Archive for December, 2007

Interview with Jill Eisenstadt about wedding night sex

December 30, 2007

(Apologies if you tried to come here through a Sugasm link – I deleted and am readding this interview in an effort to fix the layout of this page.)

I found Jill Eisenstadt’s essay “To Have or Have Not: Sex on the Wedding Night” in Colleen Curran’s anthology Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings. (Read more about Altared on Colleen’s site.) I was almost done with the Best Sex Writing 2008, but this essay wowed me with its originality and made me think about a topic, wedding night sex, that I never really had before. Eisenstadt’s premise is that plenty of couples aren’t getting laid on their wedding nights, for a variety of reasons.

Jill Eisenstadt is the author of the novels From Rockaway and Kiss Out and is cowriter and producer on the 2006 feature film The Limbo Room. Her shorter work has appeared extensively in The New York Times and other places, including Vogue, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Bomb magazines. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Michael Drinkard, and their three daughters.

Jill, your essay really blew me away in part because I wasn’t looking for it. I stumbled upon it in Colleen Curran’s anthology Altared. But for as many women’s magazines as I’ve read in my life, I’d never seen anyone tackle the sacred cow of sex on the wedding night, and whether people are still actually doing it. What was the inspiration for your essay?

The fact that I didn’t have sex on my wedding night and as it turned out, neither did almost anyone else I knew under the age of 50.

When you expressed your concerns about whether you’d “never have sex again,” your husband responds with “Don’t be ridiculous.” Do you think men are less bothered by whether to abide with or ignore wedding customs generally, and this one in particular? This would also seem to go against the conventional wisdom of men wanting sex all the time.

Men seem to be less bothered by everything. Given the choice, I think most would skip the wedding entirely and go straight to the consummation. But they’d want sex for its own sake not out of any desire to follow tradition.

How long did it take you to get over the idea that your marriage was off to a bad start without sex on the wedding night?

3 minutes into my honeymoon in Fiji.

You position wedding night sex as part of a set of outdated customs: “It’s a performance–flirting for an audience. It’s pretense and foreplay. It’s one outdated formality after another, leading to the ultimate climax–sex.” Then you ask: “But if we no longer measure a bride’s worth by her chastity then, why do we continue to behave as if we do?” Why do you think we cling to these vestiges of tradition when it comes to marriage? Is it simply because it’s easier to make jokes about them than confront the reality that most brides aren’t virgins, and probably haven’t been for a long time?

Rituals are comforting, even the outmoded ones. Perhaps because of the way they connect generations, it seems vaguely sacrilegious to examine, let alone reinvent them.

Did anyone actually ask you whether you’d had sex on your wedding night? How did people act when you asked them? Was it a matter of simply breaking the ice, and then people were eager to share?

I confessed I hadn’t had sex on my wedding night as a way of getting others to confide in me. This worked most of them time. It’s a relief to hear you aren’t the only ones who fell asleep or stayed up partying or sat in an airport all night instead. Even those who had managed to have sex let it be known it was only because they felt they “had to.” And most of these accounts describe the act as being far from extraordinary.

What kinds of reactions did you get to the essay?

The essay has definitely had one of the biggest reactions of anything I’ve written. It first appeared in The New York Times Magazine Lives column, then in an expanded form in Altared, a book of essays about modern weddings and now in Best Sex Writing 2008. So other than asking to reprint it somewhere else, the most common reaction has been, “We didn’t do it either!”

What’s the most interesting reason you’ve heard for a couple not having sex on their wedding night?

Because they’d read my essay, which assured them they wouldn’t be jinxed if they didn’t.

What are you working on now?

A short story I wrote for the anthology Queens Noir (Akashic Books), out this winter, has inspired me to write some more stories.

Interview with Paul Festa about circumcision

December 30, 2007

[Editor’s note: Again, apologies if this blog isn’t in optimal format. I’m working on fixing it, but any advice would be much appreciated, as I’m new to WordPress. Also, yes, some pieces like Paul’s are online, but I’m not linking to those essays because I really want you to read them in Best Sex Writing 2008. It’s worth it, trust me.]

Paul Festa, contributor to Best Sex Writing 2008

Paul Festa’s sex essays appear in Nerve, Salon, Best Sex Writing 2005 and Best Sex Writing 2006. His movie Apparition of the Eternal Church, about the music of Olivier Messiaen, was named Best North American Independent Feature Film at the 2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival. He is currently revising a novel and can be found online at paulfesta.com.

What inspired your Nerve.com essay “How Insensitive?”

I was making a routine visit to San Francisco’s community STD-testing and education space called Magnet, a great facility right in the heart of the gay neighborhood (the Castro) where you can get a syphilis-test, a shoulder massage, check your email, cruise, or all of the above. They always have a bunch of fliers advertising various drug tests or medical studies and “Penile Sensitivity Touch-Test” caught my eye for two reasons. One is that, despite being half Jewish and having ultra-orthodox Jewish family, I’ve always harbored the feeling that circumcision was barbaric and was curious to know more about this study and to help if I could. The second is that I like to have my penis touched and have had some very hot, probably inappropriate if not illegal encounters in medical offices.

Can you tell us more about what happened during your Penile Sensitivity Touch-Test Evaluation Study?

Weighed against my erotic expectations, not much! As I write in the essay, having an elderly urologist poke your equipment with varying gauges of monofilament is hardly the stuff of most-watched X-tube videos. I asked them what they did if someone got a boner–they said they waited for it to pass. I thought this was strange, from a methodological perspective, because when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, what matters is what the penis feels while erect. They said they had foreseen problems getting the study funded and published unless the subjects were flaccid (in this, at least, I was able to cooperate).

What kinds of reactions did you get to the essay? Do you find that the reactions were divided along any certain lines, like male vs. female, Jewish vs. non-Jewish, or circumcised vs. uncircumcised men?

Apart from the really obvious predictors–like adherence to Jewish orthodoxy–I have found no reliable demographic dividing lines of where people fall on the circumcision debate. The medical establishment is all over the place on this issue. So are men and women. So are at least secular Jews. I tend to think younger parents are more inclined to leave foreskins alone, but that’s a general impression based on sporadic attention to the subject over the last few years.

I found it interesting that the group NOCIRC was founded by a woman, and a 67-year-old grandmother at that. Based on your research, are most of the anti-circumcision activists men? What is the main argument they make against circumcision?

The fundamental argument is that circumcision of male babies removes, before he is able to give consent, a major locus of erotic sensation and for reasons that are scientifically controversial and that have shifted suspiciously over the years. Based on my *limited* research, I’d say most of the people on both sides of this issue are men. That’s one of the things that makes Marilyn Milos’s involvement in spearheading this research and fomenting so much anticircumcision activity so interesting. Her epiphany on behalf of the foreskin came during her nursing education when she watched an infant screaming his new lungs out in pain as his foreskin was amputated, with the visibly chagrined doctor-professor muttering that there was no medical justification for doing it. From my conversations and emails with her, her eloquent personal testimony on the issue, and the shit-kicking organizational skills that led to the publication of this study, I have to count her as a hero of mine.

You write, “Apart from bypassing a few Craigslist ads stating a preference for intact dick, I’ve never been aware of being discriminated against for lacking one.” When was the first time you considered being circumsized possibly something that was disadvantageous?

I suppose it was when I started hearing murmurings–at that point unsupported by scientific evidence–that the foreskin wasn’t just some extra piece of useless flesh like the post-partum umbilical cord, but the source of a great deal of erogenous pleasure. As I went to bed with more men I became envious of their ability to get off without pouring tubes and bottles of sticky, expensive, possibly unhealthful lubricants on their dicks. I also started having one of those reorienting conversations with myself about what my circumcision represented. It’s one thing to think of it as a hygiene-justified medical procedure (although the research supporting the hygiene issue is controversial, as a follow-up story I did for Nerve emphasized). It’s quite another to consider that part of my genitals were amputated for dubious medical reasons and before I could give my consent. It’s not at all clear to me why parents–*even religious parents*–have the right to decide this for their children in a society that respects a separation of church and state. Do we let parents authorize clitoridectomies? If someone came forth with a compelling medical or religious justification for lopping off that or any other sexual organ, would we say go ahead, sharpen your scalpel?

Along the same lines, in the sexual marketplace, do you think being circumsized makes men more attractive or less attractive, and are there certain communities or types of men who are more into one or the other?

A quick perusal of personals ads shows that some people prefer one or the other, or advertise themselves one way or another. The sexual marketplace is so robust, at least in my neck of the woods, that circumcision or lack thereof is not keeping anyone home alone on a Saturday night. If you bring home a cut guy, you just might have to work a little harder.

You say that you’re part of the “silent and ambivalent circumcised majority.” Do you think it’s threatening for circumsized men to consider what they might be missing out on? Have you spoken to other men about their feelings about being circumsized or not?

Yeah, I have conversations about this all the time, and while we foreskin amputees can all work up a certain amount of outrage at the practice if we think hard enough about it, the lingering message from the medical establishment that we’re at least somewhat less likely to contract and spread STDs, and the fact that we’ve all actually managed to have some pretty hot sex along the way since our disfigurement, and the proliferation of outrages that characterize the society in which we live (absence of universal health care, the waging of fraudulently sold war in our name, the government’s hands-off approach to catastrophic climate change) makes it extremely daunting to organize a rally in front of AMA headquarters demanding an end to the practice. Part of that ambivalence is a recognition, amid these larger concerns, that if a bunch of men in an extremely wealthy Western nation take to the streets on the issue of what we’re missing in our orgasms, we’re going to sound like a bunch of whining wankers, which, on some level, is right on the mark.

Since writing the essay, have you come across any more findings on the topic of circumcision?

Yes! As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a follow-up about the controversy surrounding studies long relied upon to link foreskins to STD-transmission. That essay, also on Nerve, is called Foresight and was published 8/20/2007.

If you had a son, do you think you would choose to circumsize him?

No fucking way.

Rereading the piece now, do you still feel the same way?

Absolutely.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the book version of my movie, Apparition of the Eternal Church, which is about nonbelievers’ responses to the music of Olivier Messiaen, the great Catholic visionary composer whose centenary is in 2008. The movie has a great cast–Harold Bloom, John Cameron Mitchell, Justin Bond as “Kiki,” Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters–and won a bunch of film festival prizes and press kudos (New Yorker critic Alex Ross called it “mesmerizing” and Kraftwerk founder Karl Bartos said it was “one of the best music films I’ve ever seen.”) The book has images and the transcript of the film with a director’s commentary running underneath. The film has 16 screenings on the calendar between now and the spring, including a February tour of the U.S. South, Feb. 27th at St. Bart’s Church in New York and April 18 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I’m also halfway through the third draft of a novel about medical marijuana farmers in northern California, and every couple of weeks I update my blog.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the anthology!

Win a copy of Best Sex Writing 2008!

December 27, 2007

Sorry if this blog is looking strange on your screen – rest assured, I’m looking into it.

In happy news, Best Sex Writing 2008 just hit bookstores/Amazon! I’m thrilled, and to celebrate, am offering you the chance to WIN a signed copy from me. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post (for those reading on Amazon, click through on the bottom to the Best Sex Writing 2008 blog) telling me what your favorite sex-related story of 2007 was and why, as well as an email address where I can reach you if you win. Entries must be received by Sunday, January 6th at 5 pm EST. One entry per person. I will pick a winner that evening. Good luck, Happy Reading, and Happy New Year! And mark your calendars:

We’re also having a book release party (yes, there will be cupcakes!) for it on Tuesday, January 22nd, 7-9, at Rapture Cafe, 200 Avenue A (between 12th and 13th), NYC, featuring me and contributors Featuring editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, Rachel Shukert (“Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report”), Lux Nightmare (“The Pink Ghetto”), Miriam Datskovsky (“Absolut Nude”) and Liz Langley (“Sex and the Single Septuagenarian”). Books will be available for sale and signing.

Here’s the table of contests again – if you didn’t get a chance to read my introduction, click through below and check it out.

Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations

Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report • Rachel Shukert
Double Your Panic • Kevin Keck
Battle of the Sexless • Ashlea Halpern
Kink.com and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting • Violet Blue
The Prince of Porn and the Junk-Food Queen from Insatiable • Gael Greene
Tough Love • Kelly Rouba
Dirty Old Women • Ariel Levy
Stalking the Stalkers • Kelly Kyrik
Sex in Iran • Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin
Surface Tensions • Jen Cross
Sex and the Single Septuagenarian • Liz Langley
The Pink Ghetto (A Four-Part Series) • Lux Nightmare and Melissa Gira
To Have or Have Not: Sex on the Wedding Night • Jill Eisenstadt
How Insensitive • Paul Festa
The Study of Sex • Amy Andre
Dangerous Dildos • Tristan Taormino
Absolut Nude • Miriam Datskovsky
The Hung List from Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America • Scott Poulson-Bryant
The Glass Closet • Michael Musto
Menstruation: Porn’s Last Taboo • Trixie Fontaine
Buying Obedience: My Visit to a Pro Submissive • Greta Christina

Sugasm 111

December 26, 2007

More Sugasm for you

Julie Ordon courtesy of TGP.

The best of this week’s blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #112? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the link list within a week and you’re all set.

This Week’s Picks
Fighting The Dominatrix Stereotype
“She wanted a man for a boyfriend, not a doormat.”

From afar
“Say my name, over and over.”

Steely Dan*
“My body is flexed, and held in place, and the onslaught is relentless.”

Mr. Sugasm Himself
Pic(k) of the Day

Editor’s Choice
A Brief History of (My) Fucking

More Sugasm
Join the Sugasm

See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday.

(Sugasm participants should re-post all the links above within a week. The following links may be excluded as long as you include all the above links.)

Erotic Writing and Experiences
Catalina loves the Best of Catalinaloves.com
Dirty
Dirty (A Fantasy)
Dream…?
Following dreams part 2
In-Car Entertainment – EastEnders vs Cake
Kitty
“Life is a bowl full of cherries”
Lines In The Sand
Lunch Date
Raw Pussy
A safe-harbor fuck for the holidays
Skin on Skin
Tingle Belle
“We”….(the final Part)

NSFW Pics & Videos
Cock Size
Defiance
Do whatever you want, but…
Happy Holidays From HotMovies
Julie Ordon

Sex News, Reviews & Interviews
Fuckingmachines.com
Headshot – Blue Artichoke Films
Interview with Jill Eisenstadt about wedding night sex
Sex Toy Review: Hitachi Magic Wand
Slave Bells Ring, Are You Listening? XXX-Mas Looms.

BDSM & Fetish
Bad Girl II
Blood Red Saturday Night
Control and Letting Go – The Wife
Long Distance Scenes
My Delicious Fetish

Sex Work
Sex Worker Solidarity: Dallas From Babeland

Thoughts on Sex and Relationships
All About “Squirting” (Female Ejaculation)
Good Sex Hunting
Lists
One year on
Three Christmas Wishes
Was she turned on?
Yikes, Groupies!

Sex Advice
How to Give a Tantric Lingam Massage

Sugasm 110

December 19, 2007

(Sugasm is a really cool site where sex bloggers link to each other – last week’s Greta Christina interview from this site was included)

The best of this week’s blogs by the bloggers who blog them. Highlighting the top 3 posts as chosen by Sugasm participants. Want in Sugasm #111? Submit a link to your best post of the week using this form. Participants, repost the link list within a week and you’re all set.

This Week’s Picks
Sex Worker Solidarity: Audacia Ray
“Visibility on our own terms and the ability to uses our voices (and other mediums of expression) are key to the progress of sex worker’s rights.”

So Many Men, So Few Sluts
“Everyone wants to avoid generalizations about men and women, yet they’re too powerful to ignore.”

This Time
“She had That Look, and despite my earlier fatigue, I knew what was coming.”

Mr. Sugasm Himself
Hombre Magazine’s Left Handed Ads

Editor’s Choice
Love in an Elevator

More Sugasm
Join the Sugasm

See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday.

(Sugasm participants should re-post all the links above within a week. The following links may be excluded as long as you include all the above links.)

Sex Advice
The Everything Guide To Bras
Giving a woman a pedicure
Sex Tips for “Married Old Guys” – How to Keep Your Sex Life Hot, Even Without Erections!
Ten Things I’ve Learned abut Sex #3: Leave Your Clothing on a Pile

Thoughts on Sex and Relationships
Different Level of Consciousness
Intimacy
Jodie Foster, a lesbian
Loved endlessly…
Non-anniversary, uncelebration
Unwanted sexual experiences from a new angle; Men have needs too!
Where Do I Come (In)?

Sex & Politics
Strippers and libertarianism

BDSM & Fetish
Dinner and a Menage’ a Trois
Dominating her, er again part2
A Little Restraint
More from my last visit (pt. 2)
My First Erotic Awakening Massage
One Hell Of First Date
Thoughts…
V is for Vicious Ardor

Sex Work
Whip Me, Beat Me — And Call It Girlfriend Experience

Sex News, Reviews & Interviews
Featured Design: Pro-Porn
Fuck The Cheerleader, Fuck The World. (Hogtied.com, Forced Orgasms, Cheerleader)
Gift Guide #2
Intern Sex Toy Review – Saturn Cockring
Interview with Greta Christina about hiring a professional submissive
Pinky & Jade at Pinkys House (Inside Dacia’s Dirty Mind)

Erotic Writing and Experiences
Catalina loves Turning 36
Christmas Tree HNT
Fingers
Foreplay
I Speak Roughly, Part 2: RBU
It’s
The Kiss: All Through The Night.
The Limitations of Terminology
Patience Rewarded
The Shower – Part One
Trying on Shoes (a fantasy)
Women Dancing

Sex Poetry
While sleeping

NSFW Pics & Videos
Danni’s Friends in Daring Nude Galleries
Janelle Elson – Stairway To Janelle
Pornsaint Niya Yu

Sex Humor
Brunch Stories 2-The Strange Folks On Craigslist
Condom Use

Interview with Greta Christina about hiring a professional submissive

December 13, 2007

Greta Christina‘s wonderful essay “Buying Obedience: My Visit to a Pro Submissive,” originally published in Other magazine, closes out Best Sex Writing 2008. Here I interview about her experience hiring a pro sub, writing about it, and how that affected her sex life and fantasies subsequently.

Greta Christina has been writing professionally since 1989. She is currently editing the annual Best Erotic Comics series, the first volume of which comes out shortly. She is editor of the anthology Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients, and author of the erotic novella Bending, which appeared in the three-novella collection Three Kinds of Asking For It edited by Susie Bright. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including Ms., Penthouse, the Skeptical Inquirer, and two volumes of the Best American Erotica series. She blogs at http://gretachristina.typepad.com/

When you visited the professional submissive, was it with the purpose of writing about it, or did that come later? How long afterwards did you write
the essay and did your thoughts about the experience change as you wrote it?

I definitely visited Rachel with the intention of writing about it. It’s how I justified the expense to myself, actually. I’m a freelance writer, I’m not exactly raking in the big bucks, and I’m not generally in a position to drop $300 on a one-hour luxury splurge. But as a professional expense…that’s a different story.

I started writing about it almost immediately afterwards. In fact, much of the essay talks about my planning and thought processes before visiting Rachel — and I started writing that before I even saw her.

Writing about the experience didn’t change my thoughts about it, exactly. But it did clarify them. And more importantly, I’m not sure I would have had the experience at all if I hadn’t planned to write about it. I don’t think I could have justified the expense; but I also don’t know if I would have had the nerve to go through with it. If it had just been for my own pleasure and curiosity, I might have chickened out.

You write, “Touching the naked skin of someone whom I’d paid for the pleasure, squeezing her flesh while my clit throbbed and then squeezing it harder to make my clit throb again…that is what made me feel like I’d done something I couldn’t take back, become somebody I couldn’t change. It was unnerving — but it was also exciting, in the way that adventure is always exciting.” Why do you think it was this act of touching her, versus booking the appointment and going there, that was so powerful?

Touching her was the moment I became a person who had paid for sex.

That’s a big taboo. That’s a big cherry to pop. Until I actually touched her, I could have backed out, said, “Forget it, I changed my mind, keep the $300″… and still thought of myself as a person who had never paid for sex. Touching her was the moment that, in my mind, I became a sex work customer.

You write that “being sexually selfish turned out to be much harder than I’d anticipated.” I know you talk about it in the essay, but can you explain a bit about why that is? Do you think it’s easier for men vs. women to be “sexually selfish” (whether in a paid setting or not)?

Whether it’s by my nature or my nurture or both, I’m a person who is very concerned about other people and my affect on them. The positive side of that is that I’m compassionate and ethical and socially responsible; the down side is that I can be very anxious and self-conscious about whether people like me, to the point where it’s hard to just relax and be myself.

And sexually, a lot of what I get off on is my partner’s pleasure. So even though I was paying Rachel, in part, so I could just do what I wanted (within her limits, of course) and not worry about what she was getting out of it, paradoxically a lot of what I selfishly wanted was her pleasure.

I don’t know if it’s easier for men to be sexually selfish. I know that’s
the stereotype…but I don’t know if it’s really true. I do know that sex work customers are overwhelmingly male, so maybe that’s an argument for men being more sexually selfish, more willing to have sex with someone who’s primarily getting money out of it and not necessarily sexual pleasure.

But on the other hand, it’s very common for sex work customers to become very attached to their sex workers. Many customers want their workers to think of them as special, and many even fall in love with them. And almost any sex worker will tell you that a lot of what they give their customers — whether honestly or faked — is affection and reassurance. “I really like you, I really like doing it with you, you’re my favorite customer,” etc. Even the most jaded sex workers fake pleasure and orgasm as part of their job. None of that would be true if men were completely selfish.

You write in the essay about worrying about whether Rachel’s (the pro sub) reactions are real or faked, but then say that you’re not sure you’d ever spanked someone as hard as you’d wanted before. Was there a point where you stopped worrying about what her “real” feelings were and simply trusted her (and yourself), or was this thought still in the back of your mind?

I’m a good, safe top — and I think if you’re a good, safe top, the bottom’s feelings are always in the back of your mind. So it’s not like I let go of any concern I had for her and just became vicious.

I think what happened was this: When I’m spanking a lover or a fuckbuddy,
I don’t just care about whether I’m spanking them harder than they can take. I care about whether I’m spanking them harder than they like. (This is actually one of my weaknesses as a top: I tend to pull my punches, it’s hard for me to push people to take more than they think they really want. See above re: wanting people to like me.)

When I was spanking Rachel, it finally occurred to me that it was okay for me to spank her harder than she might have actually liked or gotten off on…as long as I respected her limits and stopped if she safeworded. That’s what I was paying for. Because she was a pro, I knew that (a) she’d have no hesitation about stopping me if she had to, and (b) she’d almost certainly taken harder spankings than I was giving her. I think I just decided to trust her professionalism.

You say that “[n]one of this weirdness or anxiety had anything to do with Rachel. Rachel was great. She knew her stuff, and she responded beautifully to my orders, and she was lovely to look at and luscious to fondle and spank.” Based on your experience as a client, what qualities would you say make for a good professional submissive?

She was very clear about her limits. In our negotiations ahead of time, she was very clear about what was and wasn’t okay. And because she was so upfront about what was off-limits, that made me feel more confident and safe about doing the things she’d said were okay. That was important — probably more important than anything else.

She was very obedient. She did what I asked her, without hesitation. That was what I wanted; I’m not into brattiness or disobedience. I get off on the feeling of power I get from telling someone to do something — something sexual — and having them do it. That’s what I was paying for, why I hired a submissive instead of another kind of sex worker: the feeling of pulling the strings. And she did it beautifully.

She was very responsive. Especially when she was getting spanked. It’s certainly possible that she was faking it, of course. But when we were negotiating, she made a point of saying — several times over — that it was okay to spank her. She talked about spanking a lot. I don’t think she was faking how much she liked it. And regardless of whether she was getting off on any particular thing I was doing, it seemed as if submission in general was a genuine pleasure for her. I think that’s a big difference between pro subs and other kinds of sex workers; very few people go into submission professionally if they aren’t into it personally. In any case, if she was faking, she did a bang-up job.

And she was hot. She was pretty, and she had a nice body — voluptuous, not too skinny, very much my type — and a nice ass, round and fun to spank. That sounds shallow, I know. But physical chemistry is important, especially when you don’t have time to get to know someone.

What kinds of reactions did you get to the piece? Did they differ markedly amongst sex workers and non-sex workers?

I can’t really answer this question. The piece didn’t get very wide circulation, and I didn’t get any response to it at all. It’ll probably get more widely read in this book than in the original magazine.

How do you feel about the essay when you reread it now? Have you gone for any more pro sub sessions?

I love the essay. I think it’s one of the better and more interesting things I’ve written, and it’s on a topic that doesn’t get much attention. A lot has been written about sex work, but very little has been written from the customer’s point of view. And very little has been written about pro submission.

Plus I think the essay is just hot. Re-reading it now reminds me of what a strange experience this was…but also of how erotic it was.

I haven’t gone back for more pro sub sessions. But the only reason for that is money. If I could afford it, I’d definitely do it again. Especially because so much of that first time was about it being the first time: getting over my nerves, figuring out the lay of the land, etc. I’d love to go back and have the experience just for the experience, without all the first-time jitters.

And I’d love to try other kinds of sex workers, too. I’ve been feeling very bottomy lately, and I’m curious about what hiring a pro dominant would be like. I’m sure there would be a whole other set of interesting, weird paradoxes. How do you feel subservient and helpless when you’re paying someone to make you feel that way? I’d love to find out.

You start off the essay talking about how you’ve fantasized about visiting a professional submissive, and end it by saying you still fantasize about it. How did the reality differ from your previous fantasies, and why do you think you had/have such intense fantasies about this, as opposed to topping someone where money isn’t involved?

The reality differed from my fantasies in the same way SM reality always
differs from my SM fantasies. In my SM fantasies — my toppy ones, anyway
— I’m cruel, I’m selfish, I take pleasure in another person’s suffering, I have power over another person which I unscrupulously abuse, etc. In reality, I’m a nice, thoughtful person who cares about other people. So the reality of SM play isn’t that I get to be the cruel, selfish, power-hungry control freak. The reality is that I’m the nice, thoughtful person, letting my inner sadistic control freak out to play for a while — on a very short leash.

And that was true with Rachel as much as with anyone else. The only difference was in my expectations. Before the session, I’d somehow imagined that, because I was paying for it, I’d feel more comfortable letting my inner selfish sadist out on a longer leash. That was somewhat true…but it wasn’t nearly as true as I’d thought it would be.

Why do I have intense fantasies about paying for submission? I think it does have to do with the fantasy of getting to be selfish, getting to pull the strings and have my way. It feeds into my “molesting the servant girl” fantasies very nicely.

More realistically, it’s a way to make the scene be about what I want, about my fantasies and desires — not the overlap between my fantasies and another person’s. It’s like therapy. When I’m in therapy, I’m paying, at least partly, so I don’t have to stop and ask, “So enough about me – how are you doing?” That’s a big part of what makes paying for sex appealing: as long as I respect the worker’s limits, I can make the session be about what I want. I know now that that’s less true — and more complicated — than I’d originally imagined…but there’s still a truth to it, and
there’s still an appeal.

Of course I also love to play in the overlapping areas between my fantasies and another person’s. That’s what I like to do most of the time, in fact — just like most of the time I like to have back-and-forth conversations that aren’t only about me. And I do have fantasies about topping people without paying them. It’s not like this is my one obsession. It’s just one thread in a whole perverted tapestry.

Did the experience of visiting a professional submissive affect the rest of your sex life in any way?

Not really. It changed my fantasy life a little — my fantasies of hiring a pro sub are more based in reality now, they’re more an imagining of what the experience might really be like instead of a pure fantastical fantasy. But it didn’t really affect my real-life sex life.

What are you working on now?

My new anthology, Best Erotic Comics 2008, is about to be published — it should hit the stores in January. I’m extremely excited about it; we just got the advance copies, and it came out beautifully. It’s exactly what I’d imagined and hoped for: it’s artistically solid, wildly varied, and very, very dirty indeed.

And I’m blogging up a storm. I do a lot of sex blogging, but I’ve also gotten deeply involved in the atheist blogosphere, and am focusing a huge amount of my time and energy on that. My blog where I’m doing some of my best writing, I think. http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ – Come check it out!

Best Sex Writing 2008 contributor interview: Lux Nightmare and Melissa Gira

December 7, 2007

This is part 1 of a series of interviews I’m conducting with contributors to Best Sex Writing 2008 about their pieces in the book and their work generally. Consider them and this blog a companion to the book itself. Lux Nightmare and Melissa Gira wrote about “The Pink Ghetto” in a series of posts at Sexerati, which I reprinted as one piece in the book. The bios below are from the book.

Lux Nightmare has been obsessed with the Internet since 1994, obsessed with computers since 1987, and obsessed with sex since 1982. Career highlights include founding and running That Strange Girl (the first altporn site to feature both male and female models), interning at Nerve (back when it was cool), and keeping the masses educated about sex since 1997. She is the former Features Eeditor for Sexerati.com, a blog about sex, culture, and everything in between, and is working on a book about her years in the altporn scene.

Lux Nightmare

Lux Nightmare

What was the genesis for your piece on the Pink Ghetto?

I’ve been working in sex, in one way or another, for over ten years now, so I’ve had a lot of experience with the pink ghetto⎯and, more specifically, with the difficulty of promoting work (even intelligent, academic work) that might fall under the label of NSFW. I finally got so frustrated with the entire state of affairs, with being told that my work wasn’t “appropriate” because it dealt honestly with sexuality, that I had to put a name to my frustrations. Hence the Pink Ghetto.

What kind of reaction did you receive to it, both from others in the pink ghetto and those outside of it?

I think the most vocal reactions have come from people who’ve found themselves ghettoized for their interest in, or work around, sex–and those reactions have all been positive, thanking me for putting a name to this phenomenon. People outside of it have also reacted in a positive manner–for many, I think it was the first time they’d really even taken time to think critically about the way sex-related material and work is ghettoized.

How have your thoughts about the topic changed since you wrote the piece?

Yes and no. Though I’m still convinced that there’s a lot of stigma attached to sex-related work, I’m starting to feel more hopeful about the possibilities for breaking down the barriers and removing the stigma. These days, I’m more of the opinion that if you present sex-related–even sexually explicit–material in a very straightforward, noncontroversial manner, you can usually get people to accept it as noncontroversial material.

Lux, at the end, you talk about some of the pros of the pink ghetto and the opportunities you’ve been given within it. Do you think the pink ghetto shouldn’t exist at all (even though clearly it now does)? What would your ideal pink ghetto look like?

The nice thing about being discriminated against is that if you’re able to overcome that discrimination, you’re pretty much automatically in a place of power. The bad thing about being discriminated against is that it makes everything that you do that much harder.

I recognize that I’ve gained a lot from my choice to work in a stigmatized field⎯but it’s also cost me a lot as well. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think anyone benefits from stigma. There is no “ideal” pink ghetto: I’d much rather see the pink ghetto completely dismantled. We’d benefit far more from living in a society where sex and sexuality are not taboo topics, where we can speak freely about these subjects without fearing for our reputations.

What are you working on now?

I spend a lot of time working on Boinkology, my blog/podcast about sex and culture, and educating the masses about sex any way that I can.

Melissa Gira (melissagira.com) is a blogger, writer, editor of Sexerati: Smart Sex. (sexerati.com), and a contributor to $pread magazine and the blogs BoundNotGagged, Gridskipper. An international sex worker rights’ advocate, mobile media maker, and shameless sex futurist, she fully unpacked three times in the last year and prefers to work out of her purse-sized office: cell phone, wireless keyboard, and dv camera, wherever a cheap GPRS signal and fancy lipgloss can take her.

Melissa Gira

What was the genesis for your piece on the Pink Ghetto?

Sex blogging has been a decently fertile ground for some smart new sex thinking, and at Sexerati, I’m always pushing for more. I approach the sexblogosphere as a community for generating dynamic and collaborative sexual theory & of course, practice–though the practice is what gets a disproportionate amount of the attention. There’s nothing wrong with writing about fucking, with foregrounding your sex life in your sex writing, but to do so means that as a writer, you are not choosing sides–writer vs. subject, expert vs. participant–and this still requires taking a risk: that you might be minimized for doing what we new media types are supposed to value, stating our biases and situating ourselves in our work. When it comes to sex, that means risking being a slut, and I say, it’s the only ethical to do, to own that, to challenge that. My hope is that we can be so brazen about it that it becomes utterly uncontroversial.

What kind of reaction did you receive to it, both from others in the pink ghetto and those outside of it?

I’m just glad for Technorati, so we could track who was calling back out to the essay series. It resonated far outside the sexblogosphere, which to me means it actually succeeded in reaching its intended audience.

How have your thoughts about the topic changed since you wrote the piece?

Death to the Pink Ghetto, and Long Live the Pink Ghetto. Writing on the so-called sex ghett–which, even at the time, I knew was a deeply racialized and loaded choice of frame–drew out other sex professionals, put us into conversation around why we think what we do is important, and offered opportunity for us to consider the rules of working in sex. Will we use the ghettoization of what we do to support one another, as outsiders unified, or will we play that stigma as a way to gain respect from those “outside” sex? The ways that those at the margins regulate their own success by imposing an internal hierarchy of stigma back on one another fascinates me, and saddens me. Addressing this internal stigma forms the next prong of the dismantling the “pink ghetto” altogether. So long as we regard our work as outside the scope of “normal” journalistic investigation or normal human curiosity, well, we do it to ourselves.

Melissa, you wrote, “What is so less noble about thinking sex rather than money, rather than politics, religion, or art? Sex being so fully embedded in the human experience, I want to put out there that there really is no way to engage the culture on ‘what really matters’ without looking at sexuality.” I confront this all the time, too. Why do you think sex, as democratic and accessible a topic as it should be, is so threatening to so many people?

I used to think this was because sex had somehow been made occult, that real sex education was hard to come by, that sex media wasn’t reflective of most people’s sexual desires, and it was that lack of credible information that perpetuated a fear of sex, both for “consumers” and to scare off those who might want to start doing one better and make their own sex ed & media. After over ten years now of working in sex online, I have to double back on that assumption, one that still reigns. We have no lack of cultural conversation ongoing about sex, but it’s one that outright alienates many people from their sexuality. The supposedly positive “answers to sex” that are proposed–to buy more sex toys, sex manuals, sex recreation–presume that sex is a problem to be solved, and who wants to believe that, really? Deep down, no one wants to told they are damaged and need fixing, ignorant and need educating.

What our sex positive forebears were pushing for, in their innovating sex stores, sex publishing, and sex culture, was not a consumer-based “answer” to a problem. The sex-positive paradigm shift they were pushing for, and that we’re facing backlash for now, never arrived fully enough to hate on as much as we, the next generation, are being asked to. We as sex professionals could change this sex alienation fundamentally if we could just drop this “sexpert” thing–it might be a great tool with which to sell books, but it’s not doing much to help folks find sexual self-reliance in the longterm. The “answer” to sex isn’t in a book, much as it pains me as a writer to say this; it’s in sex itself.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing a fair amount of traveling and community education around blogging & social media as tools for advocacy and social change. In two days I’ll be Malaysia for an international gathering of sex worker activists, in January I’ll be presenting at sex::tech in San Francisco and the Spring brings me to Atlanta for Sex 2.0, and summer to the Desiree Alliance’s conference in Chicago. You can always catch up with me at melissagira.com.

Read their piece and more (see below for table of contents) in Best Sex Writing 2008.