Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Feminist Erotica for Postmenopausal Women: Dear and Impassioned Readers,

So. One of the things I get asked about most often is a phrase first encountered near the top of this page… “writes feminist erotica for postmenopausal women…”

“What the hell is that?” I’m asked. “And why on earth do you write it?”

Of course, those are perfectly understandable questions, it seems to me, given what problematic notions the term erotica in general tends to conjure in the public consciousness. So let’s talk about the word itself for a moment. Ironically, for some people it’s a word whose meaning is amorphously vague - fluid, sexually nuanced and deliciously ephemeral.

In contrast, however, some perceive it as quite distinctively cut and dry. For them it describes material that’s sexually explicit, graphically titillating, reflecting a narrow, objectifying, stereotypically male point of view. For them it may connote a single monolithic conglomeration of words and/or images focused solely on the erasure of female personhood - words and images that privilege perfectly proportioned, eternally youthful bodies, and in the case of women, bodies that usually exist only for the wholesale gratification of men.

Often, the terms feminist and erotica seem mutually exclusive, as if one can’t identify as a feminist and a lover of erotica at the same time. While patently false, this notion is understandable, as well. After all, the sex industry itself has been notoriously responsible for this view due in large part to its pornographic propensity for violence, degradation, objectification and victimization of adults and - most appallingly – of children as well. And let’s be unambiguous here: feminists as a group, among which I certainly include myself, stand four square and vocally resolute in actively opposing that sort of reckless, unprincipled predation.

Alternatively, there’s this: As we celebrate the sexual energy that is the lifelong birthright of our species, we’re obligated to be bound by the moral imperative that consenting adults be the sole subjects of our erotically charged, sexually explicit work and that the narratives we convey are inhabited by freely consenting adults who retain power, agency and ultimate control over what they allow themselves to experience. Whether we’re talking about straight sex, LGBTQI sex, vanilla, a.k.a. traditional sex, polyamory, sadomasochism, bondage, - whatever - if there’s a line to be drawn between erotica and pornography, as I believe there absolutely is, then it’s here.

But the question still exists, I suppose: why engage with erotica at all? The truth is, there’s serious political, social, and cultural importance in recognizing, exploring, indeed, celebrating the sexual activities, lives, desires, and behaviors of our fellow human beings, so long as what we write and otherwise depict in popular culture honors the sacred personhood and inviolable sexual agency of every human being.

Aside from its historical function across cultures as a celebratory lens through which we experience our sexuality, feminist erotica in particular can be a site of sexual empowerment for women. It can provide a critically substantive space for women to take a stand in honoring our sexual energies, on our own terms, throughout our lives.  

For sex-positive feminists like me, there’s inimitable value in foregrounding the complicated landscape of sexual desire and the universe-driven energy that resides in our sexual selves, that keeps us resilient and in cosmic harmony with the worlds around us and at our core. There’s serious political power in that, and in giving clear and elegant, full-throated voice to the act of reclaiming our magnificent erotic selves - in poetry, prose and music - in all the forms of art - well past the age that the culture deems it appropriate.

For me in particular, as a storyteller enthralled by the multifaceted warp and weft of mature female sexuality, I’m ineluctably drawn to that narrative less spoken. It’s the power-filled desire of older women that engages me, the desire of women past menopause whose lifetimes of sexual discovery and experience render them body-wise and regally self-possessed; in sync with the complexity of their maturing sexual agency. In my mind’s eye, and in my storyteller’s heart, these are older, seasoned, at-home-in-the-wild-world women, gloriously past the ages of childbearing and mealy-mouthed apology. Strong, soulful, yet marvelously imperfect, the women who co-opt my imaginary spaces are vintage women who know precisely what they want and have both the sexual wisdom and the steeliness of spine to set their own explicit, erotically-charged agendas.

In the realm of erotic fiction, though, the women I’m describing are far and few between. And that’s not surprising either, in light of Western culture’s sad preoccupation with the dewy post-pubescent blush of youth, wherein young, well-endowed perky female bodies are pretty much the standard fare and situated mostly as the reactionary objects of dominant male pursuit.

Though not on a par, of course, with climate change or global hunger, it’s a travesty, nonetheless, a politically expedient erasure, especially given the fact that women over sixty-five are the fastest growing population segment in the US. At the very least, it’s society’s selective blindness about a ludic, imaginative, empowered postmenopausal sexuality that effectively obscures it, and us, from view.

Left for us to ponder, then, is the hollowed-out stereotype of older, sexless, desiccated empty women; it’s a stereotype born of a perniciously wishful ignorance that effectively condemns us to our own invisibility.

And in the end there’s something patently unfair about postmenopausal women having to settle for erotic narratives that speak only to our na├»ve and nubile younger selves of the past, while speaking nothing about the women we’ve managed to become. Growing  older, better, wiser is no perfunctory task; but it's a journey worth its weight in what we learn along the way. At the end of the proverbial day, we’re still here; we still love. We still desire and are fiercely desired in return. And how much more satisfying is it, in many ways, to discover some new, creative, outrageously steamy lover when you’ve got a lifetime of experience in your lovemaking skill-set and you’re standing toe to toe on equal discursive ground?

And so, with a yearning eye to feminist erotica for postmenopausal women, I began to write it. Equally important, perhaps, lately I’ve begun to share it.

Academic, lecturer, daughter, mom and Nana, I’m a diehard sucker for an offbeat tale. And if vampires are involved, so very much the better. Drawn to the body of vampire lore since I was a girl in my teens, it’s even more intriguing to me now, especially as a metaphor for individuals and institutions that persist in taking from the vulnerable without providing anything of value in return.

With that in mind, I’ve offered up The Porch Prince: A Grandmother’s Vampire available as an e-pub now at Amazon.com. It’s an edgy, sexy vampire story in the very specific niche genre of feminist erotica for postmenopausal women.  

What’s next? My plan is to kind of kick back, as the expression goes, and see how the story’s received. Who can say? This could be the first of many I'll share. After all, stranger things do happen every day. Right?

Please be well…

G.R. Singh

Link to Amazon Author Page for G.R. Singh 

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