I'm not beautiful. Never have been. I've got a long face (a “horse face”, some would call it) and I'm so myopic I've worn coke-bottle glasses since I was seven years old. For most of my life I've been plumper than what is currently fashionable. Throughout childhood and my teen years I was awkward and socially inept, the shy, smart girl whom most guys avoided, either out of disinterest or feelings of inadequacy.
Then, when I reached my mid-twenties, I suddenly became a sex goddess.
I'd had a few boyfriends, including one multi-year relationship in graduate school that fell apart because he wasn't ready for a commitment. After we broke up, I moved out of the group house where he and I had been living with three other guys (that's another story!) and moved into a tiny apartment of my own. And that's when it all started.
All at once, or so it seemed, men began crawling out of the woodwork – men who wanted me. Friends became lovers. Strangers became lovers. I seemed to be broadcasting pheromones or something, because despite my average looks and body, I apparently inspired desire in a significant fraction of the male population.
I didn't understand this change, but I can't pretend I didn't like it. This was after the Pill and before AIDS – sex was much safer and more spontaneous than it could possibly be now. Though I was still fundamentally shy, somehow I found the courage to let go and experiment. I had some delicious adventures. I experienced some profound connections. I learned that most men were as insecure about their sexual attractiveness as I'd been about my own, not to mention deeply grateful to encounter a woman who honestly enjoyed making love.
My sex goddess period didn't last all that long – a few years, at most – but it changed my life and my perceptions of both the world and myself. I realized that looking sexy isn't nearly as important as feeling sexy. This turns out to be true on both sides of the gender divide. Some of my most skilled, imaginative, attentive and caring lovers were guys you'd never look twice at - guys who'd certainly never make it onto the cover of a romance novel!
Furthermore, I concluded that society's rules about sexual behavior can be seriously destructive of relationships and of happiness. Nice girls don't like sex, we're told, or at least, they don't admit they do. We're encouraged to feel guilty and ashamed of our own healthy desires, to hide or suppress our “improper” needs. We're all terrified to be labeled sluts. Meanwhile, men are left feeling frustrated, confused, and concerned about turning the women they want into “sex objects”.
This is not a positive situation – although I suspect that the level of mutual dissatisfaction experienced by modern men and women is one reason for the popularity of erotic romance!
I've been married for more than three decades at this point, but I've taken the lessons of my sex goddess years to heart. Desire should celebrated, not denied. I'm not advocating unthinking promiscuity or total irresponsibility, but I do believe it's worth the effort to honestly examine our choices about sex. If you weren't worried about what “other people” would think, would you choose differently?
I use these insights (plus my rich trove of personal erotic memories) whenever I sit down to write erotic romance. My heroines, for the most part, aren't reticent about sex. They're lusty, self-confident women who are comfortable claiming their own pleasure. Sometimes, they're more open to sex than they are to love. It's the heroes' job to demonstrate that they need both.
I write to primarily to entertain my readers, not to convey some sort of deep message. Still, if there were a consistent moral to my work, it would be this:
Don't listen to the voices that try to make you feel selfish or guilty. Believe that you're entitled to love and to pleasure. There's a sex goddess inside each one of us. We just have to release her.
P.S. The image at the top of this post is a sketch by my mother, who was a sex goddess in her own right.