Pleasantville: The Promise of Trump’s America

Photograph by Malin James

Photograph by Malin James

I wrote the original draft of this post a few months ago. Suffice it to say, a lot’s changed since then. One of the ugliest presidential elections in history is finally over and, after months of contention, the results were pretty hard to swallow.

It’s not that Hillary Clinton lost—she’s a complicated figure and the reasons for her defeat are equally complicated. What disturbs me is that Donald Trump, an openly racist misogynist who never held public office, handed people a fantasy wrapped in violence, and enough people swallowed it to win him the election.

Many of the people who voted for Trump would not consider themselves to be racist, xenophobic or misogynistic – a lot of them voted for Trump “despite” certain issues, but that “despite” is still a problem. What happened last Tuesday can best be described as a reaction to a package deal. Sure, Trump’s (freaking chaotic) platform included a ton of racist and misogynistic rhetoric aimed at women, Muslims, Latinos, queers, trans people and pretty much everyone who isn’t cis, white and male, but he tied all that hate up in a promise to Make America Great Again, and that promise resonated with a lot of people.

Make America Great Again. It’s standard political rhetoric – a phrase that sells a vague ideal, one a candidate can define flexibly so supporters attach based on their own personal contexts. In this case, Make America Great Again harkens back to the conservative golden age of post-WWII America. This period in U.S. history has taken on a nostalgic sheen, one in which the economy thrived, people had jobs and everything was safe. And white. And run by men. In essence, Trump promised his constituents Pleasantville, and that promise was enough to outweigh the racism and hate he wrapped it up in.

For those of you born in the 21st century, Pleasantville is a Toby Maguire movie from 1998. The citizens of a fictional town called Pleasantville live in squeaky clean, 1950’s black and white world until social and sexual revelations turn everything technicolor. It’s a clever send up of the nostalgia we have for a past that was, under the glossy surface, repressive, judgmental and deeply homogenized.

Trump evoked this nostalgia with his bonkers, often illegal promises to Make America Great Again. The wall he’s going to build along the Mexican border? That’s a promise to keep foreigners out of Pleasantville. Threats of deportation? Same. His plans for a “Muslim registry”? Yeah. That too. Every bit of xenophobic bile is a brick in the foundation of that promise, and that’s not even counting his treatment of women.

Here’s what disturbs me. People wanted the Pleasantville he was selling enough to overlook the violence, misogyny and human rights violations that would inevitably come with it. Whether or not his voters liked the whole packaged is irrelevant at this point. They didn’t mind the ugly enough not to vote for that nostalgic, deeply traditional throwback to a “safer” time, despite how literally un-safe it makes half the population.

That’s the thing about Pleasantville. It’s a lovely, seemingly safe place – seemingly safe because the safety it promises is contextual at best and a lie at worst. It’s a place full of social masks and people passing for “normal” in a traditionally straight, sexually conservative, patriarchal society. It’s a safe place to be if you’re vanilla, straight and white, and it’s the promise Trump ran on. It’s the promise he won on. Which means, it’s the thing we have to be careful of in the next four years.

Sex, race, gender and sexuality. These issues have always been political and, as exhausting as it is, this is normal. This is good. This is the opposite of homogeneity. As long as our bodies remain deeply contested political entities, it means they remain deeply contested political ground rather than territory conquered in the name of an imaginary past.

Trump and his rhetoric—both the hate speech that appealed to the Klan and other marginalized whites, as well as that promise of a newly “great” America—would normalize the homogeneity that we, as women, immigrants, minorities, queers, trans people, liberals, allies and anyone else who fails to toe the line, defy by existing out in the open and without apology. Now, more than ever, we are the body politic, and that means we need to engage, and stay engaged, long past when the disgust, disillusionment and anger wear off. The socially safe America Trump promised doesn’t exist. It never has, and the promise of it shouldn’t be normalized as an unfortunate side effect of a disappointing election.

Human beings can only live with stress for so long before we grow numb to the stressor. It’s seen most often in cases of domestic abuse, a comparison I do not make lightly. Trump’s own lawyers testified that he gaslights them so routinely they have to meet with him in pairs. With Trump’s newly vetted influence, people will eventually get used to the idea of his presidency. It will normalize as an exhausted populace digs in to wait him out. And that’s the real danger now. What he proposes is not normal and, while I know his supporters feel otherwise, the values he’s espouses in conjunction with his vision of a “great” new America cannot be normalized, not without a lot of people paying a very high price.

I’m not saying this to scare people. People are scared enough. I’m saying it because there are still things we can do to keep moving forward, rather than sinking openly and gleefully into black and white.

  1. Donate to charities and institutions aimed at helping people under direct threat. Whether it’s time or money, they’re going to need all the support they can get. The ACLU, the Trevor Project, Planned Parenthood and the NAACP are good places to start, but there are lots  of others too.
  1. Subscribe to reliable news outlets – the New York Times, the Washington Post and Bloomberg News are about as reliable as it gets, but there are a bunch of others too. And if you like your news in audio form, check out NPR. Wherever you get it, vet your news so you know what’s actually going on. Read things you disagree with. It’s the only way you can reliably decide what to believe.
  1. Most importantly, support each other. Have useful discussions. Advocate for equal treatment under the law. If you see someone struggling, help them. Community is one way to set a foundation for changing things between now and 2020.

Some of us will slip under the radar because we’re white or middle class -because we can “pass”. A lot of people don’t have that luxury. If nothing else, it’s become obvious that there is a deep longing for the illusion of safety in the promise of Pleasantville, an illusion that people voted for, regardless of the cost to others. Whether you wave your freak flag loud and proud, or quietly support a charity while protecting your job or family, please try to stay engaged as much as you can. Educate yourself. It’s going to take a lot of of well-informed fuck off‘s to the lure of Pleasantville to get though the next four years.

On Mining Yourself

Black and white pen and ink drawing of a young woman old woman optical illusion for Mining Yourself post by Malin James

Young Woman, Old Woman Optical Illusion by W.E. Hill (1915)

I’ve always loved this image. Is it a picture of a young woman or a crone? Even when I was little, I saw them fluctuate, like a portrait under water, equally young and old. It’s a powerful visual metaphor, one my brain seized on well before I could understand why.

I’ve always split my writing time between fiction and essays. Recently, though, the balance has tipped and I’m  leaning into fiction as I focus on a collection I care a great deal about. That said, project-love isn’t the only reason for the shift in focus.

While there is, inescapably, a lot of me in those stories, there’s a distance in the writing that I need right now. Fiction is, and always will be, fiction, no matter how much of the writer informs the narrative.

The nonfiction I tend to write, especially for this blog, doesn’t have that natural buffer. Everything I write here takes on an inherently personal bent, whether I’m ranting about sexual history calculators or exploring different aspects of non-monogamy. Even when I don’t draw directly from my own experiences, my opinions and history inform those posts to a massive degree. While I usually lean into that level of transparency, my boundaries are higher right now, which makes that transparency hard.

I’m going through an odd time. Things that are fundamental to who I am as a person are shifting and changing, like the young woman and the crone. I grew up affected by a trauma I couldn’t process, and the effects of that trauma unknowingly molded my childhood, my relationships and even my sense of self. Over the course of the past 10 months, I’ve begun to unpack the issues I’ve avoided for 35 years. As a result, my internal landscape is shifting, sometimes quite suddenly. It’s terrifically destabilizing – on some days. On other days it feels great. But the swing between the two is both constant and erratic, so I’m extremely hesitant to write about it. Yet.

In order for me to write well, I need distance and perspective. Venting feels good (oh, so very good), but if I don’t broaden my understanding I run the risk of ranting aimlessly or navel-gazing or, even worse, both. No one likes a ranty navel-gazer so I try not to mine myself until I’ve gained some insight. That’s why I didn’t write about this or this for more than a decade, even though I did (and still do) have plenty to say.

That’s the key, for me, to writing personal essays. While nonfiction takes a thousand different forms, my natural approach is to mine myself for material and (hopefully) create something that connects with a reader in some kind of meaningful way. This often means that the most immediate, difficult or overwhelming situations (the ones I tend to want to vent about) are best left alone until I understand the lay of the land.

At the moment, my emotional landscape is the sort of primordial jungle that guys in pith helmets get lost in. Except for scrawling in my journal, writing about any of it would, in the end, make me feel worse. The young woman and the crone might use the same hand, but they write from different perspectives. Anything I say now will very likely shift given time and emotional clarity. Writing is a way to pin my thoughts down. That’s a hard thing to do when they will very likely change.

Eventually, I’ll put enough distance between myself and this mine of material but, for now, there’s little I could say that would be of use to anyone but myself. I admire writers who produce beautiful, cogent essays in the middle of great stress. It’s a magnificent talent, one I quite notably lack. My strengths lie in hindsight, and hindsight takes time, so I’m leaning on fiction and quiet…at least, I am for now.

On Mining Yourself was inspired in large part by this post by Honey at Happy Come Lucky. If you’re looking for perspective and clarity, there are few bloggers as gifted as she is. I wholeheartedly recommend you check it out. 

Erotic Fiction Redux: Open Me

About three years ago, I had a story called “Open Me” published at a now defunct site called The Erotic Woman. Recently, a lovely reader let me know that the link to “Open Me” no longer exists (neither does The Erotic Woman). He then asked if I might have a copy of it somewhere and,as luck would have it, I did.

“Open Me” is a pretty old story about an exhausted tax auditor and the woman whose suitcase he grabs by mistake. Hijinks ensue (as they always do) involving a pair of expensive lace panties and our hero’s camera phone.

I wrote “Open Me” when I was still cutting my teeth on erotica, so it’s a bit rough around the edges. Still, it’s a fun romp and one of the first pieces I ever wrote featuring a female dominant. I’m reposting it without any edits or improvements so forgive its (many) flaws. If nothing else, I hope it’s good for a laugh.

“Open Me” by Malin James

Vintage pinup wearing black lingerie and talking on the phone for erotic fiction Open Me by Malin JamesThe day Will flew home to New York, (which was, incidentally, two days before he was supposed to fly back out), he felt more than gritty. He felt more than tired. He felt existentially exhausted. His life, his career and his prospects were not where he’d hoped they would be. Even his sex life was stale. He was in and out of town too routinely to engage anyone but a call girl. Even that had become it’s own under-whelming routine.

Will stood listlessly at the baggage carousel, barely paying attention as bag after bag lumbered past. Black with wheels…blue with wheels…fucking ugly tapestry…golf clubs…battered gray. Will’s hand shot out. That was his—battered gray with wheels. He hauled it off the conveyor belt and rolled it out the door, right into a wall of rain.

“Fuck.”

Feeling put upon and victimized, Will hauled his luggage away back into the terminal. He kept a small umbrella inside his suitcase. He’d have to dig it out. Sitting down on a flimsy chair in a bank of flimsy chairs, Will flipped open the lid. That’s when he realized that he’d snagged the wrong bag.

Rather than a pile of stale shirts and boxers, the case was full of silk and wool…all of which smelled amazing. The case’s owner must smell fucking amazing. Resting on top of that amazing smelling stuff sat a broad, flat box. Hanging off the side from a silver bow was a tag that read, “Open Me.”

For reasons unknown even to himself, Will’s cock stirred with the first hints of real, spontaneous sexual interest that he’d felt in weeks. He wanted to follow the box’s instructions. He wanted to open it. Without even realizing he was doing it, Will pulled at the silver bow.

“So, not only did you take the wrong suitcase, but you opened it and prowled through my things….”

Will snatched his hand back before looking up. Then he looked up some more. The owner of the voice, which was female and sexy in a Marlboro kind of way, was tall. Really tall. And extremely comfortable cocking her hip in a pair of stack-heeled boots. Will’s eyes traveled up her extravagant length of leg, which was covered by a pair of snug black jeans. Craning his neck like a supplicant, Will tried to see her face. It was pretty but not remarkable. He’d seen prettier faces, but none with so much natural self-possession. That’s what flustered him. The woman was a force.

Feeling like an idiot, Will stood up. The woman raised her brow. Uncomfortably, he stood his ground.

“I’m, uh. I’m sorry. I was distracted,” he said, adjusting his suit jacket to hide his sudden erection. The woman grinned.

“Don’t bother, cowboy. I can see what you’re packing.”

“Uh. Right. Okay. So…you want your suitcase back.”

“Of course. But first, you owe me for poking around.”

She crossed her arms over chest. Will looked at her. She was serious. Really serious. But her eyes crinkled around the edges, as if she were laughing…at him. Will straightened his back.

“Uh, I don’t think—”

“Open it,” she said, indicating the box with the silver bow.

Will hesitated.

“Open it. Now.”

“Yeah. Okay, sure.”

Will pulled at the ribbon, feeling like a Neanderthal as he tugged the delicate bow. Holding the box in one hand, he set aside the top. Then he parted a layer of tissue, revealing a wardrobe of delicate lace panties. Will flushed, unable to look at the woman.

“Take the first pair off the top. Then put everything back the way you found it,” she said.

“Without thinking to question her, Will did was told. When he was done, she plucked the box out of his hand and tucked it back into her suitcase. Then she looked at Will.

“Those were meant for my girlfriend,” she said, indicating the scrap of ivory lace Will held in his hand. “But you get to have them instead.”

Will flushed harder. “I couldn’t, I mean—”

“Stop. You’re going to take those very expensive lace panties home, and when you get there, you’re going to check your email. Now, give me your card.”

“I don’t have a card.”

The woman gave him the most skeptical look Will had ever seen. Any more skeptical and she’d have been a cartoon.

“Yes, you do. Look at you,” she said, waving her hand at his rumpled suit. “Of course you have a card.”

Will handed her his card. He had no idea why he was doing what she said, but he felt compelled. And he was curious…or rather, his cock was curious. His cock could sense an adventure a mile away and it was ready to go, like a dog cooped up in the house too long.

The woman took his card, glanced at it and then put it in her pocket.

“Okay, Will O’Neil. Check your email. Since this is New York and I don’t know where you live, I’ll give you two hours.”

The woman threw him a wicked grin. Then she picked up her suitcase and rolled away.

 

By the time Will got home, the panties were burning a hole in his pocket. All through the drive he’d felt them—soft and gauzy, made from the kind of lace you’re almost afraid to touch. Briefly, Will considered jerking off, but the fact that he was so insanely turned on, (and that it had nothing to do with what a call girl was charging him to do), felt too good to cut short, so he pulled out his laptop instead. Five minutes to go. Will’s cock strained a bit in his pants. Fuck it, he thought. Ignoring his nervousness, Will logged in.

At the top of depressingly thick stack of work related nonsense was an email whose subject was Open Me. Clearing his throat for no one but himself, Will did as the email said.

Welcome home, Will O’Neil. Take the panties I gave you and put them on. Yes, on you. Then take a picture of yourself masturbating. No face—I’m not trying to ruin your life. When you’re done, send me the picture from a non-work account. You’ve got thirty minutes. –K

Will read through the message twice more. Then he slowly shut the lid. It was bullshit, really. There were no consequences. After all, the worst thing she could do was email him again…and yet. He was tempted. Really tempted. By now, his dick was straining miserably against the zipper of his pants. He was clearly going to jerk off, and if he was going to jerk off, he might as well do as K asked. Or said. Or commanded. Or…whatever. At any rate, he was going to do it. A thrill of arousal ran through his body as he pulled the panties out. Goddamn, he thought. They were small.

Will stripped down to his boxers, and then kicked them off so that he was standing, naked, in the middle of the room. Then he slid the panties on, stretching the lace as he drew them up over his thighs. They barely covered his dick. In fact, there was so little to them that his cockhead jutted up out of the waistband, which was, granted, cut pretty low. He knew he looked ridiculous. He knew he should feel humiliated. But all he felt was aroused.

Walking gingerly, so as not to fall out, Will headed to the couch. He set up the timer on his cellphone’s camera and sat down, spreading his legs wide. If he was going to do this thing he might as well do it right. Angling towards the camera, he tried to ensure the best view. Then he began touching himself through the lace. He began gently—he didn’t want to rip the panties or mess them up somehow. But the more he stroked, the better it felt, and the better it felt, the rougher he got. Finally, hungry and frustrated, he pushed the panties aside, so that, while he was still wearing them, his dick was free. Then Will laid back, enjoying full access to his shaft while feeling the rub of the lace against the base of his cock. Cupping his balls and fingering the panties with one hand, Will pumped harder, pausing only to spit into his palm before picking the rhythm back up. Distantly, he saw the flash go off as his phone took a picture of him, and it pushed him over the edge. With a final thrust, Will lifted his hips and came, milking himself as he shot all over his belly and chest.

For a second, Will just lay there, panting and smiling, fighting back laugh. He was a grown man wearing panties, and he was fucking satisfied. Somewhat reluctantly, Will stripped them off. Despite the rough treatment, they were in surprisingly good shape. Immensely pleased with himself, Will got up to check the photo on his phone.

There he was – back arched, hips thrust, legs open wide. The ivory lace looked delicate and sweet next to the meaty length of his cock. Will’s dick stirred. He smiled. Then he titled the email Open Me, attached the picture, and hit send.

Who I Am With You Isn’t Who I Am With Him

M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher

I wrote a story a few months ago called “Looking Glass”, in which a woman looks forwards to having sex with the guy she’s seeing, not just because she wants to fuck him (though she does), but because

“sex is her looking glass. It lets her see who a person is, (or rather who they are with her). It lets her see who she is with them. She wants that view more than she wants to get off. She wants to see if they fit.”

At the time I wrote the story, I made a mental note to circle back to the idea that sex can be a mirror, not just for you or your partner, but for who you are together. Identity and personality are pet topics on this blog, so I’m not going to waste time saying that personalities are fluid. Anyone with a secret Twitter account can tell you that Secret Twitter You is just as authentically “you” as Dinner with Gran You. It’s just not the “you” your gran is used to seeing…probably.

Instead, I want to look at how that fluidity plays out in sexual dynamics. Most of us slide up and down a sexual scale. Even people who identify very strongly as one thing (submissive, dominant, vanilla, etc.) tend to play that thing out differently with different lovers. Part of what makes for sexual chemistry between any two people is how well you intuit each other, and that’s different case by case.

That’s why I’ve always been curious about what sex would be like with different people. Like the protagonist in “Looking Glass”, my anticipation in the build up to my first time with someone new is rooted in curiosity—who will I be with them, who will they be with me, and what will be together? In other words, what will we bring out in each other?

Ages ago, I was seeing two very different men. Let’s call them A and B. My dynamic with A was emotionally and sexually intense. We went dancing and did a great deal of staring intensely into each other’s eyes. The sex was fucking hot.

My dynamic with B was different. Mostly, he and I laughed. We went to diners and dive bars and told rambling stories. The sex was also amazing, but in a super playful, peaches and cream kind of way.

One day, B and I went to an event and met up with A and his date. Everything was great, so much so that I didn’t give the meeting a second thought until the next time I saw A when he commented that he’d had no idea I was such a goofball.

Here’s how that conversation played out in semi-fictional dialogue.

A: Hey, M?

Me: What’s up?

A: So….

Me: ….yes?

A: Do I keep you from being you?

Me: (blank stare)  No. Why?

A: Because you seemed so relaxed with B the other day. I mean, I’ve never seen you so relaxed and goofy and I was kind of wondering if I was keeping you from that because, you know, I’m not relaxed. Or goofy.

Me: Aw, babe…. (sits on his lap and gently bites his neck) Who I am with you isn’t who I am with him. I’m goofy and relaxed with B because B and I are goofy and relaxed together. I’m pouncier with you because that’s how we are. One isn’t more me than the other. It’s all me. You’re just seeing what naturally comes out with you.

A: (melts because he loves having his neck bit) Okay, so…what you’re saying is…it’s all good.

Me: (straddles him) It’s all good.

The conversation ended there and all was (extremely) good – because that’s how it worked naturally for A and I. Had that conversation happened with B instead of A, I probably wouldn’t have nibbled on him and gone straight to sex because that’s not how it was with us. We’d have had a good conversation, probably gotten philosophical, and then had slow, lazy sex before watching The Matrix and eating take-out.

In either case, the set of impulses I had with A were just as authentic as the ones I’d have had with B, they were just very different. That’s why the first time with a new partner is exciting, even if it isn’t magical right off the bat. It’s not just about chemistry. It’s about curiosity and mutual potential; how we connect, and how defined that connection is.  Do we share one wavelength, or do we slide over the scale together?

All of those questions hum along, fueling attraction, chemistry, and sex. And the answers, as variable and context dependent as they are, form a hell of a good mirror for anyone, so long as they are authentically engaged. It’s why relationships fascinate me in all of their brilliant, curious, mind-blowing, toxic, soul-deep, casual variations.  It’s one of the biggest reasons I love sex…aside from the obvious.

 

Unrelated PSA:

For months now, I’ve been working on a collection that I’m very excited about. I’m lucky enough to be working with an amazing editor, but life is getting busier and I need to clear more time for it, so, for the next little bit, the blog will be moving to a slightly less regular posting schedule. It’s definitely not going anywhere. There will just be a slightly longer gap between posts.

In the meantime, feel free to dig into the archives and cringe at what a catastrophe of a baby blogger I was. It’s the blogging equivalent of refrigerator art –  precious, precious stuff. 😀

Erotic Fiction: Spar

Originally, this story was called “Rough”. I wrote it years ago and always had a soft spot for it. I dug it out not long ago and realized how green I’d been when I wrote it, so I set it aside,  figuring its time had passed.

 Then I did a post about sex and intensity. As I wrote it, “Rough” kept coming to mind. When I pulled it out again, I realized that it contained pretty much everything I’d written about in Technicolor Sex, it just needed teasing out. So I decided to give it a tease.

 It’s still a young story, but now it’s closer to what it originally wanted to be.  Plus, I like the new title. Rough sex can take lots of different forms, but sparring is something specific. At its best, sparring is a dance; a meeting of equals; a give and take. For my money, there’s nothing quite as promising as an even field and room to play….

“Spar” by Malin James

A guy once asked if he could have “the honor” of licking chocolate off my breasts. He was fondling a strawberry at the time—an obvious hint at the pleasures to come. A lot of girls would have melted, but the thought of his tongue sliding over my skin made me want to bite it off. Literally. Off. I politely declined and went home.

I like rough sex. My perfect night would end with both of us bruised, bloody and possibly scarred for life. Candles and chocolate are not for me. I like a fight. Which is fine in theory, but finding someone you can scratch that itch with is harder than you’d think.

I don’t like thugs and I don’t like jerks. I want a nice guy who loves dogs and calls his mom once a week. I don’t want a guy out on bail for assault; but finding a nice, well-adjusted guy who’ll laugh at your jokes and choke you out is, to put it bluntly, pretty fucking hard.

That’s why I started kickboxing again. If I couldn’t find a nice guy who liked it rough, then at least I could beat the hell out of a bag. That’s when I met Mike. He was there every time I went to the gym. Turned out the gym was his.

After eight weeks of mild obsession interest, I signed up for a private lesson. I didn’t really need it, but by then I didn’t care. I don’t like pining (I’m awful at pining) and I needed him out of my system. Besides, I’d exhausted my supply of sparring partners by then, so at least I’d get a workout.

When I walked in that evening, the place was empty except for Mike, who was beating the shit out of a bag with the kind of single-minded intensity that makes my belly clench. He stopped when I came in. My belly stayed clenched.

“Hey,” he said, taking off his glove. “I’m Mike.”

He extended his hand, and I took it. I liked the way it felt—strong and solid, but not overbearing. This man was a man with nothing to prove. My belly clenched again.

“Hey,” I said. “Marie.”

Crooked smile. Lean muscle. Steady, calm gaze. He was very, very present. His eyes felt like the edge of a cliff and I took a running leap.

“So, I’ve booked an hour. What do you offer?”

He was still holding my hand when our eyes locked. It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t awkward at all. It was the kind of blood-rushing, cunt-swelling turn on that sinks right under your skin. Cue music. Fade to black. Except this wasn’t a movie, so skip the fade to black.

“It depends,” he said. “What are you looking for?”

“A challenge,” I replied.

His hand tightened and relaxed, an instinctive, light pressure, like knees brushing under a table. We were having a conversation. I tried to keep my face calm. Do you want this? Yes. Do you want this? Yes. Are we doing this? Yes. I smiled and squeezed his hand. Negotiations were done.

“Sure,” he said. “A challenge. I can give you that. Need to warm up?”

“No. I’m plenty warm.”

We circled each other, testing. He threw a left hook and I dodged. It barely grazed me, but I caught enough to know that he hadn’t tried to pull it, and that, my friends, was hot.

We’d been at it for just a few minutes when I decided to move things along. Tucking my shoulders in, I drove him back against the wall, but I’d underestimated Good Guy Mike. He wasn’t above playing dirty. To my snarly, feral delight, he picked me up by the waist and pressed me into the wall.

(I don’t have to tell you that sweatpants won’t hide a hard-on. All I’m going to say is that by the time he pinned me, I knew everything I needed to know, thank fucking god).

“Now what,” he said, grinning at me. He looked like a wolf daring me to throw a stick.

“Now this.”

I grabbed a fistful of his hair and bit his bottom lip. He growled and bit me back. Then his tongue was in my mouth and he caught both of my wrists. Yes…yes, yes, yes….

But I still wanted more, so I (very, very sweetly) kneed him in the gut. He swung me down hard, just like I’d hoped. I landed on the mat, but before I could roll away he’d pinned me with his weight.

Now, I’m not tiny. I’m fit and strong and tall, but Mike was so quick and so big that the sheer, immovable weight of him made me relax. Fighting him was like running at something you know won’t budge, and that’s why you do it – for the sheer, crazy joy of not holding back. Mike was so strong, so reliably strong, that I didn’t have to hold back.

“Gotta get you out of these clothes….”

He yanked down my pants and I tore at his sweats. The gym was a fishbowl and the doors were unlocked, but you couldn’t have paid me enough to care, not with his mouth on my tits, sucking and teasing with his rough, hungry tongue. I groaned and spread my legs.

He slid into me, deep and hard. I pushed my hips up, slick and open, wanting more. The way we fucked wasn’t tender. It was raw and rough and real, but under the bites, we were watching, gauging, asserting, retreating…. The give and take made me high.

We were wet and slippery with sweat. I tasted blood, but I didn’t know whose. Red welts. Dripping salt. Fists in hair. Hands on necks. Teeth and nails and blooming bites. When I came it was almost too much. My nerves felt like hooks in my skin, my lungs, my swollen cunt. I came and kept coming. I couldn’t stop coming. I sank into my body and pulled him in deep.

I felt his mouth on my neck, his teeth on skin, light pressure, harder pressure…. It started all over again. I came as I watched. I watched him and I waited. You can do that if you breathe. You can come and watch. Focus. Breathe. I watched his face and breathed.

He wrapped his fist in my hair, and I let him. He marked me, and I let him. He saw me, and I let him. And when he came, I saw him too.

We were quiet for a long time after. Gradually, I looked down at our bodies as we lay back on the mats, sweaty, panting, bruised. I hurt everywhere a person could hurt and it felt glorious. Like a brand new, shiny day.

“So,” he said, touching my jaw. I could feel a bruise forming. It’s a beautiful feeling, when you like how you got the bruise. “Can I take you to dinner sometime?”

I gave him a satisfied grin.

“It depends. How do you feel about dogs?”

“I love ‘em,” he said. “Lost my Sadie last year. I haven’t had the heart to get another. Someday. Maybe soon.”

He looked away, embarrassed. The man had clearly loved his dog.

“In that case, dinner would be great.”

Flash Fiction: Auction Sale of Clothes

Black and white photograph by Cartier-Bresson of a woman standing on a stage in a auction house modeling a dress in front of a full room

Auction Sale of Clothes by Cartier-Bresson (Berlin, 1951)

“Do you like it?”

“What? The model or the dress?”

“The dress…and the model, I suppose.”

The woman cocked her head. The dress was the sort of thing you’d wear to a cocktail party. The model was the sort of thing you’d bring home from a cocktail party.

“Yes,” she said, thoughtfully. “I do.”

“Which?”

“Both.”

The man raised a brow but failed to look surprised.

_______

Standing on a platform in a dead woman’s clothes wasn’t Laura’s idea of high fashion, but it was a paycheck and paychecks were good, especially when you liked to eat.

“Lot 398. Christien Dior. We’ll start the bidding at….”

Laura ignored the auctioneer. She didn’t want to know. It made wearing the dress depressing, like sampling a pastry she couldn’t afford. Laura hated not affording so she canted her hips and ignored the bidders too. These days the bidders were worth ignoring.

There were two types of people at auctions like this—collectors and ghouls. Ghouls, with their shabby collars and hard mouths, came to watch a rich person’s things get sold off. Collectors were different. Collectors went hunting for very specific things, but what made a thing special was anyone’s guess. Just the week before, someone paid $500 for a soap dish with an impeccable provenance…whatever that meant.

Laura pivoted and tried not to yawn. At first, the keen, avid eyes in the audience had turned her on so much that her thighs would be slick by the time she left the platform. Once or twice she’d even come (quietly, of course). It didn’t matter if she was modeling last year’s lingerie or someone’s ridiculous hat, being scrutinized felt good. But that had been ages ago. The novelty was gone. Now she barely noticed.

Laura unhooked the dress’s train, revealing an obscene amount of leg for 10am. Suddenly, the soft hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she looked up.

A couple was sitting in the middle of the room. They were young and golden and bright as if they’d gathered up all the stray light. Now that she’d seen them, she couldn’t look away.

Laura’s center of gravity dropped into her hips. She did a half-turn as the nerves in her belly coiled. She wanted the couple to notice. She wanted to make them bid. Laura moved to center stage, rolling her hips. She knew she looked like a woman begging to be kissed. Then the golden woman winked, and she almost fell off the stage.

The woman scanned Laura’s body, from her hem to her face, with the kind of cold interest she was used to in men. Every nerve in Laura’s body clustered between her legs. The woman smiled like a collector. She smiled like she knew. Laura squeezed her thighs tight, felt how plump and wet she was. She swore the woman knew.

Silver shoes peeked out from beneath her hem. The woman met Laura’s eyes and raised a brow. Without thinking, Laura raised the dress so the woman could see the shoes. Ankles, knees, halfway up her thighs…she would have kept going, right up to her waist, but the woman gave her a tiny nod, so Laura stopped. She didn’t lower the dress. The woman looked pleased. Still, they didn’t bid.

Laura squirmed, unwilling to drop the hem as the bids rose higher and came faster and the pressure built. She squeezed her thighs together as tight as she could. She could come like that. She had before. She would come and the woman would watch her. She would come and the woman would know.

But the woman shook her head.

Laura went still.

A Catalogue of Very Specific Things:

Silver dress. Silver shoes.  Twitching fingers, shifting hips. A trembling mouth that makes a quick but perfect O. The flush of a lip, a swollen lip, soft between hard teeth. Wide eyes. Young skin. Impulses waiting to spill….

The woman whispered to the man.

The gavel cracked.

“Sold, to the gentleman in the middle of the room.”

__

The woman sighed.

“Thank you, love.’

“Have you got your eye on anything else?”

“No,” she said. “Let’s collect.”

Flash Fiction: Statue

White marble classical statue of a woman's torso and thighs covered by a sheer veil

Marble statue. Courtesy of Getty Images

“So. Henry has this fetish….”

Marjory swirled her martini around with a naked swizzle stick. She’d already eaten the olives.

“Okay,” Jackie replied, waiting for the ellipses to run out. They didn’t.

“So, is he into feet or something?”

Marjory shook her head.

“Spanking?”

“No.”

“Breast milk? Teddy bears? Tell me it’s not corpses.”

“No, no. It’s none of that. Besides, Henry’s too squeamish for dead people.”

“Thank Christ.”

Jackie downed the last of her cosmo and signaled for another.

“So, what’s he into then?”

Marjory blushed and looked away.

“Statues.”

“Statues?”

“Yeah. You know… Greek statues.”

“Like…the kind in museums. With boobs and missing bits?”

“Yeah. Like those.”

“Huh. That’s interesting.”

“Yeah….”

Marjory had always played it kind of straight. Jackie was the one who’d gotten around. She waited for her sister to say more, but wasn’t surprised when she didn’t.

“So what’s the problem? It could be worse. It could be corpses.”

“Stop with the corpses. This is serious.”

“Okay, okay….”

The bartender set down Jackie’s cosmo. She tossed him a wink for the extra twist.

“So,” she said, toying with the little curl of lemon. “Tell me why it’s serious. Can’t he get it up? Can he only fuck in the Met? Museum fucking is hot….”

“No! I mean, yes. He can get it up. But he really, really wants me to do this thing and I’ve never done anything like it before and I don’t know if it’s normal or not.”

“Sweetie,” Jackie said, “there is not such thing as normal. There’s just stuff you’ve done and stuff you haven’t. So what does he want you to do?”

“He wants me to…you know. Dress up.”

“Like what? A statue?”

“Yeah,” Marjory said, chewing her lip. “Like a statue. He even bought me an urn.”

“Aw! He bought you an urn? That’s super sweet!”

“Yeah, but is it? Sweet, I mean? Isn’t it kind of weird?”

“I don’t know. What does he want you to do with it?”

“Hold it.”

“While he fucks it?”

“No. Just hold it. While I watch.”

“Yeah?” Jackie smiled. It was a smile she knew Marjory hated, but only because she’d never smiled that way herself. “Watch what?”

Marjory leaned in and dropped her voice.

“He wants me to watch him…masturbate.”

Jackie slapped the bar and laughed.

“That’s it? He wants you to hold a vase while he wanks? That’s great! Oh! You know what you should do? You should wear, like, a sheer toga thing and expose one breast. That would be lovely! He’d be so surprised!”

“Jackie, I’m serious!”

“Marjory, so am I! Of all the fetishes in the world, this one is pretty sweet. Random, but sweet. It’s not like he’s asking you to cut off your arms for authenticity. Besides, haven’t you ever watched a guy get off? It’s fucking hot!”

The bartender glanced over and pretended to straighten the cocktail napkins. Jackie pounced.

“Hey! Sexy guy! Am I right? Isn’t being watched by a woman you’re into hot?”

“Uh…yeah. Actually, it is.”

The bartender smiled. Jackie grinned.

“See? It’s hot! And the only other thing he’s asking for is that you hold a thing and stand super still while he does it. My vote is that you go for it. Expand your horizons. Embrace the new.”

“I don’t know….”

“Of course, you don’t. You’ve never tried it. Go on. Be a statue. Live a little.”

“Okay…if that’s what you think.”

“That’s exactly what I think,” Jackie said, scrawling her number on a napkin and sliding it to the bartender. He took it and tucked it into his pocket. “You’ve already got the urn. Now all you need is something sheer.”

“I don’t have something sheer.”

“We’ll go shopping for curtains tomorrow.”

Technicolor Sex

Marilyn Monroe in a read dress against a green floral background for Technicolor Sex by Malin James

Marilyn Monroe, circa 1952. Image courtesy Getty Images.

You know how sometimes, every now and then, sex can light you up? It’s the kind of sex that squeezes your heart and gobbles it whole. Sublime, intense, shattering sex that leaves you wrecked and soaked and scratched and bruised and so happy you could cry?

Yeah. I love sex like that.

I used to associate catastrophically good, mind-altering sex with kink because, when I was younger, the only time I experienced it was in kinky situations. The impact it made on me drove me to experiment with all sorts of sexual deviance, which was great and profound in its own way, but it also kept me from understanding my natural sexual wiring until much later.

Recently, I’ve come around to realizing that, while I am definitely a kinky person, kink isn’t actually what drives my sexuality. Intensity does, and kink is one possible way for me to get a hit of that drug.

Note: When I say “kink”, I’m referring to all of the kinks I enjoy, plus the million other kinks that fall under the term’s umbrella. Unless I specify a particular kink by name, just figure I mean it as a placeholder for anything that falls outside the sexual mainstream, whatever that is….

Some people have a central kink around which other kinks play out, like the sub who loves spanking but isn’t into service. I don’t have a central, identifying kink. I have a spectrum of equally weighted, kinky options. That’s because, for me, the turn-on isn’t the kink itself, but the intensity that comes from engaging it.

I’ve written before about how I don’t identify as a Domme because it comes with a set of expectations that don’t consistently apply. While I enjoy playing that role, I slide in and out of sexual dominance depending on what I’m doing and who I’m with. For me, sexual dominance is an impulse—awesome when it’s instinctive with a partner, but not necessarily something I pursue for its own sake.

Unlike someone whose sexual identity is fairly set, my sexuality is fundamentally intuitive. I’m kind of like a tuning fork—I ring at different frequencies with different lovers because different people tap different aspects of my sexuality. This isn’t to say that I don’t have my own preferences and boundaries. It’s no secret that submission isn’t my thing. Masochism, however, is. I like pain – both dishing it out and taking it – but only if it’s part of my natural dynamic with a partner.

And that’s really the thing for me—my dynamic with my partner. It doesn’t matter if it’s a one-time thing or a long-term relationship, more than anything, I respond to connection – that humming recognition that you both want to fuck. While I really enjoy a lot of different kinks, the intensity I crave has more to do with a feedback loop than with the kink itself, and what creates that delicious feedback loop changes from partner to partner and moment to moment.

So, when I say that my sexuality is intuitive rather than definitive, I really mean that my sexual response cues off a feedback loop. Kink can, and often does, form the basis of that connection, but sometimes it just happens out of the blue. It’s a lot like dancing – you move with each other’s impulses and improvise, so dancing with one partner is nothing like dancing with someone else. I’m hyperaware of my partners’ impulses, and that awareness shapes my response. It creates a sort of bespoke sexual experience, but what fits one partner in one moment, won’t necessarily fit another.

That’s why, while I love rough sex, I’m only going to want it with certain people because it’s not about rough sex, per se. It’s about rough sex with someone I want to have rough sex with. So, as much as I enjoy restraint and watching and being watched and group sex and fucking in places you shouldn’t be fucking, I love vanilla too. For me, it’s not about what we’re doing; it’s about how it feels while we’re doing it.

If I get that intensity through missionary with unbroken eye contact, fine. If I get it through edge play, voyeurism, or trusting a partner enough to push my own boundaries, fine. In the end, it’s all just a gateway to the kind of intensity that makes for the kind of sex that dismantles your brain and turns you into a cock or a cunt and the basic need to fuck.

That isn’t to say that I can’t enjoy kink or have amazing sex without that brain-dismantling intensity because I can and have and will. In the end, I love sex—kinky sex, or sex that’s as vanilla as it gets. The kind of sex that I’m talking about here is just one variation in a million. I just happen to love it because it’s as context dependent as I am.

For me, at its best, sex is a function of impulses and variables and kink is just one of those variables. While I genuinely enjoy kinky, filthy filth, the intensity I want is a product of dynamic and connection, informed by, but not dependent on kink. It’s just as likely to happen with eye contact as it is with anything else.

I like it when sex is the unpredictable product of impulse and instinct. I like it when sex surprises me. Within the boundary of certain hard limits, my sexuality is fluid enough that it doesn’t hold a definitive shape, which means that sex is always something of an adventure. Even if I’ve been with someone for years, something – an emotional quirk, a request, whatever – can hit me in a way I didn’t expect. That sudden change in frequency is the shot of sexual adrenaline that starts the rest of the feedback loop.

It’s like alchemy and it’s different with everyone. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it reminds me what having a body is all about. That’s when you get sex that’s shattering and cathartic; sex that’s so intense and so fucking good you have to check for a heartbeat after. That’s sex in blazing Technicolor. Kink or no kink, I love Technicolor sex.

Sinful Sunday: Pretty Thing

Sometimes, you just have to face the facts. Like no matter how you hold your shoulders, your tits are never going to fill that bra….

Malin James wearing the Malin Bra by Iris London

The bra in this picture is so pretty that I’ve kept it, even if only to wear in self-deprecating posts. It’s so pretty that I wasn’t even that disappointed when it didn’t fit. Sometimes pretty doesn’t have to have a purpose. Sometimes it’s just nice to know it’s there, smiling in your drawer.

For more Sinful Sunday, click the pretty lips.

Sinful Sunday

On Self-Objectification

Woman on a red bed taking a selfie for Selfies and Self-Objectification by Malin James

Selfie by Malin James

I’m a contrary person. If there’s a popular take on something, I tend to play devil’s advocate, if only for the sake of discussion. The idea that selfies are a form of female “self-objectification” is one of those issues. The only difference is that, in this case, my objection is rooted in actual disagreement, not just the spirit of debate.

A great deal of ink has been spilled on selfies and their social impact. A lot of articles voice a concern that selfies foster poor self-esteem in young women and a reliance on external validation. Others protest that selfies as narcissistic, vain and shallow—also as regards women. Still others point out that posting selfies can make a woman vulnerable to bullying, predation, anxiety and stress.

All of these concerns are valid – in some cases. In others, selfies are a source of healthy self-expression, positive reinforcement, memories and the basic human drive to exclaim Hey! I was here! It all depends on the person and their motive for taking the selfie, and that’s far too contextual a thing to usefully question or protest.

What I take issue with is the assertion that selfies are a form of self-objectification, ie: that women who take selfies have unknowingly drunk the patriarchal Kool-Aid.

So, what ‘self-objectification’ and why I have an issue with it?

Before we can deal with self-objectification, we need to start with objectification as a concept. Objectification is a theory that refers to the treatment of a person, usually a woman, as an object, stripped of autonomy and subjectivity. (For a detailed definition, click here). Objectification is usually assumed to be sexual at its core.

According to feminist theory, sexual objectification is a symptom of the male gaze, a way of seeing everything, including women, through a male, often sexualized, lens. According to critics, the male gaze has led to internalized misogyny – that’s the drinking of the patriarchal Kool-Aid I mentioned earlier. It’s the idea that women have been subjected to the male gaze for so long that we’ve internalized an objectifying view of ourselves and other women.

While I do believe that internalized misogyny can manifest in all kinds of subtle ways, it isn’t, and can’t be, inherent in selfie-taking. Here’s why.

Objectification is something that is done to you. It’s the lens through which you are viewed. Even if you wear nothing by fuck me pumps and a smile, you are not objectifying yourself. You might be inviting objectification, but odds are you aren’t viewing yourself an object devoid of autonomy and reason. You’ve simply presented yourself in a sexualized way. Objectification is the step other people take when they see you.

So, is it possible for women to self-objectify? Can a woman see herself as a thing stripped of personhood and subjectivity? Can a woman view herself as an object? Well…while it’s possible, especially in cases of abuse, but casually speaking it isn’t likely.

When a woman takes a selfie, she’s acknowledging that she has a body. She isn’t stripping herself of intelligence, resilience, bad-assness or anything else. Those qualities still exist in the way she sees herself, regardless of how she angles her body. She is simply asserting her physical presence for reasons of her own and that is what subjectivity is all about.

Whether you like it or not, inviting objectification is a legitimate, autonomous choice. Whether or not it’s a symptom of internalized misogyny is as unique to the individual woman as is any other motive for selfie-taking, which brings me full circle.

People take selfies for all kinds of reasons. Judging those reasons as shallow, vain, dangerous or anti-feminist is as useful as judging someone’s motives for eating an ice cream cone. Sure, you could eat ice cream for unhealthy reasons. You could eat ice cream to excess. Or you could just eat ice cream because it tastes good and you want ice cream. There are too many possible motives to warrant casting it in a reflexively cautionary light.

The same thing goes for selfies – protesting on the grounds of internalized misogyny discounts the many reasons she might have for taking the picture. It denies her the ability to make an autonomous choice and strips her of sovereignty over her image and how she uses it. That’s anti-feminism dressed up as real feminism, and it’s much more dangerous than the hottie in your timeline.

Selfies are a curious thing. As a species, we are preoccupied with our presence in the world. It’s why we have cave paintings, graffiti, art, and most other forms of human accomplishment. They are an assertion of presence – a huge I WAS HERE shouted into the void of existence. Selfies are just another way to shout into the void. It’s an assertion of presence, regardless of the reason, and that makes selfies important. The fact that women use them to assert their presence in the world for reasons of their own is a devil worth advocating for.