Erotica writer Shauntionne Mosley began her relationship with pleasure on the pages of her first diary and her mother’s paperback romance novels. Today, she uses her words to plunge the depths of self-love, and to describe “the honor, blessing, and burden” of being a Black writer.
This show features explicit language and sexual content, and is intended for a mature audience.
Theme song by LAS ODIO
Aria Vega [00:00:00] This podcast contains explicit content. Listener's discretion is advised. POV by Lustery explores culture, politics and creativity in the sex industry, one point of view at a time. I'm your host, Aria Vega.
Aria Vega [00:00:17] Shauntionne Mosley is an erotica writer featured in POV's online magazine. Her first story, "Solo Sessions," recounts a masturbation session enjoyed without any of her favorite dildos, because she left them in the basement at her very religious grandparents house. Shauntionne has always had a sense of humor about the uncomfortable sex talks we often have to have with elders.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:00:40] [Interview] My mom's sex talk with me was me coming home to pamphlets about STDs on my bed, and that was really it. If I had questions, I asked my aunt. I asked my mom's best friends. It takes a village, and I'm so grateful that we had one. There was a lot of things that she just, she couldn't answer because I was her daughter. I would literally see her face get flustered! Sometimes she just couldn't do it and I had questions. So I'm grateful for my aunties, my play aunties, my sisters that aren't my sisters, my play cousins who are older than me, I could go to them for certain things. And that's where like, man, I am grateful for the tribe that I was raised in, for sure.
Aria Vega [00:01:29] OK, so your mom pretty much outsourced the sex talk because she wasn't totally comfortable?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:01:34] Oh, I like how you said that!
Aria Vega [00:01:36] That was her boundary! She knew that she wasn't going to be the one to do it, but that it was important that somebody did. So she sent you to somebody to do it. And how did your your auntie talk to you about sex?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:01:47] My mama's blood sister is explicit. She was explicit in the sense that like... I was 13. I remember I was 13 and I was asking her about oral sex, and I was like, Auntie, what can you tell me about oral sex? She said, "Oh girl, you demand it!" "You demand it," that's what she said. I'll never forget it.
Aria Vega [00:02:06] Oh my god, I love her!
Shauntionne Mosley [00:02:10] "You better not be doing it, you 13!" I remember like yesterday, she said, "Oh, you demand it." My aunt don't have no kids! She is very much the fun aunt, don't call her on her birthday because she's in Italy. That's my aunt. So I think after that, that's when [she said] "But you better not be doing it!" She had to remember, Oh, sorry, you're a child. OK, let's talk it. After that, we got into using protection and making sure you consent. Conset, consent!
Aria Vega [00:02:48] Good for her! I don't think I heard that word until college.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:02:54] Like I said, fun auntie, she don't do nothing she don't want to do. And she said, when it comes to that, when it comes to sex, as soon as you don't want to do it, as soon as you are feeling uncomfortable, she said, don't do nothing you don't want to do. You can leave. I remember her saying that, you know what I mean? And I heard that from all my aunties. I heard that from my mom. There were certain topics she couldn't do, but the way that she outsourced, and the tribe that I had that kind of introduced me to sex. And also we were talking about our urban novels. My mom had those, and I mean, those were my first introductions into sex. I was sneaking to read erotica's first before I saw porn.
Aria Vega [00:03:31] So your mom had the romance novels around and you would poke through them?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:03:34] Oh, yes!
Aria Vega [00:03:35] My mom did, too! Those 90s romance novels were just stacked to the ceiling, and I could not help it. I'm like, What's going on in here?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:03:44] And I would skip straight to the part, like I would flip flip flip right to it. And then that was my first experience with it. I think I probably didn't know what oral sex was until I read it and one of my mom's books. And you know, the access that we have now wasn't there then. It's almost — in a way I kind of I'm kind of happy that that was my first relationship with porn before I ever saw a booty flick. I was reading romance literature, so I kind of liked it. That was my my slow introduction to it. I remember... oh my god, I remember getting all tingly on the inside and on the outside, which was weird when you're going through puberty, but exhilarating as fuck! And it is still now. Now to be able to explain those feelings, to write those feelings, to create a story from these feelings that I've had for so long and just could never explain... I can now. I can now, and I get to do that through writing.
Aria Vega [00:04:41] That is incredible. I love the idea of your writing erotica today as being connected to that curious kid who was discovering what pleasure could be. Did anybody talk to you about masturbation, or did you sort of figure that one out on your own?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:04:59] Oh no, I figured that one out on my own. I guess I was always by myself. I was one of those kids like, I liked to play outside. But for the most part, I was really in the house reading and writing and looking up stuff. Once I got a laptop, you couldn't take me off of it. So it's just like, I spend so much time alone, and I'm kind of grateful that that happened. I can totally explain to my partner what I want. And it feels so powerful. It's powerful to know that I can do it by myself too. That's a flex! I like that someone can do it for me, but I like that I can do it by myself, too. The first time I ever squirted, I did it by myself and I was so proud of myself! I was so proud of myself and now from doing that, I can tell someone how to do it. But the first time I did that, I was just I remember being so proud of me, and I'm still proud when I do that. So it's like this feeling of... it's a self-love thing, too. Masturbating is my favorite thing, and I definitely incorporate it with partners.
Aria Vega [00:06:00] Have you found that writing erotica and writing about sex and about sex acts and spelling it out...? Does that type of writing help you better communicate with a partner?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:06:13] One of the... With me and my partner, one thing I think is hot that we do is [that] he'll read it, he'll read my work. And he likes it not just because it's erotica, but because I wrote it and it turns me on that my brain turned him on. And that's like the hottest thing to me. He was like, Wow, you think all these dirty...? This is what's going on in your head? Yeah, you want to see about it? Being able to describe these fantasies in my head and then, you know, sometimes maybe I'm too timid to say out loud to my partner, so they read them for me. That's how we connect it.
Aria Vega [00:06:52] [Voiceover] Shauntionne began this practice of exploring her desires through the written word via journaling. Her first diary was a gift she received from her grandmother at age seven. It was a few years before Shauntionne ever wrote in that diary, but once she started, she never really stopped.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:07:09] [Interview] I started keeping them when I was twelve. Now I'm twenty-seven and I have 38 of them, and it's ongoing. So I think it started as a personal thing. And then when I started to branch out and branch out, I mean, writing for free for a really, really long time, I started to realize that like, Oh, people like this. You know, if you guys like it, I got some more of it. That's really how it started. And then I started, I think, just diving into the things that I love most. I love music, I love horror, and I love all things taboo. So it's, I think, horror and erotica go together like ice cream sandwiches. So it's just the unknown, but it's the known, though, you know what I mean? So it is. It gives you it's almost like a huge playing field for you to do whatever. And that's what I love about it. I love to do what I want, and I think with these kind of genres, you can. It's my favorite thing.
Aria Vega [00:08:03] Got it! OK, I see that common thread now. Is there a style or a genre of wordsmithing that feels most at home to you? What do you love writing about the most?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:08:14] My favorite is horror and that's in literature and film. It's easy to write about too. My favorite things are honestly horror and black people, so I always try to... I think about the neighborhood that I grew up in. What was scary about it? What can I make scarier? And I can do the same thing with erotica. What's sexy to me? How can I make it even more...? Insane? A little more out of the box? A little more fantasy?
Aria Vega [00:08:46] [Voiceover] Stories of this nature — that is deeply sensual with one foot in fantasy and the other in reality — are Shauntionne's calling card. She considers being curious enough to imagine such worlds to be a part of her spiritual lineage.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:09:01] [Interview] My father's side's more Southern Baptist, my mother's side is apostolic Christians. And growing up, there were some women who didn't cut their hair, or would wear long skirts and things of that nature. Very traditional, and my grandmother is like that. My mom didn't make us do it, she said when she was growing up, they kind of had to did it, and she didn't like it. So she never made us do it, but you know, I got baptized in church with my grandma and I had questions. I always had questions in church, even when I was a kid. There were some stories that, when I would hear it, I would ask her questions after church if I didn't understand or if I didn't like it, if I didn't agree, or what does that mean? And I still do that even now. I have this theory about like the burning bush: was that really a burning bush? Or was my man Moses in there smoking a blunt and he had a come-to-Jesus moment like a lot of people have? That's an idea to explore! That's an idea to explore. That is from my church roots and also ... I mean, you know what I mean?
Aria Vega [00:10:09] [Voiceover] Shauntionne's family has deep roots in the American South. She's currently based in her birthplace of Louisville, Kentucky.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:10:16] [Interview] I'm originally from Louisville, the West End neighborhood, or the Russell neighborhood, which is historically Black and where my family is from. It has a sense of small Black pride, you know what I mean? The western neighborhood is so historical. Muhammad Ali's childhood home is around the corner from my mom's house, and it's—those little things about Louisville are cool. And I went to the University of Kentucky, I graduated. After that, I moved to L.A. After that, I moved to Atlanta. I love Atlanta, it's one of my favorite cities in the United States, and I stayed there for about three years, and I moved home. I moved back home with the intention of kicking it and maybe moving to Chicago. Because I think I'm Kadijah from Living Single, or like the Black Carrie Bradshaw or whatever, and I just wanted to move again. And then corona said, Sit down, and that's what happened, and gosh... As devastating as this pandemic has been, I promise it has gave me the time to sit down and write, which as a person who also really is a history buff. If you look back on history, a lot of great things were written during pandemic times. I wrote more than I feel like I've ever in my life during that time. The whole world's sitting on its hands, and it was scary, you know, it still is. But as a person that also loves horror, it's a time where I had a lot of ideas. I wrote a lot of erotica. I wrote horror. There is a newspaper here called Colors Newspaper, which is a Black-owned publication based in the West End. I had a story in there published about the pandemic here and what it looks like in Black Louisville. It was a Black horror fiction of ...my great-grandmother is very in the church, and I grew up going to church with her and everything I know about God and the Bible came from her. So I made sure to mention like the Black spirituality of it, even though our our elders need us now more than ever, we need them too, as we are clearly walking through the valley of the shadow of death. And that's the whole theme of the story. Are these the last times? Maybe. And what does that look like in Black?
Aria Vega [00:12:36] [Voiceover] That question permeates all of Shauntionne's writing, and it's at the heart of her attraction to Afrofuturism, a cultural aesthetic that's commonly expressed as a subgenre of science fiction. Afrofuturism is quickly gaining mainstream popularity, as we can see with the massive success of Marvel's Black Panther and Tate Thompson's award winning literary trilogy, Rosewater. In an upcoming story for POV, Shauntionne explores Afrofuturist erotica. In the year 2060, Earth-dwellers are in desperate need of a habitable planet. Their search for a Planet B, so to speak, involves a spacecraft that its inhabitants treat like a giant Carnival cruise ship. Except that vehicle probably lacks a cyborg strip club, unlike Earth-Y-2060. Afrofuturism is too dynamic to be neatly defined so a lot of artists have their own take.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:13:33] [Interview] I think if I were to describe it in my own words, I think it's imagining Black people beyond. That's how I would describe it. I've seen on different various social media and even on some, I don't know if it's a brand, but The Future is Black— and it is. And what does that mean? Let's imagine that. Let's write about that. I want to see more films about that. We keep seeing, you know, we talk about slavery, and even when we talk about literature, specifically when I want to read a Black novel— there's so many more now— but I always go towards that urban novel, which I love. I cannot wait for The Coldest Winter Ever, but I want to see a variety of more, where... It's almost 2022. I don't want to see another slave movie, and I don't want to read another novel in that way. So that's that's Afrofuturism to me. We're going beyond. Imagine us beyond.
Aria Vega [00:14:30] I love that a lot, because one thing I've noticed about, particularly since— God, I hate this phrase— but the "racial reckoning" of 2020, I have noticed that what the media decided to do was, Oh okay, we can't let a single day go by without like telling a story about Black people. But let's make sure that we're emphasizing their traumas and struggles and the ways in which they continue to, you know, survive under white supremacy. But like, not from a way that centers joy and creativity and bliss. It's like trauma porn, which is another phrase that I don't love, but that means something. I know it's bad when I'm scrolling down my little newspaper app, and if I see a photo of a black person that is not famous, so someone who I don't recognize, I immediately assume that it's going to be a story about racism. I immediately assume it's going to be a story about a police killing or about, you know, this aspect of the pandemic is hitting Black people harder. I have no expectation and no faith in white-led media publications to present us in these ways where we are more than that. So I really appreciate that perspective.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:15:49] Yeah, thank you for resonating, it makes me feel seen! Thanks! But it's very important to me that the narrative of Black Americans in the Black diaspora is told from within, and storytelling is such a huge component within the Black diaspora. Whether you're Black American or Black from the West Indies or Black from the variety of countries in Africa and the Aboriginals... Storytelling is super important, so that's what it is. It's important that we continue to tell these stories. Like you said, we're reminded enough — and that's not saying that it is not important to talk about it. I can't wait till February, that's my favorite month of the year! But my ancestors before me weren't allowed to read or write. So the fact that I've been published in Lustery, that's based all over the world, it seems! But you know, in a country that I've never visited before. That is my reminder, for me, that is my continuation on. That's why it's important that these stories to be told from me and those that look like me and that the representation is seen as something that's important.
Aria Vega [00:17:01] Wow. I don't think I spend enough time really reflecting on what it means to be a writer and a journalist as a descendant of enslaved people who were not permitted to read or write.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:17:16] Don't get me started because you know...
Aria Vega [00:17:19] No, go, go for it, girl!
Shauntionne Mosley [00:17:21] No, no, no shade to my man Willy Shakes, I love me some Shakespeare, of course I do! But for him to be considered one of the greatest literaries when the only competition were people who looked like him... I wonder what literature would look like today if Black people were allowed to read and write. I wonder if what their journals would be like, as someone who keeps diaries. I wish more slaves had diaries. I wish we had them. I wish we could keep them. I wish they were in the US archives with everything else. I wish we had that and we don't. And I hate that we don't. So it's important that we write, I believe it to be an honor, a blessing and a burden to be a Black writer. It's me paying my dues, I think. So, it's important.
Aria Vega [00:18:15] [Voiceover] There's something quietly revolutionary about the way that Shauntionne centers Blackness in her very sensual stories. In a society that constantly denies Black people access to pleasure, she's chosen to reclaim it as boldly as she can. This reclamation is something Shauntionne embodies in her life as well as her art.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:18:36] [Interview] I love writing in the morning. I'm very much a morning person, and that's usually journal time, you know what I mean? It's never work. I don't always write about cool stuff! I don't always get to write for amazing platforms like Lustery, and sometimes it's boring. It's a little technical, it's a little corporate. So like, this is a breather time. I definitely write in my diary. Sometimes I come up with my ideas. They always usually start in the diary first and end up in a Google doc. That's that time. No work, though.
Aria Vega [00:19:07] I know that you're a huge proponent of journaling. You teach a writing workshop called Where's My Notebook: Journaling to Become a Better Writer. Can you talk a little bit more about how journaling informs your work and what, what types of things you cover in that workshop?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:19:24] Sure! Oh my gosh, that was done with Young Arthur's Greenhouse, which is a non-profit here based in Louisville, Kentucky, that oh gosh, it's amazing. It helps if you are a little kid that loves to write and you want to be published. They will help you. They have different leaders and teachers there that can guide you, and they even publish these kids' work and they're amazing. I did a workshop with them talking about how journaling can not only make you a better writer, but a better person. One of my main rules in my diary that has always been a rule since I was seven is you can't lie in this thing. So I think when it comes to storytelling, I think that's where the authenticity comes in handy. Making sure that what I'm saying resonates with real people because those are the ones who are going to read it. And even when you're doing corporate writing, if you're doing writing to sell, people don't like being sold to. So you have to learn how to strategically use different words, keywords, these different kinds of things to at least be as authentic as possible when selling your brand. So it's those kinds of things, and I learned that from writing in my diary being as honest as I can.
Aria Vega [00:20:40] What are some other ways that you go about bringing pleasure into your life?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:20:44] Waking up in the morning and smoking a blunt and drinking my tea! Specifically setting my alarm for five a.m.
Aria Vega [00:20:51] Wow!
Shauntionne Mosley [00:20:53] It makes me feel like I've woken up before everyone else. And as silly as it may sound, like I know there's someone else in the world who's awake right now, but it doesn't feel like it. It doesn't feel like someone else is. It feels like I am the only person in the world who is awake, and I love doing that.
Aria Vega [00:21:11] Okay, because you were talking about three to seven and I was imagining you naturally waking up during that time, but you set an alarm because you're that dedicated to carving out that space for yourself.
Shauntionne Mosley [00:21:23] That little bit of pleasure... And like, I don't know, after doing that with myself, how can I not want to touch myself? That's how I wrote a whole story about it. No one else in the world is awake, it's like I'm having a fantasy with me.
Aria Vega [00:21:35] What are some other boundaries that you set for yourself around pleasure and self-love? Like, what are some other ways that you make sure that happens? Like, for example, getting rid of your partner for a day, a week or whatever?
Shauntionne Mosley [00:21:48] And I love that he understands me. That's why we together! It's [that] I need to be alone, I've always been that way. I don't know, it's probably just me. I'm a cancer sun moon and rising.
Aria Vega [00:22:01] Wow, you're a triple cancer!
Shauntionne Mosley [00:22:04] Big Three!
Aria Vega [00:22:04] Okay!
Shauntionne Mosley [00:22:06] My shell is a mansion. I'm not a regular crab. It's a giant mansion and it's mine. I've already saidif I have a house, there has to be a she-shed. I have to have it, because I I like spending time with me. If you think about the amount of people in your life that love you, maybe even the amount of people like that like you! If they can do it, why can't I? If you can yearn to want to hang, Hey, let's hang out, I want to hang out with you! You know, I wanna hang out with me, too. And that is something that's really important to me. And sometimes I'm reading, I'm writing. I might lock the door and take a nap. It's just that as long as I get at least an hour, it's something that I need to do. I don't even want to call it a recharge, it's just spending time with me. It doesn't feel like recharging. It's not I don't feel drained from my days most of the time, most of the time. Let's say that! Not most of the time, but it's more so of a Whew, we haven't talked all day. How are you? Let's bring it back.
Aria Vega [00:23:18] [Voiceover] That's Shauntionne Mosley, erotica writer, triple cancer and Afrofuturist. You can find her writing at thedawnlouise.com and at lustery.com/pov. I want to talk to more of you about your own pleasure practices, erotic and otherwise. Got one to share? Reach out with an email or a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me on Twitter @vegadreamcast. If you're into the show, please leave us a five-star rating and a review. POV is brought to you by Lustery, and this episode was hosted by me, Aria Vega. It was edited and produced by Kathryn Fischer and Adrienne Teicher and our showrunner is Paulita Pappel. Lustery is the home of real life partners filming their sex lives behind closed doors. If you're 18 or older, you can find us at lustery.com, and we're on Twitter and Instagram @lusterypov. Bye now, lovers!