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