Here's how it begins: a photographer, and a woman in her thirties or early forties.
He is a porn photographer who sometimes does other professional work; she is a professional woman who sometimes looks at porn photos.
They meet in some business capacity: a conference, or a corporate shoot. They talk. His camera is on the hotel bar next to their untouched drinks.
"The Shame Photos," from
by Greta Christina
"No, it's not that," she says. "I like your photos. They're good. They're very hot. It's just..."
"What?" he says. He's defensive, a little prickly, and also more than a little curious. Apart from critics, not too many people tell him to his face what they think of his work. Or what, precisely, it is that they want from their porn and are not getting. This could be illuminating.
"Well," she says. "You have these lovely photos of these-- scenarios. The women licking someone's shoes, or dressed up like ponies, or what have you. But they always look sort of-- posed. The faces are all wrong. They're too relaxed, too composed. For the things they're doing-- it's all wrong."
"What do you want to see in their faces?"
She doesn't hesitate. "I want to see shame."
"Say that again."
She blushes a little. His voice is friendly and curious, but there's a hint of command in it, and it shifts her over a bit from feeling like a calm, objective critic into feeling the topic a bit more personally.
But she goes on. "I want to see shame. When I look at a photo of a young girl on all fours with a plug in her ass licking her mistress's boots, I don't want her to look like a bondage model who's doing her job. I want her to look like a young girl who's being humiliated. Like those dirty Japanese comics, but for real. I want her to look frightened, and powerless, and ashamed of herself. I want her to look like she doesn't want what's happening, and like she still feels somehow that it's her fault, and that she deserves it."
"Hmm," he says. "Fascinating. Tricky, though. How would you make that happen? Pro models tend not to be ashamed of what they do. And if they'd be ashamed to do something, they just don't do it. How would you get that look?"
"Well. You could do a couple of things..."
continued— without any let-up!— in Greta's new erotica anthology...
—"These are not nice stories," Greta told me when she started this new erotica collection.
"They're filthy. They're fearless. Some are even funny."
Greta and I worked together at On Our Backs in the 1980s, and as long as I've known her, she has been a visceral erotic philosophizer, the kind of person I'd want to put in a time machine just to go back and watch her spar with De Sade.
I think she'd lay him out flat.
Christina is fearless about difficult topics— and furthermore, taking a taboo, like "shame" and putting it in a wicked sexual context where there are NO banal lessons to be doled out.
I published her work repeatedly in Best American Erotica, her first novella Bending, which is reprinted here. I practically added her essay "Are We Having Sex Now or What?" to my email signature!
When she hands me a new manuscript, I cancel my evening plans... and I hope you will enjoy the same singular sensation!