Every thing takes buzz, balls & hype – even running an Erotic Reading Series, I asked Rachel Kramer Bussel to write a bit about how she’s doing it because I think – like anything to do with reading – there’s a lot to learn from new initiatives like this. -- MJR
When I was asked to host an erotic reading series at Happy Ending Lounge, at first, I wasn’t sure if I should accept. Yes, I’ve published erotica extensively, in over 60 anthologies and numerous online outlets, and have now edited several anthologies, including Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z 1 and 2. But writing erotica, I’ve found, is very different from reading it aloud. On paper, I can be as free, open, daring, and explicit as I please, even if I’m telling true stories. But in person, though I’d hardly describe myself as shy, I’ve been known to blush when I get to a dirty word.
But it seemed like too fabulous of an opportunity to pass up, and since October, I’ve been hosting an assortment of my favorite erotic writers every third Wednesday in this cozy Lower East Side bar. The best part of running the series is when people who’ve never heard dirty words read aloud show up—in the audience or onstage. On our first night, Meghan Cleary, who wrote a book about shoes called The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You, read erotic poetry. She was clearly nervous, but the beauty of the evening was that the audience was right there to back her up, laughing, and sighing, along with her.
Having erotica read to you can be a highly sensual delight. As I lean my head against the red velvet covered booths, I listen as the authors make me laugh, squirm and yes, get aroused. At our last reading, held for a very intimate audience of about ten people during the transit strike, I found my own limits tested. Instead of reading a story I’d authored, I passed mine off to an enthusiastic male audience member, and instead read a story by Shanna Germain called “Waiting for a Spanking.” I discovered that reading someone else’s erotic fantasy aloud has a very liberating effect. Since it wasn’t my story, I was free to embody, and embellish, every last lusty verb, and by the end, I didn’t care how red my face had gotten.
To pull off an erotic reading, you have to be comfortable with knowing that your words will very likely get some people in the crowd hot and bothered—indeed, that’s the very point of erotica. Watching each author stake out that public erotic space has been a delight, and I’m looking forward to mixing things up in 2006. I don’t want only people who are self-proclaimed “erotic writers,” but people who put sex scenes in their fiction, their poetry, their essays. On January 18th, I’ve got romance author Edith Layton and novelist Danyel Smith, who will each bring very different, but raw, honest, erotic voices to the mic. And in February, the night after Valentine’s Day, M.J. Rose herself will read from her latest book, The Delilah Complex, along with Lauren Sanders, author of With or Without You, and Carol Taylor, editor of Wanderlust: Erotic Travel Tales, as well as two of her contributors.
Travel is an apt metaphor for sex stories, because, I believe, by the time you’re done reading a quality erotic story, your body and mind should be transported. Even if it’s only for the duration of the naughty tale, your breath should catch, stomach somersault, skin tingle. Your mind should be racing, waiting for the next kiss, the next touch, the next sigh. When my authors read out loud, it’s like bedtime stories—for adults. But it’s not all XXX expletives, either. My friend Martha Garvey read a politically inspired piece called “How To Fuck a President So It Means Something or ‘Q’” that had us howling with laughter while giving appreciative nods.
Simply listening to a variety of sexual fantasies and stories opens your mind to the wonderful diversity of erotic expression that’s out there—even if it never goes any farther than the written, or, in this case, spoken, word. Some of the raciest erotic writers I know live very quiet, simple suburban lives, but when they sit down at the computer—watch out. They’re having orgies and getting handcuffed and picking up strangers. They’re stripping down to their most naked selves, and, lucky you, they’re willing to take you along for the ride.
The next In The Flesh is on Wednesday, January 18 at 8 pm at Happy Ending Lounge, 302 Broome Street, New York.