By Sacchi Green (Guest Blogger)
Pay attention to this excerpt from my figure skating erotica story “The Outside Edge.” There’ll be a quiz later! Or don’t. I’ll tell you my version of the answers, anyway. Just see if you notice the story being about anything besides sex.
I skated to a medley from the Broadway show Cats. My black unitard with white down the front and at the cuffs was supposed to suggest a “tuxedo” cat with white paws. The music swept from mood to mood, poignance to nostalgia to swagger, but no matter what character a song was meant to suggest, in my mind and gut I was never, for a moment, anybody’s sweet pussy. I was every inch a Tom. Tomcat prowling urban roofs and alleys; tomboy tumbling the dairymaid in the hay; top-hatted Tom in the back streets of Victorian London pinching the housemaids’ cheeks, fore and aft.
Suli had been right about storing up tension and then letting it spill out. Like fantasy during sex, imagination sharpened my performance. Each move was linked to its own notes of the music, practiced often enough to be automatic, but tonight my footwork was more precise, my spins faster, my jumps higher and landings smoother. I had two quad jumps planned, something none of my rivals would attempt, and for the first time I went into each of them with utter confidence.
The audience, subdued at first, was with me before the end, clapping, stomping, whistling. I rode their cheers, pumped with adrenaline as though we were all racing toward some simultaneous climax, and in the last minute I turned a planned double- flip, double-toe-loop into a triple-triple, holding my landing on a back outer edge as steadily as though my legs were fresh and rested.
The crowd’s roar surged as the music ended. Fans leaned above the barrier to toss stuffed animals, mostly cats, onto the ice, and one odd flutter caught my eye in time for a detour to scoop up the offering. Sure enough, the fabric around the plush kitten’s neck was no ribbon, but a pair of lavender panties. Still warm. It wasn’t the first time.
Suli waited at the gate. I gave her a cocky grin and thrust the toy into her hands. Her expressive eyebrows arched higher, and then she grinned back and swatted my butt with it.
The scoring seemed to take forever. “Half of them are scrambling to figure out if you’ve broken any actual rules,” our coach Johanna muttered, “and scheming to make up some new ones if you haven’t.” The rest, though, must have given me everything they had. The totals were high enough to get me the bronze medal, even when none of the following skaters quite fell down.
Suli stuck by me every minute except for the actual awards ceremony, and she was right at the front of the crowd then. In the cluster of fans following me out of the arena, a few distinctly catlike “Mrowrr’s!” could be heard, and then good-humored laughter as Suli threw an arm around me and aimed a ferocious “Growrr!” back over her shoulder at them.
Medaling as a long shot had condemned me to a TV interview. The reporter kept her comments to the usual inanities, except for a somewhat suggestive, “That was quite some program!”
“If you liked that, don’t miss the exhibition tomorrow,” I said to her, and to whatever segment of the world watches these things. When I added that I was quitting competition to pursue my own “artistic goals,” she flashed her white teeth and wished me luck, and then, microphone set aside and camera off, leaned close for a moment to lay a hand on my arm. “Nice costume, but I’ll bet you’ll be glad to get it off.”
Suli was right on it, her own sharp teeth flashing and her long nails digging into my sleeve. The reporter snatched her hand back just in time. “Don’t worry,” Suli purred, “I’ve got all that covered.”
Don’t expose yourself like that! Don’t let me drag you down! But I couldn’t say it, and I knew Suli was in no mood to listen.
I was too tired, anyway, wanting nothing more than to strip off the unitard and never squirm into one again, but Suli wouldn’t let me change in the locker room. Once I saw the gleam of metal she flashed in her open shoulder bag—so much for security at the Olympics!—I followed her out and back to our room with no regret for the parties we were missing.
The instant the door clicked shut behind us she had the knife all the way out of its leather sheath. “Take off that medal,” she growled, doing a knockout job of sounding menacing. “The rest is mine.”
I set the bronze medal on the bedside table, flopped backward onto the bed, and spread my arms and legs wide. “Use it or lose it,” I said, then gasped at the touch of the hilt against my throat.
“Don’t move,” she ordered, crouching over me, her dark hair brushing my chest. I lay frozen, not a muscle twitching, although my flesh shrank reflexively from the cold blade when she sat back on her haunches and slit the stretchy unitard at the juncture of thigh and crotch.
“Been sweating, haven’t we,” she crooned, slicing away until the fabric gaped like a hungry mouth, showing my skin pale beneath. “But it’s not all sweat, is it?” Her cool hand slid inside to fondle my slippery folds. It certainly wasn’t all sweat.
Her moves were a blend of ritual and raw sex. The steel flat against my inner thigh sent tongues of icy flame stabbing deep into my cunt. The keen edge drawn along my belly and breastbone seemed to split my old body and release a new one, though only a few light pricks drew blood. The rip of the fabric parting under Suli’s knife and hands and, eventually, teeth, was like the rending of bonds that had confined me all my life.
From “The Outside Edge,” originally published in my anthology Girl Crazy: Lesbian Coming Out Erotica, reprinted in Best Lesbian Romance and A Ride to Remember, a collection of my own erotic fiction.
I come to praise erotica, not to define it. Considering who’s likely to be reading here, erotica doesn’t need any cheerleading from me, but I’ll do it anyway. The erotic is such a subjective concept that I don’t need to define it, just know it when I see it, and know what I like. It also happens to be my business to know a certain amount about what other people might like. As editor of nine anthologies categorized as lesbian erotica (two of them Lambda Award winners,) with two more in the works, I get to decide which submitted stories work as erotica for that particular niche-within-a-niche. My publishers have the final say on all the stories, but they’ve never yet rejected one of my choices on the grounds of not being erotic enough. Come to think of it, I’ve very seldom rejected a submission for not being erotic enough.
My basic requirements for erotica are a high level of sexual tension, and an orgasm for at least one character. Explicit language is fine, but not required; a really good writer can make a scene intensely hot without having to make decisions about what to call various body parts, or even to list those parts. Get your characters’ feelings and sensations across well enough, and the reader’s imagination will do the rest.
For me, though, the best erotica is about more than sex. Just because a story provides enough of an erotic charge to be called erotica doesn’t limit it, or mean that it can’t do more besides. I know all too well how little respect erotica gets—“Plot? What Plot?” Then there are the surprisingly numerous reviews that start out with, in essence, “I never read erotica because it’s all trash, but this book, to my astonishment, is an exception!” And I know the condescending attitude of “Erotica? Surely you could do better than that!”
Better than what? Than a full-frontal approach to an essential, complex facet of human existence? Besides the physical stimulation, erotic interchanges can be as revelatory of character as any other basic human activity, and more so than most, since they deal with heightened emotions and senses and, in some cases, heavily weighted baggage from past experience. They can also provide ways to slip in details not revealed in calmer moments; shyness or confidence, impulsiveness or self-control, tenderness, aggression, vulnerability, repression, or raw, unapologetic sensuality. The various flavors of BDSM are about more than sex as well, even though they’re intensely bound to sexual fulfillment. In LGBT erotica, which is most (though not all) of what I write and edit, there are the added complexities of gender presentation and cultural taboos even more deeply rooted than the general squeamishness about sex.
Fiction that deals explicitly with sex can be as well-written, thought-provoking and creative as that in any other genre (or the non-genre that likes to call itself “mainstream” or “literature.”) Settings can be as varied and vividly evoked; different periods in history can be as well-researched and essential to the plot or story arc; characters can be as multidimensional. There’s nothing wrong with short, sharp, no-frills, cut-to-the-chase-and-clinch erotica, but that too can be done with consummate skill.
Now for the quiz. I have to admit that I waited too long to get this blog written, so I didn’t have time to get permission from any of my really fine writers to quote from their work, so I had to settle for an excerpt from one of my own stories.
Back to my question at the beginning. Did you notice anything beyond sex? Assuming you noticed the sex at all? I tried to include the tension of coming to terms with non-binary gender presentation, the anguish of fearing the effect on a passionate relationship, the ambiance of the Olympic Games and the technical details of championship figure skating, and even a few sidelong historical references like “Tom in the back streets of London,” when “Tom” was indeed a common term for a butch lesbian. These and other themes and semi-themes might come across better in the story as a whole than in this excerpt, though. I can hope so. But if the sex and edge-play with the knife were the only things you noticed, that’s fine too, because nothing should overpower the most erotic features. If you’d like to read more of “The Outside Edge,” not only has it been published several times, but I’ve posted the whole thing free to read on my blog. Check out http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com/2014/02/free-lesbian-ice-skating-erotica.html
My point here is that erotica can and often does go beyond its stereotypical reputation. If our wider culture weren’t so obsessed with sex as “sinful,” some of the best writers in our genre could be publishing their sexually-explicit work in venues outside the erotica ghetto. The flip side of that, of course, is that the perception of sex as sinful draws many readers to erotica, and I’d never discount the way a sense of transgression and flouting (even mooning) authority can spice up sex of any flavor.
I’ve gone on far too long, I know, so I’ll just tack on a brief version of my bio, and if you want to know about the anthologies I’ve edited, all the covers are on my blog.
Sacchi Green (http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com) is a writer and editor of erotica and other stimulating genres. Her stories have appeared in scores of publications, and she’s also edited nine lesbian erotica anthologies, including Lambda Award winners Lesbian Cowboys and Wild Girls, Wild Nights, both from Cleis Press. A collection of her own work, A Ride to Remember, has been published by Lethe Press. Sacchi lives in western Massachusetts, gets away to the mountains of New Hampshire as often as she can, and makes regular forays to NYC for readings and cavorting with her writer friends.