I have reviews in the queue to write and movies to finish watching, but it’s Saturday. I’m lazy and procrastinating and it’s what you do on day with nothing that’s pressing on you to get done. I also blame this book for my dreamy state:
It’s two of her previously published works, Lie With Me (1999), The Way of The Whore (2001) put into one volume. When I read Berger’s Maidenhead, I felt so spent after I finished it. I was physically drained from being incredibly tense all over. I was stuck between the need for physical pleasure and relief. Although titillating and exciting, Berger’s prose provoked a higher sense of expectation rather than arousal per se. I had sore shoulders from keeping my back straight at attention for the next page. It’s hard work staying like that and not realizing how physically involved I was with the book until I had put it down.
I was so tense and my back so done that I could barely review it. I didn’t want to digest it. I wanted to keep it in my stomach.
Then I wanted more.
My eyes bugged out and I lunged at the book when I spotted Little Cat in the bookstore. Sure enough, I find myself in that same erect position, flipping pages, and wondering, “How the fuck do you describe it so well?”
When I mean “it,” I mean the mundane biological and mixed emotional reactions of fucking and not giving a damn. There’s a unique perspective with individual women as there is with men. Everyone has their preferences, but I guess beyond my relating to the visceral needs of the characters in here, I admire Berger’s raw honesty in her approach to writing them.
“….my body is filled to the ends with these kinds of murmurs:
I need your cock to touch my cunt.
I need us naked for only one second.
I need us forever to be here forever.
I have always had to feel myself like I’ve never felt myself before.” – Berger, Tamara Faith, and Tamara Faith Berger. “Lie With Me.” Little Cat. Rev. 2nd ed. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2013. . Print.
It’s a beautiful rendering of the sensual and all-consuming wanting lists that come to mind with sexual urge/need. It’s basic above, but further along when our protagonist gets what she thinks she wants, there’s a continual woman’s sexual monologue and third party descriptor that pushes buttons, like a perineum word massage.
I’m in love with Berger’s writing. Much like the protagonist pleads for the reader to understand her needs and why she does what she does, I want to know because I want to know if she knows what I also want to know. Weird sentence, but that’s the tangent I get into in my head as I read Little Cat.
I’d write a review, but I’m barely finished the first half of the book. What prompts me to blog about it though is my delight at reading Berger’s words and the connection that I find so compelling in erotica. I don’t have much of a collection. Pitiful, really.
I’m a disorganized book lover and my shelves have their own weird system. I’ve somehow mixed my more erotic forms of literature with feminist texts, Freaky Fountain Press books, William S. Burroughs, Samuel R. Delany, poetry, and the Bible. The Bible can be pretty porn-y, no? Sometimes Joyce’s Ulysses finds itself up there too.
I read a lot of online erotica. I would love to read and collect more paper erotica, but I have specific things I look for and with time and age, I find there are different specifics I’d like. Life is short. Can’t waste time on duds, you know.
I think I love female erotica because it speaks to something that is rarely acknowledged: masturbation is a tool of self-empowerment. I know, as a woman, it is for me because it is my head that’s in charge of the scenario, the tools to get me there, and I do what I need. The best partners figure that out, and even then the best partners are the ones you can adapt to that or have their own ways that are natural to them to give you that pleasure.
Yet most people’s first awakening is the first touch they give themselves or the first orgasm they experience. I’ve yet to encounter anyone that has forgotten their first time coming. Most, I would think, remember it and spend most of their lives trying to recreate that first extraordinary release of tension. After that, it’s old hat and everyone creates their masturbation rituals and sexual rituals.
Porn, at its base, is ingenuous. Nothing gets hidden (except maybe in the type of porn you read or watch: fake boobs, nipped bodies, hairless encounters). At its core, there’s a universal high that is to be achieved in the making, watching, or consumption of it. For me, it’s worldly constraint that reminds us that we’re all just animals and not alone. There’s no social passive aggressiveness, no algorithms I have to navigate, there’s no angst in getting there (unless, of course, it’s a hate fuck, and that’s more for relief making the hate fuck more of a mutual masturbation session). Thus, it’s me in charge of my own pleasure.
Reading erotica doesn’t necessarily make me want to self-pleasure, but it essentially gives me the power to say, “It’s ok, other people think about this stuff too.” It’s what a good book does. You can read about dragons, spaceships, farms, tales of high adventure, stories of death and triumph, and they’re all escapes. A writer writes for all sorts of reasons, but these are dreams brought to paper. Erotica are wet fantasies brought to paper.
In BDSM erotica, a reader is given the power to dominate and submit. For women, it’s such a liberating world to play in. Growing up in a background of catholic guilt and shame for everything, part of that BDSM mental play is the guilt and the shame. It can be good and it can be bad, but reading erotica gives you the agency to manipulate it how you want and what place you want it in. Reading a good passage, entrusts the female reader to go there, where she has always been forbidden, or shamed into going. I was starved into submission by being denied what I want through guilt. Upon reading a good book, I am given a unique power with a different kind of actual submission. It feeds a starved brain and makes for a happier individual.
I don’t know. I see a tendency for people to get addicted to porn because it’s the dishonest porn. The porn that dictates what you want. It’s the kind that I saw when I saw my first ever porn magazine.
When I was a kid, I was at a friend’s house and we were playing hide and seek. I hid between the bookshelves and the bed in her big brother’s room. Underneath the bed there was a big red glossy paper. I pulled it out and saw something I’d never seen before. There were naked bodies on top of one another, tied up women smiling at me, men and women with contorted faces like they were in pain. It was a spread out of an orgy someone had taken out of a magazine. Plump rumps and hairy everything was staring back at me, creamed in many areas. It was both gross and fascinating to see, but I quickly put it back feeling a shame that felt familiar and gutting.
Many, many, many years later after sifting through different and confusing versions of porn, I realized that much of what is commercially available, isn’t targeted to me, nor is it honestly targeted. It’s a frustrating world to wade through and it’s diminishing and disturbing that it takes such a long time for some of us women to realize what we individually want. I’m sure making porn was at one point, but somehow commercial porn evolved into something that dictates rather than provides. Maybe people who heavily watch that sort of commercial porn tend to not find what they sexually need in real life? I’m just making assumptions here, but I find that what fulfills me and fulfills many is porn capacitates its viewer/reader with the means to explore and re-examine what it is they really want to sexually satisfy them.
This is why I enjoyed Matthew Pollack’s Run Run It’s Him. There’s a hint to that need for the search of that agency because the individual has a hard time finding what he wants in real life.
Recently on a tour of the Queer Outlaw Cinema exhibit at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I was thinking about Bruce LaBruce’s work, which is featured in it. LaBruce’s films do explore the sensual body as a political and radical being. You can change the world with how you use your body and you can change the world with how you react with it. Erotica is one of those tools of activism for it gives people the liberty to be in command of their sexual agency.
When the “MRA” (“men’s rights” people) came in after the female targeted tragedy in Santa Barbara this year and said, “More people will die unless you give men sexual options,” I balked. I’m sorry, but women are not in charge of your pleasure. You, everyone should be in charge of their pleasure and if you want it to be with someone else, it must be mutual and consensual for it to be an option. Men have options. Men have porn, magazines, literature, and everything that involves sex targeted to them. All you need to do is go to your nearest television show or convenience store magazine display. Even the magazines aimed at women are heavily or subtly charged with options for how to please men, ie. Cosmopolitan.
This is why books that cerebrally acknowledge a woman’s wants and give her a plethora of options don’t get ignored. We might read them in little corners, the back of the bus, or full out on our commutes, but there is a universal want for honesty in our porn. Maybe men should ask for that too because I’m sure there’s so much more to explore on the matter. You can do on your own, like we women have to as well.
But I digress. With the popularity of the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto and the new female targeted sex shops trend around the world, I’m just glad that there exists a marriage between the written word and the female experience between the sheets.
Claim your experience. Accept your wants. Explore more. Most of all, play well and with consideration, knowing everyone is still searching through their kinks too.