I'm going to be one hundred percent honest: I have never really been a fan of porn. So much of what is readily available is geared toward a heterosexual male, and since I am neither hetero nor male, I simply cannot bring myself to enjoy it. But my issues go deeper than that; sex scenes make me exceptionally uncomfortable. You can ask my husband: when we first married, the second a sex scene appeared in a movie, I'd make an excuse to leave the room, or I'd busy myself with whatever random thing on the floor caught my desperately searching interest. Even when I was alone, I felt nervous or ashamed or overwhelmed or annoyed and just skipped ahead in the movie. A big part of why I love older movies was because of the censorship; they had to be creative with how they portrayed sex, so a lot of it was innuendo and clever visual puns. Over the past four years, it's gotten somewhat easier to watch a scene that goes heavier than a kiss, but I still have this twinge of ... guilt? Confusion? I really can't explain the very complicated emotion(s) that arises, but it's there in all it's obnoxious glory.
And then I discovered Courtney Milan. Well, to be more accurate, I rediscovered her. About a year or so ago, I had downloaded one of her ebooks for free from Amazon but had never gotten around to reading it. I assume it was my subconscious, since everything else I'd purchased that day has been read at least once, but I can't be sure of my motivations. Anyway, I got on the bus to go to work, and since I had an hour before I would reach my destination, I whipped out my Kindle to peruse what I could read. The first thing that stood out to me was The Governess Affair (hey, it's still free, guys!), and I tilted my head like a flummoxed puppy. I'd been a casual browser of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books - mainly for the hysterical reviews and rants about truly awful books - and a vaguely remembered reading that this was a good story, so I opened it and began to learn about Serena and Hugo.
My love for this novella knows no bounds, and not just because it was well-written and engaging. It was the most comfortable I have ever been while having erotic material in front of me. And I was on a fucking bus, for God's sake. True, no one else could see what I was reading and, as far as I know, nobody was aware of the sensations I felt, but there was no shame, no voice at the back of my head telling me to look away. It was just me witnessing very tender (and exceptionally arousing) scenes between two complex people*. Once I realized what had happened, much later in the day, I actually teared up: I had never had that experience before, and that fact both saddened and elated me. I wanted to find Courtney Milan and give her a giant hug, to thank her for writing such a beautiful story. I also wanted to buy all of her books that very moment, something I plan on doing as soon as possible.
Snubbing my nose at romance novels was somewhat of a passion of mine. I'm not even going to try and sugarcoat it, because, like I said, I made a promise to be honest here. I deemed them as lesser than their more "literary" counterparts at the worst, or just light, fluffy reading for when there's nothing better to do, at best. This attitude is common toward many forms of writing, including my beloved sci-fi/fantasy, comic books, and graphic novels, and it makes me cringe a bit when I think about my own pretentiousness. Romances, like every other genre, has its shining stars and absolute dregs**, and it's not for everyone; but it still has this stigma that stems from the fact that they are written primarily for and by women. This is not new information. Just look it up on Google, or hell, ask one of your friends about his or her opinion on them.
It's just a bodice-ripper with no real substance!
Surely you can find something better to read, yes?
All of these things I've heard - and said - at some point in my life. And yet, here I am, waxing poetic about a corset-unlacing, quivering member book that gave me feelings so profound that I wept. It's a little disorienting, and believe me, I am totally aware of how navel-gazey I'm being right now. Because of one short novella, I am getting ideas of how to explore my sexuality with my husband*** (steamy book reads, anyone??); I'm reevaluating the nature of sex within a relationship, which is actually adding a whole other dimension to the story I'm working on right now; and I'm aching for more Courtney Milan. It's a very, very strange place to be, but I have no complaints.
So does anybody have any good recommendations? Because seriously, I may have just found an additional hobby.
* And there was consent, which OMGOMGOMG made me so happy. There is something so hot about a guy who's like, "Okay, I want you, but you have control in this situation. I'm not going to touch you unless you ask me to do so."
** There, indeed, is a book out there that's about having sex with dinosaurs. I'm not even kidding. It's horrid. And I'm not going to link to it, so if you're curious (or if that's your thing?), Google that shit.
*** We've tried watching porn together, but I got so incredibly defensive - "Oh, but that's not hot, and see, this is my problem with this, and ..." - that it wasn't fun for either of us. And dirty talk makes me laugh. Hard. Anyone who's ever tried it with me has inspired the mood to be ruined.