Monday, April 17, 2017

Podcast interview with TantraPunk

I had an amazing time last week recording a podcast episode with TantraPunk where we discussed so many important things like sex and disability, porn, fetishes, and the really complicated place where all those things come together. We really just scratched the surface of these topics, but I was so happy to connect in a conversation that treated these topics with respect and aimed to shed light on an often overlooked or ridiculed topic. 

I was also so excited to share my story about how I became a sex writer and shared some of my work.

You can listen to the episode here.

Check out TantraPunk's website, and click here for a list of recent podcast episodes -- they are fantastic!

Follow TantraPunk on Twitter:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why I've always wanted to write for a porn magazine

Constant readers of The Unlaced Librarian already know I love talking about porn and I strive to open up conversations about the role porn and erotica plays in our lives and relationships.

So I'm always on the lookout for great porn -- in particular, what I call "PFA Porn" or porn that operates as being Progressive, Feminist, or Alternative (sometimes all three at once!)

Thus, several months ago I saw a buzz on my sex-positive social media circles about a new progressive print porn magazine and I simply had to check it out. I got my hands on Issue 3 of Math Magazine and I was instantly hooked.

Issue 3 of the magazine featured photography, artwork, erotica, and non-fiction writing including an interview with Erika Lust, one of my feminist pornographer heroes.

Everything about the issue was what I had been craving from a porn magazine: high quality, expressive, sensual, and textured photoshoots that feature pretty much every pairing possible (including lots of solos). The erotica was dreamlike and so varied that I literally did not know what was coming next. And the playful but edgy layout kept me turning each page wanting more, more, more. I love the way the physical, book-like magazine feels in my hands as well. And with the ambiguous, iconic cover, I can take this with me everywhere and not worry about it falling out of my bag or leaving it on the table when I brought my copy to show a friend over lunch.

Math Magazine is my PFA Porn dream come true! You can read more about the magazine and the editor, MacKenzie Peck in this wonderful write up.  You can also check out the social media tags: #allthegazes and #loveandbutts (Seriously, how can you not be smitten?)

But it doesn't end there.

I'm completely, thrilled, honored, over the moon, and utterly stoked that my short erotic story "Luke 6:38" has been published in Issue 4 of Math Magazine! This issue definitely has a bent toward kink: a few of the erotic stories (including mine) and photoshoots delve into a fetishistic/BDSM vibe. I love it and I'm so excited to have contributed to the issue.

As the title suggests, my story plays with the taboos of sexuality and religion: it features a protagonist with physical scars and a thing for spanking and a Catholic priest with a panty fetish. (Side note: if you like erotica that mixes priests, religion, kink and sex you should check out this anthology, which also contains one of my stories.)

I'm really grateful as a writer to be able to contribute my work to a publication that I was already a fan. But in addition to this, writing for a porn magazine has been a bucket-list item for me in my writing career.

Some people are confused or perplexed as to why a porn mag publication would be so important to me (other people totally get it!) so I thought I would share here some of the reasons.

1. I’m interested in actually solving the problems people have with porn.

I see people rage against porn for a vast range of reasons. And while anti-porn diatribes on the internet are one of my least favorite things, I do understand why there are so many torrid emotions surrounding the topic and why people speak out against porn both online and off. (There was a time in my life where I was anti-porn, see #2.)

Some of the problems I had about porn then were as follows: Porn made me feel insecure about my body. I didn't know how to talk about the role porn viewing and sexual fantasy played in my intimate relationship. I could never find the kind of porn I wanted to watch. I thought porn performers were treated unethically. And I thought porn perpetuated unhealthy stereotypes about sex.

Progressive/Feminist/Alternative porn works to solve all these problems. PFA porn showcases a variety of body types, sexual pairings, and sexual expressions. This kind of porn is also friendly to a wide range of sexual experiences including kink, bdsm, and sex without penetration or sometimes sex without involving genitalia. Consent is key and everyone involved from performers to directors and writers share a common goal toward risk aware, safer sex where everyone is asking for and consenting to what they want.

Making porn that more people can get behind, that more people desire to watch, and are comfortable with makes it easier to have much needed conversations about porn. When I see someone actively protesting porn in real life or sharing anti-porn articles online, I know it's usually because they are having a conflict in their lives regarding porn, and they need to talk about it, not argue about it. We need to bring balanced conversations about porn to the mainstream and actively solve real problems people have with porn rather than fighting about it or banning it. And while society still has a way to go on that front I feel PFA porn really does promote a healthy dialogue around porn and creates educational,ethical porn.

2. Understanding how I feel about porn was a turning point in my sexuality, and my life.

At one point in my life, I was fed (and I readily consumed) some pretty terrible anti-porn philosophy that made me feel vulnerable as a woman, and I blamed porn. I started to believe my boyfriend (the man I would eventually marry) didn’t really like or love me because he still watched some porn. I cut my own erotica reading out of my life because I thought I was supposed to if I *really* loved my boyfriend and I tried to stifle my kinks because I had succumbed to a lot of sex-negativity, especially surrounding disability.

Porn was, in many ways, a breaking point for me in my sexuality. I had to confront a lot of the fears I had about my own sexuality. I had to untangle a lot of insecurities surrounding my body and my relationships. I had to take an honest look at the needs that I and my partner had in our sexualities. I had to start thinking for myself and making decisions about my own wellbeing rather than trying to always make other people happy or fit into a polite mold. Porn helped me do that.

That’s amazingly powerful. I am infinitely grateful to have had this experience in my life, to be confronted with the stigmas society hurls at sex, bodies, and pleasure then take a deep breath and listen to the diverse ideas the brought about a healthier way of thinking about sex, pleasure, my body, and my relationships. There are so many “my life was ruined by porn” stories out there that I can’t help saying, “My life was saved by porn!” (Though admittedly that sounds a little too click-baity for me to actually use, but nevertheless.) I needed these conversations in my life and I want to contribute to something that brings that conversation to more people.

3. The stigma related to porn parallels the stigma related to my disabled body.

I've heard people say before that only certain people should view porn. Some examples:

"Oh, he's single and can't get a date, it's okay for him to watch porn."
"Well, that person is a fetishist, so since they don't want real sex, they can watch porn."
"She's disabled, and no one really wants to have sex with her, so porn is a good option for her."

All of these statements are beyond horrid. Saying certain "less than" people can have a "less than" sexual outlet perpetuates shame and leads people to hide or lie about aspects of their bodies and sexualities, which leads to a massive array of problems for people in their personal lives.

Lots of people view porn, for lots of different reasons. It is a sexual outlet and all sexual outlets should be treated with respect and care, and given a platform to learn about and express it with others.

PFA porn helps normalize the fact that PEOPLE LOOK AT PORN and helps crank up the visibility of both porn viewing and the diverse range of body types, orientations, preferences, and sexual expressions of human beings. Fantastic.

Which brings me to...

4. I don't fit into a sexual category and for a long time I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

I'm a sexually fluid fetishist. For me this means I can become aroused by a variety of things but I can only orgasm by thinking about one very specific thing. I've been told I can't be both at the same time, but I am. I've also been told I'm not queer enough because I'm bisexual. I've been told I'm not polyamorous enough because I have a relationship hierarchy (my husband is my primary partner). I've even been told I'm not disabled enough because I can pass as able bodied in some contexts. Yeah, it can be really frustrating to be stuck in the middle, to have a certain calibration of traits that make you the weird kid on every playground you try to make friends on. But my needs and my identities are acknowledged, validated, and expressed in PFA porn. Mine and lots of other people's. I celebrate that because it can be hard to find places where this is the case, let alone where it is encouraged. So long live #allthegazes !

Be sure to check out Math Magazine and if you have any recommendations for other great progressive/feminist/alternative pornography, leave a comment or drop me a line!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Interview with visual artist Rachael Griffin

Several months ago, I was delighted and honored to meet Rachael Griffin, a visual artist whose work tackles the wonderfully sensual and textured themes of appetite, craving, and where these desires come from.

Of course, with the very suggestive images of popsicles, corn dogs, and delicious, dripping pies, our conversation quickly turned to sexual appetites and the way our bodies and identities play a role in shaping these appetites. And while I couldn't save our hours long conversation in a jar for you to listen in, I can at least give you a little taste.

Rachael was kind enough to answer some questions about her work and her philosophy and I'm thrilled to bring this intersection of art, sex, and philosophy to my readers here at The Unlaced Librarian. I hope you enjoy, and please do check out Rachael's website for more information on her work.


Unlaced Librarian: Thank you so much for participating in this interview. Please tell readers a little about yourself and your work.

Rachael Griffin: I am interested in appetites.  We all have our own individual and unique appetites, but at the same time we share them with others.  You can have an appetite – a craving – a certain taste – for anything.  You can have a taste for leather, for art, for a certain type of human being even.  But where do these tastes come from?  I am especially interested in why we like the things we like, and why we do the things we do – is it a matter of nature or nurture?  I am curious about where our instincts and cultural constructions originate, and where they sometimes collide or blur.  My work is most inspired by the sensual appetite. I am interested in how our brain makes associations and what they mean.  I seek to evoke some type of sensation or memory through my imagery.  While memory and senses are closely entwined, they have the potential to make us feel a certain way and reveal a little about ourselves that we may not be entirely conscious of or in tune with.  They bring about these appetites or tastes that we are constantly operating by, however knowingly or mindlessly it may be.

UL: When I met you, you were painting a huge, succulent pie and had painted a half-consumed corn dog. Can you comment on the sexual imagery in your work?

RG: While my work has always involved the human drive, the imagery hasn't always been as directly sexual as it is now.  This change took a turn about 3 years ago, when I began focusing on the object as subject.  Instead of creating a narrative about what I was getting at (at the time, our animalistic tendency to eat meat, which was a conflicting personal conversation that had become very loud to me), I decided to simply draw the thing that I was talking about.  So I created a 12 and a half foot long strip of bacon.  Next came the walnut that I had been seeing a lot in my daily life, in which I began to notice all these beautiful little veins.  By coincidence, this walnut took on a yonic quality, and from this point on everything was a vagina or penis or some other sexual incarnation.  While these comparisons amuse me, they also get me thinking about children and our mere existence and the meaning of life, dark scary places in my brain where I can't find an answer.
From here I continued to work with food as my subject, from fruit to meat to pastries and their insides.  These foods are so grotesque and wet and fleshy and body-like.  The colors I see in them remind me of the blues and greens and purples that are in our skin.  I see organs and life and guilt and pleasure.  It's fascinating to see what kind of dialogue emerges from the work, and how others perceive it.  The work began to say just as much about the viewer: their level of interest in sexuality, in gender studies, the body, their political views, their pleasures and desires, their subconscious, nostalgic memories.  And yet there's another layer to these "sexual" images.  I became very curious about why we see things the way they do; why they make us feel the way we do.  Is it the color?  The shiny, wet-like surface?  Is it the iconography?  This newly surfaced mediation circles back to the question I'm constantly asking, as mentioned above – why do we think the things we think, and what part of it is nature vs. nurture?

UL: We had an amazing conversation about sexuality, society, and gender. Do you think art can help people learn about their sexual identities?

RG: Absolutely!  Art can help you see things you've never recognized or imagined before.  Whether it's visual art, performance, literature, music, these are all very moving devices.  They offer possible channels for perceiving and interpreting.  Sexuality is an odd thing.  Sometimes it's bursting at the seams, sometimes it likes to lay low, and sometimes it's complicated.  Identity is an odd thing.  You can be anything.  Everybody is so different, and the more we recognize these differences and celebrate them, the better chance we have to be true to ourselves and do what feels best for us at that time.  The hedonist in me wants everyone to feel their fullest, to acknowledge every corner of their being and find comfort in it.  I can personally affirm that various forms of art have undoubtedly opened my mind and inspired me throughout my life, always with room to grow, always learning more about myself along the way.

UL: Do you have any favorite books or websites about art or theory you can share with us?

RG: One of the books I've most recently fallen in love with is 
A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful by Edmund Burke.  
There are several versions out there, but a few can be accessed online at the following links:

Burke offers theories for why human beings may have a preference, or taste, for certain things.  The generalizations are deeply interesting and a bit humorous, perhaps having something to do with the fact that it was originally published in 1757.  "Part IV, Section XXII: Sweetness Relaxing" is especially lovely.
Lynda Barry is an amazing artist and writer who opened my eyes to the veins in the tiles on my bathroom wall, which appeared again in the walnut I talked about earlier.  This way of seeing evolved through a daily diary exercise in which we wrote 10 things that we saw that day.  Suddenly I was seeing things in my daily routine that I had never noticed before.  The world quadrupled in size, texture, color, and indulgence.  Everything was much more vibrant, and I was much more present.  Lynda does a lot of amazing work, throughout her daily life, research, and practice.  I would highly recommend her books "What It Is" or "Picture This," especially if you're an artist or writer.
Also, anything Judith Butler. "Gender Trouble" and "Bodies That Matter" are great reads.

UL: Thank you again for sharing your work and some of your philosophy on sexuality and identity. Readers are encouraged to check out Rachael on her Instagram:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Erotica collection: Sacred and Profane, Priest Erotic Romance

A few weeks ago, I posted about the release of a new collection of erotica “Sacred and Profane: Priest Erotic Romance” (Sexy Little Pages, 2017) and brought readers an interview with the collection’s editor, Torrance SenĂ©.

I was finally able to indulge in all the exciting, sensual, and deliciously blasphemous stories for myself, and I must say that I’m honored my work is included alongside such intriguing and erotic stories.

There are ten stories in this collection. At 243 pages, this is a hearty read. Each story is longer length, with vibrant worlds and real characters. Each story has a strong theme and great chemistry between characters. As with any collection, there were a couple stories that I didn’t love, but overall the collection was engaging and, well, hot. My favorite story was “Absolution” by Charlotte French. This story used supernatural elements while still staying grounded in the conflicts of reality. I could see the characters crisp in my mind and the story was mysterious and satisfying.

This collection is erotic romance, so all the stories have a romantic bent in which the characters have a textured relationship develop in the story along with the sexual encounter or erotic scene. Some stories include kink (mine does!) and some of the priests and pastors leave the profession because of the events in the stories. Some slip around the rules so they don’t quite break their vows. Some stories are fairly straightforward romance while a couple push the theme to a creative edge.

My story is called “Shelter” and involves Morgan, a kink-tastic lady who rather likes to ruffle tradition, especially when it comes to the Pastor of the First Christian Church, John Buchanan. I included a lot of elements in this story that were important to me: a visibly disabled character, negotiation around kink and consent, as well as a spirituality that ultimately unites rather than divides. I am very proud of this story and am thrilled the story found such a brilliant home.

Since writing “Shelter,” another story of mine involving a priest, kink, and blasphemy has been picked up by another publication. So if you have a hot spot for this theme, stay tuned for more from me in that department!

I hope readers enjoy this spicy-sweet collection. Whether you love the sensual tango of religion and sexual expression or are just looking for a new take on erotic romance, give this book a peek. I’m certain you won’t regret it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Birth, The Surprising History of How We Are Born

I had no intentions of reading a book about birth. But for a project I’m writing, one of my characters goes through a complicated birth in 1897 and I realized I had no idea about what it was like to give birth – complicated or otherwise – in 1897. So I started looking for a book that might answer my questions and I found a wonderful gem.

"Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born" (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006) by Tina Cassidy is a thorough, engaging, and unflinchingly deep look into the history of childbirth.

Forget 1897 – this book showed me that I really had no idea about childbirth from any era.

I suppose the thing that struck me the most about this book is that for as common as childbirth is – I personally know more women who have given birth than those who have not – I never gave any thought to the historical experience of childbirth or the idea that it was any different than modern times.

The range of history in this book is vast, some of the early dates are around 700 BC and the author picks through issues and happenings through all eras of history through modern times. Chapters such as “Midwives Throughout Time” and “The Cesarean Section” are self-explanatory. “A Father’s Place” talks about the role of fathers and men in childbirth and “The Hut, The Home, and The Hospital” discuss the many places women have experienced giving birth. Several other chapters cover doctors, tools, pain management, fads, and the female body.

The book covers history as well as sociological trends fashionable in certain eras. Though my particular focus of study was the late 1800’s, there was plenty of other eras discussed with interesting stories and details.

This book was hard to read at times. The gruesome, violent, and disturbing experiences that have befallen some women throughout history are especially difficult to think about in the context of childbirth. Of course, I want to think that women have always experienced proper pain relief and medical care during childbirth, but there are many glaring examples when this certainly was not the case. I liked that the author did not steer clear of these darker aspects of history.

Despite the passages that were difficult to read through, I overall enjoyed the flow of the book and the author’s narrative voice. I thought the book was well researched and packed with information without being overwhelming.

I learned a lot from reading this book and I anticipate flipping through it again in the future as I work on future projects. If you are looking for a book that gives a firm and brave look at this often overlooked topic, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review: Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

If you are a constant reader of the Unlaced Librarian, you already know very well that I am a pervert. Lucky for me, I found a book that argues: so are you.

“Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us” (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is a 2014 book by Jesse Bering that pries apart the elements of sexual expression – from the mundane to the taboo.

As an award-winning columnist and psychologist, Bering delivers a book packed with information that is also fun to read. Furthermore, he gives readers that might be struggling with some aspect of sexuality a very valuable resource for having an open and fair discussion about sex.

By dissecting historical attitudes about sex, developments in psychology and clinical diagnosis, as well as a vast range of paraphilias and fetishes, the author takes particular details to paint a picture about what makes people tick when it comes to sex and arousal. I’m happy to say I picked a few missing puzzle pieces of my own picture from this work.

I was in love with this book within the first few pages. The author has a strong narrative voice that pops with wit and humor. The author begins the book with sharing several personal aspects of his own sexuality and some may take the humor as a sort of shield against vulnerability because of this. But after delving deeper into the work, it is clear that the author is writing from a perspective of security and genuine humanity for the topic at hand.

The humor is used through the entire book, which makes sections heavy on tests and measurements more engaging to read and also explains certain topics in a way that is down to earth and accessible. But the author also knows when to show compassion, respect, and reverence for certain severe topics. I felt the book was successful in conducting a mature conversation about so many taboo topics because of this balance.

Typically when I read a great sexuality book, I always lament that I wish I had read the book sooner. Not the case with this book. I’m an open minded person, but there were things discussed in this book that have made me pause in the past – a nameless, guttural emotion that stopped me from reading further because I hadn’t been exposed to enough information, or I was being confronted with something I didn’t want to think about. Sometimes, even, a defensiveness was my barricade – I’ve only recently come to terms with and come out about the fact that I am a fetishist (male fetishists vastly outnumber female fetishists, and as a female fetishist, this book did worlds to answer a lot of my questions.) None of this is the author’s fault of course – I think Bering writes effectively about these topics. I just know that a lot of people, myself included, might not be in a place to let that writing in. For that, I am glad this book found me after I had worked through some of my own attitudes and feelings.

That being said, I think the author does an excellent job at constructing the discussion around not just taboo topics, but topics that generate a lot of fear and outright hatred. Indeed, he is willing to shine a light on topics that many don’t want to even acknowledge and I learned a lot about sexuality, research, and history from this book. I was exposed to information about the psychologists, sexologists, and other people behind research on controversial topics that I would not have found elsewhere. I think this makes me a better sex educator and gives me a foundation for further research, especially as I delve forward into my research about sexual fetishes.

Some of the chapters are tamer than others. I found the sections about hyper sexuality and hysteria fairly par for the course. But the chapters about paraphilias, sexual imprinting, and erotic age orientation were fascinating, engaging, and taught me the most in my personal reading of the book.

It is worth noting the first chapter of the book is titled, “We’re  All Perverts.” While the book does focus on people who have historically been labeled “Deviants,” or “Perverts” (the author refers to us as “sexual outliers”) this is done in a way that is not shunning or exclusionary. The author aims to understand the multitudinous factors that are at work in building our sexual fingerprints, what makes all of us sexual beings. A core assertion of the book is that too many people still live in fear and shame for simply having certain sexual fingerprints. I was one of those people, and reading this book helped me to feel more comfortable in my own head and in my own skin.

Obviously, this book was very valuable to me and it has a permanent home in my collection as one of my favorite sexuality books. I would venture to say that some general readers might not enjoy the book as much as I did because of the topics discussed. But I also venture to say that some general readers have secrets of their own that this work could very well serve to untangle, even if they never share them beyond the pages of this book. On top of that, there’s a lot of history and psychological theories that will likely engage readers from a variety of backgrounds in psychology and sociology.

If you are curious and willing to remain calm in a sea of stigmatized sexuality, definitely give this book a look. I say remain calm, because at any given shift in narration, the person you begin reading about might very well be yourself.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sacred & Profane: Priest Erotic Romance | Release Week!

This week's blog post comes a day early since this is the release week for an erotica collection that I am simply over the moon to be a part of: Sacred & Profane: Priest Erotic Romance. You can purchase the book in print or as an ebook.

I do have a story included in this collection, which I will be telling you about more in a future post. Today, I'm delighted to bring to readers an interview with the editor of this anthology, Torrance Sené!

TS: Thanks so much for having me, Leandra!

LV: I am so excited about this anthology! The theme is priest erotic romance. Could you describe in a few sentences what readers get to experience with this collection?

TS: Readers are in for a dance along the dangerous edge of divinity and blasphemy, and where love and lust bring them crashing together.

LV: What was the most enjoyable part of editing this collection?

TS: The actual technical editing process. Once I had the final stories chosen and laid out, as I edited them, it began to sink in that this was truly happening. This topic I’ve long enjoyed would be a book and not just one I wrote for, but one I compiled myself. I can’t think of a theme that’s more me to debut as my very first anthology. (Other than maybe cops/detectives, but that’s coming too *wink*)

Designing the cover was also a lot of fun.

LV: What was the most challenging aspect of editing this collection?

TS: Winnowing down the candidates, for sure. So, so, so many were great stories, but they just didn’t quite fit what I was looking for. Also, picking the final layout order of the stories chosen was pretty tough. I needed to be sure they flowed well into one another.

LV: How do you think this collection contributes to the sex positive conversation around erotica and/or sexual expression?

TS: I don’t believe kink should be watered down in fiction. That creates, or rather, perpetuates that we should feel shame for what arouses us. Fiction allows us to dabble in things we might not be interested in within actual reality. That’s important; erotica is a vital branch of sexual expression. Just because something remains a fantasy, doesn’t mean it should be ignored or repressed.

Since Sacred and Profane deals with a topic (i.e., sex and religion) that falls under the umbrella of taboo, I hope it helps readers embrace a facet of themselves—if it is indeed a kink they have.

LV: Finally, what are some of your personal favorite sex-positive resources? (books, websites, podcasts, publishers, blogs, anything!)

TS: I sadly don’t read enough nonfiction when it comes to sexuality, so I can’t recommend any books. But in terms of websites and podcasts, The Kiss Me Quick's Erotica Podcast, Submissive Guide, Dominant Guide, Submissive Feminist (NSFW), Ravishly, Lady Cheeky (NSFW), Kinkly, BUST Magazine, and Everyday Feminism are my favorites. In terms of publishers, I love Cleis Press and Sexy Little Pages.


I promise to write more about my story and review the whole anthology in a future post, but here are a couple snippets from my story to enjoy 'til then.