I'd like to introduce you to another story from Best American Erotica 2006 called “The End,” by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Here is an excerpt, followed by my interview with Rachel about the erotics of breaking up.
...As she lies there, so small, so seemingly fragile, her doll's body looks like some alluring creature, one I might break if I handle it improperly. I can easily forget the core of strength and stubbornness she possesses.
Spread out in front of me, she is truly the girl of the dreams I never knew I had. I slide my fingers inside her, pushing deep into her core, knowing just where to curve and bend to get to where I want to be.
I've never known another woman's body quite like this, navigating her pussy as easily as I trace my fingers over her face, reading her like a well-worn page of a beloved book, instantly, easily.
At this moment, with her hair messy and tangled like an overworked Barbie's, I want to grab it as I've done so many times before, to pull fiercely and then bring her head down into the pillow, to live up to the violent promise of this situation.
I almost pull away, because I am not that kind of girl. I'm still getting used to being the girl who wants to hurt someone else, who feels the most unique kind of awe when I hear the sound of my hand slamming down against her ass, who sometimes wants to slap her across the face. The girl who got the slightest thrill when she cried the other day while I spanked her.
I see the collar next to the bed glittering brightly. It meant everything when I fastened it around her neck those countless weeks ago, transforming the airport bathroom into our own private sexual sanctuary. Now, it is too bright, too accusatory, a mistake in so many ways. Like the sweetest of forbidden fruit, her neck beckons, so white and exposed, pulsing with veins and life and want.
Now when I see her neck, tender and ever needy, I can barely go near it. The pleasure would be a little too great. It would be a little too easy to press a little too hard, to enjoy it for all the wrong reasons, even though I can feel her angling towards it, begging me to obliterate her for a few blessed seconds.
I know what it does to her, and for the first time, I don’t want to know. That's never been the kind of power I've wanted, even though she'd gladly give it to me, give me almost anything except what I need the most...
“The End” invokes a I-don't-know-whether-to-cry-or-masturbate feeling that one often has at the painful end of a breakup. What is it about loss, that is erotic?
It’s that raw emotion that you bring to sex with someone you love. Combining that with the imminent loss of a sexual and romantic partner is intense; it’s wrapped into one–love, lust, anger, sadness.
When your sexual response has become so intertwined with that person, and your sense of self, that loss is compounded. Writing my story was cathartic, but I’m glad that there is an erotic element mixed in with the sadness.
Is there something to be understood about the differences in losing a woman, and losing a man?
I can’t say there’s a fundamental difference, but I formed such close relationships, both sexual and platonic, with women— often so rapidly— that it snuck up on me how very tight we were.
In addition to losing a lover and companion, tf you had a situation that was tied up in talking about your feelings and processing— to lose that person as a sounding board, when they know you so well, is traumatic.
Of course, that can happen between men and women too, but I think there is something to the intensity of certain relationships between women that can knock you off your feet, both during and after.
Unlike a lot of lesbian stories these days, this was about two femmes, and their femininity was taken for granted. There were no butches, boi's, or gender-fucks. How do you reflect on all that?
This was a true story and it happened to be about two femmes, so that’s what came across.
There can be something very over-the-top about femme/femme, which I explore in my new anthology, Glamour Girls: Femme/Femme Erotica.
By over-the-top, I don't just mean looks; I mean energy. Femmes tend to enjoy their time focusing on looks, fashion, etc.— but they can also be over-the-top in terms of how into each other they are.
If they're similar in how they express themselves, it can risk ruining relationships, making rash decisions, and immersing oneself in the other person. Of course this can happen between anyone; but it's a similarity, a buoyancy, an exuberance, that gets expressed in our appearance but can also run deeper.
I think femmes understand what that those outward signals don't necessarily have a singular meaning. They aren't all superficial. We can appreciate the care and nuance that goes into "dressing up," knowing that it's artifice on one level, but wanting to do it to both express oneself and impress your lover.
Playing that up in fiction means you can get really creative. In one of the stories in my book, we have two women seducing each other in a bakery after-hours as one makes cupcakes (hint: there's lots of frosting).
Femme/femme also allows women to enter traditionally "girlie" space, like a sorority, then subverting those environments into someplace queer and exciting where it's not about performing for male pleasure, but about discovering a new side of oneself.
This over-the-topness can sometimes backfire, and femmes with femmes can become too intense and just "too much" in some ways. But there's also the thrill of seducing someone who's just like you in so many ways.
P.S.: Obviously this is a generalization based on my experience, and is not true in all cases, before anyone jumps down my throat!
You wear the 'sexpert' hat on some hours, and the fiction writer's cloak on others. What does it feel like moving back and forth between the two?
I try to reject the "sexpert" title at any opportunity, because I see myself more as a professional voyeur and literary exhibitionist.
I love talking to other people about sex and their experiences and comparing those to mine. It’s an honor when people tell me I’ve made them think about their own sexual desires in some new way, but a little daunting because I don’t think I have the answers any more than anyone else. I can share my feelings and observations but that’s about all.
Writing nonfiction, especially my Village Voice column, is like doing a jigsaw puzzle; I’ll have a topic I want to write about, like this recent one on rape fantasies, and go about trying to find the right people to interview for it.
With erotica, it’s more like a light bulb and it’s either on or off; I’m either fired up and I sit down and it all comes pouring out of me, or I just sit and stare at a blank page and write maybe three sentences and give up for the day.
What’s interesting to me is sometimes using the same encounter in a nonfiction setting and then writing about it as erotica; what can sound sort of clinical in the former can sound hot as hell in the latter!
Rachel's blog. She is also hosting what has got to be the best event in NY next week:
IN THE FLESH EROTIC READING SERIES
WEDNESDAY APRIL 19 at 8 PM
AT HAPPY ENDING LOUNGE, 302 BROOME STREET
Featuring comedian Dan Allen, Washingtonienne blogger and novelist Jessica Cutler, Columbia Spectator sex columnist Miriam Datskovsky, memoirist and ex-drag queen Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Dategirl columnist Judy McGuire, sex worker Audacia Ray, and of course, Rachel.
I wish I could be there!