cover graphic for Feminist Erotica season 2 episode 3, Feminist Erotica's logo in the top left, with a side-by-side picture of Lauren Emily and Jayne Renault. Lauren is blonde and smiling while wearing a white camisole. Jayne has pink hair and is smizing with her face resting atop her hand.

On this episode on Feminist Erotica, Jera is joined by erotica writer and editor Jayne Renault and Lauren Emily. Jayne is the “Smut Queen” behind bellesa.co’s curated erotica library. Lauren Emily’s work can be found on bellesa and elsewhere. 

The trio spoke about how erotica gives readers and writers alike permission to explore new things and identify new aspects of themselves. They also related to becoming more authentic versions of themselves through pen names and online personas. Check out Jayne and Lauren’s queer, sexy stories at bellesa.co — a feminist adult platform.

Follow Feminist Erotica on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and email us with questions/comments/concerns at feministerotica@rebelliousmagazine.com. This episode is sponsored by Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. 

Episode Resources: Follow Lauren Emily on Twitter and Instagram; Check out Lauren Emily’s books, the young adult novel Satellite, the forthcoming YA nonfiction book Dealing with Drama, and the short story ‘I Saw Her Again’ in the anthology Link by Link; Follow Jayne Renault on Twitter @Jayne_Renault, peruse her website, jaynerenault.co and jump into her stories The Birthday Bash, Comings and Goings, Just Keep Going; Grab your copy of these books via our affiliate links: Proofs and Theories by Louise Gluck

Transcript

Voiceover Goddess: 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: Today, I’m talking to Jayne Renault and Lauren Emily. Lauren Emily is a writer and performer living in Chicago with her cat, Versace. Her erotica has been featured in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Vol. 5, as well as Best magazine and the fantastic website, bellesa.co. Lauren is the author of the YA novel Satellite and the forthcoming YA nonfiction book Dealing with Drama, and her short story ‘I Saw Her Again’ appears in the holiday haunts-themed anthology Link by Link, out this December.

Jayne Renault is a long-winded, smutty wordsmith who likes to fill her pages with bisexual babes and fierce creatures who take what they want, scandal and infidelity, group fun and smug solo sessions, and maybe a little magic. A good metaphor will turn her on more than a pretty face ever could. And she lives and loves in Montreal, Canada, where she rules as the smut queen behind the curtains at bellesa. Describe the company and describe your role in it for the podcast.

Jayne: Sure. So bellesa is kind of a one-stop shop bisexuality platform. We have the porn videos, we’ve got the erotica, which is all me. We’ve got a sex toy shop that’s up and running now for the past, I can’t remember now, year? Two years? It’s going really well now, anyways. I’ve been very much on the customer service side of things to help support through the COVID upheaval because-

Lauren: It just kind of exploded overnight. Everyone was locked in. It’s like, we need to take care of ourselves now.

Jera: Right.

Jayne: So, yeah, it started out as just this idea of like, ‘If porn was made, at least respecting the female perspective from day one, what would that look like? And that was kind of the premise of everything that it’s turned into. So my role there now, and from the beginning, I was the first hire. I was brought on to build the erotica department, I suppose. So I’m the, I don’t really know what my title is. It switches all the time. I’m the head of erotica, VP of erotica, Smut Queen, whatever you want to call it. But, I occupy an editor and curator role. I’m the one who has built up the free erotic story collection by working with the writers and editing their works and combing through submissions at the time. Our call for submissions is closed right now, just because I can only do so much at one time.

Jera: Totally.

Jayne: We are revamping what erotica looks like on bellesa right now. So there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes, but primarily, yeah, I’ve been an editor and a community builder and it’s been, yeah. I’ve been with them for almost four years now full-time. It all just started out with this weird little Craigslist ad, and they were looking for erotica writers and here we are today.

Jera: That’s awesome. Thank you both for joining me, Jayne has been a great supporter of this podcast as we’ve gotten started. And then I heard Rachel Bussel Kramer read part of Lauren’s piece at the last event at Women and Children First. And I also reviewed Best Women’s Erotica of the Year. And then I was looking at pieces from bellesa and happened across one of Lauren Emily’s pieces and featured it for our Instagram account. So it just feels like, Lauren, you keep coming up.

Jayne: She does that.

Jera: Which is super fun. Lauren, I was looking at your upcoming nonfiction book, Dealing with Drama, and it’s all about it’s targeting teens, right? Helping them learn how to navigate complicated situations.

Lauren: Yeah.

Jera: Can you, yeah, talk about it?

Lauren: Well, actually I wrote that in two months.

Jera: Wow.

Lauren: Yeah. So what happened was, it was almost exactly a year ago. It was a little before Labor Day. I got an email from an educational publisher and they said, ‘Would you be interested in writing a book as part of this series for teen girls, because you’re a published young adult author?’ And, but it was like, ‘But yeah, here’s the catch, it’s due in two months.’

Jera: Oh my gosh.

Lauren: ‘We need your full outline, your bibliography,’ because that was the thing. It’s nonfiction. So it had to be heavily researched as well. They’re like, ‘We’ll need that in like five weeks. And it was kind of like, Oh my God, because I have a day job, too. And also, at the time, I was getting ready to start rehearsals for a show that I was in at Second City’s blackout cabaret. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay. Yeah, I guess I’m writing a nonfiction book for teen girls in two months.’ I can’t say enough about the Chicago Public Library system because they are amazing, and I was able to get everything I needed. And I used a lot of articles from Psychology Today and stuff as well. So it was a very different process than my usual fiction writing, which is just a lot of vomiting on the page and then kind of refining it. But this was very, very deliberate. Usually I don’t even outline for fiction and I had to outline for this. But it was such a good experience and I’m really looking forward to it. And I loved books like that when I was in that target audience. So I’m hoping it can help. It can help somebody.

Jera: I’m curious, publishing both erotica and YA books. Do you use the same? Are you able to use the same platform? Is there pushback?

Lauren: I do. I think I am on enough of a small scale that it just hasn’t been much of an issue. I use, I mean, basically I use my last name for YA and I don’t for anything sex or adult related.

Jera: Gotcha.

Lauren: Because I’ve also written articles for Playboy about sex and stuff like that. And it’s just, yeah, I didn’t want to have a whole other name. I just, I just didn’t. And again, I’m under the radar enough that it’s not a big deal. And I figure if it ever becomes a big deal, I’ll deal with it then. But it all just sort of happened kind of fast, too. I was reached out to by Jayne from bellesa a couple of weeks after I’d submitted my first story to her and that’s when they were just getting started. And a couple of weeks later I sold a story to Bust Magazine. It was kind of a connection through a friend of a friend.

Jera: For one of their one-handed reads?

Lauren: For one of their one-handed reads.

Jera: Cool.

Lauren: Yeah. And I ended up doing three of those in 2017, 18 and 19. And then, that same month that I signed a contract with bellesa and with Bust, I got a publishing contract for my YA novel, which had been on submission forever. So it all happened in one month. So it was also kind of like, I knew I was going to have to set up writer platforms on social media and stuff like that. And I was like, I literally don’t have time to come up with a whole other persona. I’m like, we’re just going to use the last name and not, and just that’s going to be that. So.

Jera: Nice. Yeah. I have three different platforms right now because most of my rent gets paid doing business blogging. And then I also have a sex worker name that I just use separately for privacy and safety and, because like Jayne said, we have to band together because the government’s out to get us. But, this is stuff under E. J. Brown and I do my lifestyle and relationship stuff under Jera Brown cause I ran into this issue where businesses would tag me on Twitter with something that I’ve been writing for an agency about other businesses. And then I remember, it happened once where the next tweet down was this thing that I wrote about pony play for Marie Claire.

Lauren: Oh my god!

Jera: And I’m just like, man, I really don’t want this business to be like, ‘Oh, this person just wrote about me. Let me look at their Twitter.’ And then like, see the next thing being pony play. So, yeah, I just was like, all right, I’m going to maintain all of these different identities and personas so that I can pay rent, be myself and do what I want to do. But actually, I think that maybe this would be a fascinating foray into personal growth and self care is like, how we have these different parts of ourselves that are authentic or that pay the bills or whatever, and how we maintain all of them at the same time, you know? Jayne, I know you use multiple personas. How do you navigate authenticity with different identities? Does that question resonate?

Jayne: Yeah, it does. And I think I know what you mean because I’ve never been using the pseudonym as a means of privacy or safety because everyone in my life knows what I’m doing because this is my full-time job and it would just be way too much work to try and keep that secret. So, I use Jayne Renault as my persona name because I kind of like the secret identity that comes along with it. But it’s more just the theme of the genre is that you have the pen name, and that I liked that. And interestingly enough, Jayne has become, I feel more authentic in her presentation than Jess ever has been. And so, or at least the way that I act on social media and the way that I connect with people.

Jera: Yeah, I get that.

Jayne: It’s been a cool exercise in discovering like my authentic self through this character. And so, even with my coworkers, they call me Jayne, most of them, and or it switches back and forth like, or some kind of combination thereof. And a lot of my friends and family follow me on my work accounts because they’re curious or they’re supportive or whatever. So I’ve been very fortunate in that way that I don’t need to hide myself, or at least that I chose early on that that wasn’t something that I was going to put my effort and energy into. And that definitely comes from a place of privilege. It’s a luxury to be able to do that. And just, hopefully it won’t be a problem in the future, and it won’t be because I don’t want to work with someone who’s not okay with what I’m doing right now.

Jera: Totally. I had this interesting moment with my therapist a while back where like, so my full name is Emily Jera Brown. And when I decided that I was going to start writing full-time, I decided to go by Jera because it just was more Google-able, basically. And so, I made the switch at 33 to start going by my middle name. And a lot of my friends, my partners at the time, made the switch super easily because they felt like the name suited me. And then, you know, six years later or something, I started realizing that I put so much authenticity into the name, Jera, that Emily started to feel like it was all of my baggage, my conservative Christian upbringing or me not figuring out how to be monogamous, or like all these things that I now thought of as Emily, whereas Jera was authentically polyamorous and authentically proud of being plus-sized and all these things. I was like, Oh. My first thought though, was like, ‘I’m going to do a scene about this. I’m going to make somebody call me Emily and have me take it.’ Yeah. But I guess I do resonate with the name starting to feel authentic, even if it’s a chosen name, I guess.

Jayne: And actually it’s interesting, Jane is my given middle name as well. So.

Jera: Oh funny.

Jayne: Very parallel lives, or paths rather.

Jera: Nice.

Lauren: I sort of, yeah, I very rarely use my last name anymore, although I use it at work, er my day job, and that’s not only unavoidable, but it’s kind of like, that’s my work persona. Cause I have an admin job and my boss knows about everything, but I started using, when I got back into performing, I started using Lauren Emily just on social media. And that was more for my privacy and everything like that. And yeah, ever since then, some people just call me Lauren Emily and yeah, that feels very authentic to me. It’s not that I have a problem with my last name, but I also was brought up religious. I was brought up Catholic and also, where I was brought up, my family has a business. So that’s a last name that a lot of people know and have associations with. So it did feel unexpectedly freeing when I started Lauren Emily, more than more than anything else. Cause I mean, there are people in my life who either don’t know my last name or couldn’t just come up with it and yeah, it’s really interesting. And just, yeah, I feel very free.

Jera: That’s fascinating. So all three of us basically messed with our given names in some way, too. And I think we all did it online in some way too, right? So I feel like a lot of people in my life, I don’t know. I don’t always even know people’s last names that I date because I met them on Tinder or something. They don’t give their full name or their real name on Facebook, and it doesn’t come up in conversations.

Lauren: I definitely know people who like, I don’t know their legal name. And you know that has to do with, you know, the queer and trans community too, where there are a lot of chosen names that aren’t made legal for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just very hard to get that done. And yeah, I remember having that realization where it’s like, I don’t know this person’s legal name. And then it’s like, you know, who cares? Like, what they’ve told me is their name is their name.

Jera: Yeah. You get to decide what matters.

Lauren: Yes. That’s a good way of putting it.

Jera: So let’s tie this back to erotica, erotic performance in some way. It feels like all three of us, like we’re able to reinvent ourselves or come to the core of what’s true about us. And then we put it into these personas, but these personas are not just the end of the conversation. Then we also create new characters out of this more authentic version of ourselves.

Jayne: Yeah. I’ve definitely noticed the progression over the years. When I started, it was more, it’s never been autobiographical, but there definitely, I drew more from personal experiences in the early days. Like most of us do I think. And as I’ve grown as a storyteller, as a writer, as a person, my characters have taken on different aspects of me than they did in those first forays. And I can see, I can look back on my older works and go, Whoa. This was a lot of this version of me. And now I’m pulling on this one. And sometimes it’s almost frustrating for my works in progress that have been waiting for me to finish them for so long. And I look at them and I’m like, But I’m not you anymore. This is the part of me that I am so far beyond, and I don’t know how to reconnect with you in order to finish this story. So.

Jera: Yeah.

Jayne: It’s an interesting, definitely an interesting part of the journey to see which parts are the most important to us at the time or what we’re evaluating, what we’re exploring, what we’re trying to purge, maybe? Whatever that exercise might be.

Jera: Lauren, do you have thoughts?

Lauren: Yeah, actually my erotica writing started out as very autobiographical. I slept with one of my coworkers at a job. This was, like, five jobs ago, and I originally wrote what would be my first published story like years ago. And it was just for me. And then I had a friend look at it who’s a romance author and she gave me some good feedback and she really liked it, but there wasn’t really any place I could publish it. I was a blogger at the time, but I wasn’t a sex blogger. So I was like, I feel weird putting this anywhere. And I’d ideally like to get paid for it, but there’s no one. Nothing. And so I had basically almost forgotten about it when I heard that this adult entertainment website was looking for short, erotic stories. And I was like, okay, what the hell. I sent it over. And that is how I met Jayne. Yeah. And eventually it came out when I was talking to her, I was like, ‘Yeah, this was a true story. This was, this is something that really happened.’ A lot of it was, because I wrote it fairly soon after this one night stand happened. And actually the person found out about it and was, he’s also a writer so, he was very cool with it, I think he was very flattered. But yeah, it started out as me talking about my real experiences and there’s still some of that, but there’s also, I think Jayne put it very well. Like I’ve grown as a writer and as a person and there are different parts of me that come into stories. Especially now that I’m out as bi, which did not happen until I’d been writing erotica steadily for several months. So.

Jera: I can relate to that too. Well, I think, more kink than writing for me is the thing that allowed me to come out in different ways. It’s like, you sort of have to play with it in some way creatively for it to feel real.

Lauren: Definitely.

Jera: Jayne, do you have a story you’re working on that you can sort of describe about something that feels authentic at the moment that you’re working through a story? Is that fair to ask? Something that you recently published? Yeah.

Jayne: The one that I am working on right now, I technically started – well, if we get really technical, it was like July of 2016, but it was like summer of 2017. I was really working on it because it was going to be this long form story I was going to write for bellesa. And it’s been this ongoing, on-and-off work in progress because I didn’t have a lot of time to be writing after I had started it because I got really deep into full-time editor mode, and then things have just coming on along the way. So I’ve revived it. And what it was, was really beautiful at the time and it made sense and I was processing certain relationships and feelings and whatnot. And I look at it now and I’m just like, ‘Oh God, I’m so bored of this. This doesn’t even feel like me anymore.’ It felt so important at the time, and now I’m just like, ‘Oh God, I hate these characters. I just want to kill them off already.’ I’ve never killed someone in an erotic story, but maybe this is the time, I don’t know. I turned it into a frame story where we’re in the present and that’s the flashback. And then coming back around and so I can honor the story that was authentic at its time while making it authentic today as well. So, I have some people beta reading it for me right now to see if it makes any sense at all. But the exercise is that, yeah, we are growing and changing constantly, and it’s really cool to be able to look back on that older self and go, ‘Yeah, yeah. You were valid then and we’re valid now and it’s cool to see that transition and yet honor the changes, I suppose.’

Jera: Lauren, do you have one that comes to mind?

Lauren: I actually just finished one like a month ago, and it was about pegging, which is not something I’ve ever been interested in for me, but the idea just kind of came to me and I couldn’t really let it go. And I was kind of like, okay, whatever that means, let’s honor that and write about it. and actually Jayne beta read it for me and had some fantastic feedback, and I hope it will be published somewhere someday. But yeah, that was a very interesting experience because that’s not something I’ve ever done before. And so I really had to do some Googling. I had to really think of the mechanics of it. The other one that comes to mind is one you can actually find on bellesa and it’s one I wrote before lockdown happened, but it is about like Skype sex, essentially. It was kind of like, when it was eventually published, which I think it was published about when lockdown started and it was like, Oh man, I didn’t even know.

Jayne: Yeah. It’s definitely been one of the most read stories since COVID started. Yeah.

Lauren: That makes a lot of sense. And I mean, it’s, there’s two people in person and then they’re Skyping with a third. But yeah, it was just like, Oh man. And I do kind of believe that creative people are very intuitive. That we have this kind of foresight almost, and it was just like, Oh man, what did past Lauren know?

Jayne: Oh, that’s actually very interesting too. When I was still receiving loads of submissions, it was interesting to see the trends in themes. People from all over the world would send, like one week it was like all threesomes. And one week it was all like, I dunno, bisexual girls figuring their things out for the first time. There would just be these trends that would come up and I’m like, is there something, is there a show that just came out? Or is there something that’s about to happen? Like there was, yeah, these noticeable trends in themes from people who have no connection to each other except for that they sent me their story.

Lauren: So interesting.

Jera: Yeah. There is this idea of what the societal subconscious is or something. It’s interesting to relate that to sex. It does seem like there are certain trends that come up that have to be just this weird cocktail of politics and cultural power dynamics and all these things that end up making us want similar things at similar times, you think?

Jayne: Or like the way that we process those things or escape from them? Yeah.

Lauren: Right?

Jera: Yeah.

Lauren: Yeah. It just kind of exploded overnight. Everyone was locked in. It’s like, ‘We need to take care of ourselves now.’ Right.

Jera: I feel like on a lot of porn sites that would target cismen at least, or even gay men I guess, written erotica is not something they think much about. They’re very separate.

Lauren: Yeah. There’s always this distinction between like, yeah, women read erotica and men watch porn, which is not true on either side.

Jera: Right.

Lauren: Anyone can enjoy either of those things, which is why I think that the bellesa approach has been really cool because you have people hopping over from one side to the other, depending on where they start. That’s not necessarily where they end up. And gender has nothing to do with it, so that’s been really cool to see and have the proof of that because we’ve always known this but like, people haven’t had the permission to explore in that way for so long. But I think that the written erotica, it just allows you to experience eroticism in a totally different way. You use your imagination more. You’re going to customize it more than being prescribed these images. And there’s a lot of freedom and safety in that because you control the pace. You control who it is that you are in the scene, or like, if you’re an observer, if you’re engaging with it. There’s so much more control. And for a lot of people there’s, yeah, it’s safer and more welcoming for that exploration, especially if you’re doing it for the first time, or working through some things that you haven’t been able to acknowledge in any other space.

Jera: It does. And I feel like when I want to get off and I just use something generic like PornHub, I just feel lazy. Yeah?

Jayne: It is true. It’s very functional. Like, I need to get this done and whatever. I need to just get it over with, whereas with erotica, I think people, I’ve heard other people say this where they do it, they read it to get in the mood and then they build from there. Whereas the visual porn is like, ‘I might already be there, or I don’t even care. I just need to turn on my body and get it done.’

Jera: Yeah. What else has surprised you in this job? What have you learned about the exploration of sexuality through?

Jayne: Definitely a lot of people have used it either as a reader or writer or both to come to terms with their sexuality. Maybe they have never acknowledged their queerness until they start digging into these words. I’ve had a lot of writers, or people who have submitted stories, and some of them that I’ve ended up working with and having deeper conversations, where it was through reading somebody’s story on our platform that they started to feel they had the permission to be their authentic self, whether it was like from a kink perspective or their bisexuality or something like that. That has been one of the most amazing and fulfilling things, I think so far.

Jera: Totally. Do you feel like you have much connection to the readers? Is it through social media that you stay connected or?

Jayne: Yeah, the readers are, I don’t have a lot of connection to them. I can look at the analytics and I have these broad numbers to look at, but the readers are not super vocal because I think of the nature of the media or medium, rather. You can’t like the pages on Facebook, because depending on your job and your family, that’s not an option and not everyone-

Jera: Totally.

Jayne: Readers don’t really live on Twitter. And then Instagram is kind of like an in-between space too, where we can’t put everything up because we’ll get shut down. We’ve lost our accounts before. And so, the readers are quietly enthusiastic, whereas the writers are a lot more, I’m way more connected with the writers.

Jera: What am I not asking about erotica as a personal growth or self care? What comes to mind?

Jayne: Hm. It’s a good question. And I’m not sure.

Lauren: I’m thinking about it. Okay.

Jera: Yeah. I just realized like, I mean. Okay, so I’ve been doing the sex and relationship advice column for Rebellious Magazine for a number of years now. And one of the things that surprised me about doing it and the way the column has worked is like, it started out me just answering anonymous questions. And then I quickly learned that a lot of these anonymous questions run together. Whether somebody is experiencing pelvic pain, or trying to figure out how to be comfortable with a partner after trauma, or they’ve been dating or married for a long time and have lost some of the sexual esteem. A lot of the answers are the same, you know? And it’s just a different way of spinning the same thing. Listening to your gut, trusting your experience, slowing down and communicating before acting, tearing down sexual scripts. I feel like I write the same thing over and over again in different ways. And I noticed that a lot about a lot of these conversations. Now I’m starting to do the podcast. It’s like, yes, we are all experiencing the same things where we’re learning how to be authentic through sexual exploration and creativity. And we’re learning how to fight patriarchal values through characters that explore them in different ways and stuff. But I also realized that I’m probably continuing the same conversation because the one asking the questions.

Jayne: It is, I find that erotica is really just about what, everyone’s just seeking permission. They want to know that what they’re exploring or what turns them on, is it weird? They don’t want to be strange as a result of what it is that excites them. And especially if it’s something that is super taboo and then they’re like, ‘Well, what does this mean?’ It doesn’t have to mean anything. Your body’s turned on and you’re fine. As long as no one’s consent boundaries are being compromised, then it’s okay to explore that. Just because you like reading about a certain dynamic doesn’t mean you want to engage in it in real life or would even be able to experience that level of pleasure if you tried to even role play it in real life. It’s just what happens with the communication between your body and your brain at the time. And that’s okay. But I’m not really sure what questions, I’m not a good question, ideas person.

Jera: I think the permission is fascinating. This idea of being weird. It’s funny to me, it’s paradoxical how we want to be unique, but only in certain ways. You know? As we get to become more of ourselves, it’s like, ‘Notice my individuality, but then also tell me it’s okay.’

Lauren: Oh, just, patriarchal messages are so hard to unlearn. I feel like I experienced that and I see that even more as I get older. This is, a lot of this has been so ingrained in us. Even if we weren’t brought up super conservative, it’s like those messages are still prevalent. And in my case, I didn’t come out as bi for a long time because I didn’t think it was valid because there’s still a lot of bi-phobia and bi-erasure in the community, and my first exposure to a bisexual character was The L Word, which is a show that will always have a special place in my heart as problematic as it was. But it was always like, she was the butt of a joke, a lot of times. So I was like, okay, this is clearly, this is not a legitimate thing. I can’t like girls and other genders. And then I kind of started writing erotica for people like me, because I was like, ‘Surely I can not be, I know I’m not the only one, but it feels like that sometimes.’ And then once the stories started getting good feedback, it was like, ‘Oh, okay. Maybe this is a legitimate thing.’ And you know, my head knows it’s legitimate, but the rest of me was a whole other story. So I’m not sure if that answers your question. That was my own little tangent.

Jera: No, I think it does. Like it’s permission to be bi, to identify as BI, right?

Jayne: Yeah. It’s permission to like, to give yourself permission to be you is what it comes down to, I think. Because nobody can give you that permission. You have to assume it yourself, but.

Lauren: Yeah.

Jera: Lauren, if people are in the situation, because yes, I think a lot of people are, where can they find some of your stories that you feel like explore being bi in a way that would be comforting?

Lauren: Sure. So on bellesa, I have an actually historical erotica serial. I think it’s seven parts. And it’s called Attagirl and it’s set in 1926 Chicago, although I’m sure a lot of it is not historically accurate. I did very cursory research before I started.

Jayne: Very good regardless.

Lauren: Thank you. And it’s one that I feel like, I mean like Jayne, I don’t hear a lot from readers like directly, but I feel like it’s one that a lot of people have connected with because it is a young woman who moves to Chicago in the 1920s from a farm town. And she’s not a virgin. She’s had one sexual experience and it wasn’t very good, but she really starts exploring her sexuality through various lovers she takes, and the serial actually ends in a way I did not anticipate. It was like, ‘Oh, okay, this is what the characters do. Great!’ But it is a very bisexual story. I don’t know if she ever uses that identifier because I wasn’t sure if that would be something people said at the time, but like that is one. There’s also a serial on bellesa and I believe all of it’s free. It’s called Camp Ardenne, and it is about a group of very horny, 20-something camp counselors at this arts camp. And there is a lot of bisexuality and pansexuality in there and just various kind of couplings and throuplings. And it was just, I remember pitching it to Jayne and just being like, ‘Can I just have these characters just going nuts after the campers go to bed over this one crazy summer?’ And she’s like, ‘YES. Do it.’ And it was very freeing to write and kind of characters come in and out. And there are a couple of non-binary stories as well. And yeah, that’s one where I think, you see the characters giving themselves permission and then that might be easier for the reader to do as well.

Jera: Jayne, what about your own writing? What are some stories that give readers permission in some way and what is that thing that they’re giving readers permission to do or be?

Jayne: I think it’s, definitely there’s a lot of the same thing where it’s permission to explore your bisexuality. One of my most read stories is one that I just kind of remembered yesterday. It’s called The Birthday Bash and it’s a first, yeah, it’s a threesome story. It’s the narrator’s first threesome and she’s sort of starting to realize like, ‘Oh, maybe I am that attracted to girls as well.’ Hm. I’m in like the process live in that moment of exploring those feelings and thoughts and things that you’re like, ‘I’ll unpack this later. I’m going to enjoy this right now.’ And that one has been very popular for that permission reason, I think. And then the other one, it’s called Comings and Goings. And it’s from the perspective of a female protagonist hanging out in an airport and turns on her dating app and puts the radius down really low, just to see if there’s anyone who she could hook up with while she’s there. And then has a nice little time in a bathroom with a beautiful stranger. And again, just the permission to be a little bit wild. It’s outlandish, but that’s the beauty of fiction. And yeah, I think those are the stories that are the most popular. That and Just Keep Going was my most recent publication. And all these are on bellesa. Just Keep Going was really good, really well received. And there’s a bit of a twist ending at the end, but it is just like this, go getter character who’s like, she knows what she wants. She’s exploring this with this studly bartender, because I have a problem with smooth operating bartenders. It’s probably my greatest kink. So it’s this beautiful, like, there’s communication, there’s flirting, there’s intensity. And then there’s also her really holding onto her power all the way through to the end. And that resonated. That was the first time I’ve had readers come barging into my DMs being like, this was the most important story I’ve ever read.

Jera: Wow.

Jayne: ‘This moved me in all kinds of ways. I felt everything.’ Yeah, it was a really incredible outpouring that I got on that one that I was not anticipating. I kind of put it out being like, ‘Ew, I hope this is okay because it doesn’t really fit the script,’ but it turned out really well. So.

Jera: Yeah.

Jayne: If it’s yours, you can go check it out yourself.

Jera: But I’ll put links to these, the ones that I can find in the show notes so people can easily find them. I realized a couple things. One is that I think erotica in general. A lot of erotica offers people the permission to be slutty in ways that we don’t find otherwise, yeah.

Jayne: And safely, too.

Lauren: Mhm.

Jayne: Whether it’s free of judgment or if you want to have unprotected sex, you can do that because they’re fine. You can fit like those conversations in there that are usually awkward in real life, or uncomfortable. Yeah, you can do it all. You can just let loose and not have to worry about the consequences of real life, whatever they might be.

Jera: Totally. So when you are looking for submissions again, what’s on your wishlist?

Jayne: Definitely more intersectionally-marginalized voices. I think that we’ve done a really good job of encouraging, especially the queer femme factor in, but I’d love to hear more from trans people, from non binary people, from people of color and Black people and Indigenous people. I would love to have all of those voices come in because we haven’t had enough of them. And I think that that’s another thing. We don’t have the representation yet. And so then there isn’t that permission to say, ‘Hey, you are welcome here. We have the proof, I guess.’ And so it’s opening those doors up to more and more voices. That’s it. I don’t really care so much about the themes, as long as everyone is consenting and of age and having a great time is fine. Magic, real life, whatever in between. I want it all. But when it comes down to it, it’s the perspective of the writer that I would love to see more variation because we’ve kind of, yeah. What we have is amazing, and now, we want to open it up further.

Jera: Where can people find you both, in terms of Instagram, Twitter, website, URLs, all that fun stuff?

Jayne: I don’t have a smooth way of doing this. So I’m on primarily Instagram these days. I’m @JayneRenault, all one word. On Twitter, I’m @Jayne_Renault. I do have a website, jaynerenault.co, but I’m not very active there these days because writing has been impossible. And then everything else is just at bellesa.co.

Lauren: I am on Facebook at LaurenEmilyWrites. I am on Twitter @LaurenEmilyWri, because I ran out of characters when I was making my account. I talk a lot about TV over there. So like, yeah. And I’m on Instagram @LaurenEmilyWrites. I know you referenced, Jera, my story and Best Women’s Erotica, Vol. 5, and it’s about aerialists and I’m an aerialist myself. So I post a lot of pictures and videos and I’m not great, but. And people seem to like to see that. And that’s also one where on my Instagram, I have my link tree, which is links to just all of where you can order my books and stuff like that.

Jera: Yeah. I can’t believe we didn’t talk about the aerialist stuff. We ran out. I want to ask one more question. It’ll just get cut out if this doesn’t work, but what are you actively working on giving yourself permission for right now?

Lauren: Good question.

Jayne: Oh, that is deep. I guess for me, it’s like, broad answer is I’m working on giving myself permission to either, I guess sit with-, I’m grappling a lot with deep, old fears, essentially, and trying to not let the fear control me, whether it’s fear of failure or rejection or whatever. They’re those big overarching ones that have been looming, especially these past six months of a lot of deep introspection. And so, there’s a lot of fear that I won’t ever be able to write again, or that if I do it, won’t be that good. And that’s just silly. So, I’m trying to give myself permission to acknowledge that this is part of the process and to trust it. Nothing, yeah, I don’t have any big creative project answers right now for that, because there are none.

Lauren: I guess, in my case, giving myself permission to rest, which has always been a thing for me before and during quarantine. I think there has been this pressure to be extra productive because I have extra time now that I’m not commuting or whatever, and I have been fairly productive and that’s been great. But it’s also like, okay, but you can also just take time to just be you and percolate on ideas, which is an important creative process. And I think in the case I’m working on another novel right now, and I think in my case, it’s also just giving myself permission to fuck up and be like, ‘Okay, this is a shitty first draft. It’s going to get better, but you can kind of play with it. There’s no hard deadline here.’ And so that is a day-to-day process for me.

Jera: I think in general, it’s hard for creative people to be creative right now because we just don’t have the extra energy it takes to tackle new things.

Jayne: Well, like how are we supposed to plot anything when every day is exactly the same? Time doesn’t exist anymore? How am I supposed to put an arc over that?

Jera: Yeah. There’s an essay in this book, Proofs and Theories by Louise Gluck. And I’m trying to find the name of it because it gets super heady, but it’s meant a lot to me as a writer. And I wanted to bring up the idea. The essay is called ‘On impoverishment.’ And it’s this idea of like, so she has all the acclaim as a poet and talked about how there are whole years where she couldn’t write a word, and she gets through these periods by holding this tension that like, if you don’t accept that you’re in a time of impoverishment, then you’re not going to get through it. But if you don’t fight the time of impoverishment, you’re not going to get through it. So somehow you have to do both and balance those two needs to accept and fight back. But I find that really useful as a writer to know that both are valid and necessary.

Jayne: Definitely.

Jera: Yeah.

Lauren: Thank you for sharing that.

Jayne: Yes. Thank you.

Jera: Yeah. Yeah. Hopefully it’s useful. I was trying to think about what I’m giving myself permission to do. I’ll admit I published my first few erotica stories on Amazon that have to do with a specific fetish that I take a lot of phone calls for. And I realized that, ‘Oh, these took me like a hundred hours to do, and I’m going to make $8 from them.’ And so I feel like right now, the permission of giving myself is to focus on money until I’m financially stable and not worry about like the creative stuff until I’m at such a point in my life where I’m stable enough, that I can focus on creative stuff and not be burnt out by it not bringing me income in.

Lauren: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s a very important one that I’m also still working on, but yeah. Because if you’re stressing about the money, it’s going to take away from your creative strength.

Jayne: Hugely.

Jera: Totally. Thank you both so much for joining, for talking to me about this. I suck at goodbyes. So I don’t think I have anything.

Lauren: Thanks for this lovely little Friday afternoon hangout. Yeah, afternoon for me. Right?

Jayne: Have a great day!

Lauren: Bye.

Jera: Bye.

Voiceover Goddess: 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 @Feminist Erotica, and on Twitter at @feministerotic and make sure you subscribe to us wherever you devour podcasts.

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