I got a kindle as a gift over this past holiday season on which I’m planning to use as an erotica library The first book I downloaded into it was Sex and Cupcakes: A Collection of Juicy Essays, by Rachel Kramer Bussel. I’d been wanting to read this book since it was published in the latter part of last year. I’d heard it was exceptionally good. I read it in bed the same evening I purchased it, and my only disappointment with it was how quickly I devoured each of her nine gemlike essays, which whetted my appetite for her writing and left me hungry for more. Rachel is not only the excellent editor of more than fifty erotic anthologies, each of which contains a story she’s written, she also writes for Bust, Dame, Salon, the Daily Beast, Elle, Glamour, and well, you name it — if it’s about erotic issues she writes for it and she does it well.
The first essay in the book, I Have Trouble With Orgasms, touches on a subject near and dear to my heart — not to mention other key portions of my anatomy. It is, in fact, a major theme in my now completed, but not yet published book, PERFECT STRANGERS: One Woman’s Journey Through the Swinging Seventies, which deals with the tremendous pressure put on women of that era to have vaginal orgasms — simultaneously achieved ones prefered, if you please — and my personal torment as a young married woman, and later as a still young divorced woman. when I fell short of that goal. I was consequently impressed, not only by Rachel’s unflinching honesty about such an intimate issue, but also to learn that one of the foremost sex writers of current times, doesn’t come easily either — although as a thirty-something, post feminist woman, she seems to be far less hard on herself about the issue than I was at the time.
Her second essay, I’m Pro-Choice and I Fuck , wowed me as well — another dear to my heart subject that it’s hard to believe is still in need of discussion — but it absolutely is, and Rachel did it well. I also loved MONOGAMISHMASH, a discussion about her potentially monogamous relationship and what that might mean. This essay grabbed my attention because three decades ago, my husband and I began a committed and openish relationship, which luckily served us well, although after dropping out of the scene in the mid-nineties, we gradually evolved into a monogamous couple. But then a few years ago while in our sixties, we mutually decided that an occasional threesome, or moresome, and an occasional foray into the party scene, would effectively enliven our desire for each other and spice up our marriage. I’m delighted to say it definitely has and that, for now, we’re pleased with our monogamish relationship. Having now been partnered for over three decades, I ‘ll venture to say that the sexual evolution of a relationship is a work in progress throughout.
I’m also reading Master Of O, by Ernest Greene, husband of porn star, sex educato,r and sex positive femininst, Nina Hartley, and the capital D in their D/s relationship. The book is the Story of O, from the dominant male point of view and set in modern-day Los Angeles. I ‘m really enjoying this book and recommend it to anyone with a genuine interest in BDSM — it’s everything Shades of Grey isn’t, complete with skillfully written and natural dialogue, and great interplay between Dom and submissive.
Good news on the home front, Rachel Kramer Bussel recently informed me that the print date for Dirty Dates will be this November, and my story, The Corset is the first one in the book. I hope to have the book cover up on my site before long. I still have other stories waiting in the wings for publisher approval and will hopefully have good news about those very soon.
We proceeded with caution as we moved through the 80s, realizing the potentially dire consequences of the “if it feels good do it” school of thought, regarding impromptu hookups and unprotected sexual encounters. But propelled by our lust and unflagging desire, and armed with rubbers, dental dams spermicides and the like, we proceeded, none the less.
When thinking back on the 80s, I remember big hair and over-sized shoulders — influenced by TV shows such as Dallas and Dynasty — strong-hued lip color, sharply accented cheekbones, enormous earrings, fingerless gloves, and darkly outlined eyes. We were hard-edged in that decade, in our Doc Martens, high platform boots and needle-toed pumps, and in our formfitting skirts and slashed jeans. Leather was in, bigtime, along with a rise in popularity of tattoos and body piercings — in a blatantly sexualized look that glamorized both Punk fashion and the trappings of BDSM Culture. Heavy chains worn as belts and ripped fish-net stockings; safety pins, studded leather collars and wrist cuffs became mainstream fashion accessories — worn by teeny boppers who were drawn to the look because it was in — with little or no inkling of the counterculture lifestyles they emulated.
Art at that time was hard-edged as well and designed to be decorative. Think Patrick Nagle and his stark female illustrations , and the deliciously strong-hued, lushly erotic individuals painted by Polish artist, Johanna Zjawinska. For me, strong memories of music videos recalls Robert Plant and his pale-faced, red-lipped, hypersexualized women with darkly made-up eyes, in the mid-80s video Addicted to Love — and, of course, Material Girl, Madonna, whose lyrics and images typified the aspirations of the decade — as did fictional character, Gordon Gekko’s memorable statement, “Greed is good”, in the 1987 film, WallStreet. Prominent books on my reading list at that time included, Anne Rice’s now immortal BDSM trilogy, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, published in the mid-80s, and 9 1/2 Weeks, the cautionary tale of a Dominant/submissive romance that escalates beyond limits, that was made into a film a few years later.
On a personal level, my entrance into a committed relationship in 1983, brought about a major shift in focus from the swing parties and indiscriminate couplings I’d experienced in the prior decade — as well as a shift from primarily vanilla sex.
My husband and I, as a BDSM couple, were fortunate in that our erotic fantasies were compatible, both in nature and intensity — and that we were both strongly attracted to the excitement of the party scene and public play. This led us to an ongoing erotic adventure involving an agreed upon power exchange and intense forms of foreplay, such as sensation play, bondage, and the use of sex toys. Such play occurred with or alongside other players, and was enormously arousing in itself, even to orgasm — without involving risky behaviors such as penetrative sex, thus radically minimizing our STD risk. For me, my new, non-promiscious lifestyle provided an opportunity to play and explore with multiple partners, within the confines of commitment — offering me, from my point of view, the erotic best of both decades.
At the time we entered the scene, the main venues for play among straight kinky couples was the now defunct, Gemini club, which catered to Male Dominant and female submissive pairings — as did its counterpart, the Scorpio club, in LA, where we once attended a never to be forgotten Story of O party. The still active, pansexual, Society of Janus, was dedicated to the promotion of safe, sane, and consensual BDSM play, with bi-monthly programs designed to educate, as well as provide the kinky community with a non-sexual, highly arousing sexual outlet.
My husband and I also attended parties at the Catacombs, which was originally a private men’s fist fucking club. When the club closed its doors in 1984 due to concerns over the AIDs epidemic and consequent restraints on freedom of play, the space reopened as Shotwell Meeting House, in SF’s steamy South of Market — emerging as the primary play space for straight and bi couples in the kinky community, as well as the site of Janus’ educational programs.
My husband and I continued to be active in the scene throughout the decade. By the time the 80s drew to a close, we were old-time members of the Bay Area BDSM community — and as we neared our fifth decade, the hyper-intensity of virgin experience was behind us, and the effects of late night parties began requiring abit longer recovery time. But still, we partied on.
I attended the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, 9/20, my first time ever at this iconic San Francisco evcnt. I can’t say why, considering my long history in the local erotic community. Over the years I’ve attended Gay Pride celebrations, partied on Polk Street, visited the Bizarre Flea Market, and been a vendor at the Castro Street Fair. Somehow I never got around to attending Folsom Street until now. Sicne my recent big birthday, I’m all for doing anything interesting I haven’t done before — and if it feels good, I’ll do it again. (This might mean you can take the girl out of the 70s, but can’t take the 70s out of the girl.)
I’ve heard Folsom gets rowdier and raunchier as the day wears on. Consequently, being a very small person who tends to avoid large crowds, my friend and I arrived when the fair opened in the morning at eleven and left before two, while the streets were still easily negotiable. What impressed me the most about Folsom St. in the time I spent there was not the naked people, or folks on leashes, or public floggings, or pony girls, or Master/slave interactions — although I must say it all seemed like good clean fun to me. But what stood out for me was the solid feeling of community I felt as I wandered along, checking out the information displays and artisan booths and the people around my. As a horny old girl who has been in an alternative style relationship for decades, I didn’t see anything of a sexual nature that shocked or offended me in any way — although in the year 2014, I was really sorry to see displays of kinky toys made of animal fur.
I particualy enjoyed seeing more than a few mature BDSM couples, walking hand in hand, or in some cases, leash in hand, along the street — just old timer kinky folks, out having a stroll though their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon — and from the look of things, still hot, after all these years. For me, attending Folsom St. was a delightful journey into live theater and I enjoyed myself a lot. I many go again next year.
It turned out that my decision to change my lifestyle for a less promiscuous one was excellently timed on my part. During the 60s and 70s — as far as the average, sexually active person knew — STDs resulting from indiscriminate sexual contact could be treated and cured with antibiotics — and dreaded exceptions, such as Herpes or genital warts, could at least be treated to manage symptoms. And this mindset, based as it was on lust and ignorance, generated a less than desirable level of vigilance about safe sex. But with the advent of the 80s and the newly discovered AIDS epidemic, for many people sexual behavior underwent an immediate and radical change.
The term “safe sex” entered our vocabularies. Bowls of condoms began appearing at party houses and sex clubs. Casual hook-ups, even with the use of condoms were viewed as potentially dangerous behavior. Consequently, one-on-one came into vogue again. Romance was back. Celibacy was celebrated. True love waited. People talked of marriage again.
Personally, I didn’t plan on taking matters that far, but although I retained grave reservations about the institution of marriage itself, I did feel ripe for a committed relationship. What I wanted was a special type of partner — a sexual main-man, so to speak, someone strong and emotionally secure — with the steadfast dependability and trustworthiness of a platonic best friend, combined with the erotic focus of my most favorite lovers. And I wanted this, please, all rolled up into one hot, hard, erotically adventurous man, to be enjoyed on a longterm basis.
Missing from this equation was someone to have that relationship with.
With further pursuit of casual hook-ups now off the table, I found men who turned me on and who were likely candidates for commitment to be disappointingly few and far between. But although I felt lonely and horny without my accustomed sexual distractions, I was unwilling to settle. My main social interactions were with my young adult children or women friends, or an occasional fling with an old friend-with-benefits. Aside from that I stayed home a lot, adopted a dog who turned out to be excellent company, and began to clarify my specific relationship needs in my mind, based on my plethora of personal experience.
The culmination of this semi-celibate time in my life was the personal ad I placed in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, in late 1983. The responses were many, but the one that mattered came from a man who had somehow read between the lines of my relationship ad, and responded with a letter — we wrote actual letters in those days — offering me “a special kind of erotic intimacy”, that he sensed I craved. I have no idea how that clever man knew that the most secret desire of this strong, capable, feminist woman was sexual submission.
How could he know, I wondered, when I barely knew myself?
But the man was right on, and I became his woman on that same night we met, following our initial meeting and negotiation at a San Francisco coffee-house — although I always maintained I wasn’t easy, because I made him buy me coffee first. And to our genuine surprise and delight, our alternative lifestyle relationship resulting from my newspaper ad has endured to this day.
Yes, there was a life after promiscuity. And yes, there was life after vanilla sex.