Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fifty Shades of Responsibility

As an erotic writer, some people may see me as perpetuating stereotypes, of glorifying pornography and the degradation of women. No and no again. Women are strong and powerful and...sexual. We have desires and wants, fantasies and dreams. Sometimes we want things in our minds that we would never, ever, ever want in reality. It's fun to think about certain things. Those things can be as different as the women who think them, but we all think things we'd never want to really happen.

Here's the thing, though. I feel that authors owe a debt of responsibility to their audiences. Yes, it's important to be honest in your writing, but it's equally important to remember that your audience is placing themselves in your story and you never know what will send a message you never intended. And that is my problem with the Fifty Shades trilogy.

I feel that James did not take her debt of responsibility seriously.

Whether you love or hate her writing style or her storytelling skills, I think anyone who's ever read the books will agree that they are frequently cringe-worthy.

As a wordsmith, there were times I wanted to light the book on fire and then throw it across a room. As a feminist, my primary reaction was to take the main character in my arms and hold her. I wanted to tell her that she didn't have to take all that was being asked of her. I wanted to tell her that she has more worth than was being given to her by both her man and her creator.

Fifty Shades is a yarn. Hell, it could even be seen as a fairy tale for adults.  Beauty and the Beast, perhaps. It doesn't take a genius to see Ana and Christian as Belle and Beast, complete with a towering castle on a hill.  Like Belle, Ana finds herself entranced with a dangerous and controlling monster. Oh, like all controlling monsters, Christian shows signs of remorse and regret and even a glimmer of a person with a sensitive soul. He shows just enough humanness to keep her hooked and fawning. Yes, very Beast-like.

And the result is that this young and naive girl willingly enters into an abusive relationship and becomes the classic victim. Sure, James makes a point to let Ana question Christian from time to time and even to make demands of her own, like being able to control what and when she eats. Hardly a demand that needs to be made. Any person over the age of about 7 should be able to decide when they're hungry and to eat accordingly. But I give her credit for at least trying to give Ana a voice and backbone.  But it's simply not enough.

For three long books, this young girl bends over backward for her abuser. She tries not to ask questions, tries not to express her own needs, tries not to impose or make him upset. She tries to convince herself that if she just loves him enough, if she just accepts him enough, just sticks it out long enough, she will turn him into the prince she sees in him.

Did you read that? Read it again.

If she just tries hard enough and is a good enough woman, he will change.

What is the opposite of that? If he doesn't change, then she is not good enough.

That is a horrible, heart breaking, soul crushing message. But it gets worse. Eventually he changes just enough for her to feel safe. What's worse is that she starts to desire his controlling abuse and to convince herself that he's changed for her. Unfortunately, the only thing he's actually changed is threatening to beat her if she bites her lip. But that's enough for her!  She did it! She rehabilitated him! She turned her Beast into a very human Prince and they move into a brand new castle on a brand new hill.

The clear message is that you really can change an abuser with enough patience and love. If you go through hell and give up enough of yourself, you'll eventually reach your heaven.

My audience is women, and I take that very seriously. I don't know what is going on in the lives of the women who read my work, but I do know that I want them to walk away feeling empowered and stronger. I owe them a very real debt. My readers, and all women for that matter, deserve to read stories about characters who are true and strong. Even when I'm writing about a woman being tied up, I am aware that someone in my audience may be in a relationship with someone who is controlling or abusive. I want to give that reader a sense of freedom. I want her to understand that you can be tied up without being a victim and that if, at any moment, being tied up is no longer working, you can demand to be untied.

We are women. We are sexual. We are strong. We do not need to change for anyone. We do not need to accept someone's anger, hostility, or controlling attitudes. We can have all kinds of crazy kinky sex without subjugating ourselves to anyone. We deserve to be pleasured and we deserve to pleasure. But most of all, we deserve to know we can walk away from anyone who would demean us.

I have a responsibility to my audience to turn them on and to empower them. This is a responsibility I take very much to heart and that I will never abandon. It's the least my audience deserves of me.




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Thoughts & Wishes from Alyssa Steel

This is a hectic time of  year for many people. There are so many things to be done, and it seems like there's just not enough time in the day to get everything that needs doing done.

My own life is a whirlwind of activity right now. Between homeschooling my son, (actually, don't tell him I said so, but my husband has now taken over homeschooling entirely so I can have more time to write) buying  Christmas gifts, making Christmas gifts, attending holiday parties, making cookies for friends and neighbors, and working on all of my various writing projects, I feel like I haven't gotten a decent night's sleep in weeks.

I know I'm not alone out there, feeling the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season, so I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that it's okay not to get it all done. It's okay not to buy a gift for everyone in your office or to attend every blasted party you're invited to. It's okay to curl up on the couch with a good book, a cozy blanket and a steamy cup of  hot cocoa and to just take an hour or two for yourself. Take time to enjoy your family, take time to laugh and sing badly. Take a moment to kiss your partner in the toy aisle at Target. Paint a picture with your child, let your cat cuddle on your lap and scratch your dog's belly. These are the moments that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, so please don't let the frenetic pace of the season distract you from them.

Slow down and enjoy a cup of cocoa on me.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Monday, November 26, 2012

His Heat, My Desire

After her fiancĂ© moved out without a warning, a young woman decides go to a party. She hopes he will be there so he can see that she’s not heartbroken. She decides to take a short cut through an alley and comes face to face with her deepest desires. 

Buy it now for your Kindle, Nook, or on Google Play



A tale of paranormal erotica.

Alyssa Steel's erotica eBookHis Heat, My Desire, is available on Kindle & Smashwords

Happy Holidays from Alyssa Steel ♥

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Seductive Voice of Depression

"Do it." The slippery voice urges me with assurance.

Tears stream down my face and I shake my head. I can't. I won't.

"You know," it says, "there really is no point in playacting at this anymore. Just do it."

 A long buried memory plays out behind my blurry and red eyes.
I'm a skinny little girl with lice infested hair and bruises on my arms and legs. I'm trying to do my math homework but I'm confused and I don't have anyone to ask for help. I hear my mother throwing things and I want to vanish before she makes her way to my room.The pencil is in my right hand and before I know what I'm doing, I start to rub the eraser against my my left arm. I rub harder and the heat of the friction hurts but it's nothing compared to some of the other things I have felt. Her voice gets closer to my room but then it turns in another direction. She yells at someone to shut the fucking dog up. I want to disappear. I want to vanish. I rub the eraser harder, my arm is stinging, and somehow that stinging, burning pain of not being able to erase myself is comforting. I know now that it's because I was in control of it. I could make it stop anytime I wanted. But the little girl just knew that the pain felt safe.
 I know the memory is brought to me as a gift from that damned, slippery voice. He wants me to remember that he was there with me, giving me control of my body even as I was being kicked in the ribs. That voice wants me to remember that he's never left me. Not when I was a little girl trying to literally erase myself. Not when I was a frightened college student trying to make myself vanish into nothingness with anorexia. Not when I gave birth to my son and I feared I'd be unable to break the cycle of violence and abuse, and not now. The voice has always been there, urging me, with words as soft as a favorite blanket, to step off the edge, to drag the blade, to erase myself.

And sometimes that voice makes so goddamn fucking much sense. Sometimes that voice is the only sane thing I can hear and I can see how everything would be better if...

"You're not the mother your son deserves, you know. You're only going to fuck him up if you don't do it now."

"You're not the wife he deserves, you know. You're much too selfish and fat and ugly to deserve him. Let him go. You are keeping him from happiness."

"Of course you realize that you don't matter. Of course you realize that you bring more shit into this world. You do know, don't you, that you have less value and worth than a pair of holey socks? Why do yo do this to yourself and to everyone around you? You could just vanish. If you rub hard enough, you'll get past the burning and stinging and you'll start to disappear. Just do it."

I try to ignore his seductive voice. I look into the eyes of my son. I smell the head of my dog. I contemplate a stiff drink at 11am.

I hide from the voice in the shower, but his words echo off the tile. I try to bury the voice under the simple acts of self care. I brush my teeth. I comb my hair. I try to look and act like I'm worth more than I feel. I try to fake it until I make it.

I stick my fingers in my ears and shout "lalalalalala" at the voice, hoping he'll go away.

I tell the voice he's a stupid piece of shit, that I have value. I have worth. I deserve the love of my family and friends. My mother's hatred of me is not a reflection of my true worth. My actions count. My love counts. I am a force for good, not a shit storm.

But it all feels a lie. I want to vanish. I want to be erased. I want to stop feeling the hurt of self-loathing.

And I'm so fucking scared. I'm afraid that if I listen to the voice, my son will grow up feeling that I didn't love him and then the voice will get him. But if I don't, what chance does he have? Eventually the voice will feed on him, too.

"Yes. If you don't come with me, you bet your sweet bippy I'll feed on your boy. But if you take my hand, I'll leave him alone. Trust me. Trust. Trust. Come."

The soft, soothing, slippery, sleepy voice wants me. He's always wanted me and he'll never leave me alone. Sometimes I feel too tired to keep fighting him.

And because I know that's exactly what he wants, I keep fighting. I keep writing, even when I don't think I can. Writing muffles his voice, writing shuts him up. Writing is his weakness and so it's the most important thing I can do for myself and my family. If I work hard enough, if I write well enough, maybe I'll kill the voice.

Then I'll finally be free.




Friday, October 19, 2012

Balancing Act

Working mothers.

I hate that term. All mothers work extremely hard, whether or not they get paid an actual income to do so. We all work hard to make the most out of current circumstances, we all work hard to ensure that our children have a better life than we had, and we all work hard to be the best damn moms we can possibly be, even when we're fumbling and making crap up as we go.

My kid is in fifth grade and I've homeschooled him his whole childhood. Well up until now. He's still homeschooling, but my dear, sweet, handsome  husband had taken a much more hands-on approach with his education and is now the primary homeschooling parent.  He works from home so he's able to break away and teach our son important things like how to convert a mixed number into a decimal. He's being super supportive of my writing and makes a point to send me to my room...er, office...every morning with the assurance that "I've got this. Really. You just go write."

My son is super duper supportive and he sends me off to the spare room with shouts of "Go write mom! We've got this under control!"

Such amazing, sweet, supportive, awesome dudes. I love them both so much it seems like it ought to make my heart burst.

But as the primary homeschooling parent, the primary stay-at-home parent for nearly eleven years, letting go and following my passions is hard. When I hear commotion or my son's raised voice because he's pissed off and confused, I have to turn up the music and fight the urge to run in and fix things. I have to remember that my husband is smart...he's got this. That doesn't stop the guilt, though. I worry that I'm becoming a distant mother, that I'm making all the wrong decisions, and that every hour I spend writing a sex story is an hour I'm not on the couch reading to my kid.

Truth? I miss it. I miss being the on-point parent.

More truth? Working from home is fucking hard. I do have to tune out the noise of life, but all of the stuff that needs to be done still needs doing. I'm not talking just about the schooling. There are still pets to feed and breakfast to tend to. There is lunch to prepare, dishes to clean, laundry to fold, toilets to scrub, dogs to walk, dinner to cook, more dishes to do, cat puke to scrub out of carpets...dear god, the list of shit that still needs doing looms over me and judges me for ignoring it or putting it all on my honey.

I know I've said that my guy is awesome. But have I said he's amazing? He takes on all this extra stuff without complaining. I still do the majority of cooking and meal preparation, but he does almost all of the cleaning. Oh, trust me, Loves, it is not lost on me that I'm one lucky little bitch to have a hot guy who is not only willing to go buy me porn, but will be the primary homeschooling parent AND the primary house-cleaner. Just so that I can spend my time writing. The man isn't just encouraging me to reach for my dreams, he's freaking letting me stand on his shoulders.

And to assuage the guilt I often feel for neglecting my family for the sake of writing smut, I've decided that I'm going to be an example for my son. I'm writing a novel for him. It's something I'm doing under my real name, it's something I can do with the office door open, it's something I can talk to him about. Writing smut with a pre-teen in the house is pretty tricky, but writing a middle grade novel with a pre-teen in the house is pretty awesome. He can see the big outline on my wall, he can help me come up with names and he gets to be involved in the process, even if it's just to a small degree.

Writing two very different genres is somewhat difficult, but it's also completely fun. And if my family is going to be supportive of my writing career, well, then I owe it to them to explore all of the stories I have inside of me. Now I just have to find a way to spread my time between my pouty-lipped sex goddess persona and my wild haired, whooping, tree-climbing adolescent persona with the mother and wife I am.

Life. It is one helluva balancing act.



Friday, October 12, 2012

The Concert, an Erotica eBook by Alyssa Steel

After two years of a hot and heavy office flirtation, Mike and Lori are finally going out on a date. When Lori runs into a friend during dinner, she gets some advice that is sure to knock Mike off his feet. Although nervous about making herself vulnerable, she follows her friend’s advice and ends up experiencing the most amazing night of her life

Buy it now for your Kindle, Nook, or on Google Play.




Monday, September 17, 2012

The Things We Do for Love

Sometimes, when I'm hanging out with my mom friends, the subject of husbands comes up. Okay, the subject always comes up, just in different ways. Once in a while it's about a fight that just happened or what dairy or gluten does to their bellies. Sometimes it's about their relationships with their kids and sometimes it's about the things they do that show us they love us.

This post is about how my husband loves me.

Oh, sure, he's done the normal "I love my partner" stuff. He's held my hair back as I've vomited, he's rubbed my feet even though he has a distinct aversion to feet, he does 90% of the laundry because he knows that's the one chore I hate above all others.  He's thrown me a surprise birthday party, and has kindly refrained from drinking so he could drive my drunk ass home. You know, all that stuff a good and loving life partner should do.

But when I'm old and bed ridden and reviewing my life there will be one story that I will tell to everyone who will listen.  Okay, maybe not grand-kids, but everyone else:

Once upon a time, I decided that I wanted to write erotica. My reasons were varied. Part of me wanted a chance to explore my sexuality, part of me wanted a chance to be a bad girl and write all the stuff that I'd always imagined, part of me hoped to make enough money to support my coffee and vodka habits (though never coffee and vodka at the same time! That would just be a waste.), and part of me wanted to use it as an opportunity to get back into writing and to prove to myself that I could do it.

When I told my husband of my insane plan to start writing smut, he didn't laugh. He didn't judge. He hugged me and encouraged me. Then he cleaned out the spare bedroom and set it up as an office for me, so I could have a private place to think my depraved and explicit thoughts in private.

One day I mentioned to him that I wanted an anthology style book of erotica. Reading free erotica online is fun and all, but a lot of it was so poorly written. Wading through the mud to get to the gold was exhausting. 

And what did my honey do? He asked me to drop him off at a major bookstore while I took our son on a play date. Cool. I'll drop him off, he can work a bit, he can browse, have a coffee, take a couple of hours to himself.

I dropped him off, but what happened while I was at the play date is the stuff of legend.

He took himself straight to the Romance section and scoured, even down on his hands and knees, the shelves for some sort of erotica anthology. Coming up empty handed, he approached a twenty-something manager, adjusted the zombie messenger bag he was carrying, and asked her if she could help him find erotica anthologies.

Apparently she was a decent manager because she didn't bat an eye at the 6'2", scruffy bearded, army green shirt wearing, zombie bag toting, wedding ring-less, gorgeous man asking for written porn. She led him up the escalator and right to the Sensuality sextion section.They were both scouring the shelves, on hands and knees, looking for a book, just for me! After coming up empty handed again, she led him to the gay and lesbian section. That area came up dry, too, so he thanked her and she left.

Before we dropped him off, we had lunch. Indian. Lots of Indian. And it started to hit him after the manager lady took her leave. The poor guy tried to ignore it, but there it was. He had to use the bathroom. Although nobody likes going poo in a public restroom, he was stuck there until I decided to come and get him. So he headed back down the escalator and was about to turn down the hallway to the bathrooms when he saw the manager lady. She was looking at him and he was just too damned embarrassed to go to the bathroom.

How would it look? What would she think? Oh god! She'd think he was in there jacking off after looking for erotica! Looking for it, asking for it, searching on his hands and knees for it didn't phase him in the least. But the idea that someone would think he was getting off in public was just too much for him.

Fortunately, I showed up just a few minutes later, so he didn't have to hold it long and he didn't have to suck it up and use the public bathroom.

Some men will go and buy tampons for their wife, some men will make sure the car always has gas, but my man will go to great lengths just to buy me Erotica. That is love.

Incidentally, I did finally get an anthology. After dropping our son off with a friend, we spent a whole afternoon going to bookstores and porn shops. We found lots on interesting stuff but not what I was looking for. Until one amazing, women owned, women operated oasis was able to quench my thirst.