Our sexual histories are more than just a list of lovers, a catalog of positions tried and techniques mastered. From Hollywood flicks to Playboy centerfolds and Penthouse letters, media plays a huge role—too large, in my opinion. Doctors say the story of our sexual urges and satisfaction is hard-wired, involving the hypothalamus, dopamine and oxytocin. Psychiatrists point to the influence of the family.
This month I became a columnist for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association with my first entry "Naughty Cookies and Sugar Walls." It's a big step from writing fiction to writing about fiction and it's got me thinking about another important factor in my sexual awareness—the power of the written word. Back when I first started writing, with my interest in erotica coming soon after, I bought myself a copy of BAE 1997 for research and pleasure. I’ve read many great erotic stories since, but my favorites from that volume are burned into my brain. Ivy Topiary’s “My Professor” was a favorite because it was smart and witty and all about sex in your head and your professor’s office, one of my favorite pastimes and one of my favorite fantasies, respectively. “Lunch” by Mark Stuertz fascinated me, not just because of the unusual repast featuring a highly aroused woman, lots of spinach and a dwarf. It was the narrator’s friend Drew, the guy who nosed out this weird form of sexual gratification, who really captured my imagination. Drew was one of those sexually obsessed guys who’d be checking out other women when he took you on a date. We’re all just food to him anyway. But when a person is deeply interested in something, they tend to be good at it, and Drew seemed to know his stuff. Plus there was that seminal moment when his mother fed him a dab of creamed spinach on her little finger. Yes, Drew was no good, but I longed to go back in time, before I was happily married and I let myself get mixed up with trouble like him, and find out more about his kinkiness firsthand. This is a fictional character we’re talking about. I’d have to say Mark Stuertz did a damned good job on that story. Then of course, everyone’s favorite, “She Gets Her Ass Fucked Good” by Rose White and Eric Albert. That story taught me the power of dialogue in erotic fiction. For me there is nothing more immediate, no other description, no matter how poetic, lets you slip right into bed with the characters (or wherever the action is happenin’).
But let’s go back even further, to the Ur Sex Scene, pages 27-29 of The Godfather. I was in fifth grade when the movie was released and everyone seemed to be reading it. My older sister talked about it so much, I begged to be able to read it myself, but it was deemed too racy. A compromise was reached—my sister would read it to me and excise the parts that were inappropriate for my tender age.
It was then I learned to be a sneak. And it was then I encountered pages 27-29. (Interestingly enough, as Susie Bright recalls in How to Write a Dirty Story, this was her first exposure to the erotic power of the written word as well!) It was shocking, it was thrilling, it was imperative I show it to my best friend as soon as possible. She was equally fascinated and horrified and speculated that if her mother caught her reading it, she would probably feed her hot dogs swimming in ketchup as punishment—another disgusting, but oddly exciting image.
When I go back and look at this scene (the book lies open on my lap to the scene in question), I am amazed anew but for a different reason. By any realistic measure, what Sonny Corleone did to Lucy Mancini could not have brought her true pleasure. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes in fact. There was no foreplay at all, just some pawing and panty-ripping (unless her anticipation of the event provided enough warmup, which can happen, but usually not for the first time with someone). Next came a lot of violent thrusting, not to mention Lucy was in a rather contorted position which, in my experience, can be distracting. No wonder hot dogs and ketchup came to mind—the whole focus was on the “enormous, blood-gorged pole of muscle” and its magical ability to bring pleasure merely by filling up a big “box.” There is something romantic about this, oddly enough. That is, if you find the right guy, with the right meat and the right motion, this perfect match will result in instant orgasm. Nice idea, but very unfortunately, quite misleading.
The other sex scene that sticks in my memory is on page 342, Michael’s honeymoon night with Apollonia. It is perhaps more memorable in the movie for its flash of naked breasts, but I remember having to sneak the book from its hiding place for this one, too. Even at the time, I liked this one better, because it was less scary and because I could put myself in Apollonia’s place, the bold, curious bride, “all eagerness, surging against him wildly in a virginal erotic frenzy.” I’m sure. Mario Puzo didn’t waste many words on foreplay here either, which, you could argue, fits with the ethos of the Corleones’ world. But part of me wishes that all of us teenagers and pre-teens who drank this in as the milk of our erotic education had a little more realism to work with. And I’m realizing that one of the many reasons I write erotica is to redress that long ago misconception—my own—of what good sex is.