Wednesday, May 17, 2006

“The Cunt Book”: Are Erotica Writers Exhibitionists?

Since I had such a good time writing about blindfolds, I thought I’d talk about another one of my early stories, and a particular favorite called “The Cunt Book.”

C-book (as you have to call it on Amazon) was one of those stories I was “writing” in my head for many years. Once I finally sat down at the computer, the whole thing poured out in one week of morning writing sessions.

One of the inspirations for the story was the bizarre and unsolved murder of Bob Crane, an actor known best as the genial and supposedly-irresistible-to-women Colonel Hogan. Masterpiece Theatre made me an Anglophile as a child, so I always preferred Richard Dawson (reportedly another womanizer) but I was still creeped out that a fixture of my after-school T.V. rerun viewing had met such a bloody end. Surely the murder had some connection with the stacks of photo albums documenting Crane’s many sex partners? The movie Auto Focus has its own explanation for what happened—it certainly does a good job of portraying sex addiction.

What intrigued me most, however, was Crane’s particular version, not to say perversion, of humanity’s urge to collect. In fact, anyone who’s ever made a list of his/her sex partners is doing something similar—but the fixation with pictorial evidence mixes it all up with Playboy and other broader cultural issues. This gave me the idea for “The Cunt Book,” in which the female protagonist hears a possibly apocryphal story from her married lover about his “uncle” who had his lovers pose for formal portraits and then cajoled them into providing close-ups of their naked vulvas.

The protagonist doubts that truth of the story, because she knows the guy is a storyteller (that is, a liar), but she feels a compulsion to make it true, at least for them as a couple. This leads to the “climactic” scene where she nudges him into making a cunt book of and for her. Hey, I’m not really giving anything away because you won’t really reading it for the plot.

This story found particular favor with Baby Boomers, those of us who came of sexual age before the Internet. For us old fogies, there is still a certain forbidden quality to “dirty” pictures and nude photo sessions that has probably been busted wide open by the easy access to trillions of such images today. The three editors who liked the story enough to publish it (in fact they were all gratifyingly enthusiastic) were all vanguard Baby Boomers. Rachel Callaghan of InPosse Review, Bill Noble of Clean Sheets, and Marcy Sheiner of Best Women’s Erotica 2005. Maxim Jakubowski also wanted it for Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, but BWE wouldn’t allow the double exposure. The story has also gotten me the most fan mail. How I wish all my stories were so beloved! But hey, when it happens, it’s nice.

But on to exhibitionism. The central scene of “The Cunt Book” deals with a woman revealing her most private self by her own choice. The protagonist is no dupe of an unscrupulous sweet-talker or any of the usual scenarios of dirty picture portraiture. She wants him to see what she has to show. I must confess that as I write, I often amuse myself with a “meta” approach to my story. So, yes, “The Cunt Book” is also about writing, about revealing yourself through art. Every writer reveals something about the workings of her mind and sensibility. Fiction writers, however, can hide behind veils of make-believe at the same time. I can say that no fictional piece I’ve written is ever “true.” But there is truth in all of it, and in “The Cunt Book” and all my stories, I am revealing the truth about my experience of female sexuality as well as whatever part of our society’s myths and fantasies I’ve breathed in from the media. In that sense, I think all writers are exhibitionists. Erotica writers just veer a little closer towards actually undressing in front of the window.

No comments: