I read my first ‘smutty’ book when I was 12. Alas, due to the now thousands of romance and erotic novels I’ve read in my life, I don't remember what that particular one was about. It could have been the pages of a bodice ripper about a young woman escaping Union land in 1862 who fell in love with a handsome ‘Yankee’ soldier. It could have been about two youngsters who were madly in love and ran away to become famous in Hollywood. Or it could have been about a middle-aged widow who lived a life of excitement and pleasure after receiving an unexpected windfall…
All I remember about that first book was how it made me feel.
In my conservative Christian childhood home, books like this were taboo. Worse than taboo. They were evil, filthy and absolutely prohibited. Even Harry Potter or other innocent but fantastical characters didn’t grace my bookshelves until I was in my twenties, so you might wonder how I even got my hands on anything that titillating.
I got these books from my dear aunt who passed away when I was 10. Back in those days, she was considered a ‘spinster’ who ‘waited too long’ to marry, though today I know her more as a woman who exercised her right to live her life the way she wanted to. She loved her own company, but she was also a woman… Yes, a red-blooded woman who spent her time reading books about handsome heroes and salacious rascals.
After she died, her novels filled the spaces between the religious books in our communal bookcase. By some God-given miracle, they remained there for several years. And that’s where my life of loving adult romance and erotica began…
I remember hiding them in my room or between my bed covers, only to be brought out when I was supposed to be sleeping. I remember silently and fervently turning the pages deep into the night by the light of a penlight. And I remember the feeling. The sweet, thumping sensation between my legs, the way my stomach dipped at the most romantic utterances and devilish actions. It felt illegal… and freeing.
“I remember silently and fervently turning the pages deep into the night by the light of a penlight…”
Growing up in a home so conservative, I was conditioned to believe that women's pleasure, passions and desires are as taboo (if not more so) than those books I couldn't get enough of when I was younger. The shame I felt as a teenager when I spoke too animatedly to a boy from church or when my mother spied me wearing a skirt that was “too short” was, quite frankly, debilitating.
Twenty years have passed since then, but even after marrying a man that I love, even after experiencing the type of incredible and freeing sex I hope every other woman has the opportunity to have, that shame followed me around. I was still reading smut and feeling ashamed, and even doing things in my marital bed (normal, healthy, intimate things) that would later cause heart-breaking guilt.
Just as I’d found my early salvation in reading, I went on to find a cure for shame in writing. Today, I know that women's pleasure is not just valid but is magic. To delve into our deepest desires, to learn and touch our own bodies, to be touched to the point of heavenly agony is not taboo or illegal. It’s freeing. And when I discovered this, I wrote. And I wrote and wrote and wrote. The more I did it, the less shame I felt. And the less shame I felt, the more freedom I experienced.
“Just as I’d found my early salvation in reading, I went on to find the cure for my shame in writing.”
This freedom from the shackles of shame and control over our bodies is what we all deserve. And although many women today enjoy freedom in their sex lives, I believe that women who grew up like me – who were taught to please but never be pleased – are more common.
Erotica is the poetry of porn. It's not about the quickest way to an orgasm; it's the anticipation of an orgasm. It's feeling your heart beat and your lips pulse with desire; it's about every sensation blossoming on your skin and in your mind. It's the scrape of fingernails on paper while your other hand explores and gives pleasure only you know how to give. It's the way a few lines can make you feel magical, powerful, unstoppable. It's the beautiful build-up, and only then is it the orgasm of body, mind and spirit.
A woman's pleasure should be untamed and free of guilt. So if I were to offer one piece of advice, it’s this: Keep reading about the marriage of convenience that turns into sweaty, entangled limbs. Keep writing about the enemies-to-lovers and the knaves with a soft heart and a hard cock. Or the alien, or the werewolf, or the vampire who can please a you in a way no mere mortal man could ever dream to…
Erotica is a gift for all, and everything goes. Keep enjoying the freedom of your pleasure – if you’re like me, your life may literally depend on it.