Feminist Erotica 1.2 — Interview: Rachel Kramer Bussel on Editing Feminist Erotica Anthologies

Episode 2-5

Headshot of Rachel Kramer BusselKaren and Jera interviewed Rachel Kramer Bussel, erotica and nonfiction writer and editor of the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year anthology series.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • How Rachel got started writing erotica and editing anthologies 1:27
  • Erotica as a gateway to explore one’s identity 6:45
  • Rachel’s thoughts on what makes erotica feminist and the challenges of creating an anthology that fits different individual’s values 8:53
  • Placing erotica in the context of real-life 16:05
  • How you order an anthology 17:30
  • How to submit to the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year and what Rachel is looking for 20:29
  • Rachel’s wishlist for stories 25:07
  • How taboo-themed stories toe the line between sexy and problematic 27:47
  • The benefits and challenges of being an erotica anthology editor 33:56
  • How partners can be a part of our exploration 37:25

Find the episode on Anchor, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts. Stream the entire episode here or read the transcript.

Transcript

Rachel Kramer Bussel: Is everything I’ve written feminist. I mean, I’m a feminist and I hope it is not anti-feminist. What is feminist erotica? You’re kind of asking what is feminist sex.

Intro: Welcome to Feminist Erotica, a podcast from Rebellious Magazine for Women. Join Jera, Karen and Princess for stimulating interviews that explore feminist representations of desire as well as short and sweet erotic snippets read by the authors themselves. This episode is sponsored by Just the Tip Rebellious Magazine’s inclusive sex and relationship advice column, where you’ll find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators, as well as compassionate responses to anonymous questions. Check it out at rebelliousmagazine.com/just-the-tip 

Jera: Rachel, thank you for joining us. This is the second interview we’re doing for this podcast, and we’re excited to have you. For listeners, Rachel Kramer Bussel is a long time editor of the Best Women’s Erotica anthology for Cleis Press, as well as a writer of erotica plus other things. You are pretty prolific. I think. First of all, tell us how you got started with the anthology. 

Rachel: Well, I had started first writing erotica, writing short stories for other people’s anthologies. The first one came out in 2000, so 20 years ago, which still sounds weird to me to say. And then after doing that for a few years, I was asked to co-edit an analogy and then edit some other ones. And at first the subjects were given to me by the publishers and then I started pitching my own anthology ideas. So I’ve edited erotica themed around spanking around bondage, around BDSM, around oral sex. 

And then for the past five, six years, I’ve been editing the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series, which sometimes has a theme, sometimes doesn’t, but the themes are more open versus a specific topic. So I’ve really edited and written erotica about, I mean, not everything under the sun, but a wide range of sexualities and types of sex and characters. And yeah, I’m always kind of looking to expand both my own knowledge and offerings to people, because I think especially within anthology, you have the opportunity to give people something. Maybe they didn’t know that they would enjoy, but they can discover it within others that, are more, I guess, traditional to them. 

Jera: Yeah. It really feels like erotica thrives on these anthologies. That it makes sense for those reasons. 

Rachel: I think it does. I mean, I love short stories. I love short fiction in general. So, I really enjoy that format. There are some people who it’s, I guess, frustrating for them. They’re like, ‘Oh, I just got into it. I spent 10, 15 minutes reading this and now I want more and it’s over. ‘And I totally understand that. And that’s totally valid. 

I think there’s a whole other world of longer fiction for those people. And some of the stories I’ve published, especially in the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series are using characters that authors have written whole other novels about. So that’s kind of like a treat for their readers. But I think for a lot of readers, they’re kind of looking for something to turn them on and sort of just get their imagination going. And a short story can do that very well. So, I can’t please the people who want, full-length novels, but I think I’m able to offer a lot of variety. And I think that’s something that is sort of — I don’t know if undervalued is the right word — but that can really, I think, shape people’s perspective and broaden their minds about what sex is, what erotica is, what can be sexy. 

You might not want to read a whole book of erotica about someone with agoraphobia, to give one example of the story I’ve published. I think having something in there about mental health that is sort of surprising, like I think people wouldn’t necessarily say, ‘Okay, like I want to read mental health erotica today.’ You know, I think I try to offer a range of stories: some that are more fantasy and outrageous and just more cheerful and some that deal with more real-life topics, but also are sexy. And I think those offered sort of different things to readers.

Jera: That’s definitely why I wanted to talk to you. I think you do such a thoughtful job of putting together the anthologies and making sure that there’s so many different perspectives included. But before we jump into that, if people are interested in finding out more about the anthology, as well as your own work, where do they find it?

Rachel: My website is rachelkramerbussel.com and the Best Women’s Erotica series is BWEoftheyear.com. Those have pretty much everything you’d want to know. And my books are available in ebook, print audio —  pretty much wherever you would buy those things. 

Jera: Do you have specific niches that you’ve developed for your own writing? 

Rachel:  I have written a lot of erotica about some of those topics I mentioned earlier, like spanking and BDSM to some degree, but I feel like I don’t know if it’s really a niche because especially after the first few years of writing erotica, I’ve [illegible] to keep it interesting as a writer and to broaden my skill set to write about a range of characters. I mean, there’s some things I haven’t written about. It just either hasn’t occurred to me or, I haven’t written about everything, but I have written characters of different sexualities than my own, different races, different life experiences. And that that’s been important to me just so that I’m not writing the same story over and over. And it’s also just been something to kind of keep my writing fresh that I’ve tried to do. 

Jera: So we — Karen and I, along with our cohost Princess — had this conversation about what makes erotica feminist as well as what the role of erotica plays in a lot of women and other queer folks’ lives. And I think part of what we talked about is that it becomes a way of exploring one’s identity through fantasy and through a deeper exploration of desire. And I think it probably does that both for readers and writers, right? That it opens you up to things that you didn’t know you might enjoy or taps into different parts of your identity. Have you felt that as a writer?

Rachel: I felt that both as a reader and a writer, I mean, that’s kind of what drew me to erotica when I started reading it back 20 years ago. I was experimenting with my sexuality and discovering a lot of aspects of it. And I think erotica, not to pit it against nonfiction — I think they can work in tandem, but I think reading erotica can be a way to just enter into another character. Another person who may or may not have things in common with you, but you may discover aspects of yourself, whether related to your sexuality or other things that you can relate to. And I think you can’t really predict that going into it. And I think fiction can touch us in different ways than nonfiction can. 

So, I think a lot of it is about the flow of the writing and what is happening and how it’s being described and how it feels for that character. So not every story about, a given topic, whether it’s a foot fetish or dirty talk or whatever is going to be the same. So, you might like one aspect of one and one aspect of another, and you might discover something about what turns you on or what gets your fantasies going that you hadn’t thought about before. And I think that’s, to me, that’s one of the real values of erotica. 

Karen: I wanted to jump in with that question that we … so that first conversation that we all had as hosts was what makes erotica feminist, and for you, how would you answer that question and kind of what things would go into to your answer? 

Rachel: You think it’s, I think it’s a really good question. I think it’s also a tough question because is everything I’ve written feminist? I mean, I’m a feminist and I hope it is not anti-feminist, but I think it’s an interesting question. I mean, I think some of the feminist values I’ve brought to my writing and editing are … I mean, I can’t say I’ve never used these words — especially around language, certain words people might think of as sexist or pejorative. In the right context, they can be shown to not be. So I think it’s really about the perspective. And empowerment might not always be applicable, but it’s about making it clear that what’s happening is not just consensual. Consensual as a baseline, but also, especially women, but really any people of any gender, are not just going along with something for the sake of pleasing someone else, unless that’s part of their kink. 

But so I think it’s really making that part explicit at some point. I don’t think it means necessarily stating that explicitly every sentence. I think it’s about the overall impact of the entire creation, but I do think it’s a little bit of a tricky thing to define,. You know, it’s hard not to say, ‘Oh, I know it when I see it.’ And then it’s: who knows it? Like, do I know it? Do you know? Who is making that distinction? I think what is feminist erotica … you’re kind of asking what is feminist sex? And I don’t know if I have a clear cut answer to that. I do know that, as an editor, there are definitely things that I will work on with an author, or I won’t include that don’t feel feminist to me, that don’t feel ethical I guess. But I think that’s also something that different people are gonna define differently. So I hope I haven’t totally fumbled that answer. I know that’s the topic of the podcast, but it’s challenging, once you get down to the nitty gritty of each individual story or scene or fantasy. 

Karen: Yep, absolutely. You didn’t fumble that at all. We, so our conversation was an hour and I can’t tell you how many different things we came up with for it. And, it is really difficult to define. And I love what you said about what is feminist sex. I think it says a lot that I bought the URL, feministerotica.com like a month and a half ago. Like that was not something that was out in the world and not that feminist erotica, of course, doesn’t exist, but those were not two words that somebody had pushed together and bought already. So I feel like part of the fun of this for me is that exploration of that idea and kind of creating … how do you create standards around that? And as you said, we get to decide because we have this podcast, but I feel like it will be different for everyone. And I love the idea that we all kind of just, as we personally get to decide whether or not we’re feminists and whether we consider other people feminists and what they’re producing to be feminist — we can bring all of that to this as well. 

Rachel: Yeah. I mean, I wish I had a clear answer, but I also feel like I wouldn’t want to make some declarative statement and then someone say, ‘Oh, well this or this,’ but I will give one example. I think most creative people, you remember the things that people criticize, but there’s a story I published in an anthology called Spanked and it was a daddy/girl role-play scenario. And so this, if you read it closely, if you read it understanding what that is, you would realize that it’s role-playing because they break the roleplay at one point and they go into how their relationship is set up. But someone posted a review saying, ‘Oh, well this is incest. And this is this.’ And it kind of touched a nerve for me because I felt like it is very challenging to talk about certain aspects of role-playing or other kinks and make it clear like this is something people are voluntarily, consensually engaging in, and they’re kind of playing with something that’s taboo. 

And I think, if you want to critique playing with it, great! But to misunderstand it, that has kind of stuck with me because I think it takes a strong writer to be able to do that and still be sexy. And I think that can be a challenge for people. I think sometimes, to keep it in the context of erotic fiction and still also talk about other issues in society and feminist topics is challenging, but I think it can be done. I’m not saying everyone has to do it, but body image is also one of them. And it’s something that as an editor, I do feel a big responsibility not to have every one of my characters of various genders fit into what mainstream society would say is sexy or beautiful or handsome. I think that’s really important. 

And I think, especially I feel responsible, if I have an anthology of 25 stories or more… A) I don’t want all the characters to look the same and act the same, but I also think that that is important work of showcasing different types of attraction and beauty. And I think it also goes to this idea, not just that women especially are subject to these beauty standards, but also that this idea that everyone wants one type or maybe one or two types of what the standard of sexy is. And I think to me that is something important that I try to explore and explore in a way that doesn’t then fetishize other types of characters, you know? And I think that can be tricky. And I think sometimes when people haven’t really thought about it in their own lives as much, or in terms of the world, like they will write something that on the surface might seem body-positive, but that’s not really underpinned by the writing. 

So I think there are ways to talk about all kinds of topics within erotica, because erotica isn’t just totally divorced from real life. You know, I’ve read erotica and published stories that talk about death, about breakups, about various topics that we don’t usually think go with sex, but I think those can touch people in different ways, then something that’s more joyous, I guess, where it’s more focused on just happier topics. So I think all of that kind of is part of my work. And that’s ongoing. I, when, when I started 20 years ago, I, wasn’t thinking about a lot of the things that I think about now in terms of inclusion and in terms of offering some of that.

Karen: And I would think, and I so appreciate how thoughtful you are about that, which I feel like is also a feminist, just that notion of being so incredibly thoughtful about it and that placing erotica in the context of real people’s lives makes it both more accessible and that it resonates with people in a completely different way. And I feel like both having the fantasy aspect of it and the aspect that sexuality is a part of everyone’s lives and this is what it looks like in the context of their lives. And so I’m going to ask one more question then Jera, I promise I’m going to stop talking. 

I’m curious about …  I also love short stories. I absolutely adore them. I love anthologies, almost all of the erotica I own is anthologies. And I’m wondering as an editor, the ordering of them, like, do you think about them … I think about an album. Do you think about it like you should listen to this start to finish? Do you think about like, just jump in and your favorite song? Like how do you, how do you order them and how does that process work? 

Rachel: It’s not an exact science. I usually will know I want this one first and this one last. Those have stood out to me for some aspect of them. Usually the first story, I definitely want it to be something that most readers hopefully will pick it up, start reading it, want to keep reading. I do try to save things that are maybe more extreme sexually or more graphic towards the end, like sort of build up to them because, to go after that, it’s kind of like, okay, you just had like kinky fisting, gang bang, and then you’re going to like a sexier romance where I don’t know, people are having missionary position sex on their bed at home. You know, like I feel like it’s kind of unfair to that next story. 

I also try to vary types of sexuality and like first person, third person, and also location. And some of these things that I’m always tweaking when I put out a call for submissions, for authors, like what I’m looking for to get more variety, like a lot of people write stories, set in cities, which is great. You know, cities are interesting, but I’m also like what about the person in a town of 500 people or the people, you know? 

So I try to vary things like that. Basically,  I want it to be an enjoyable reading experience if you’re reading all the way through. Not everyone is necessarily, and just not to feel repetitive in any way.  I don’t want the stories to feel repetitive generally. Like I try to make them different from each other, but if there’s a lot of couples or if there’s a lot of single people hooking up, two people who are strangers hooking up, I’ll try to stagger those throughout so that no one feels like, ‘Oh, I just read a version of that the one before,’ but there’s not really a super scientific process to ordering beyond that. Sometimes I just … okay, where can this go? And I will sort of do a rough draft of it and then move some around if there’s two adjacent stories that feel too similar. 

Jera: So Karen, I’m going to encourage you to keep asking questions. 

Karen: I do have a follow-up. Okay, good. So it also leads to the question, and this is a two-part question, how do people submit to you? And then what are you looking for? How do you decide who gets to come to each party as you’re putting them together? 

Rachel: The party! I put out calls for on my website, on the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year website and social media, on a lot of writing-related sites and erotica sites. And then I also will reach out to people whose work I’ve liked and say, if you have anything that would fit into this and then, I’ll start reading through them and I’ll kind of have some that I’m like, ‘Okay, that is amazing. I really want to include that.’ Some I know that just don’t work for me for various reasons, and some that that might work or might not work, and then I’ll get through that. And then I’ll sort of see what I have. And if there are things that I don’t feel like came in,  like right now in this instance, I’ve extended the call and said, ‘Okay, I’m looking for some stories like this.’ 

Like, I don’t have anything historical. I have a lot of people who are strangers, so I want couples and people in relationships. So I’ll sort of look for what I feel like maybe isn’t there as much and work backward and try to seek that out. And then in terms of what I pick, I mean, it’s hard because a lot of times I have to reject stories that I really like, but that I can’t include in this particular book. Like sometimes it’s because there are two amazing stories, but they’re both about mermaids. And that just is so specific that it would feel like too much for one book. So sometimes I’ll say to those authors, I can’t use your story, but if you have anything else or please submit next time, and I’m really always just looking for a variety, basically, in terms of all aspects of that. 

Like, I want different types of careers and life situations and ages and races and sexualities and identities, and just different personalities, different types of people and what sex and eroticism mean to them. And then also different types of sex acts, like what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, where they’re doing it. I really try to encourage authors to just think outside the box, because if I’m looking at a hundred or 200 stories and they’re all set in someone’s bedroom … I will gravitate towards those that are set somewhere different or that just give me a character that’s different than other characters I’ve read. I’m also looking for, I feel like I’ve built myself up as someone publishing a lot of depressing erotica or dark erotica, but I’m also looking for humor. 

One of my favorite stories that I’ve published is called “Star Struck,” and it’s set in Comic-Con and it’s about a woman going to Comic-Con and having had this crush on this actor when she was younger and they wind up hooking up. And it deals with a lot of different aspects of fandom and celebrity and a nerd being a nerd. And, I think all those things can go into, especially the collections I edit. So I feel like I write very detailed guidelines, like they’re 3000 words. And sometimes I feel guilty about that, but I’m really trying — I am very wide open to new authors and I’m always looking. One other thing I look for is authors who are new to the genre and or that I haven’t published before, because I think that’s how I got started maybe being in other people’s anthologies. 

And I want to encourage people to keep publishing and, maybe they start with a short story or two or three and then go on to do larger work. So that’s important to me as well. And I think it’s good for readers to hear different voices. I think one of the things I love about erotica is that you don’t need an MFA. You don’t need a certain amount of sexual experience. That’s something that people also ask me: Do I have to have done the things I write about? And no, you just have to be able to convincingly convey them. Like, you should sound like you know what is happening, but  I’m not going to ask you if you’ve done it. I don’t really care. Like that’s not really relevant. 

Jera: Do you have any wishlist items or types of identities or situations that it’s harder for you to find? 

Rachel: I would say, and this is starting to change, but I’ve received more submissions about partners of trans people, especially partners of trans men, than I have received stories from the point of view of trans women. That is starting to change. I mean, that’s not an absolute, but that is something. Also, I don’t receive as many stories about like more rural areas. I feel like it’s more suburban and cities and I’m always interested in that. And also, I don’t know if this is something totally underrepresented, but I’m always interested in stories set outside the United States and in different cultures that American readers might not know as much about. And what sex is like for someone living in another country or another culture —  how does sex play into that for those characters? Those are a couple things. It’s challenging because I do have to reject a lot of stories that I think are good stories, but that feel like similar to things I’ve read before, or that I’ve published before. 

Like I’m always looking to kind of publish the thing I haven’t published before, or that I haven’t seen as much of, and it’s hard to say exactly what that is. And I fully admit that I am coming from this from my own very subjective place as one person with one life experience. I mean, I read widely, but I haven’t read everything. So these things might exist that I don’t know about. But you know, like I’d love to read about a black lesbian astronaut or something like something that I don’t know. I’m also interested in just different careers and also personalities. I think often, not that I don’t get characters like this, but shy, people or people who may have very vivid fantasies, but there’s a gap between what they know they want and living it out, like how do they go after that? But I’m always interested in stories that surprise me in some way. In fact, that is going to be the theme of the seventh volume of Best Women’s Erotica of the Year: surprise, because I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I want to be surprised. I want to read about things that I wouldn’t expect and hopefully readers wouldn’t expect.

Jera: I love it. I’m very excited about that because I, too, would like to be surprised when I read it. So yeah, it sounds like a really exciting next issue. I wanted to go back to something you were saying, and I think I’m going to mess it up now, so this isn’t going to be the best recap. But we were talking about things that are taboo and how they can easily be misinterpreted. And I was thinking about how this probably isn’t everybody, but for many of us, there’s a reason that taboos are sexy, because they’re taboo or they’re pushing against things that we’re not supposed to accept. And I think that probably, for many of us, that’s part of what makes things sexy, is they feel risky or dangerous in some way. But then, so many times when I’ll read something or watch porn for that matter, there’s a line where it stops feeling sexy and it just feels wrong, unethical anti-feminist, whatever it is. And, it takes a nuance right? To be able to walk that line? 

Rachel: I definitely agree with that. And I think one thing, for instance, like when you were talking, it brought to mind BDSM because a type of story I see with almost every call I put out, unless it’s specifically about something else, is women characters being submissive in the BDSM context. I think because that on the surface can often make women grapple with their feminism. And is this feminist? This feels awkward in some way, because it can feel antithetical to feminism. And I think that is something a lot of writers, myself included, have gravitated to erotica to work out. But what I was going to say is that I try really hard, especially with BDSM stories, to have the writer put the reader in both or more than whoever’s doing the scene, in the various characters’ heads, because I think it’s really important whether you’re writing from the point of view of the top or bottom to recognize that one person in that scene might have one perspective and the other person might have another. 

And I think this goes to what I was saying earlier about, you need to be a very strong writer, I think, especially to convey the top perspective, because what is it about receiving sexual gratification or enjoyment about doing some of those types of actions that could look like violence in another context? And I think that’s something that, sometimes it’s assumed that the reader understands, but the reader doesn’t always understand. And I think to be able to clarify that, and really just dig into what is that about in the context of your particular story is challenging. And I think probably the biggest note I give to authors is how does this person feel? What does it feel like for them both physically and mentally, because I think there’s a default to describing the physical action that’s going on. And the way I try to explain it as like, you might walk into a room and see — let’s just keep it simple for the sake of this — like five pairings of two people like doing the exact same action, but that’s 10 people who might all be thinking 10 different things and who are all bringing 10 different life experiences to that. 

So you can’t assume because this person is into whatever their particular thing is why they’re into it. And I think it’s the author’s job to describe why they’re into it. And that process can bring up a lot of other things. And I’ve published a few stories dealing with abuse and how overcoming that abuse and moving on from it to have a healthy sex life is sort of intertwined like what you were saying with sometimes grappling with it in a context where it’s not abuse. But that doesn’t mean that abuse never existed in that character’s life. And I think it can really be challenging to tell those stories, because I’m aware that not every reader wants to — they might pick up a book of erotica and just want to purely escape and not deal with some of these real topics. 

I think it’s important to have both, like we were saying before, because I think it shows that everyone grapples with sexuality differently. And I don’t ever want to be putting forward the idea that, okay, there’s one way you should be talking about it. I want to really embrace as wide of a concept of what is erotic as possible. And to me, that is feminist because it’s making space for people for whom sex means all these different things. Even though that sounds maybe vague, that is what I look for when I’m reading. I want to read about someone who is approaching their sexuality and their partner and partners in ways that are enlightening about something, about humanity and sex. Because I think sometimes people get that part, but then it feels not necessarily like erotica, you know? So I think merging those two is challenging, but it definitely can be done. 

Karen:

I want to be respectful of your time, so I just have one last question. As I’m listening to you talk and thinking about the work that you do, this sounds like a dream job. Like you’re editing erotica anthologies. Like, yes, please! I would like to sign up for that job. And I imagine that there are challenges to it, of course, that my journalism yahoo self can;t imagine. So what do you think are some of the challenges that people might not realize would be challenges in what you’re doing? 

Rachel:

I think it is a really amazing job. I love it. I love the fact that I get to work with authors from around the world. I especially like working with authors who are newer or new to publishing. I would say challenges. I mean, honestly, probably the biggest challenge is trying to widen that pool of authors I’m reaching. I do put everything online, I try to reach out to relevant groups, but I’m really interested in, especially like someone who’s maybe never thought about writing erotica, but who suddenly feels like they have a story to tell, but how do I find that person from all over the world? You know? So I think that is something I’ve put more effort into as much as I can. And I welcome people sharing my calls for submissions, and I hope to have more, but that probably is, I would say, the biggest challenge because I recognize that I’m privileged to be able to do this. 

There’s fewer publishers publishing these types of anthologies than there were 20 years ago when I started. There is more self-publishing, but I recognize that. So I really want to use it as a platform to showcase a broad number of writers and types of writing. But I do think one of the challenges is not just accepting, okay, this is my circle. And these are who I’m reaching, and I’m just pulling from what comes in. Like I try to be really proactive about reading in the genre and reaching out to people and also saying, ‘Okay, I want rural erotica or I want stories about space or whatever,’ like that might encourage people to think along those lines that that might not have.

Jera: That’s awesome. They work as prompts, and as we’ve been saying, erotica is about exploring things you wouldn’t realize that you’re interested in. So the prompts feel like they do that justice, right? 

Rachel: Yes. I hope so. And you know, sometimes things stand out to me only as I’m going through what I’ve received, or sometimes, if I got like 10 stories about mermaids, I might go to my publisher and say, ‘Hey, maybe we should do a book about mermaids because it’s popping up and it’s so popular.’ So when I put out those calls, that’s also a way for me to gauge what are writers thinking about right now? 

Jera: So for listeners, there is a great mermaid story in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year Number Five that you should check out. 

If you have a few more minutes, I wanted to call attention to one of the stories from that series that I think does a lot of what we were talking about. It just keeps coming to mind. There’s a story called “Sheer Pleasure” by A.Z Louise. You can find them on Twitter at az_louise. And they wrote a piece for the issue number five, or series number five, about an enby princex that’s looking at scandalous clothing that would flaunt their plus size body. And it’s about this enby princex’s relationship with their partner who is more dominant and encourages them to do this, but encourages them in a power dynamic where they enjoy being humiliated. And they find release from the anxiety of showing off their body through humiliation. And when you were talking about how things can appear body positive, but not really be, I feel like this is the opposite where, for folks that are not used to humiliation or degradation play, it can seem as though the story would be body-negative, but for the couple involved, this humiliation is a way of actually getting moving beyond body issues and find empowerment through facing the fear. 

And I just think it’s a really powerful example of playing with that taboo. I just wondered if you had had thoughts on that story and what it does. 

Rachel: I agree with that. And I think it can get very complex to unpack all those layers of what you were talking about. Yeah. Because, and I think something that that can also maybe not feel as feminist, but I do think of as feminist, is recognizing that our partners can often help us unpack and explore aspects of our sexuality that we are maybe confused about or not sure how they work in real life. I think it’s a reality, not that you need a partner to do that, but that for many people, a partner can give a different perspective. And because they’re in a relationship, whether it’s whatever kind of relationship, that person cares about them. They can help them explore it in a way that doesn’t stifle them. Cause I think for a lot of people in the real world, like some of the things that they’re interested in get stifled by the larger society or by a partner or by an offhand comment or whatever, and that they never even like mentally explore them. 

So I think taking that leap of exploring something that maybe existed in your mind into the real world, especially when it’s something that does have shame or issues around it, you can explore that. You don’t have to ignore the fact that there might be those feelings, you can work through them. And, I think it’s also someone might, let’s say cry during some type of sex act or scene, and that’s okay. Or they might have multiple conflicting feeling,  like they might be turned on and they may also be sad or they might be turned on and might also be confused or nervous. And that’s okay to grapple with that. And I think that goes back to what I was saying that I feel like I want erotica as a genre in general to offer the range of human experience around sex. And that includes things like that where it’s not always so neat, it’s not always okay. I’m turned on by X, let’s do X, means I have an amazing time. Like there might be highs and lows within that. And you know, you might try something that doesn’t work for you on the way to discovering something that does work for you and okay, too. 

And I think having a partner or partners who can not do it for you or not coerce you into it, but work with you on the things that you want to do and understand it from your perspective, that is something really valuable. And that again, whether it’s feminist or not, I don’t want to be the total arbiter of that. But to me that is feminist because it’s in that story, that partner is helping that character explore something that they want to explore, but maybe didn’t know was a possibility to actually explore in real life.

Jera: Any closings. Karen?

Karen: No, that was beautiful. Thank you. And thank you so much for your time and for talking with us. I hope we haven’t scared you off. I would love to have you back as we explore all of these things, as we continue to explore these things, but you feel like this scholar of us, like we’re just going to keep coming back to you. 

Rachel: 

Thank you. 

Outro: Feminist Erotica is a podcast from Rebellious Magazine for Women hosted by Jera Brown, Princess McDowell, and Karen Hawkins. If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at feministerotica@rebelliousmagazine.com. Follow us on Instagram @feministeroticapodcast, on Facebook @feministerotica, and on Twitter @feministerotic, and make sure you subscribe to us wherever you devour podcasts.

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Jera Brown writes about being a queer kinky polyamorous Christian on their blog scarletchurch.com. Their sex and relationship advice column, Just the Tip, is hosted by Rebellious Magazine. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram @thejerabrown.