What Women Want
K D Grace
There’s an old tale that rears its head in multiple forms, but the two most memorable are The Wife of Bath’s Tale in the Canterbury Tales, and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell. In both stories a knight is forced to marry a hideous hag. On their wedding night, the hag offers her bridegroom the choice to have her beautiful in their marriage bed for his eyes only and hideous during the day, or to have her beautiful during the daytime for the eyes of the world while reverting to a hag at night. In both tales the knight leaves the choice to his bride, and by doing so, she rewards him by always being beautiful. When I first read these stories, I remember thinking how interesting it was that the true beauty of a woman comes through when she has a voice, when she gets to choose. There’s nothing beautiful about victim-hood, nor about being powerless. And when our voices are not heard, we are powerless.
I chose to share this story here on the Sinful Press blog because erotica is one of the places where women have a powerful voice. I don’t think it’s any surprise at all that most erotica is written by women and for women, nor do I think it’s any huge surprise that more and more men are reading it as well. Wise men, as the stories tell, listen to women’s voices. Wise men want to know, understand and make space for what women want.
I’ve written some pretty kinky, pretty dark stories, stories that at one point in my life I would have been embarrassed to read, let alone write – stories that I would have been afraid to write because … well what would other people think about me. The fact that I have confidence to write about sex, to write about women’s sexual fantasies, the fact that Sinful Press exists at all is a testament to the reclaiming of women’s voices. I think that’s also a part of why erotica is such a powerful genre on the one hand, while on the other, one that’s not taken as serious literature.
This week I’ve been asked to participate in a panel about the differences between porn and erotica, and I’ve been given the questions in advance. One of the most disturbing ones, in my opinion, though one of the most important questions to be addressed by all women is does erotica feed societies stereotypes? I would suggest that the media and the publishing industry’s controls on erotica, controls that are not placed on any other genre, is a way of reinforcing society’s stereotypes, a way of controlling women’s voices. While it’s a given that ‘boys will be boys’ and they’ll fantasize about all sorts of filthy things, our own fantasies and desire to express them through erotica, or porn written and directed by women, must be controlled for our own protection.
In a wonderful essay on why he likes to write about sex, Wallace Shaw reflects, “If I’m unexpectedly reminded that my soul and body are capable of being totally swept up in a pursuit and an activity that pigs, flies, wolves, lions and tigers also engage in, my normal picture of myself is violently disrupted. In other words, consciously, I’m aware that I’m a product of evolution, and I’m part of nature. But my unconscious mind is still partially wandering in the early 19th century and doesn’t know these things yet.”
Sadly the portrayal of women as objects of desire, of being either the innocent or the good mother and dutiful wife; of being the sex object or the whore is not something that got left behind in the 19th century, nor is the idea that if we’re given free rein with our fantasies and our creative voice, as the weaker sex, we might not be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Worse yet, we might find that we’re not satisfied with the roles that we should aspire to. The media is full of what we should look like, what we should want, how we can best please, but if we make the choice, if we let it be known, as Dame Ragnell did, what women really want, what we really fantasize about, how we really view our sexuality, if we own the fact that we are a product of evolution, a part of nature, that we do have fantasies that may involve bondage, submission, transgressive sex, or even just good old fashion romance, then we once again find ourselves dealing with the mind-set of the 19th century.
The best part of being an erotica writer, at least for me, is that I do get to choose, that I do get to stand up defiantly and say what women want – or at least what I want. Maybe by doing so, I can empower other women to do the same. That doesn’t mean that I want to live out what I write about, or that I can’t tell the difference, it means that I want to be able to voice those fantasies, I want to be able to view the darker sides of myself, the animal side of myself, the parts of me that don’t go away just because the 19th century mindset tells me I shouldn’t feel that way. Erotica is a powerful way of legitimizing our fantasies, our desires, and voicing loudly that we know our own minds, and we want to explore the depths and the richness of what women want, what women can create, what it truly is that makes us beautiful and dangerous, and a force not only to be reconned with, but a force necessary if we – all of us – are ever to move beyond the 19th century mind-set.
About K D Grace/Grace Marshall
Voted ETO Best Erotic Author of 2014, and a proud member of The Brit Babes, K D Grace believes Freud was right. In the end, it really IS all about sex, well sex and love. And nobody’s happier about that than she is, otherwise, what would she write about?
When she’s not writing, K D is veg gardening. When she’s not gardening, she’s walking. She walks her stories, and she’s serious about it. She and her husband have walked Coast to Coast across England, along with several other long-distance routes. For her, inspiration is directly proportionate to how quickly she wears out a pair of walking boots. She also enjoys martial arts, reading, watching the birds and anything that gets her outdoors.
KD has erotica published with SourceBooks, Xcite Books, Harper Collins Mischief Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace,Sweetmeats Press and others.
K D’s critically acclaimed erotic romance novels include, The Initiation of Ms Holly, Fulfilling the Contract, To Rome with Lust, and The Pet Shop. Her paranormal erotic novel, Body Temperature and Rising, the first book of her Lakeland Witches trilogy, was listed as honorable mention on Violet Blue’s Top 12 Sex Books for 2011. Books two and three, Riding the Ether, and Elemental Fire, are now also available.
Find K D Here:
Excerpt from Interviewing Wade
There on the cot, Star Trek duvet tossed on the floor, Wade Crittenden sprawled on his back naked, fast asleep, and fully erect. At some point she knew she would need to breath, but it was as though she couldn’t possibly function in any other capacity but to stand there and take Wade Crittenden into her senses. He was hard, all over hard, not the pretty-boy hard splashed across the covers of bodice rippers, but the leather and granite hard of someone who was unaware of the aesthetics of his own body, but completely in command of it as a tool of strength and stamina and grace. Why? She wondered. Wade Crittenden was a nerd. He spent his time with computers, building a better gadget. He didn’t need muscle and sinew for that.
At last she gave up her effort not to focus on his erection. It was the final violation of Wade Crittenden’s boundaries the one that her eyes should have avoided at all cost, but didn’t. She knew he was substantial, she’d felt the shape of him through his jeans in that deliciously violent encounter at the police station, and she had groped him in her kitchen, was it just two nights ago? But to see him like this, to see him naked and heavily aroused, penis stretched upward against the tense muscles of his lower abdomen, balls nestled in the fluffy curls at his groin that looked golden in the lamplight, made everything in her want.
The moan that escaped his throat reminded her to breathe again, reminded her that she was invading his private space, but still she stood unmoving. The sound from deep in his chest was the sound of someone caught up in the dream world, and as he shifted on his bed, her heart stopped. His right hand moved down the length of his chest, over his belly and curled in a long stroking caress around his heavy erection. He stretched, then ground his buttocks into the thin mattress of the cot, shifting so the smooth, straight muscles of his hips strained, then relaxed and strained again. His body glistened with a thin sheen of sweat, and the room smelled of thick forest and ozone and maleness, heavy, needy maleness, picante with clean perspiration laced with deep dream sleep.
At the moment when she should have given the man his privacy, at the moment when she should have turned and fled back to her room, he called out her name, and her heart started again, like something wild and angry trying to escape her chest.
‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,’ she gasped. ‘Wade I didn’t mean to …’ her words died in her throat. ‘Wade?’ She stepped closer to see that his eyes were still closed. His consciousness was still somewhere in the dream world. She released a shaky breath as she realized the man was still sound asleep, even as he called her name again, even as he writhed against the tangle of sheets and worked his erection with a grip that had become white-knuckled with his need. He called her name! In his dreams she was doing this to him. With her pulse hammering so loudly she could barley hear, she tiptoed into the room and knelt next to the low cot. The muscles below her belly tightened in a gripping tremor and everything down deep in her centre felt heavy and swollen and humid like the seashore she could always smell when she lusted, though she could never recall lusting like this, she could never recall feeling such a need crawling over her skin and effervescing like champagne bubbles, peeking her nipples to a painful press against her tank top and making her feel like there wasn’t enough space in her body for the swell of her.
This post is part of a guest series to promote the release of Show Me, Sir by Sonni de Soto.