Monday, April 29, 2013

Seriously Sick Series

The heir
One could fall in lust with this cover
based on the intimation of
chest hair alone!
And I mean "sick" in the most flattering, Urban Dictionary definition of the word.

One of the hardest things in writing a series, is to please the loyal readers who have been following all along in the previous books, giving "what's happening now" for favorite characters from those books, while at the same time, not boring a new reader to tears with those details.

Another test is whether the books can be read out of sequence.

Grace Burrowes does these things beautifully. (Probably why she keeps hitting the New York Times Best-Seller list.)

There are to be eight books (plus at least two novellas) in her Regency Romance series about the Windham family. I've read them in this order (links are to my GoodReads reviews):

So the only two I’ve not yet read are Book 4, The Virtuoso, and Book 8, Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait, which has not yet been released. I do plan to enjoy them both.

Ms. Burrowes has created an imaginary Duke of Morelands, his Duchess, and a very large family - 8 adult children, plus two ghosts.

Lady Louisa's Christmas KnightEach book features the story of the romance of one son or daughter, but also includes family interactions, servants and other secondary characters, horses - who generally have names and personalities, children. One would think that by the time we got Book 7, there would be no room left for Lady Eve.

Yet despite the appearance and help of her parents, all her siblings, and their spouses, in Book Seven, Lady Eve and her decoy-turned-husband, Lucas Denning, have a full and satisfying romance, without being squeezed off the pages. How?

Part of me is still trying to figure that out.

What each book does not have:
  • An info-dump in the first chapter or two devoted to “here’s what happened in the last book.” There may be allusions to other storylines, sprinkled in lightly, and the weaving in of secondary characters from previous or upcoming books, but they don’t bog down the current book, nor are they teasers.
  • Flawless heroes and heroines. Sometimes the women are not pure as the driven snow. Sometimes the men are afraid of thunder. Strict formulas of when the hero and heroine come together and break apart are not obeyed.
  • Laura Ashley syndrome. There’s just enough description in each scene to give an impression - we don’t see that the color of the throw pillows matches the cushions on the fainting couch  matches the curtains, trimmed with lace.

What each book in the series has:
    Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal
  • A strong, smart, likeable hero and heroine - generally both hiding secrets.
  • Gobs of humor.
  • Secondary characters who introduce themselves and pique our curiosity for the next book(s), but know their place and don’t try to take over.
  • Names for characters that are unique to the time and sound hilarious to a modern ear: Percival, Esther, Gayle, Bartholomew, Magdalene, Wilberforce.
  • Critters (generally horses, could be dogs or cats or something else) with amusing names and personalities. I must admit, Herodotus the mule, and Lady Ophelia the breeding sow, are two of my favorites.
  • Great sexual tension and sex scenes that are both hot and often tender.
  • Insecurity. Based on each heroine’s backstory, the reader is not sure how she will react upon learning the hero’s secret - and vice-versa.
  • The heroines and heroes all have their own unique scents, favorite treats and beverages.
  • Past sorrows and traumas. There are two dead Windham brothers, and they are talked about and much missed by the current lead hero or heroine in every book.
  • Each Windham sibling (and spouse) has a particular strength or talent. Gayle, The Heir, and Maggie, are astute financial managers. Jenny creates naughty lingerie. Eve and Devlin understand horse training. Emma is a baker. Anna arranges flowers. Val plays the piano.
  • Children. Whether in the womb or already underfoot, kids are very much a part of each novel.

Lady Eve's Indiscretion (The Duke's Daughters, #4) (Windham, #7)Even though Regency Romance is "not my thing," (my favorite reads are women's fiction and sci-fi/fantasy) I have tremendously enjoyed these books. Because regardless of what corset or cowboy hat you dress somebody in, human beings are human beings.

We all behave the same way (with minor eccentricities). We all want to be loved/admired and desired.

Mostly loved.

We all get caught up in the same family and romantic dramas, the same exhilaration and misunderstandings.

And we all want a happy ending (at least, *I* do).

Have you read any Grace Burrowes?
Which are your favorites?
Do you have a series to recommend?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Two of the Times Someone Raped Me (Part III) #saam #rape

 As someone who's experienced rape up-close and personal-like, who's talked with a lot of other rape victims survivors, and cried over the ones like Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons, who did not survive, and as someone who's done extensive research on the subject, I feel entitled to call bullshit on some of the rape myths.

Trigger Warning: Profanity. This series may be triggering to some rape victims.

The concept that any rape victims "wanted it" because they dressed provocatively or got drunk is like saying that jaywalkers wanted to be hit by a car.

Do some rape victims make poor choices that put them at greater risk of sexual assault? Yes. While I don't disagree that there are things that young women (and men) can and should do to make themselves safer, the reality is that rapists gonna rape.

Clothing (or lack thereof) doesn't make anyone rape anyone. If skimpy or provocative clothing led to uncontrollable lust, then why isn't every beach on the planet swarming with men and women pouncing on each other?

Women wearing burqas and ratty old sweatpants get raped; octogenarian grandmothers in long flannel nightgowns get raped; young boys in baseball uniforms get raped; babies of six months old get raped.

from Slutwalk LA 2010

The common factor in all rapes? Presence of one or more rapists.

While it's not the worst idea in the world to teach children, teens, and even older people how to be less vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse, what we really need to focus on as a culture is teaching men (and women) not to rape.

"No One Will Believe You" is a Lie From the Pits of Hell

Rapists and child molesters count on the old myths about rape to keep us silent. Lies like, "A man with an attractive wife or girlfriend doesn't need to rape a fat/ugly/geeky person like you."

We know now that "happily married men (and women)" do rape and molest men, women, boys and girls. Often they target someone who is especially vulnerable and insecure, perhaps because we are  less conventionally attractive, perhaps because we have a troubled home, or have just moved to the community and haven't made any friends yet.

This doesn't mean we need to be suspicious of every offer of mentoring or friendship. But it does mean that if a teacher/coach/team quarterback/whoever assaults or rapes us, we should not believe this lie they tell to save their own skin. Someone will believe us. Tell, and if the first person doesn't believe us, keep telling.

If You Don't Hear a Very Clear Yes, It Means No.

Only Yes Means Yes Campaign
Only Yes Means Yes Campaign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Part of what has muddied the waters is that too many of us have read stories, seen movies, or watched p0rn, where, “No, please, don’t, stop!” turns into, “Please don’t stop!” We need to teach teens how to say no, firmly and forcefully, and how to hear no, even in the heat of the moment.

In J.L. Campbell’s A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Steps to Distraction, a short story prequel, Kyra has been on a date with her ex. She goes with him to his hotel room to collect a present he has promised for their son, and he makes a move on her. At first, she is aroused and goes along with his seduction, but she realizes, after she is naked and he's fumbling with a condom, that she doesn’t want to have sex with him after all.

Though she pushes at him and protests, he’s still determined to pry her legs open and have sex with her, until she bursts out, “Jesus Christ, Joshua! You really goin’ to rape me?” This brings him back to his senses.

Even if you've been engaging in foreplay and you're both stark naked, no means no. Saying yes to flirting, to kissing, even getting naked together, does not mean that the other person is "entitled" to have sex with you.

Consent for sexual contact cannot legally be given if an individual is under the age of 18, is incapacitated due to alcohol or other drugs, is unconscious or asleep, or has limited mental capacity. Consent is a clear yes, not the absence of no.
Understanding Consent
Consent is positive cooperation involving an act of free will, absent of coercion, intimidation, force or the threat of force. A person cannot give consent if he or she is unable to understand what is going on.

There must always be active consent on both sides. Consent to one thing does not imply consent to another. If limits are made clear and consent is not given, pressuring someone into changing his or her mind is not consent.
  • Consent is based on choice.
  • Consent is active, not passive. Silence and passivity do not equal consent.
  • Consent is possible only when there is equal power.
  • Giving in because of fear is not consent.
  • Giving in or going along with someone to gain approval or to avoid being hurt is not consent.
  • Consent means two people (or more) deciding together to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, with each other.

Saying Yes Once Does Not Mean Lifetime Access

Not to a vagina, not to an anus, not to a mouth. That permission is even time-stamped. Just because you said yes to someone, or tried a particular sex act, does not mean your partner now has lifetime or even one hour later access to the same (or another) orifice, without your renewed permission.

Thinking that no partner will want you because you've been raped is like thinking that no merchant will want your money after you’ve been mugged.

I can testify, from my own experience, and that of many other rape survivors I've known personally, being raped doesn't make us "damaged goods," or any less desirable in the eyes of most partners.

Of the very, very few who could never cope with the idea that their partner was once raped, trust me, these losers are not worth having. These are the same jealous, obsessive freaks who would go ballistic if you smiled at somebody "the wrong way" or left the light on when leaving a room, coming right back. We don't want them.

Not that your worth or my worth or anybody's worth is dependent upon whether or not somebody wants us in a sexual way.

Rape Doesn't (Have To) Ruin Your Life

One of the lies that piss me off more than almost anything is the frequent comment I hear and see posted about Jane Doe from Steubenville and other rape victims recently in the media,"Those boys should be locked up forever, because they ruined her life!"

I know these people mean well, but that's a lie. Unless our rapist actually murders us, our lives are not ruined. It's that kind of remark that the more vulnerable victims and victims-to-be hear and accept as an unshakable truth. The internal belief that after a rape you are ruined forever is a big factor for  those who take their own lives, so I wish the people who say mindless stuff like that would STFU.

Our lives after rape change, absolutely. Rape is a horrible violation of our persons, and impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. It may take a long time to recover from rape, especially in cases where the rape was accompanied by other physical damage like internal organ damage, broken bones, or long-term consequences, such as an STI or pregnancy.

It may take time, counseling, support, and much self-love to heal and recover after a rape, but it is always possible. If we buy into the lie that rape "ruins our lives" it's like we're letting him/them mind-rape us forever.

No limp-dicked, cowardly rapist deserves so much power.

The best revenge, after being raped, is to go on to have a happy, healthy, successful life.

Talk of the Town Today, Forgotten Tomorrow

I wish I could have talked to and hugged Rethaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott and all the other rape and molestation victims who felt such despair that they took their own lives.  Mostly, it seems, from the humiliation that "everyone knew about it" and the bullying that followed. As a teenager, I remember thinking that feelings of despair and rejection would never, ever end, and that I would be an outcast forever.

That's simply not true.

Three points: 
  1. High school doesn't last forever (it only seems like it does).  However popular or unpopular we  are in high school has almost nothing to do with how successful we will be later in life: at making friends; succeeding in business; finding a spouse... From Lady Gaga to Bill Gates,  seems like it's the nerdy outcast types who really shine later in life.
  2. The truth can be hard to swallow. I wouldn't want to believe that my boyfriend/best friend/brother, the high school quarterback, is a rapist, would you? Of the two choices: either that someone must be mistaken or making it up, or that this person we are close to could commit such a horrific crime, we'd rather believe someone is mistaken or making it up. Over time, many people who initially didn't want to believe the victim, do come to see that we are telling the truth, and will be on our side.
  3. People want to feel safe. If they can come up with a reason we were raped: that we "asked for it," that it only happened because we were crazy drunk, or that we are lying, then they can feel less afraid that rape could happen to them, because they can avoid doing that thing. The idea that anyone, anywhere, is vulnerable to being the victim of a vicious attack is pretty terrifying. Sometimes when people "turn" on us, it's because we embody an idea or concept that they can't handle. If we could be raped, so could they.

My message to the teen rape victims out there: if you are afraid to talk to your parents, either because you think they will blame you, not understand, or because you don't want to hurt them, please, go talk to somebody. An aunt, a friend's mother, a counselor at school, a minister, priest or rabbi.

If you don't know anybody you feel you can trust, or even if you do, call  1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or go to RAINN.

Even if it feels like your whole school is against you, other people have felt that, too, and this too shall pass.   {{{{hugs}}}}

I've been raped (and raped more than once, lucky me!) and I am still happy, healthy, successful, loved, and a sexual person. You can be, too.

To read Part I, go here.
To read Part II, go here.

What lies & myths about rape have hurt you or someone you love?
Your thoughts?

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Two of the Times Someone Raped Me (Part II) #saam #rape

The only thing I can blame on myself, the time someone raped me at knifepoint, was that I had left my front door unlocked.

Trigger Warning: Profanity. This series may be triggering to some rape victims.

I was 19, and my then-boyfriend was living with me. He had a union meeting that night, and if it ran par for the course, I expected him to be dropped off, late evening, hammered.

I was very tired from work; a long, hard day on my feet for most of it. So after greeting our dog (a sweet-natured Keeshond we’d rescued from the pound, named Winnie the Pooh), feeding the cats, kicking off my shoes and taking off my pantyhose, I ate the KFC I’d picked up on the way home, unlocked the front door so my b-f could just let himself in without disturbing me, and climbed into bed, still dressed, to read and doze.

When I thought I heard someone fumbling at the front door, I partially woke up. Was my boyfriend home? Winnie growled softly. For a moment I felt afraid, but there was no further noise, and watching the dog carefully, she kind of shook herself, then laid back down. I thought, must have been someone looking for my next-door neighbor (my apartment was half of a duplex), somebody who figured out he was at the wrong door, and moved on. I dozed off again.

I awoke to Winnie’s barking, and a stranger standing by the side of my bed. He wore a nylon stocking over his face (which is not a flattering look for anyone, just sayin’), and held a big kitchen knife in his right hand.

On A Scale of 1 to 10, This Joke Rates a -20.

At first I thought it was a really, really bad prank. One of my co-workers possessed an exceptionally low sense of humor, and it would be just his style to think a stunt like this would be funny. I even  called for Friend L to stop hiding and come out of the living room.

via Wikimedia Commons
This is not Winnie, but looks much as she did,
a medium-sized, very fluffy dog
Winnie had stopped barking but was crouched by the foot of the bed, growling. (The cats, you will be unsurprised to hear, were totally unhelpful and disappeared.) The intruder grabbed the front of my white blouse with his free hand,and ripped it open, causing a button to pop off.

I realized it was not a joke.

Then the phone rang. In those days, it was a landline. The intruder gestured with the knife for me to answer it.

It was a wrong number. I was terrified that the intruder would think I was pretending it was a wrong number, that I was trying to send some kind of signal to a friend or family member. In the space of a few seconds, I obsessed over how I could prove to the guy I wasn't trying to "pull something." After I hung up, he used the knife to slice through the phone cord.

As I type this, I only now realize that knife was impressively sharp.

He directed me to perform oral sex on him, with which I complied, then he inserted his half-flaccid penis in me. Yes, like many rapists, he never achieved a full erection. The tape running in my head, over and over during this time, was, “Remember every detail you can, so they can get this guy,” but somehow, almost nothing stuck. The only detail that burned into my brain was his boxer shorts: light blue, solid, with no pattern, with white trim around the edges.

I couldn’t remember anything much else, really; no tattoos, moles, birthmarks, or anything distinctive about his body. I think he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but I’m not even sure about the jeans, couldn’t remember the color of his T-shirt or what kind of shoes he wore. He was blond, fair-skinned, a little shorter than me, medium build - not fat, "built," nor skinny. I probably outweighed him.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze?

Briefly, I considered fighting the man, or going for his knife. With some rapists or batterers, their intent is first to cow you, then to kill you.

I didn’t get a “vibe” from this man that he intended to hurt me (besides the rape), and I was afraid that if I did fight him, I might get badly hurt by the big, sharp knife, during the struggle.

IMO, each rape or assault victim has to decide for her/himself what the right thing to do is. If you survive, you made the right decision. (And if you don’t survive, it still was not your fault.)  

He seemed young (early twenties?) and rather unnerved by the dog growling, the phone incident, and I think I warned him my boyfriend would be getting home any minute.

How long he raped me, I don’t have a clue. He pulled out, grabbed a wide-mouthed wine bottle in which my b-f and I were saving spare change, and left. First I ran to lock the door behind him, then I started shaking and crying.

I couldn’t stand to wait home alone, till my boyfriend got home, so I jumped in my VW and drove to my sister’s house, about five miles away. She called the police, and went with me and the police to the hospital, while my brother-in-law went to my place to meet my boyfriend and the police there.

At the hospital, they collected a rape kit. Yep, just like in the movies, they put me into a room with intensely bright lights that glared painfully into my eyes. I had to comb my pubes over a piece of paper in hopes of catching one of his pubic hairs, and they swabbed me for evidence of his semen. I didn’t think he had ejaculated in me, but I wasn’t sure. They took my blouse, skirt, and underwear as evidence - eventually, I got the blouse and skirt back.

Did I have a rape victim advocate? I don't think so, I think it was before they were a routine part of the process, but if I had one, I was too dazed, shocked, and confused to remember.

Sometimes It’s Hard To Tell Who The Good Guys Are

The police who took me to the hospital were great; afterwards I was assigned two detectives, one male, one female. She was okay, he was a flaming asshole.

I felt shaky and nervous for weeks afterwards, exacerbated by the fact that my rapist attacked other women, and they caught him. I had to go to identify my rapist in a lineup, which I did, and then there were hearings I had to attend. Most of the details are very blurry, but one time I remember is waiting in a small room, with my sister, when the male detective came into the room.

He threw a pair of men’s boxers into my lap. “Are those the ones he was wearing when he raped  you?”

WTF? In the first place, nice concern for the victim's sensibilities, not. In the second place, this pair was white, with a blue paisley print. Had the detective not been paying attention to the one detail I could remember? “No, the ones he wore were solid light blue, with white trim.” I was annoyed, and my sister was furious on my behalf; I think she left the room and lodged a complaint against the detective, but I’m not sure.

I think there was a hearing, to determine if there was enough evidence to go to trial. Judge only, no jury. Beforehand, we (my sister was with me) had to wait in a big hallway outside the courtroom, that included my rapist and his attorney. That was creepy.

I did take the oath and the stand. Answered a handful of very brief questions from the ?assistant DA? Then the defense attorney asked me questions. He seemed to be trying to trip me up, and I remember him pressing really hard on the question as to whether or not the rapist ejaculated in me.

"I don't think so, but I'm not sure."

"You don't know? A knowledgeable, sexually experienced woman like you can't tell if a man has ejaculated or not?"

This pissed me off. "I'm not knowledgeable or sexually experienced about perverts," I said. The court broke for lunch, and afterward they dismissed me, no more questions.

In the end, my rapist opted to plead guilty rather than go to trial. I think he got 1-3 years, but I am not sure. Maybe more, since they “had” him for at least 2 other cases. I can’t even remember what his name was; I’m sure it was on the subpoenas and other papers, but I didn’t keep them, and my mind has chosen not to remember.


I Know I Got Off Lucky

I was not beaten, cut, stabbed, bruised, or otherwise physically damaged. I did not contract a loathsome disease or become pregnant. They even caught my rapist, in a fairly short period of time, and he went to jail, so I did not have to wonder or worry if he was out there, might be coming back for me. I am fully aware that, as far as rape victims go, I got off lucky.

I was also lucky in that, this time, it was a “legitimate rape.” It even made it into the newspapers - just about every detail but my name, so that my neighbors, co-workers, and other people would’ve had to be dumber than paint not to know exactly who the articles were about.

I did directly speak to my (male) boss at the time, who gave me his deepest sympathy and all the time off (I think, with pay) that I needed to get over the initial trauma and the subsequent court dates. I was believed, I was supported by family and friends.

The Boyfriend Issue

I think it’s important to mention that my boyfriend, and many partners of a rape victim, have their own Issues and Challenges, after a rape. They “failed” to protect us. And now what? It goes against the grain to sit back and let the legal system take its course, rather than finding the rapist and at the very least, pounding the shit out of him. Still, that’s what they’re required by law to do, to wait, let the law do its thing. That helplessness is hard on everyone who loves a rape victim, but especially on male partners. Who do they turn to for support and information?

Figuring out how to support a raped partner is not something we talk about very much in our society. In my case, I wanted to be held, I wanted to make love again, ASAP, kind of like reformatting a computer hard drive and overwriting it with new data. Some rape victims don’t want to be touched at all, and others run hot-and-cold; sometimes wanting to be held and comforted, other times not wanting physical contact.

Although in the long run, we did not marry, my then-boyfriend was tremendously supportive of me when I needed it, and I will always be grateful to him for that. With his help, (and later, that of other men), I reclaimed my sexuality, eventually becoming just as joyful, happy, and even more uninhibited than I started out.

How The Mount Everest of Dog Diarrhea Helped Me Get Over My Rape

My next-door neighbor in our duplex was only a few years older than me, and we socialized together frequently. One day she was in my apartment, comfortably settled into to a chair or a cushion, and she asked me to run over into hers and get something.

She had a really big dog, and her really big dog had taken a really big dump right in the middle of the living room. We are talking the Mt. Everest’s of soft, wet, dog diarrhea. But I didn’t see it. Until I stepped in the middle of it, with my bare foot.

It was disgusting. It was still quite warm and contained corn chunks or some other solid nasty stuff along with the loose grainy nasty stuff and smelled about as vile and nauseating as anything can smell. I hopped outside on the other foot, rinsed off my foot with a hose, then went into my house and washed my foot about 3-4 times with scented soap, gagging. I still gag, when I pull up the visceral memory of that experience. All the thesauri in the world cannot come up with enough synonyms for how incredibly gross it was.

But, here’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t cut off my foot. I didn’t pretend that my soiled foot no longer existed and stopped walking on it. I continued to use it, and I’ve continued to enjoy it, whether it’s being massaged by a foot freak or a pedicurist, or just getting me from Point A to Point B.

And so, though my genitals have had encounters with the human equivalent of dog shit, I have washed them off, and I continue to enjoy them. Why not? I am not denying or suppressing the memories of being raped (not consciously, anyway), but I refuse to allow being raped by some limp-dicked loser be the entire story of my vagina or sex life. Because it is not. It is only a tiny fraction of all the wonderful pleasure sex and my vagina has brought me.

To read Part I, go here.

To be continued...

Your thoughts?

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Two of the Times Someone Raped Me (Part I) #saam #rape

Do you see what I did there? We are so accustomed to distancing ourselves from rape, we usually talk about it as if it was something awful that happened to us: "I was raped." No. Not even, "I was raped by <a stranger; my ex-boyfriend; a group of boys at a party; my father>."

Trigger warning: Profanity. This series may be triggering to some rape victims.

Rape is not like a car accident: "the brakes failed, and I was broadsided by another car."

This is part of what "they" mean when they talk about rape culture. We need to learn to talk about rape - a crime, and an action - as something that someone does to someone else, because rape is a choice.

What My Parents Didn't Teach Me

My parents taught me much more than many young girls learned about the mechanics of sex., especially for my (GenFab) era. From the time I was fairly young, I was allowed to look at my father's Playboy magazines (mostly to find the bunny on each cover), and told that the human body, female and male alike, was beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of. That sex felt good and that wanting to have sex was healthy and normal.

BUT, my mother died when I was ten, and my father thereafter handed me a series of books about sex, the human body, menstruation, and so forth, and emotionally stepped away. At twelve, he told me that he trusted my judgment (really?), and that I should feel free to do whatever I wanted to do, as long as I didn't get pregnant.

It will not take Einstein to deduce that at the age of 12 (two years before I began menstruating), I was not quite ready to be entirely free of parental supervision and guidance.

In high school sex ed, I could wow my teachers by not only being able to locate the Fallopian tubes on those purple mimeographed diagrams, but to spell Fallopian tubes, uterus, and a whole lot of other body parts many of my classmates had never even heard of. Yet my understanding of the workings of romantic relationships was rudimentary at best.

So, There Was This Boy...

If you're a (hetero) teen girl, there is always a boy or five that you "like." I liked boys, going back to elementary school, but had no clue as to where to draw the line regarding sexual activity - or even if there really was a line.  Kissing felt good. Touching and rubbing felt good.

A couple of times, when I was very young, I went "all the way." But I was beginning to pick up the societal mores that sex was supposed to be dirty/naughty, I was afraid of getting pregnant because I thought sperm lived in a woman's body forever, and also, I joined a church cult that put premarital sex off-limits.

When I was 17, I left the cult. I didn't know how to date - and mostly, the young people in my neighborhood didn't seem to date, anyway. We "hung out" together, in groups.  So there was this boy, call him Boy A who seemed to really like me, and he was... okay, but neither his conversation nor his body really excited me. I did let Boy A kiss me a few times, but his kisses left me unmoved, and I made it clear that he and I weren't "going out," even if we were "hanging out."

Among his friends, however, there was another boy, let's call him Boy B, who I thought was very sexy. We all went bowling together, and Boy B and I flirted heavily. We seemed to have a special  connection, and although Boy B didn't ask me out, well, nobody "dated" in our crowd.

One night at a party, I got really, really stoned. We were all in a place where we shouldn't be and had to scatter. Boy B took charge of me (oh, the alpha male!) and managed to get me into his room, alone.

After what seemed like hours of sitting in the dark beside each other on his bed, not even daring to breathe very loudly, lest we be caught, he began to kiss me.

Rape Is A Many Splendored Thing

Many soap opera storylines, movies, and books all taught me and other women of my generation that at least sometimes rape = uncontrollable passion/secret, unacknowledged love.

Take General Hospital, where Luke raped Laura, and later, she not only forgave him, but fell in love with him. That scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where Katharine Ross is forced to undress by gunpoint and then is forcibly kissed, and at the very end, barely whispered, is a hint that this is a "rape is fun" game. (Which I entirely missed the first 2-3 times I watched the movie.)

Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower
Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Even today on GoodReads, discussions rage as to whether Alex raped Tess in Tess of the d'Ubervilles, or Rhett raped Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, or whether those were seductions. The most popular romance authors of my girlhood: Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rodgers, Johanna Lindsey, Judith McNaught wrote many, many rape and "forced seduction" stories.

Candy at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books took a crack at understanding the lure of the rapist hero:
What makes the rapist hero different is how the very fact that she makes him lose control, he, a man who has bedded women without count, makes him lose control even more. He desires her, and hates her for desiring her, and he punishes her accordingly. By the end of the book, though, he has submitted to the fact that he doesn’t just want her, he needs her, the way Ozzy Osborne needs Vicodin and red wine.

The more unkind critic would note that his dick has made judgment, and his dick apparently knows better than any other organ of his when he’s found his soulmate.

The less unkind critic would point out that many women secretly want to drive a handsome man crazy for love of their irresistible little selves, even though such behavior in real life would probably result in panicked calls to the police and restraining orders.

 He Wasn't Even A Very Good Kisser

After all the sparks and flirting and excitement, this was a real letdown. I should enjoy being with Boy B, making out with Boy B, but mostly, the thought going through my muddled head was, "As soon as the coast is clear, I'm getting out of here."

At some point, he convinced me to lie down on his bed, and for what seemed like a very long time we lay there together, side by side with him occasionally stroking my cheek and nibbling my earlobe.

Without warning he climbed on top of me and tried to wrestle my underwear off, while I whispered "No!" as loud as I could without getting him into trouble, and yanked my pants back up. In a detached corner of my mind I thought how ridiculous this must look, him yanking my pants down, me pulling them back up.

I have since learned that in crisis mode, that's exactly what happens; the brain distances itself and you often fixate on some weird little detail.

In the end, he managed to get them down enough, get me pinned enough, to penetrate me. It hurt, a lot. I stopped fighting, trying to "lie back and enjoy it." But unlike in romance novels, it never felt good, or even okay, It simply continued to hurt.

Why didn't I call out for help? 

Because geez, Boy B was my friend, I didn't want to get him into trouble.  I also had some vague thought of not wanting to hurt Boy A's feelings, either. Besides, I had wanted to be with Boy B, right?

I got him to sneak me into the bathroom, when it was over, so I could clean up.

I was bleeding.

He became upset that I had bled onto his sheets, because it could get him into trouble. I actually apologized to my rapist because his raping me made me bleed.

I Thought Boy B Must Really Like Me, Like All The Romance Heroes

My deepest shame from that night, now, is not from his penis being briefly inside me, or my reluctance to call out for help, or even the ludicrousness of apologizing to my rapist for bleeding onto his sheets, but that I actually wrote him a love letter the next day. As I walked home, sore and aching between my legs, I convinced myself that Boy B and I had something special between us. That he was overcome by lust/love, like all the "forceful" romance heroes I'd read, and that the next time we had sex, it would be better.

Then I got a message passed back to me through the group grapevine. Boy B isn't your boyfriend, he doesn't want to be your boyfriend. He already has a girlfriend; he just wanted to fuck you, dumbass.

The confused and shamed feelings I had were very similar to these, expressed in Ilie Ruby's The Salt God's Daughter:
But it was the shame and humiliation that lingered most of all as I watched him speed away on his bicycle, knowing I’d never see him again. And self-loathing that followed, the slow and painful slogging through grief as I knelt on his white blanket, stained with my blood, hands covering my face. I would begin walking the never-ending path to forgiveness, trying like hell to figure out how I could have let this happen....

...Charges were not pressed. I didn’t fight him. I hadn’t even screamed. In those days, in the early ‘80s, few girls pressed charges, especially when they’d gone with a guy willingly, as though lambs to the slaughter, like I had done. People called it consensual... ...What if you just lay there, doing nothing, motionless, lost from the shock or the alcohol? What if you didn’t struggle enough? What if you had wished only to kiss him?

Did you want it?...

... When it was over, when he was done with me, before he took off, he picked up one of the smashed roses and thanked me.

I’ll never forget it: I actually took the rose.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The latest tragedies of young women being raped and then slut shamed, who have felt so rejected by their communities and betrayed by their friends that more than one have committed suicide, breaks my heart. That could so easily have been me, but, back in the day, we didn't have FaceBook or Twitter or Tumblr to keep shame alive.

I want to say, much like the "It Gets Better" campaign, that it doesn't matter, it doesn't affect your worth as a human being whether you willingly engaged in consensual sex at halftime on the 50 yard line with the entire football team, or whether you were raped by some/all of them, you are not just a vagina (or other body part, in the case of male rape victims).

Estimates are that 1 in 4/5 American women will experience rape in her lifetime. Yet how many of us talk or write about it? Using our real names and real experiences?

Admittedly, being a rape survivor is not the first thing that does or should come up in conversation, except in therapy groups. "Hi, I'm Beverly, I've been raped a few times, and I write sexy women's fiction in my spare time," is kind of an awkward intro.

What's the appropriate reply, "Hi, nice to meet you, sorry about the rape thing, try the cheese dip"?

Yet what we do now - most women (and male victims), pretending they have never been raped, not allowing rape victims' names to be printed in news stories without the victims' permission - perpetuates the idea, for many rape victims, that they are all alone, and that rape is shameful.

Rape is shameful - for rapists. Rape should not be shameful for rape victims.

  to be continued...

Your thoughts?
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Welcome to Cat Disneyland

My cat, Metaphor, aka Stinky, has every toy a feline could possibly want to play with.  My living room looks like a cat Disneyland, complete with tunnels, empty boxes, rolling fishbowl thingies, light-up toys...

I am constantly buying cat toys, 

rotating them, trying to lure her into physical activity with a new feathered or squeaky or furry object. Most of them she ignores, or she'll glance at them, then stare at me. Her look says, "You cannot possibly believe I am so stupid as to be interested in that silly thing, do you?"

She is not fooled by a laser pointer. Sometimes Stinky will play with a new toy for seconds at a time. Sometimes she will engage in a totally different way.

I think I like it, but I'm not sure...

Now it's purrfect!

Metaphor (Stinky) on the left, Simile on the right
But regardless of how much she engages with her toys, regardless of the brand of diet cat food she is fed in strictly measured amounts... Stinky is a very big girl. She got fat in the year after we moved (with her sister, who died shortly after) in with my now ex-boyfriend, when she was only three years old. It was a very stressful environment for all of us, and Stinky blew up like a balloon.

I had hoped, once the two of us were in a stress-free apartment, continuing on her diet, and with plenty of play opportunities, a nice high perch from which to watch the birdies and squirrels, the weight would come off. It's been several years now, and that hasn't happened (for either of us).

Stinky, now ten, gets regular vet visits, and though the vet agrees that being this obese isn't good for any cat, her heart is strong, her lungs are clear, her teeth are good, and she doesn't test positive for diabetes. Healthy.  She purrs a lot, is more cuddly than she used to be, so I judge to be her happy, too.

I'm thinking perhaps Stinky is my life lesson from the Universe, because I have long been not only dissatisfied with her shape, but my own.

In theory, I am a huge believer in the idea that human beings come in all shapes and sizes. I, too, am not diabetic, have a strong heart and lungs, decent (if not fabulous) cholesterol levels and low blood pressure.

I too am a big girl. 

Unlike Stinky, I am not carefully measuring my food. For the most part, I eat a healthy diet, lots of broccoli and salads, I drink plenty of water and get enough sleep, but I do have my indulgences. (Hello, chocolate!) I would be even healthier if I could find a way to move more. That's been a challenge since I developed Morton's neuroma in my right foot several years ago. Hiking and walking and dancing at an aerobic level is out; despite my custom orthotic inserts and butt-ugly extra-wide shoes, it hurts too much, and I pay for it too long in terms of pain and immobility afterward.

Cover of
Cover of Curves
This fall, I developed what we first thought was tendinitis, but is now officially diagnosed as frozen shoulder in my left shoulder - after dealing with a similar condition in my right shoulder the entire year before.  For years I did the Curves circuit, which did not aggravate my foot too much, but it absolutely killed my shoulder. My physical therapist says no more Curves for a while.

Biking has been suggested, but I am very uncoordinated, so besides the purchase of the bike, I would have to mount a rack for my car so I could drive to a local park, since I am likely to wobble to my death in neighborhood traffic. Realistically? I'm simply not that motivated to ride a bike. Though perhaps an indoor exercise bike would be doable, when funds permit.  I used to love playing volleyball, but need to be able to lift both arms over my head before that even becomes an option.

Once the weather warms up I can swim again, which I enjoy, or I could check out a membership in the "Y" and go for a water aerobics class.

I feel confident I could restrict my diet and vigorously exercise and take off the excess weight. 

After all, I've done it many times before.

And then the weight has always come back to the party, usually bringing friends.

So instead of plunging once again into that yo-yo cycle, I'm going to plunge into figuring out just where my head needs to be. Oh, I won't postpone finding some way to exercise, because I know I need to - and I enjoy life more when I feel fit.

But maybe I need to accept that the Universe does not intend for me to be slim, or even "normal" sized (whatever that is) on a permanent basis.  None of the women in my family have been anything but plump as they aged, and so I might be battling genetic tendencies as well as a chocolate addiction.  Honestly? If I have to choose between giving up chocolate forever, and being fat, I say, "Bring on the muumuus!"

Does this box make me look fat?
I know, theoretically, that hating on ourselves as a diet technique may be a large part of why we regain the weight. That depriving ourselves of foods we love simply brings on binges, later. That the whole meme of "If I get to be XX pounds or size XX, then I would be so happy" simply isn't true.  I am actually rather happy with myself and my life right now.

Except when my body parts hurt. Or when I'm picking out my work wardrobe for the week and I can't even choose clothes that fit me just fine a year ago.

I adore Stinky, in all her glorious Stinky abundance.

I have friends of all shapes and sizes, and I don't judge them harshly (okay, I admit that the slim friend who's always yammering about cutting back this or that food so she doesn't get fat kinda ticks me off).

But can I find a way to extend that nonjudgmental love to myself? Can I love myself as I am right now, and really focus on being healthy instead of on getting back to size XX?

I know I "should." I'm going to try. But can I get it from my logical head to my emotional heart?

I always welcome your comments, but this time, am gonna attach some strings.
Please don't suggest any specific diets. Any hate-talk will be deleted or edited.
Please do share about your own emotional struggles with weight, 
an exercise you found unexpectedly delightful, 
or your stories about a fat but lovable pet.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Your Lovable Local Library

These are only two - of my eleven bookshelves.
I've crammed in a couple dozen more since I shot this.
And then I have my stacks o' books...
Book geek here - always have been, always will be. I love the sensuous smell and feel of books, in whatever format: the sharp-cornered dangerousness of a hardback, the soft yielding promise of a paperback, the infinite variety and stimulation of an e-reader, even the seductive mellowness of an audiobook narrator.

*fans self*

And because I have come to know so many wonderful authors, of course I want to support every single one of them by buying their books. Repeatedly. However...

There comes a time in every wallet's life when you have to step away from the cash register.

Cover of
Cover via Amazon
Although I spend more money on books than shoes, occasionally I do have to buy a new pair. And pay rent on the place where I keep all my hardbacks and paperbacks, and the electric bill that lets me charge my Kindle, and so on.

I can't always afford to buy new, or even used books. Sometimes, there's a book I need to read - for example, my book club has picked it out - and I'm not yet sure I want to invest money in this unknown author. We've all been there, haven't we, squandered ten or fifteen bucks (or more) on a book which it turned out, we didn't like or perhaps couldn't even finish?

My first introduction to libraries was a Bookmobile that came to my elementary school.

It was interesting and exciting, because it was new! and we got to leave the classroom! But my family had more books at home, I thought, and the Bookmobile carried a very limited selection for readers of my age.

Then we moved, and I started at a new school. One that had an actual, on site library.

I will never forget my first peek inside the library, of realizing that all those books, from my old friends Curious George and the other books for little kids on that side of the room, to the glorious shelves on the other side that reached to heaven (okay, a little above my head), were available for the reading.

My friend Hilaree calls it "the ah-aah moment," you know, when the clouds part and a bright beam of sunshine streams down and you hear angelic voices singing, "Ah-aah."

The Romance, The Mystery, the Shame

I remember the airy, two story HS library with thick red carpeting, and big windows that looked out into the courtyard. And two internal staircases. Another, older library in the center of town, not particularly well-lit,with its tightly packed rows of books and old book smell, made me feel as if I was sneaking books out of a Duke or Earl's private library, especially when as a teen I'd check out the sexy books and wonder if someone would try to stop me.

library card found in pittsburgh pennsylvania
library card found in pittsburgh pa
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I recently went to a book event and almost swooned when I received my raffle tickets tucked into an old-fashioned library card sleeve. Anybody remember library cards? The librarian would stamp the due date on a small index card that bore dozens of previous date stamps, and she'd tuck the card into the sleeve on the inside front of the book. Now library books carry bar codes; they're scanned and they give you a flimsy computer-printed receipt. *sad face* Not that I'm not grateful, but it seems much less romantic.

I remember having to keep slipping those inked up cards out of the pocket to check when my books were due back. The tension, the drama, the feverish reading into the wee hours of the night, because I had to know what happened before I returned them.

Or on tenterhooks, going to the library to beg for an extension of the loan, for a book not quite finished, hoping no one else had reserved the book after me. Now you can just log on and renew your books online. Again, I'm grateful, but the mystery and suspense is gone.

And oh, the shame when library books were overdue! Slinking up to the counter with my pennies and abject apologies.

Modern Libraries - Like Friends With Benefits

They're clean, they're all airy and well-lit, with inviting reading areas, computers, work tables, and plenty of space to move around - a vast improvement for our brother and sister readers who have disabilities. If there's a little less mystery and romance, there's much more comfort and familiarity.

And it's mot just physical books, anymore, but most libraries carry books on tape/CD, DVD's, magazines, and more.

Also, provided you belong to a city or county with a big enough library system, you can check out e-books! Just concluded my first adventure with checking out an e-library book.

First (no duh!) you need a current library card. If you haven't checked out a book in several years, you may have to stop into an actual library building and get a new library card.

They even come with handy key tags now.

Then you can log into your system and find your books. If you want a dead tree book, you can see if it's on the shelf at your local library branch, and if not, but it's at another library in the system, you can arrange to have it transferred over.

With an e-books, there can be a wait list for newer or more popular titles. (The Steve Jobs autobiography wait list was at 400 or so, when I idly checked it.) Also, not all books offer any e-version, let alone one for your Kindle/Nook/iPad (though most newer releases do). When you find your book in your format, click a few buttons, and it'll download to your device either automatically, or next time you are connected to a hot spot (my Kindle is old school, it's not constantly online).

When your book is close to coming due, you'll get a reminder, and then, on the day after your e-book was due back - it's been automatically removed from your device. Magic! No dashing to the library in your sweatpants and bunny slippers!

(Though I'm sure that unlike me, you look adorable in your sweatpants and bunny slippers.)

You also get a message on your Kindle telling you it's been removed, and asking if you'd like to buy the book - so if you loved it and want your very own copy, just another couple of clicks.

I'm happy to purchase books when funds permit, but my wallet is even happier that I'm also a book borrower through my public library.

How about you? Got a fond childhood library memory?
Have you been to a library lately?
What are your experiences checking out e-books?
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Monday, April 1, 2013

Slut of the Month: Anaïs Nin

English: Photograph of Anaïs Nin as a teenager...
English: Photograph of Anaïs Nin as a teenager, circa 1920. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Anaïs Nin, it has been lately discovered via DNA testing, was actually a man in drag. His name was not Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell, but Fred Hinkleschnerfer.

No. April Fools, y'all.

Anaïs Nin, born in France on February 21, 1903, was as female as a cat in heat - and, judging by her writing, she frequently felt like one (not that there's anything wrong with that).

“We don't see things how they are, we see things the way we are.”― Anaïs Nin

Because I reek at pronunciation worse than a college basketball player's lucky socks (I used to say "Aunty-Kay" for "antique" for years) I am linking the official pronunciation for others similarly challenged:

Phonetic Pronunciation: ah-nah-EES
Phonetic Pronunciation: neen
Anaïs lived most of her life in the United States, so is considered an American author. (Yeah, USA!) But she is more truly  a citizen of the world. Her composer father, Joaquin Nin, grew up in Spain but was born in and returned to Cuba. Her mother, Rosa Culmell y Vigaraud, a classically trained singer, was of Cuban, French, and Danish ancestry.

After her father deserted the family, Anaïs attended Catholic schools in the United States beginning in 1914, dropped out of school at sixteen, and worked as a model and a dancer.

Anaïs studied psychoanalysis with Otto Rank and briefly practiced as a lay therapist in New York.

Was There Ever A Woman More Sensual?

In 1931, Anaïs, then married to Hugo Guilar who was a banker and later a moviemaker, began a passionate affair with as-yet unpublished Henry Miller in Paris, as he worked on Tropic of Cancer.

And perhaps, a few (dozen) others. Which led to some amazing erotic literature.

“He was now in that state of fire that she loved. She wanted to be burnt.” Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus

via Wikipedia:
Faced with a desperate need for money, Nin, Miller and some of their friends began in the 1940s to write erotic and pornographic narratives for an anonymous "collector" for a dollar a page, somewhat as a joke.[15] (It is not clear whether Miller actually wrote these stories or merely allowed his name to be used.[16]) Nin considered the characters in her erotica to be extreme caricatures and never intended the work to be published, but changed her mind in the early 1970s and allowed them to be published as Delta of Venus[17][18] and Little Birds.

Delta of Venus
Delta of Venus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many leading literary figures, including Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Antonin Artaud, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, James Leo Herlihy, and Lawrence Durrell. Her passionate love affair and friendship with Miller strongly influenced her both as a woman and an author. 
“When she closed her eyes she felt he had many hands, which touched her everywhere, and many mouths, which passed so swiftly over her, and with a wolflike sharpness, his teeth sank into her fleshiest parts. Naked now, he lay his full length over her. She enjoyed his weight on her, enjoyed being crushed under his body. She wanted him soldered to her, from mouth to feet. Shivers passed through her body.”Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus

for a wonderful tribute of Anaïs Nin photos and a recording of
her reading her own work, please play this clip

Later, Anaïs would act in her husband Hugo's experimental movies. She would also marry for a second time in 1947 (without troubling herself to get a divorce from husband Hugo), to an actor named Rupert Pole, her being 44 to his 28. (And why not?)

Anaïs became a very skilled performer at what she referred to as bicoastal trapeze.

On the East Coast, she was Anaïs Guilar, with checkbooks and prescription bottles to match; in California she was Anaïs Pole. Although tax and legal issues compelled her to obtain an annulment of her marriage to Pole in 1966, they continued to live together as if married until her death of cancer in 1977. After Hugo Guilar died in 1985, Rupert Pole commissioned the unexpurgated versions of Anaïs's journals.

After her death, Anaïs was cremated and her ashes scattered in Mermaid Cove, Santa Monica, California.  Later, husband Hugo's cremains were also scattered in Mermaid Cove - as arranged by Rupert Pole. I was unable to verify what happened to husband Pole after his death in 2006, but it's highly likely, according to Anaïs biographer Deirdre Bair, that his ashes joined theirs in a posthumous ménage à trois.

Are We Too Straitlaced for an Anaïs Nin Today?

The mere thought of a woman openly exploring her sensuality and sexuality throws most people (at least in the US) into a tizzy. I have been told about one of my novels that the idea that the heroine might fuck other men en route to discovering her enduring love for the hero... Well, it's simply not done, these days. [In fact, my dear, on a blog one should say "the eff word" or politely blank out characters, such as "f--k other men".] A fictional heroine can have sex, she can even have wildly graphic and kinky sex while tied up in a Red Room of Pain, but monogamy to the hero must be maintained throughout the book.

Some people just about rolled into a ball and died over Beyoncé's 2013 SuperBowl performance, or the "wardrobe malfunction" of Janet Jackon at the same event in 2004.  Nipples! OMG!! (Never mind that all women and men each have a pair of their own.)  So I wonder, even though today her writings are widely respected, her nuggets of wisdom are quoted everywhere, if we, as a society, would accept or reject a woman who practiced the scandalous lifestyle of Anaïs Nin?

Like Rodney Dangerfield, Anaïs couldn't get any respect. 

In the 1940's and 50's, the (almost entirely male) literary society was happy to get Anaïs's input - and to thrust theirs upon her (take that any way you like), but publish her? Consider her work as important as Miller's or Steinbeck's?

Being discounted as an artist could make a person angry and bitter. Below, Anaïs discusses anger as related to the artist.

Her diaries - the edited versions - first became widely published in 1966; the erotic novels such as Delta of Venus (1977) and Little Birds (1979) posthumously.

Reading or hearing her words, Anaïs does not seem to be an ordinary creature, but apparently, she too had her dry spells and household chores.

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.”― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Somehow, if we are writers, we must not only seek the high moments, but accept that moments of drought, when we are not in "a state of grace," when all we are fit to do is mend socks and polish furniture, happen to everyone. Even to Anaïs Nin.

I love so much of the writing and poetry of Anaïs Nin, but my favorite quote, which I have framed on my bedroom wall, is Risk:
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

Past Sluts of the Month:

Future Slut of the Month Candidates:
  • Mae West
  • Joan of Kent
  • Cleopatra
  • Sandra Fluke 
  • Morgan le Fey
  • Aspasia
  • Madonna
  • Liz Taylor
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Kassandra of Troy
  • Tullia d'Aragona
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Lillie Langtry
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Eleanor Roosevelt 
  • Rhiannon
  • Shelley Winters
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • Umrao Jaan
  • Sarah Bernhardt
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine 
  • Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire) 
  • Jeanne d'Arc
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Hwang Jin-i
  • Coco Chanel 
  • Isadora Duncan
  • Sappho
  • Joan of Kent 
  • Dorothy Dandridge
  • Catherine the Great
  • the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown
  • Eva Perón
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Natalie Wood
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Mata Hari
  • Lady Gaga
  • Malala Yousafzai
Who's your favorite slut? 
Vote for one on this list, or name another slut to be added to it.
What do you think of Anaïs Nin and her work?
Do you have a favorite Anaïs quote?
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