Please welcome the lovely Lisabet Sarai this month of Nostalgia. As a fellow omnisexual writer, it’s a pleasure to host her as she discusses the contentious universe of FF erotica.
I’d written some short stories for lesbian anthologies over the years, and always enjoyed the process. However, the outright hostility to any sort of F/F interaction that I encountered in the erotic romance world had me shying away from the sub-genre, even when my imagination pulled me in that direction. Then I received a call for submissions from Cheyenne Blue, an author I’ve always admired, for her collection Forbidden Fruit: tales of unwise lesbian desire. Cheyenne’s theme of forbidden couplings inspired me to write “The First Stone”, about a nun working at a women’s shelter who falls for a ex-junkie whore. I was thrilled with the way the story turned out—indeed, the whole collection is amazing—and then I heard that Laura Antoniou was editing the 2015 edition of Best Lesbian Erotica. I pulled out a story idea I’d been nursing for a long time, determined to submit, though I doubted that a kink-loving editor like Laura would enjoy my rather sentimental tale about second chances in a small town. I was wrong, as it turned out. There’s nothing like an acceptance to give you a feeling of validation, right?
I started toying with the idea of collecting and self-publishing all the F/F stories I’d written over the years. When I mentioned this in a blog post, Caroline from LadyLit (the publisher for Cheyenne’s book) left a comment inviting me to submit that collection to them.
Motivation! Someone wanted to publish my F/F stuff! I assembled a manuscript, including a brand new 12K fantasy ménage I wrote to balance the more serious tales in the volume. LadyLit accepted the book but asked to pull out that new story, The Witches of Gloucester, as a separate publication. Witches, released in March, was my first stand-alone F/F title. Her Own Devices, the short story collection, is due out this week.
Of course this flurry of F/F publishing means that I need to get busy marketing. I have a problem, though. What should I call these books? My first impulse would be to say they’re lesbian erotica or erotic romance. But am I justified in using the term “lesbian”?
Personally, I’m bisexual, or maybe omni-sexual—not lesbian. I’m attracted to men, women and people in-between. I have lesbian friends, but I’ve little or no experience with lesbian culture, with its types and roles. And while I’ve written characters who are interested exclusively in women, I have others who are nominally straight or even (in the case of my nun) celibate. My stories often focus on women just discovering the appeal of other women, women who have boyfriends or husbands, who might very well continue to have heterosexual interactions even after their initiation into Sapphic passion. If I call these stories “lesbian”, will I be offending women who have appropriated the term to describe a more circumscribed phenomenon?
On the other hand, what’s the alternative? The term “F/F” sounds coy, maybe even exploitative. I’m not writing porn-style “girl-on-girl” scenes to titillate the male imagination (though I would hope that both men and women could enjoy my writing). “Sapphic” has a pretentious quality that bothers me. “Women loving women” covers the ground, but then what happens when I decide to write a trans character?
I hate cubbyholes and cliques and political correctness. I’d rather just say I write erotica and let my readers discover the genders of the individuals involved. In my first two novels— written before I knew anything about the tyranny of genre—I have M/F, F/F, M/M, M/M/M/F and M/F/F/M scenes. (Have I forgotten anything?) I was writing what turned me on personally, and as I note above, I’m omni-sexual. I really couldn’t have cared less about the labels.
Now, alas, I know better.
So what do you think? What should I call my recent work that features sex and love between people of the female gender? I’m taking suggestions.
(Response from Aurelia: Because of the problem of labeling something as bisexual, lesbian, gay, etc. in a lot of fiction – since they almost seem to be genres in and of themselves, and then it calls how the author identifies into question as well – I do tend to go the MF, MFM, FF route. That way, it speaks more to the actual sexual encounters than it does to identity. When I started writing erotica, I was a lesbian, but now I’m an I-don’t-know, and I never really got into any culture but the stay-at-home-alone-eating-ice-cream one. I’ve got that culture down.
If identity is important to the characters, I might label it according to orientation—as in, if being gay or bisexual is a point of plot. But so often the sexuality in my erotica is fluid and mostly not as much of an issue as who the characters are falling for, rather than what, or the orientation is too peripheral to the central plot. So I label according to who the main characters are doing rather than who they are, if that makes sense.
But that’s just personal preference.)
It’s not about power. It’s about love.
The historic port of Gloucester, Massachusetts has a special charm, due at least in part to its resident witches. For decades, raven-maned Marguerite and red-headed Beryl have lived among its hard-working inhabitants, making magic and mischief. Love and sex fuel their supernatural abilities, but duality limits their power. To reach their full potential, they need a third witch to complete their circle.
Rejected as a nymphomaniac by her puritanical boyfriend, Emmeline escapes to Gloucester to work on her PhD thesis. From the moment she arrives, Marguerite and Beryl sense her erotic vitality and unrecognized paranormal talent. The platinum-haired beauty may well be the enchantress they have been awaiting for so long. Now they need to show Em that her prodigious libido is a gift, not a liability, and to persuade her that her destiny lies in the sea-girt town they guard, and in their arms.
In the sweet darkness, every sensation grew more acute. Marguerite deepened the kiss, sucking Emmy’s tongue into her mouth, while Beryl stroked Emmy’s back, belly and thighs. The wandering hands barely touched Emmeline’s body but everywhere they traveled, delicious heat followed.
Sparks danced along Em’s naked skin in the wake of Beryl’s fingers. Naked? When had she removed her clothing? Her eyes fluttered open. Shadows hung in the opulent room, shaped by candles that flickered on the mantel. It was nearly midsummer. How could the night have come so quickly?
Embarrassment, wonder and need warred within her. Arousal coursed through her body in shimmering waves, so intense it was almost pain. She found herself splayed nude upon the carpet, arms flung out and erect nipples pointing at the ceiling. Her knees were bent, her thighs spread wide in lewd invitation. Moisture seeped from her exposed cleft, dampening the silky nap of the rug beneath her.
Beryl knelt in the gap between Em’s legs, equally naked, her porcelain-pale skin gleaming in the dimness. Candlelight struck glints from her coppery crown. Emmeline couldn’t help staring at the matching tangle hiding the woman’s sex. She ached to part that auburn curtain and taste the moist flesh it concealed.
The older woman grinned. Mischief glittered in her emerald eyes. “Time enough for that later, girl. The first climax must be yours. Trust us. We won’t harm you. We just want to teach you who you are.”
We. The plural made Emmeline wonder about Marguerite.
“I’m here, darling.” The lilting, cultured voice came from behind her. Em twisted backward. Marguerite knelt just above her head, thighs parted, buttocks resting on her heels. The tawny beauty’s pubic curls were mere inches from her own silvery locks, releasing clouds of tidal perfume. Flawless butterscotch-brown skin stretched over Marguerite’s lush breasts and swelling hips. Sleek muscles shifted under the smooth surface as she leaned over to brush her lips across Emmeline’s.
Even that brief contact sent lightning sizzling to Em’s cunt. For an instant she teetered on the edge of climax, before the luscious pressure subsided.
“Shall we take you, Emmeline?” Maguerite’s question wound its way into Emmeline’s consciousness, through a haze of lust. “You must ask us. The ritual requires it.”
About Lisabet Sarai
LISABET SARAI writes in many genres, but F/F fiction is one of her favorites. Her lesbian erotica credits include contributions to Lambda Award winner Where the Girls Are, Ippie-winning Carnal Machines, Best Lesbian Romance 2012, Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire, and Lammy-nominated Coming Together: Girl on Girl. Her story “The Late Show” appears in the recently released Best Lesbian Erotica 2015.
Lisabet holds more degrees than anyone would ever need, from prestigious educational institutions who would no doubt be deeply embarrassed by her explicit literary endeavors. She has traveled widely and currently lives in Southeast Asia, where she pursues an alternative career that is completely unrelated to her writing. For all the dirt on Lisabet, visit her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com) or her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com).