, I never will.

Filtering Our Lives

By K D Grace

I’ve been thinking about filters lately, going through one of my periodic stages of resenting smart phones, social

networking and all things techno. That may well be in part because I’ve only ever managed to master what it takes to survive in that online world. I’m a klutz on my best days. But sometimes I’m an angry luddite wannabe, who grumbles incessantly while I bury my nose in my kindle to lose myself in a good book … Oh the neuroses of my life!

When I’m lost in the world of navel gazing and trying to connect to what matters without losing myself in the detritus and the trivia of a world online, I often find myself thinking about the filters we live our lives through, and what being once removed from everything, while at the same time up close and personal with the whole world and all the information in it means to us as a civilization – to me as an individual.

I can go online and hear the background microwaves that are the remnants of the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe. I have done, have listened over and over with goose bumps crawling up my arms.

I can go to FaceBook or Twitter and have meaningful conversations with friends all over the world, people I’ve never met physically and yet I’ve connected with  and feel somehow a kin to.

I can keep up on films and stars and gossip, I can join any group, be a fan girl, talk trash, be a part of any organisation with any cause imaginable – political, religious, medical, physical, magical, practical, any hobby, any sport, any obsession. It’s all there. All I have to do is log on. Easy.  

When we were in Dubrovnik over Christmas last year, we found ourselves in a random café for lunch one day. The cafes that were open in the dead of winter were happy for customers, and when we arrived, we were the only ones there. About halfway through the meal a young man came in, eyes glued to his smart phone. He asked us if we’d read the reviews for this particular café. We said no, we’d just dropped in. The food was lovely. We had a local beer, local specialties, and the owners of the restaurant were friendly, and patient with us as we practiced our rusty Croatian on them. Meanwhile the man ordered without looking at the waitress, ate without looking at the food, all the time lost in communion with his phone. We left him that way.

Back out on the streets, after a wonderful walk in the sunshine around the medieval city wall, we stopped for coffee and once again were astounded by the number of tourists gripped by their phones even as they walked, obliviously, down the main street of the Jewel of the Adriatic, the sea the colour of sapphire and the sky a shade darker still, contrasting with the red tile roofs.

A few weeks ago we went out for lunch and observed three very lovely young women who came in and sat down at a near-by table, again completely caught up in whatever was happening on their phones. They barely spoke to each other during the course of their meal and never put their devices down.

I recently received an email from a friend of mine in the States, and I was saddened when the rather extensive epistle was all about what series she was now watching on telly. I know for a fact this woman used to be a librarian. We used to spend our time talking about books.

All of these events, and lots of others leave me slightly queasy, even as I sit here writing this blog post, hoping that a lot of people will go online to the ERWA blog and read it. It’s the filters that leave me feeling this way. They leave me wondering about our connection with the real world, about MY connections with the real world. I wonder if we’re now more connected, and I just don’t ‘get it’, or are we less connected because we’re joined at the hip with our devices. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of the two.

The world I live in is totally dominated by the technology my profession depends upon. The first thing I do in the morning is get up my laptop and see what I missed over night. I do what I need to do for PR on twitter and facebook, I see what I need to do for the rest of the day, and some days that involves a good deal of being online and interacting with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I have some control over the promotion and sales of my books, no matter how little that may be. The feel that I’m at least doing something is worth a lot, even if it is at times only the placebo affect. In a time when publishing is entering the strange new world of self-pub, when the gatekeepers are no longer the guardians of all things literary, when the gates are quite literally wide open, I see how important it is to be present online. But I fear very much that being present online often costs me the simple pleasure of just being present.

On the 21st, I launched the latest of my novels as Grace Marshall, Interviewing Wade. That meant a great deal of my time the last two weeks and through the weekend was spent online or if not online at least writing blog posts and preparing for the launch. In the glorious sunshine of Sunday, the 22nd, my head was full of reviews and posts and tweets and status updates. When I realized, at last, that it was dinnertime, I went into the darkened kitchen to reheat the pasta from lunch and discovered something truly amazing. Through the kitchen window, I had the most exquisite view of the thinnest sliver of a new moon in conjunction with brilliant Venus, and for a few minutes there was the added pleasure of red Mars just about to sink below the rooftops of the neighboring houses. I was stunned. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. I reached for the binoculars for a closer look

The moon was illuminated with earthshine and, through the binoculars, the darkened areas were visible with the brilliance of the sunlit crescent making the whole look almost dark purple, huge and 3D. As I tried to focus on the bright smudge of Venus, my heart beat kept jarring the binoculars, so I couldn’t resolve the phase, but I’m sure it was as close to full as Venus ever gets.

Venus is always in phase. How amazing is that! We never see the full face of Venus because it’s in between us and the sun, and it’s only full when it’s on the far side of the sun from us – something that’s only true with the inner two planets. Mars dipped quickly and was gone, but I stood for ages, trying to hold my breath and brace my elbows so I could look. But no matter how hard I tried, Venus constantly quivered through the binoculars with the steady beat, beat, beat of my pulse. I shifted back and forth between the shiver of Venus and the pock marked darkened surface of the moon with its crescent of brilliance at the bottom edge. When my arms got tired of holding the binoculars, still I stood.

It was one of those rare moments of being in focus, of standing with nothing in between me and my little sliver of the universe; experiencing a moment, one raw, naked, aching moment without anything in between me and my heart. That tiny shred of time felt like skin freshly formed over an abrasion.  And I wanted to stay there forever in that little sliver of the present with nothing in between.

I couldn’t, of course. The moon set, and I had work to do. It occurred to me as I nuked dinner, that even that incredible few minutes of focus were filtered, brought closer through the lens of my binoculars. We’ve been filtering our world for probably as long as we’ve walked upright. Perhaps we can only be safe in – and from our little slice of the universe when we filter it, analyze it, look at it through eyes – and heart — well protected.

 The next morning, online, there were more images of Venus and the New Moon in conjunction than I had time to look at. I was far from the only one bringing that moment into myself through filters that helped make sense of it, helped make it personal and, clearly, I was far from the only person needing to share it. Somehow that makes the world community seem just a little bit smaller, just a little bit closer. Somehow that makes the filtering of my universe and all the contradictions that involves set just a little bit easier in my mind. That and the knowing at least for a little while that earthshine, that sliver of moonlight, that conjunction with bright Venus was mine. All mine.

The Inner Eye

By Lisabet Sarai

I’ve been reading since I was four
years old – a total of fifty six years. I still marvel at the power
of fiction to create visible, tangible worlds. Outwardly, as we read,
we look at the words, the sentences, the paragraphs. Blindly, we turn
the pages. All the while our inner eyes gaze upon the scenes we
construct in response to the author’s prose.

A skilled writer can evoke times,
places and people with such vividness that, at least while we read,
they feel more real than the surrounding environment. As the words
penetrate my brain, I see the glare of the sun upon the looming
pyramids. I feel the baking heat reflected from the stone, taste the
dust kicked up from the bare feet of the passing farmer, smell the
steaming dung his donkey leaves in my path. I squirm as the lash
scores my bare buttocks, shiver as a fingertip traces the line of my
spine, sweat as the girl opposite me on the subway crosses one knee
over the other to reveal red lace and tempting shadow. Reading is a
sort of miracle that dissolves the here-and-now and crystallizes a
totally new universe in its place.

What we see when we read is born of a
collaboration between the author and our selves. We bring our
histories, expectations and preferences to the act of reading, making
the process deeply personal. My images of Catherine Earnshaw in
Wuthering Heights, of Anna in
Anna Karenina, of
Humbert in Lolita, are
unlikely to match yours. The author sketches the setting and the
characters, but allows us to fill in the details. Even the most
meticulous and elaborate descriptions cannot capture the full
richness of sensory experience, but imagination embroiders upon the
framework of the text and embeds us deep into the world of the story.

One mark of a great writer is knowing
what to express and what to leave unsaid. Sometimes the simplest
prose is the most evocative.

When I write erotica, I rarely describe
my characters’ overall appearance. I may focus on some particular
physical characteristic – the elegant curve of a woman’s hip, the
scatter of curls leading down from a man’s navel toward his cock –
but for the most part I allow the reader to create his or her own
pictures. Instead of dwelling on what can be seen, I spend most of my
time on what can be felt – the characters’ internal states.

Erotic romance is a different kettle of
fish. I’ve learned that readers of this genre like to have fairly
complete descriptions of each major character. They want to know
about stature, body type, hair color and style, skin color, eye
color, typical clothing… The first time I filled out a cover
information sheet for a romance book, I was stuck. The publisher
wanted full details about the appearance of the hero and heroine. I
hadn’t thought much about the question.

Lots of ER authors I know use actual
photographs of characters to inspire them. I’ve adopted this strategy
too, in some cases. It’s easier to describe a picture than to
manufacture a complete physical creation from scratch.

Overall, it seems to me that Western
culture is moving away from the imagined to the explicit, and that
the written word is losing ground to the visual. These days, video
appears to be the preferred medium of communication. If you buy some
equipment, you don’t receive a user manual any more – you get links
to YouTube. My students seem unable to concentrate on any text that
does not include lots of pictures, preferably animated. Graphical
icons (often obscure to me) have replaced verbal instructions. I
really wonder how the blind survive.

Suspense in film – that overwhelming,
oppressive sense of imminent danger – has been supplanted by fiery
explosions and bloody dismemberings. I personally find the old movies
more frightening and more effective. Sex has followed the same trend,
in mainstream movies, in advertising and in porn. Everything is out
there to be seen, in your face. Nothing is left for the viewer to
create. Common visions overwhelm individual interpretations.

High definition television. 3D movies.
The thrust of modern technology is to externalize every detail,
making everything visible. The inner eye atrophies as imagination
becomes superfluous.

When I heard Baz Luhrmann had directed
a 3D version of The Great Gatsby, I felt slightly nauseous. 3D
dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” I can accept, but if there was ever
a story that needed a light touch, a judicious selection of detail,
it’s Jay Gatsby’s tale. True, Fitzgerald’s novel describes at
considerable length the wild excesses of the Roaring Twenties, the
booze and the jazz, the extravagant parties and casual love affairs.
However, all that is just a backdrop to the lonely delusions of the
title character and the vacant lives of the people who surround him.
You could tell Gatsby’s story on an empty stage, with a couple of
bottles of champagne as props and a single sax as the sound track.

The result of Luhrmann’s misguided (in
my opinion) effort is an impressive spectacle with no substance. The
film lavishes its attention on the crazy parties and drunken orgies.
Meanwhile, Gatsby, Daisy, Jordan and Nick remain ciphers, cardboard
characters one can’t really care about. You see it all, but feel

I sometimes worry that reading will
become obsolete, despite the surge in book buying due to ebooks. I’m
glad I don’t have children growing up in this increasingly literal,
visually-oriented world. I’d hate to see them struggling to keep the
magic of imagination alive.

Meanwhile, the Luhrmann film had one
positive effect. It has motivated me to reread the original book.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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