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If the origin of the series and the foundation of the principle behind this series is interesting to you, then read onward, my friend.
I began writing erotica twenty years ago as I was hell-bent on discovering and owning my personal empowerment sexually/emotionally/physically. I struggled with the dichotomy of being a woman and thereby over-sexualized, and I was working through sexual trauma, shame, oppression, and so on. What a strange society we live in that provides such conflicting messages as overt sexualization and abuse-mixed with shame and oppression.
I started writing short misadventures of my attempts at discovery. Those eventually turned to heartbreak, and then were relegated to shame. I posed for Suicide Girls, then declined the contract. I picked up roles in film, theater, and in literary clubs that opened the conversations further by choosing erotica groups or taking on roles that required sexual expression. I even spent a year interviewing strippers in Portland, Oregon. Oh, the stories!
But throughout, I was writing shorts, poetry, and Letters to Lovers I’ve Never Met. I called them tidbits, landing points, and curiosities. These snippets were collected on napkins, spare sheets in notebooks, and scribbled on the backs of menus, or in the margins of my journals.
The tipping point came when I met a catfish. Yes, a catfish. It happened online, and the opportunity was ripe for a series of conversations around the topic of unfettered female sexuality—no holds barred—no shame—no judgment because there was literally nothing to lose. We’d never meet, so we could discuss everything in great detail.
For several months we spoke daily, and I sent him clips from the notebooks, journals, and tidbits.
An amazing thing happened. The collections of stories began to take shape. The language I’d struggled to find, the words I’d longed to target began to pull together. Finally, what I’d been trying to say for twenty years began to coalesce.
The conversations with the catfish came to an abrupt halt, as most of those stories do; when I wanted to meet him, he was gone like morning mist. Poof. All the better, I’m sure. What I’d needed was complete and it was time to sit down and pull my works together, catfish or not.
The resulting curation of all my erotic works coming out of the closet, so to speak, was the introduction of the Nome deplume, Blush Unbidden.
Blush is able to articulate the complexity of female sexuality and yearning in a way that is utterly different from male-centric porn, or slush factor sleaze. (Not to say that male-centric porn, and slush factor sleaze don’t have a place—only, it’s overdone, and lacks the feminine element.) Blush speaks in emotional anchors, very human vulnerability, humble curiosity, and unabashed wonderment. She’s real; both fragile and powerful,
and oh so very hungry to know all the delights of the world.
In the process of redefining the voice I would give Blush, and what type of journey or arc I’d throw her into, I had to sit down and truly frame out what erotica meant to me as a woman and an author.
What does erotica mean? What does female sexual empowerment mean? How does that work in our modern dating/relationship dynamics? What guardrails for health and safety need to be mentioned or respected? Where will I refuse to go? As an author…what is my writing safe word, as in, where will I reach the edge of the adventure?
It ended up being a much more in-depth process than I’d expected. By the time I was done putting the framework in place, #metoo was in full force and the media attention and backlash against women speaking out about sexuality and sexual abuse was so intense I stepped back. I was too tired to take the topic head on in the middle of the storm, but I fully acknowledged that if we’d had a better understanding of female sexual empowerment, female erotica, and autonomous voice fifty years ago—we might never have needed a #metoo hashtag.
Right about that same time the photographer I’d booked to work with for artistic nudes to accompany the next release passed away. Simultaneously, I’d received several emails from readers of the first installment of The Life Erotic, stating that the material had made them weep.
“I ugly cried.” One reader told me.
I was devastated. No one wants an ugly cry in the middle of their sexy time. It was so not what I had aimed for that I thought for certain I had botched the series horribly. I boxed up the notes, put the manuscripts in the archive and locked it all away.
FIVE YEARS PASSED
I continued to write shorts, tidbits, and Letters to Lovers I’ve Never Met, but I tucked them in the archive and focused all my energy on my other series under my given name, Athena. The Pillars of Dawn is a fantasy fiction series, which not unsurprisingly has quite a lot of adult sexual content in it.
Then I had an unexpected conversation with a reader who finished Scold of Jays, and who had also read The Life Erotic Week One: Reawakening.
In a nutshell she said something along the lines of, “I love how you write Fable’s scenes. The sex is so hot, and it’s so powerful. It’s part of the story, not just put in to be porn. She has no shame. I can’t remember what it’s like to have sex like that with no shame. It made me ask myself and my partner some hard questions. It made me think of that other series you write about the erotic stories. When is the next one of those coming out?”
I told her I’d stopped writing The Life Erotic because they apparently made people cry. I was more than a little frustrated with my inability to hit the right emotional note.
She seemed surprised, “Really? That’s what I loved about it. It made me have an emotional release AND a sexual release. I cried because it made me believe again.”
If I said I was stupefied, it would still not adequately express my feeling that moment. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t believe what she was saying. When she left the coffee shop I sat mindlessly at my laptop, dazed.
Believe is such a powerful word. Too powerful for my simple little short stories. Too powerful for my little provincial clutch of tidbits.
Then I got hung up on the word “Shame”.
Gah. Shame. The destroyer of intimacy. The bane of connection. The foul stink in the rose garden of…well, you get it.
Shame has no place in erotic content, or in intimacy, or in relationship dynamics that are reliant on trust. I could go on for a thousand pages on the damages of shame in the context of sexuality—instead I will say this:
Shame is a control mechanism. It is only used by a partner to destabilize or disempower—and it is only used by ourselves to repress or subvert impulses, desires, or wantings. The only purpose shame has in the world of adult content is to curb, corral, or alienate.
(The only appropriate form of shame I can endorse is as a form of punishment for abuse, criminal behavior, or to enforce standards of ethical boundaries, as in—shame only when ethics are violated.)
Shame is a punishment. Period. And not to be a ghostly or even weaponized force in the most vulnerable and exquisite parts of our relationship dynamics, and use of our bodies.
Wherein consenting adults participate, there is no room left for shame because the pleasure of such unfettered freedom and shared ecstasy leaves no oxygen for the cruelty that is mortification.
Her conversation spurred me to go back to the source material. I pulled all The Life Erotic boxes out of the closet, and opened the digital archive. I was so motivated by the idea that women out there are still held back from their most liberated sexual expressions by shame (and a plethora of other topics) that I dumped all the work on my living room floor and started sorting the notes.
Shame as a whole goes against literally everything Blush Unbidden stands for. All that she is is reliant on willingness, freedom, wild abandon, acceptance, and joyful curiosity. It’s impossible to be a hedonistic sybarite if you’re bound by shame.
It wasn’t just my frustration for my fellow ladies that spurred me on to revisit the material. It was my sadness for how this viral toxin that is shame affects men as well. The global and cultural disconnect around the autonomy of the female body, the lack of acceptance of all shapes and sizes, the confusing yet glorious profusion of differences in our sexual desires and expressions, genders and identifications has made the idea of finding true intimate connections a prospect with less viable probability than winning the Megaball.
I hate to say it, but I think sometimes men are flummoxed about how to date in this new arena. Without the traditional binary standards to comply with, AND what is perceived as a minefield of danger, they get squeamish around the feminists, and flinchy around anything that doesn’t smack of reliably traditional (Even though most of them will heartily agree that the traditions are already mostly obsolete). They still struggle with how to navigate in these new waters.
They don’t want to be accused of #metoo, or #rapeculture, or #creepers – but unfortunately, many of them simply don’t know HOW to approach women without setting off all the alarm bells, and they are petrified of being mislabeled and never recovering from the stigma or the shame themselves.
So where does that leave all my fellow ladies? High-centered and sexually frustrated. It’s no wonder that the Fifty Shades of Grey books were so fantastically successful. The conversation of female desires, and yearnings were at least being approached (well or not is debatable) These proclivities that were, to some, shame based--were finally topics of mainstream conversation. (To be clear, bondage and BDSM are not meant to be shame based or toxic, there are actually very healthy outlets in those sexual genres). It was an exciting, titillating, panty-soaking explosion of a feminine dialog that had been too long withheld.
For my take on it, Fifty Shades was a start, but it’s still miles from being a healthy, holistic, and fully liberated approach to female/male sexual empowerment AND an enriched human partnership within the realm of sexy vulnerability and trust. Still, it was an icebreaker, so, good on ya, E.L. James.
So where does this all lead The Life Erotic?
Merging brands and coming out from behind the pen name is a risk on lots of levels. However, the topics of female sexual empowerment, feminine gratification, and erotic freedom are very dear to me as a person and as an author. These concepts bleed over into my other series and genres. It’s a platform I can’t seem to avoid, and wouldn’t want to even if I could. It’s time to talk about it.
In the last twenty years the world has changed significantly around the topics at hand, but in many ways we are still stunted as a culture, and backward in our ways of understanding women, pleasure, and desire. It’s probably safe to say men try to legislate the female body BECAUSE of this disconnect.
Coming out of the closet is a step toward my own freedom, and the freedom of my fellow ladies as well. And let’s not dismiss the very real truth that when we as women are truly free to be ourselves in the bedroom and in relationships, and in the eyes of the law—then so too are the men in our lives freed to be themselves without the weighty burden of imbalance.
Dear men of this world,
Wouldn’t you love to know the woman in bed with you is there because she wants to be, yearns to be, aches to be filled by you—as deeply as you can go? Wouldn’t you love to know she feels freedom, from her sinew and helix all the way to her toes, and in that awareness—she longs for you? No doubt. No questions. No hesitation—she wants you? In the moment, she is yours because she gives herself willingly and would fight to prove that willingness if anyone questioned your motives? Would you sleep better at night knowing the woman you love would ferociously protect the quality of your nobility just as fearlessly as you would protect her from harm?
It boils down to engaging in the dialog. Blush Unbidden and The Life Erotic is here to create conversation. When women told me The Life Erotic Week One: Reawakening made them cry, I had to do a lot of questioning to tease out that snag.
It kept coming back to trust, vulnerability—and being seen. Let’s be totally honest—those three things alone are like the hottest aphrodisiacs on the planet.
I don’t mean, “you have pretty eyes.” Or “You’re so hot.” NO.
I mean being seen, truly seen, all the way to your pulsing aching center kind of seen. Yes, I have cried with relief and pent up pain when I felt seen for the first time in a very long time. (Made for a super awkward date ending to be sure).
Blush sees her lover this way. She also sees herself this way, and in the course of the series arc realizes she doesn’t like what she sees in herself, and sets out to correct the parts of herself that she doesn’t want to live with anymore so she can be a more independent woman, and an even better lover to the man she adores.
The tenderness she shares with her lovers; the unbridled passionate hunger, and her trembling timid courage fueled by desires make her an excellent mouthpiece to tell the story of coming into an unfettered female sexual freedom in a world where the rules are literally legislated against such profound independent and personal feminine sovereignty.
The sybaritic platform is the perfect stage for B. Unbidden’s explorations of liberty, autonomy, and thirst for life in all its gritty and glorious experiences. She is both a poet and a warrior, and I am profoundly blessed that her Muse has allowed me to attempt to scribe Blush’s journey.
I can only hope I do her stories justice. I deeply hope I can entertain, inspire…and arouse. So, without further ado….
The Life Erotic Week Two: Nibbles
It’s been a pleasure to watch you growing up these last few years. It’s been a privilege to watch your parents sort out the larger humanitarian questions and fundamental concepts around your spiritual and emotional education. You’re a beautiful young man, with a wicked dry sense of humor and a glowing compassionate heart. You. Are. A. Treasure.
What can I possibly say on the matter of becoming a good human being? What milestone is the metric to which that comparison will be made again and again as you go out and participate in the world at large?
I worry that claiming my version of “good” will imply all others are “not good” so from now on I won’t call it good or bad. I won’t intend male or female binary statements in the qualifier of the following, but will say instead; we are all, all of us, attempting to live our most noble lives and achieve our best character expressions with what we have been given or have learned.
The first step, I believe, is discovering and empowering your personal nobility, which is neither male nor female. It is neither good nor bad. It is however, yours and yours alone. It is specific to you. Some will call it honor. Be wary of that label, honor. It is steeped in toxic gender histories and a multiverse of religious interpretations. One person’s banner of honor is another’s claim to cruelty or oppression. (See honor killings, war, female sexual oppression, familial obligation, and so on—all falling under someone’s claim to honor).
Honor and personal nobility can be similar in nature, but your personal nobility is self-made. It is neither inherited, or absorbed by conditioning. Neither is it subject to the control dynamics of others, or the baggage of obligation. It is yours, designed by you, practiced by you, owned entirely by your own will. Personal nobility is able to evolve, learn and stretch to include those new learnings. Honor can be rigid, breakable, and it is often flawed by near-sighted logic failure.
Another way to look at the difference is that personal nobility requires questioning, upkeep, and at the very least occasional evaluation from which new personal revolutions emerge.
It should also be mentioned that while someone may attempt to impugn your honor or place value statements on what they believe your honor should be—no one can impugn your personal nobility, save you. You are the only judge and measure by which your nobility is quantified.
It is similar to integrity. It is inherently intertwined with the fabric of your character and will, if you choose, never be totally separate from your decisions, actions, and the weight of your convictions. The answers will always be what you can or cannot live with. What you can or cannot abide by. What you can or cannot affiliate yourself with. What you can or cannot own to be a part of.
So now you’ve got Personal Nobility, your molten metal core. Now what?
I’d like to tell you the world is a safe and peaceful place. Instead, I will tell you it is magical, dynamic, exhilarating, terrifying, and gloriously inconsistent. It is breathtakingly diverse, magnificently unpredictable, and there is nothing quite like drawing breath each morning and knowing the profound gratitude of having this blue planet playground to explore. What are you waiting for?
With personal nobility as your axis of gravity, all else is moving. There is no right or wrong moment to engage, except those dictated by your core. The complexity of this world is so fierce, so passionately interwoven—it is nearly impossible to take a step, draw a breath, or blink in the rain without causing an action upon the quantum reality in which you are trying to become fully realized—so the trick to being a human….is to remember that we are all human. We are all in a perpetual state of becoming.
I’ll step inside here to say, as a writer I get to bring a million types of characters to life with my words. I get to paint with broad, flat strokes the images we think we humans make—but the truth is, humans are so immensely complex, so infinitely faceted, that you could spend a thousand summers trying to understand them, and they will still surprise you in the most unexpected ways. Some will break your heart with cruelty, and others will destroy you with raw beauty—and you may end up thanking them both in the end. See? Unpredictable.
I can only say from my own experiences, but in matters of human complexity my experiences with evil, bigotry, -isms, hatred, xenophobia, and all the darker aspects that we are both capable of, and exposed to simply by being—do not stem from a vacuum of goodness. No, they exist, flourish, even thrive on fear.
Fear seems to be the inception point where the darkest qualities of humanity emerge and wreak havoc on communities, evolution, relationships, nations, and the greater part of our shared collective experience. Fear is the primordial goo in which our primitive selves have still not learned to grow legs and walk. You could say fear is the root of all evil—but I would argue that it is the stew of all HUMAN darkness.
You are not exempt. I am not exempt. No one is exempt from fear. It may manifest as narcissism. It may show itself as violence. It may bloom into being through control dynamics, toxic behavior patterns, and oppression. You have the capability of being in fear, and the capacity to spread fear.
The antithesis of fear is love.
Love may be the most courageous thing you will do in your entire life.
Loving even those people who don’t seem to deserve it, is an act of courage.
Now, let’s be clear—loving those foul bastards who commit grievances, acts of cruelty, fear, and violence—loving them doesn’t mean you have to invite them over for brunch and serve them on your best china. I mean, it might. That’s up to you. It’s a call your inner nobility will make.
What I mean by loving those who do us injury is, not reflecting their fear back to them.
Does that make sense? Love in the most powerful acceptance of totality is knowing they are flawed, terribly, awfully, pitifully so—and not letting that knowledge rip you up inside. It’s about not letting their torment in. Love them but LOVE YOURSELF MORE, and they will take their fear and go elsewhere. Reflecting their hate, or fear, or violence will make them more powerful, like condensing a sunbeam through a magnifying glass onto an ant---only you’d be the ant and you wouldn’t even know it.
That same reflection process can be used in love and acceptance for a similar, often more potent effect.
How you ask? Well, I’ll let you know when I get that part nailed down. See? I’m still human, still working on my process too. I still yell at the asshole who cuts me off in traffic—so, all I can say on the matter is it’s a theory in progress, but the greater practice as a whole shows exciting promise.
I will tell you this though, the part about love being the most courageous thing you will ever do—that part is 100% true. Strangely, one of the most difficult people to love is ourselves. How odd, right? I mean, we are wired for survival—and love is part of survival. We need love, and yet the vast majority of this human population secretly (or not so secretly) loathes their own company. Most people hate their body, their hair, their voice, their actions. How heartbreaking. We live in fear of ourselves, and reflect that fear upon anyone and everyone in our immediate circle.
I might go so far as to say the most radical act of courage left on this planet is genuine self-acceptance and love. Even I don’t have that courage yet, but writing to you makes me realize I need to get on that.
Love in romance, partnership, community, family, and friends. Love for your world, your animal companions, the stars and the sky, the oceans and forests—it all has the ability to blow your mind. The first time you stare into a person and see them, really see them, and love them for all their flawed imperfections, in fact, because of their imperfections—the first time you fall into that kind of love it’s like seeing the face of divinity. If you don’t believe in god/goddess—that moment might make you question what infinity really is.
Perhaps the answer is that love IS divinity? But we’ll wax long and theological someday when you’re old enough to have a dram with me and ponder the nature of totality.
Until then, I truly wish you the greatest adventures on the quest for your own answers around the living expressions and experiments in Fear and Love. I wish you compassion, curiosity, an open-heart, and a willing spirit. Good luck, Firefly.
As to any nuggets for the journey I will throw in these gifts from my teachers.
Learn and understand the differences between moral, ethical, and legal. Your inner nobility may look like an elaborate knotwork between them all. You make your own lines. They are yours to draw now. That’s what becoming an adult human is. You draw your lines, live in those lines, then reevaluate and draw them again.
Ethics uphold the rights and autonomy of all involved to the best possible degree.
Morals should be ethical, but often are not. IE: It was once morally acceptable to own and keep slaves. It was also legal, because the moralists who believed in slavery, legislated it. But it was never once, even in the smallest fraction ethical. See?
And you would think that legal would be both moral and ethical, but it is not always the case. The law has a lag time, and is often affected by moral judgements or honor pronunciations of religious affiliations that are long out of date. IE: It was once legal for a man to beat or rape his wife—it was also morally acceptable. But it never was, nor will it ever be ethical.
Knowing the differences in these codes will help you define your own. You get to be the one who decides if you are moral, legal, or ethical so long as you keep in mind you are working with humans, and we are all trying to get to a better version of ourselves. We don’t have it all sorted just yet. Be patient. Work on your own nobility, and let others design theirs.
In the words of my old DM in the RPG group I played with. “You’re either lawful, chaotic, or neutral. Unless you’re Athena, who decided to write in ‘None of the Above’.”
To be fair, I think the exact wording on my character sheet was, “N/A. These over-simplified tropes fail to accommodate for the complexity of character range in a myriad of complicated opportunities. I refuse to be forced into a cardboard character profile…” Or some such similar rubbish like that.
Anyhoo, the point I’m trying to make is this:
You are not only one or the other. You are not only this or that. There is no you or them. You are a human, and therefore contain multitudes. You become what you do. You become what you say. Your actions define your character, over and over again, and your character is defined by the nobility you design for yourself. You do the best you can as often as you can. And when you can’t, you don’t. Then you try again the next day.
You’ll mess up. We all do. I mess up all the time. I lose my temper or get scared and snarly.
Say you’re sorry, and try to do better—that alone will put you miles and decades ahead.
The good or bad of it is only what you allow yourself to own, and what you resolve to improve upon.
When you leave your parents’ home, you can no longer claim their nobility or flaws as yours. When you join society as an independent, you can no longer blame, shame, or give away your responsibilities.
That part when you pick up your own baggage and make your own way…that’s the part when you get to decide if you are a good/bad/ man/woman/person or N/A.
Adulthood is only earned when you realize you can’t blame your upbringing anymore. Adulthood is only earned when you step out from what you were taught, and decide for yourself what the answer should be—then remake yourself accordingly. That might mean making amends, apologies, or requests for forgiveness. Adulthood happens when you are grateful for what you were given, appreciate the foundation upon which you were begun—but you’re ready to take the human story farther than those before you were ready or able.
Your journey into adulthood begins, but it may take years for you to realize the feeling of being “adult”. In the country we live in, boys and girls are sent to fight and die in wars declared by men who’ve never bled. Adulthood isn’t stamped upon you with an age verification license, and access to a military grade semi-automatic rifle.
Adulthood is granted when you ask, think, question, and consciously CHOOSE for yourself. Others might not agree with your choice—it is yours all the same, and your right to it just as sacred. The right or wrong of the choice, the good or bad of it—that’s for your nobility and the ethics committees to sort out. The point is, adulting is making the decisions and standing prepared for the feedback.
Adulting is actively exercising your autonomy. Good or bad is up to you. I happen to know you, and have utter faith in your version of what good means, so I won’t lecture on that. Know you have my confidence, and you also have my respect and compassion when that goodness tilts or wobbles, because it might. I will adore you anyway, and your community will help you sort out a wobble if it happens. As hard as it is for some people to be honest about, I will be blunt and say—humans wobble. It is part of the journey.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten all the important things. I’m guessing I’ll think of something suitably useful and marginally brilliant only after I hit the send button, but that’s just how these things go, I guess. I hope you’re able to find some of this useful. Keep what works, and discard the rest. You know how to reach me for chats when there’s more talking to be had. I’m part of your community, always.
Perfection is overrated, and often at the expense of originality. Aesthetic beauty can be bought. That which is genuine has no price. Compassion and forgiveness neutralize nearly all inner turmoil. Dreams and visions are just realities that have yet to materialize for those who will love them into being. So, keep dreaming, keep loving.
And at the end of the day, this Universe is spiraling toward entropy—so don’t take it all so fucking serious. The joke is totally on us. Enjoy the ride.
Good luck to you, Firefly. Thank you for being ready and willing to take on the world for us who have so blithely bungled the whole of it. On behalf of all of us, I’m sorry for the mess you’re inheriting. That being said, I hope with all my heart you find the adventure of a lifetime in the process.
There is still room to sign up for my 2020 Planning Workshop. Class starts at 10am on the 19th, and includes lunch and supplies. We’ll be mapping out your goals and setting up an easy step method to get you to your dreams.
Shoot me an email for reservation information. email@example.com
In other news, I have already mapped out my year, and created continuation goals for the next three year. As most folks know, I LOVE JANUARY! Here’s a previous post on my adoration of mapping and goal setting.
I’m a geek for challenges and organization—so this month has been a deep dive into what I really want in the next few years, and how to go about achieving it all. I’ll post more on this after the workshop.
Also, stay tuned for more information on The Elder Glade Market.
New Elder Glade Menagerie Member: Dakota
In other news, I adopted a large German Shepherd/Husky mix this month. Her name is Dakota. She’s such a great animal; super patient, affectionate and gentle. Unfortunately, she’s currently at the vet with a series of issues. I’ll blog more on this as I’m able. It’s been a very emotional, stressful event, and I’ve been having a hard time finding words that are somewhat neutral and compassionate around the details.
Please say hello to Dakota!
This update is just a short and sweet check-in to get back on track. Please feel free to write in with requests for future content.
Have a lovely 2020, folks! Be safe—but dream big.