Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More Notice for Beyond You & Me

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Michael Allen in his blog Grumpy Old Bookman has spilled some virtual ink about Beyond You & Me. He included this site in a list of other Interet efforts to flog books, including the marvelous Gerard Jones, who is providing fans of his novel Ginny Good a chance to hear the free reading of his sweet, tragi-comic story of a doomed young woman during the 1960s (including a myriad of songs from the era).

Allen raises some interesting points about the Internet and its uses for publicizing books, as well as tantalizing questions about the publishing world. For those of you who find these discussions interesting, I refer you to my mirror site, 756 Agents & Counting... about the travails of trying to break in to mainstream publishing.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Judy Miller is Still in Jail

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I received a printed card from NY Times reporter Judith Miller thanking me for the letter I sent her in jail. As most of you know by now, she was incarcerated for refusing to reveal her sources to a grand jury about an article she didn't write. Here is the full text of the card:

Thank you for your kind words and expressions of support, and for taking the time to write. I would love to answer you personally, but there is no typewriter in jail and my hand is worn out. I have been overwhelmed and humbled by letters like yours.

Jail is certainly not how I imagined the summer, but it was the only course my conscience would allow. If you want to help, please write your Senators or Members of Congress and urge them to support a Federal shield law for reporters. Thank you again for taking the time to boost my spirits.


Judy Miller
Inmate #45570083
Alexandria Detention Center
2001 Mill Road
Alexandria, VA 22314

Thanks to all Beyond You & Me fans and supporters who took the time to write. If you haven't written her yet, please do so. But more importantly, follow her suggestion and write your senators and member of Congress. Ask them to support a "shield law" bill establishing protection for reporters and newspersons so they can't be forced to reveal their sources. That way, if someone gives a reporter senstive information that might get them fired (or worse) if their identity is revealed, the reporter doesn't have to tell anyone.

In an age when it gets harder to find out the truth, and government and big business manage what you learn about, it may be in your best interest.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Wilma's Sex Quiz

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Borrowed this quiz from the frisky Wilma over at Fred & Wilma's Fun. I have supplied answers based on Cassie as she is in the novel:

1. How old are you? 24.

2. What is your sexual orientation? I guess bisexual. Being married, I'm not sure what that means.

3. Are you attracted to any particular type of women/men? Petite? Trashy? Curvy? Tall? Boyish women, but not masculine. I like good-looking men, but don't have a particular type. Well-groomed and nicely-dressed.

4. Any particular hair/eye color? No.

5. How many virginities have you taken? Gosh, who keeps count? Be sure to put down that I'm batting my eyelashes playfully with THAT answer. I suppose one boyfriend in high school. And then there's Jessica....

6. How often do you masturbate? Daily? Few times a week? Usually a few times a week. My sex life with my husband is good. In fact, I often masturbate while we're making love. It gets things off to a wondeful start.

7. Favorite place to masturbate? In bed. I have tried other places, but it's easier to focus on the task at hand (pardon my pun).

8. Favorite subject to masturbate about? A vibrator makes me come like with another woman, so I usually think of being taken that way.

9. Do you have a fetish? If so, what? Reading.

10. Are you dominant, submissive, or both in the bedroom? I just like to feel good. I "go with the flow." I'm not into whips, handcuffs and the like.

11. Tied up? Blindfolded? Spanks? Wax? P. spanked me once. He blindfolded me another time. But it's not something I find terribly compelling, or anything I want to do on a regular basis. More like eating a rich dessert: don't make a habit of it, or it may lose its specialness. I had my legs waxed once. That was pretty painful.

12. Lingerie? Stockings? That's for guys. I wear them to please men. They're uncomfortable and expensive. Nothing will ruin a sexy evening for me faster than running a pair of $12 stockings the first time I wear them.

13. Foreplay... what is your technique? Lots of kissing, followed by fingers.

14. Do you role play with your significant other? If so, what is your favorite? Hmmm, we pretend different things, usually with me as some kind of slut, or as if we had another woman in bed.

15. Do you frequent a naughty store, catalog order? No!! I'd be too embarrassed.

17. How old were you when you first saw a dirty magazine? Nineteen. It was a Swedish photo mag with a couple doing all the usual things. Another letter carrier in the post office showed it to me. I was never sure about her sexual orientation, so use your own judgment about why she wanted me to look at it. The last page showed the man ejaculating on her face. I remember feeling both grossed out and simultaneously fascinated by it, and that they'd allowed themselves to be photographed in that very intimate way. I realized later they probably weren't a couple, just a couple of models hired for the shoot. I have learned a lot in the past six years.

18. Do you currently have a subscription? If so, which ones? Are you kidding! No!

19. Do have a porn movie collection? [W.S. Cross replies: the VCR had not yet become widespread in 1975]

22. Have you performed or know what a Dirty Sanchez is? Don't know.

23. Boat? Train? Motorcycle? ATV? ????? P. told me "pulling a train" means to have sex with a whole string of people one after the other. He tells me I'm multi-orgasmic enough to do something like that.

24. A member of the Mile-High club? ????

25. Do you have a name for your genital area? If so, who named it? No!

26. Which way does your clitoral clock wind? Clockwise, or counter clockwise? Don't know. Whichever way gets me off.

27. What do you like to best after sex? Cuddle? Fall asleep? Go get something to eat? Cuddle. I want to feel loved.

28. How often is good enough? Dunno, every day? Certainly not every week!

29. Sexual music preferences? Nothing too complicated or distracting. Rock music makes me want to get up and dance, so nothing with a strong beat.

30. If you could pick anyone, who would you do? My husband, P. Then maybe S. Any attractive woman who's not passive and wimpy.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Same Interview with P.

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This is the final version of the interview format borrowed from The Holiday Life with his permission and is based on a suggestion by the bewitching Viviane at Viviane's Sex Carnival. I posted it earlier for Cassie at 24 and S. at 21. This will be for P. at 28. Some of you have strong opinions about Cassie's husband, negative and positive. Here's your chance to get to know him a little better.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To live without Cassie.

Where would you like to live?
I hate big cities, and prefer universities.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To study the great works of literature and perhaps write.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
I tend to be intolerant of others' faults.

Who is your favorite hero of contemporary fiction? I haven't read any contemporary fiction since Cassie and I read The Godfather out loud when we were painting our apartment in LA. I must say I admired Michael Corleone for his strength.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Lincoln, because he saved the Union.

Your favorite painter?
Franz Marc, the German expressionist.

Your favorite composer?
Beethoven, especially his late string quartets.

Your favorite musician?
I once drank Southern Comfort with Janis Joplin. I love the music of "The Summer of Love," including The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Moby Grape.

Your favorite film?
"The Conformist" by Bertolucci. The several narrative strands are as good as any novel.

The qualities you most admire in a man?
Honesty and integrity.

The physical qualities you most admire in a man?
I'm not attracted to men.

The qualities you most admire in a woman?
Energy and sweetness. Cassie has both.

Favorite ethnic or racial type?
Italian-American women are lovely, but their passions are sometimes hard for me to deal with. I'm the product of a repressed WASP upbringing.

The physical qualities you most admire in a woman?
I've always been a tit man.

How old where you when you had your first sexual experience with a woman?
I was eighteen, rather late to the party. Too bookish and tight.

What was the age difference?
She was a senior in high school, so perhaps the same age.

Conventional sex?
Yes.

How old where you when you had your first sexual experience with a man?
I have never slept with a man, and have no interest in doing so.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with a woman?
Cassie and I once had sex on the shore of Lake Tahoe.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with both a man and a woman?
I would prefer not to answer that question.

Have you had sexual experiences with the friend of a girlfriend or spouse?
No.

Have you had sexual experiences with a colleague of your girlfriend/spouse?
No.

Have you had sexual experiences with a colleague from the office?
Yes. Cassie and I slept with a woman grad student from the German Department.

Have you ever watched your significant other have sex with another woman?
Yes. Several times.

Is this your most enduring obsession?
I wouldn't call it that. I very much enjoyed it, especially because Cassie did.

What have you watched precisely?
Just about everything.

Are you a voyeur?
I suppose. Aren't all of us potential voyeurs?

Has your wife ever watched you having sex with another woman?
Yes, we've had several trios.

Have you ever paid money for sex?
No.

Have you ever accepted money for sex?
I assume you're joking?

Your favorite virtue?
Honesty.

Your favorite occupation?
I plan on teaching at the university level when I finish my PhD.

Your most marked characteristic?
I don't feel comfortable talking about myself, especially if it sounds like bragging.

What is your principle defect?
Intolerance for the weaknesses of others.

What is your favorite occupation?
College professor.

What is your dream of happiness?
To finish my PhD, find a good teaching job, write the Great American Novel, and make Cassie happy.

What would you like to be?
A good husband and someday a father.

Who are your favorite writers?
Faulkner, Mann, Walther von der Vogelweide, Theodor Fontane.

What are your favorite works of literature?
Bleak House, Great Expectations, Goethe's Elective Affinities. Trakl's poems, Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus. The list is quite long.

Who is your favorite character of fiction?
Tristan. Although lately I feel more like King Mark in that story.

What works of fiction have influenced your sexual proclivities?
1984.

Who is your hero in real life?
Paul de Man.

What person in popular culture do you admire most?
John Cleese from "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

What is it you most dislike?
Knowing that Cassie is miserable at Yale and not being able to do anything about it.

What event in history do you most admire?
The Civil War.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
A wicked wrist shot.

How would you like to die?
At peace in my bed.

What is your present state of mind?
I'd rather not say. Things recently have been very tough.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Our First Contest: Cassie in 2005



Here's your chance to win a free art photograph, signed and numbered, like the one above. Blogger users can enter a comment. If you prefer, email your responses to:

wscross at gmail dot com.

I have not posted enough of the novel for fans of this site to know Cassie completely, but below is a list of characteristics about her circa 1975. Following that list is one containing questions about what Cassie would be like today. There are no “right” answers, so let your intuition and instincts lead you.

First Prize: The entry with the best projection of Cassie’s character 30 years after the novel takes place will win a copy of the photograph (a $50 value).

Second Prize: A Beyond You & Me T-shirt signed by the author.

Third prize: No third prize, just the satisfaction of getting mentioned.

All entries become the property of the author.

In 1975, Cassie was:
1. 24 years old
2. Married
3. Working as a secretary
4. A McGovern Democrat
5. Had erotic relationships with men and women
6. Did not want kids
7. Listened to the Blues
8. Lived in New Haven, CT
9. Wanted to attend Yale
10. Kept a journal

In 2005, Do you think Cassie is
1. Still living? Not everyone made it out of the Sexual Revolution alive
2. Married, divorced, single?
3. What kind of work is she doing?
4. Is she a Republican, Democrat or Independent?
5. Gay, bisexual or straight?
6. Childless or has kids?
7. What kinds of music does she listen to?
8. Where does she live now?
9. Did she ever attend college? Was it Yale?
10. Still keeps a journal? Writes a blog? Is too busy for either?

Now everyone enter! Otherwise Demon Queen will end up with all three prizes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fans from the Erotica Readers & Writers Association

WE JUST WENT PAST THE
40,000 VISITOR MARK!

I'm glad to be a member of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association. It's a collective of writers and fans of erotica, which this novel has become by default. When I wrote it, I thought I was writing literary fiction with good sex scenes. The acceptance by the erotica community has been much more so than by the literary fiction community, whose members usually have their noses so high up, their heads bend around up their asses.


Several members of ERWA have become fans. One is TreSart, whose site combines lovely self-portraits and some smoking short erotica. The photos are sensuous and evocative (see above). The site loads slowly and occasionally hangs, but it's worth the wait.

Another ERWA fan goes by the name of Remittance Girl. A "remittance man" was the black sheep of the family in Victorian England who was sent off to the furthest reaches of the Empire and sent a "remittance," or allowance. It's certainly a distinctive name! She's a Canadian who has lived for the past few years in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Saigon for those of you from Cassie's era). She writes a powerful mix of styles and perspectives, all part of a robust collection posted on her site. I suggest you browse through them if you'd like a combination of good prose and arousing subject matter.

An ERWA writer I don't know well, but who has been tireless in promoting cooperation between its members in marketing one another's work has been E. L. Frederick. While Beyond You & Me did not make his list of "Authors of Particular Brilliance" (Remittance Girl did), I certainly appreciate being on his blogroll and promise not to pout.

Regina Stark uses her blog to post fragments and story ideas, so it's an excellent way to see "work-in-progress" and follow the developments of an erotica writer bringing her work to completion.

Jennifer Bianco's blog is more chatty and informational, while her erotica site Sensual Magick is a combination of erotica and witchcraft. Wicca is big these days, and Jennifer is riding a good wave.

Kathleen Bradean is also more informational, devoted to promoting work she enjoys and in general a pleasant read. She has been a good editor of short fiction I have been writing with another author. And her posting on the new astrology signs is, well, yummy.


And while not an ERWA member, Kinkabella's Erotic Fiction & Fantasies is some of the most searing sex writing I've come across (no pun intended, but what the hell?). Heavily into BDSM, the account of her enslavement by "Mike" and the submissive things he leads her into (in the library no less) with her male co-workers will simultaneously arouse and scare the living daylights out of you- not unlike a spine-tingling roller coaster ride!

UPDATE: At my suggestion Kinkabella (pen name for Ingrid Hawthorne) has joined ERWA. Her blog is growing nicely, and is interesting because of her personal revelations and openness. I feel like I have known her forever, and she's totally comfortable in revealing the most intimate details of her life as a "bottom."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Judith Miller is Still in Jail


The New York Times reminds us in an editorial today that Judith Miller is still in jail for refusing to reveal a journalistic source. For those of you who are joining this late, we already mentioned this travesty of justice in a previous post.

The editorial goes on to say that if Ms. Miller hasn't cracked by now, it's not likely keeping her in jail another six weeks until the Grand Jury's term expires is going to produce any results. At this point, it's punitive, if it wasn't simply that all along.

If you have not already done so, please send a letter of support to this brave, smart woman who understands better than our government that secret sources are absolutely necessary to having a free and effective press.

Whatever your political persuasion, you are better off in a society where journalists can seek out the facts and report things that their sources could not reveal without anonymity. While less than perfect, this system is still superior by far to one where the newspapers are in thrall to the powers-that-be. So if you haven't done so already, write that letter!

Attn: Judith Miller
Inmate Number 45570083
Alexandria Detention Center
2001 Mill Rd
Alexandria, VA 22314-4600


Thanks to Viviane for this suggestion. Who says sex bloggers aren't civic-minded?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sexy Fans


Erotica Lee 1 is a flat-out gorgeous site. Lili G. has a bit of CassieÂ’s background (Italian-Canadian instead of Italian-American). She combines lush writing with PhotoShop-type enhanced erotic photography of herself taken by her husband (actually PS is too generic for her, she uses 4 specialized image-manipulation programs). A long-time supporter and link to Beyond You & Me, her site is one of the really special treats for the eye and the mind. The product of an incredibly rocky childhood (her mother committed suicide when she was 13), she learned about sex on the streets turning tricks. Makes Cassie's struggles seem puny in comparison. She actually has more than one site, with Erotica Lee 2 entirely visual, Morph Naked for heavily-manipulated photography, Erotica Lee 3 for interviews, etc..


One blog that's coming on strong is The Rosary. Unlike with Beyond You & Me where I will only be posting some of the book, the author of The Rosary is putting up a chapter a day. It's the story of a married couple of swingers and their move from fantasy to reality. There are some cool touches, including the fact that it's written by a woman, but in the voice of a man. There's also a German lover involved (Claudia), so naturally I was intrigued. The writing is straightforward and descriptive, without the over-the-top smut superlatives and jargon ("I was cumming and cumming"). The sex isn't described in florid detail, either. When Pete and Pen and their swinging partners Alex and Grace end up in a Paris sex club, the wildest it gets is Grace giving a stranger a blowjob: "From the acceleration in his breathing and his thrusting pelvis, I sensed that Laurent was on the verge of coming. Instinctively, I pulled back as he burst, adorning Grace's pale face and dark hair with his pearly necklace. Like dominoes, the men masturbating behind us followed on with their own noisy ejaculations, going over the edge one by one." This one definitely deserves a wide audience.

Girls, you owe it to yourselves to check out Remmy at Der Versucher ("the tempter," also a nickname for Satan). My father always told me "do one thing and do it well." Remmy's blog is mostly very creative photos of his penis. It sounds, well, odd, but it works. I'm not a connoisseur of male genitalia, but I do admire the moxy and self-confidence. He's trim and youngish, so it works as erotica, though it IS sorta narrow in focus. German boys with sex appeal, Cassie would understand that!


One of the better rundowns of things sexual is Viviane's Sex Carnival. A sort of NY Post "Page Six" for sex, Viviane recounts whatever's hot in the world of carnality. A friend and playmate of Jefferson and Madeline, she's lovely in her Anna May Wong B & W portrait. Where's Dietrich from "Shanghai Express"?


And finally, the newest girl on the block is Dr. Susan Block. Former Yalie (Class of 1977) and contemporary of the real Cassie, a PhD sex therapist, cable TV and radio show hostess, and all-around sexual mischief-maker, Suzy is a combination of insatiable tease, fun-maker and sex cheerleader. Her outrageous site both promotes her shows and books, as well as offering a "members only" portion for behind-the-scenes access to the antics of her libidinous guests: porn stars doing all the imagination can imagine, erotic performance artists, and anyone connected with sex. Yours truly has an open invitation to be a guest on her show when it's time for a book tour to LA. I wonder if I should bother with a new wardrobe or just bring along a thong? Dr. Suzy is more than just another media erotica peddler, and has a serious side to herself and her website, including a foundation for research into pygmy chimpanzees (very horny chimps, her site points out). This site is really a lot of fun and has so many facets to it, I can't begin to describe them all, except to say you'll enjoy yourself at every turn.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

An Interview with S.

This interview format was stolen from The Holiday Life with his permission and is based on a suggestion by the bewitching Viviane at Viviane's Sex Carnival. I posted it earlier for Cassie at 24; this will be S. at 21. For those of you who are new, S. is a German-born undergraduate who Cassie befriends and then agrees to type his Senior thesis. It's a long research paper Yale undergrads have to complete before they get their sheepskin. And since this is 1975, there are no personal computers, so he needs to have a human being type it. The two become friends, and then Cassie begins to become infatuated with him. Most of the first half of the novel is the slippery slope she slides down as the infatuation grows. Although the novel is written in Cassie's voice, I thought readers might enjoy knowing a little more about S. (Cassie only refers to him as "S." and her husband only as "P.").

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To live without love.

Where would you like to live?
New York or Paris.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Mmmm, lots of beautiful women.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Sloth and lust.

Who is your favorite hero of contemporary fiction?
I am very fond of Hesse's Demian. Peter Handke's poor goalie in The Goalie's Anxiety Before the Penalty Kick.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Frederick the Great, because he was German but spoke fluent French instead. Seems like a good model for ex-patriot Krauts like myself.

Your favorite painter?
I'm especially drawn to Dürer and his vainglorious "Self Portrait" in the pose of the Christ.

Your favorite composer?
Brahms, Bach, it's hard to say.

Your favorite musician?
Do you mean American pop stars? I don't follow them. I like American jazz, especially the music of Coltrane.

Your favorite film?
"The Conformist" by Bertolucci. The lesbian tango sequence would make it worth the price of admission, but the way that it captures the bombastic qualities of fascism is just brilliant.

The qualities you most admire in a man?
A firm handshake and a tolerant attitude if I seduce his wife.

The physical qualities you most admire in a man?
A good jaw line makes me respectful, though I'm not really sexually aroused by men.

The qualities you most admire in a woman?
Great legs and a good ass. The shoulders are the most sensuous part of a woman, however. Oh, you're talking about moral qualities? A good sense of humor and honesty.

Favorite ethnic or racial type?
Italian-Americans at present.

The physical qualities you most admire in a woman?
Great legs. I said that, didn't I? American men are consumed with breasts, and I must confess that I've become more interested in them since meeting a particular American woman.

How old where you when you had your first sexual experience with a woman?
I was thirteen.

What was the age difference?
She was in her 20s I would suspect. A Parisian prostitute.

Conventional sex?
My performance was, shall I say, abbreviated. But the goal was what you Americans call "missionary sex."

How old where you when you had your first sexual experience with a man?
I was 16.

What was the age difference?
No difference. He was a friend.

Conventional sex?
That's a funny question. Actually, I hardly remember anything. I was so totally in awe of him, I would have done anything he asked.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with a woman?
In a taxi going down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with my Jewish dumpling. She was late for a ballet recital and was changing in the back seat. Being a gentleman, I offered to help.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with a man?
Well, since I am not a flaming queen, I can't claim any outrageous locales. My experience was, how shall I put it? Discrete and mercifully brief.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with both a man and a woman?
My only experience with a man and a woman together is something recent, something I would rather say as little as possible about.

Have you had sexual experiences with the friend of a girlfriend or spouse?
No.

Have you had sexual experiences with a colleague of your girlfriend/spouse?
No.

Have you had sexual experiences with a colleague from the office?
Well, I am a university student, and I thankfully am unemployed!

Have you ever watched your significant other have sex with another woman?
I'm sorry to say no. I have suggested it to Cassie, but I don't know whether it's something she would consider.

Is this your most enduring obsession?
Mmmmmm, I can't say it is not.

What have you watched precisely?
Only pornographic films for the most part. Very interesting, but ultimately frustrating.

Are you a voyeur?
Hmmmm, I haven't had enough experience to know for sure.

Has your girlfriend ever watched you having sex with another woman?
Sadly, no.

Have you ever paid money for sex?
Yes, many times.

Have you ever accepted money for sex?
No.

Your favorite virtue?
Piety, of which I have little.

Your favorite occupation?
Writing. I hope to become a famous college professor someday.

Your most marked characteristic?
The ability to squander an almost limitless amount of time.

What is your principle defect?
A capacity for self-doubt that defies all successes.

What is your favorite occupation?
College professor, followed by lion tamer.

What is your dream of happiness?
To sail down the Nile on a barge covered with rose petals. Failing that, to be comfortable enough to travel, beloved enough never to be lonely, intelligent enough to know how to do them both.

What would you like to be?
Finished with my Senior Thesis.

Who are your favorite writers?
Handke, Thomas Mann, Hesse.

What are your favorite works of literature?
Great Expectations quite recently. Goethe still has resonance for Germans.

Who is your favorite character of fiction?
Demian. I wish I were more like him.

What works of fiction have influenced your sexual proclivities?
Against the Grain, Philosophy in the Bedroom, The Man with a Maid, The Autobiography of a Flea.

Who is your hero in real life?
After Hitler, Germans are notoriously gun-shy of heroes.

What person in popular culture do you admire most?
Jesus, that's very difficult. I don't even follow the Bundesliga players-- that's what you Americans call soccer. I'm particularly fond of movies, so Raquel Welch?

What is it you most dislike?
Feeling as though other people can see inside me.

What event in history do you most admire?
The French Revolution, minus the beheadings.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Other than a greater masculine endowment? Hmmm, I suppose patience.

How would you like to die?
With a woman's lips wrapped around.... No, seriously, I would hope I would be struck down by a car walking home from confession. I'm afraid I'm terribly Catholic in that regard. Whatever sins I commit, I want to be absolved of them and be welcomed into Heaven like the prodigal son.

What is your present state of mind?
Totally infatuated with Cassie.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Chapter 12 (June 11th) complete



“Have you ever wanted to sleep with another woman?”

Like I said before, S. relished catching me off-guard with provocative, impertinent questions. In that way, he reminded me of Inspector Clouseau in the “Pink Panther” movies and his man servant, Cato, who's always setting elaborate traps in those movies to test his boss’s skill at avoiding danger (he fails to great comic effect). We were sitting at the kitchen table when he asked me as I slogged away at the Selectric. My head was turning to a bad grade of mush after typing, compounded by round after round of joking back-and-forth, both exhilarating and exhausting my feeble brain:

— Let me ask you this: if you could only love one person in your life, only find True Love in one instance, and the moment for choosing that person lasted no more than a single day—or even less— do you think you could recognize that moment as your one opportunity for happiness? Would you realize “this is the one”?

— I’ll do you one better: suppose that One True Love was impeded in some major fashion, what then?

— Meaning?

— Why is it we assume love will come to us all neatly-wrapped up like a present? What if our Great Love, la grande passion as our Frog friends would say, was tied up in some manner?

— Tied up S&M-style tied up? Oooh, tell me more.

— No, tied up in a prior relationship: engaged— or even married.

— Likely only a loser would be totally free. Anyone worth having is already involved with another.

— Exactly, we have to compete for the object of our affections.

— What do you think romance is, a form of sexual Olympics?

— Why not? Simone de Beauvoir has turned sex into politics. Men and women are now fighting for power in the bedroom.

— They always were. It’s just that she identified the game. Beauvoir sketched out the parameters women have always felt and intuited, clarifying what once was only implied.

— Yes, and the superpowers have made the Olympics political, look at the East Germans.

— We have our Germans and the Soviets have their Germans.

— The Soviet Union is a fiction. They’re Russians, the same as East Germans and West Germans are still, underneath it all, Germans.

— Stop changing the subject!

— If you have any doubts, ask yourself why is it the East German Army still goose-steps?
I stopped typing so we could walk to the Orange Market to get some decaf coffee (real coffee and the usual amount of flirtatious banter would keep me up all night, there are limits). He’d probably been waiting for the right time to spring the question on me.

It unleashed a memory I hadn’t disturbed in almost eight years, and I didn’t answer just then. We were walking along Clark Street when he asked again (as I knew he would, S. never lets a provocative question go unanswered).

“Have you ever wanted to sleep with another woman?”

“Does having erotic dreams about Toni Tennille count?”

He tried cupping his hand to his mouth, but it was no use: most of the Scotch he’d sipped from the paper cupful he’d brought along came out in a geyser, spraying both of us with its bitter, acrid, aromatic cloud. We were laughing too much to care. “Dare I admit I get wet every time I hear ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’? You won’t reveal my secret, will you?”

“And ‘Captain’ Daryl Dragon is her husband? And just what army or navy would have him for a captain?”

“The same one that would have her luscious ass in that tight-fitting sailor’s uniform she wears on stage.” S. blinked hard, his mind hadn’t expected that kind of comeback or it revealing as much about my “uniform thing.” My short skirts and stockings had given him a completely different idea, and I thought it fun confounding his expectations of me. “Actually, though—“

It was the very last Saturday night of Summer vacation the year I graduated high school. I was starting at Temple the following Monday, and several girlfriends who were hanging out together called me to suggest we go out to a movie, a last “girls night out” before we went mostly separate ways. I started looking through the paper to see what was playing downtown, and my gaze fell on one in particular. In a brave voice, I blurted out “Therese and Isabelle. Let’s go see an X-rated film.” I knew nothing about it other than that it was X-rated, I’m not sure I even knew why it was rated X or even what an X-rating meant, other than that it was naughty in some mysterious way. I wanted to be bold and provocative; going to an X-rated film seemed brash and reckless (the ad warned “no one under 18 admitted, identities will be checked at the door,” insuring every teenager alive would try and sneak in).

“Why that particular X-rated film and not one of the usual stag films?”

“Simple— I didn’t want to go to a sleazy porn house full of degenerate men ready to jump on one or all of us and spray us with— uh, cum.”

S. burst out laughing so loud it echoed off the façade of the Belnord, this huge apartment building we had to pass each way. I was glad it was dark out, I was blushing from using that word for the first time in my life (except with P.). Because it was a first, I enjoyed my naughtiness, it made me feel brash and modern and audacious the same as that night we went to see “Therese and Isabelle.”

“I probably rationalized things by thinking or saying it would help me learn French.”

“Ah, what kind of French?”

“The ads didn’t make it seem sleazy, and all my friends knew I was signed up to take Basic French.”

“But the movie was in English. I saw it with German subtitles.”

“I didn’t know that then.”

Four of us were planning on going: me, Stephanie, Gina and Rochelle, and it seemed as brazen and daring a thing as I’d ever done. I didn’t tell my boyfriend at the time, nor any of my other friends, and I’ve never told Patrick. I caught the uptown bus with Stephanie and Gina, and the three of us joked about whether we might run into someone we knew. When we got to the theater, Rochelle was waiting with her friend, Judy, in tow, and I remember being pissed about it. I didn’t want our going to this film to get around my old high school— I don’t know why, we were all going our separate ways, yet that night we were still five high school girls from South Philly. Plus I was worried they might not let us in. I was only ready to go so far in being bold, and this was about the limit of it.

My jitters passed quickly enough, we were soon preoccupied with buying the tickets. Rochelle was petrified we’d need ID, she was only 17 like me, but looked 12. It would’ve been really humiliating if they’d turned us away at the door.

“’Don’t worry,’ I boasted, ‘I’ve got fake ID if they ask.’ I don’t have to tell you the old man in the ticket booth couldn’t have cared less if we’d been school girls in stockings and uniforms.”

“Stockings AND uniforms? Ahh, what an absolutely lovely thought,” S. nearly licked his lips. I slapped him playfully on the wrist; it kept me from staring at those same lips— or slapping his face on general principle, both impulses came over me simultaneously. In the interim, we got our coffee and headed back to Clark Street, with S. pouring the remaining Scotch into his.

I think part of the reason I was mad at Rochelle was jealousy. She was my best friend at the time, and Stephanie and Gina were inseparable, so I felt a mild sense of betrayal Rochelle had brought Judy along, especially since she was in 11th grade and might’ve screwed up our getting in. Gina said we should all go in as a group, even though the movie was about two women, no one seeing us would think anything peculiar, right? Just girl’s night out, right? We all laughed a little too loud, all except Stephanie, who looked pained and seemed like she’d bolt if we hadn’t all locked arms and headed for the door.

We sailed in without a hitch, then found a section with only a few single guys and plopped ourselves down.

I don’t remember most of the movie, though some parts are quite vivid because I was concentrating REALLY HARD on them. Some of that was not wanting to look around, the I-don’t-want-to-be-recognized-in-a-porn-palace paranoia. I certainly didn’t want to look at the others, not Rochelle and Judy who giggled at all the sex parts, and not at Stephanie and Gina, who seemed serious and even sad watching. Mostly I studied every scene because I’d never seen anything quite like it. It was pretty tame by what you can see now, even at Yale: bare bodies, mostly bare breasts, and no shots of actual sex, though a lot was cleverly suggested.

Despite its limitations, somehow the story and the girl-girl sex fascinated me, especially the voiceover with all these literary allusions to her clitoris as a pearl or the artful way the act of Sapphic love was described. It was so gentle, two women loving one another slowly and softly. The film’s goal was to be arousing and titillating, not overt and aggressive. I felt cheated and let down that it took the two women so long to get together for the "main event," with so much of the plot about the boarding school they attended. And once they got around to having sex, the plot lost all its tension, sorta like a sagging rubber band. The ending was even worse: the movie just seemed to run out of gas. I especially disliked having one of the lovers recall the whole thing years later during a return visit to the boarding school where all the action took place. The film ended, and the five of us headed straight for the exits without saying a word.

"I guess that was my first initiation, both into X-rated films and the vagueness of French movies."

S. laughed out loud again, so loud a neighbor walking into his house looked up and scowled at us. I stuck out my tongue. I felt sagacious and witty, and as we were almost at the apartment, I didn’t feel ready to go in just yet. Besides, this discussion needed to remain outside.

"All in all, an X-rated movie made a good beginning to our 'bright college years.' [the Yale anthem] I don’t recall any of us mentioning a thing about it on the bus home; stranger still, I never discussed it with any of them afterwards. There’s also a really funny ending to the story—not funny ha-ha, but weird. Only a year or so ago I found out why Stephanie and Gina were so serious and sad: they were having this passionate schoolgirl Therese and Isabelle affair no one knew anything about at the time. Then one day freshman year of college Stephanie broke it off, and got engaged to a guy at almost the same time. Gina nearly had a nervous breakdown. She’s still carrying a huge torch for Stephanie, who’s cut off all communication with her. Won’t even speak with her on the phone. After she got married, Stephanie and her husband moved to some hick town in western Maryland. He teaches at this tiny college, and they almost never go back to Philadelphia." S. simply went "Hmm" or some other sound indicating thought and pondering, then looked at me with his most piercing smile.

"A MOST interesting story, Mis-sus Campbell. You have, however," and here he adopted a perfect imitation of the Hollywood Gestapo interrogator, "avoided answering zee qwestion: have you ever vanted zu zleep mit anodder vooman." He was right. I'd gotten too absorbed in my remembrance of things past, and I didn't even have a Madeleine to show for it like ol' Proust!

"You are cor-rect, Herr Retter," I teased in my best "Hogen's Heroes" accent. "Ever since I found out about those two, I have not-- unlike most of my friends-- spent time looking for clues we failed to pick up on. All they can think about is 'how did we ever miss it?' and 'oh, I knew all along.' Me? I wonder how Stephanie could feel so intensely, then simply slam the door on those feelings." I was shivering from the cold by now; on the other side of the door I could be warm and safe, my home with P. beckoned to me, yet I was more sure than ever I didn't want to go in right then, at least not as long as we were discussing sex.

It sounds weird, but I not only never told P. anything about "Therese and Isabelle," I never mentioned Stephanie and Gina. Let this kind of talk stay outside, especially with P. not home yet. "To answer your question: have I thought about sex with another woman? I would have to answer: yes."

"All right, give, Mis-sus Campbell. You don't think I'm letting you off the hook with a one-word answer do you?"

"No, but I figured I would make you wait for your gratification."

"Gratification postponed is gratification enhanced! And postponed gratification is better than no gratification at all."

"Shut the fuck up, you silly boy. Yes, I've thought about it. More than thought about it."

Last Fall, I tried out for a student production of a play at Jonathan Edwards, one of the residence colleges. See at Yale, they group the dorms into "colleges," walled, gated compounds turning their backs to the outside world, perfect wombs for growing loyal alumni who'll fork over big bucks later hoping to get their own spawn admitted. Morse-Stiles where S. lived is the one modern dorm complex on campus-- modern and UGLY. I've seen better-looking Holiday Inns. Anyway, I'd never been in a play before. My chorus teacher senior year suggested I try out for a part in "The Bells Are Ringing," but my father was in a bad mood that night at dinner when I told my parents about it, and he made fun of the idea. That was the end of "The Bells Are Ringing."

I picked a goofy choice for a first-time play, too: Pirandello's Right You Are If You Think You Are, a weird modern play with all kinds of weirder associations. I didn't care. I'd read about the auditions in the Yale Daily News, and tried out and got a part! I was excited and nervous and thoroughly entranced. At least it would take my mind off Manuscripts. I enjoyed the whole experience on many levels besides; for one thing, it meant no time to fix dinners and my evenings were taken up with rehearsals (no time to be bored and restless).

One of the other women in the cast was so pretty and glamorous-- of course she knew it and flaunted her looks all over the place-- so much so, the rest of the cast and crew called her "The Mirror," because she was always combing her hair or checking out her make-up. At one rehearsal, she and I were sitting off by ourselves waiting for our scene. I was on the edge of a prop crate, she was above me perched on a step ladder, combing her long hair with her hands, dangling it against my cheek.

"I felt a shiver go right down into my, well, crotch." I felt bold saying that word in front of him, too. Sigh, I guess I am provocative.

"Hmmm, I'd like to have seen THAT."

"My crotch, or her and me?" I shot back.

"Well, it would be ungentlemanly of me to say anything more than 'the two of you together,' though that's a fairly roguish idea in its own right, if I may say so."
I'm sure Carol (that was the woman's name) knew her hair was brushing against my face, and it infuriated me her playing the tease that way. I kept wishing I had the guts to stand up and kiss her right on the mouth. I kept daring myself every time the hair brushed along my face, and Carol kept letting it brush against me until finally, I don't know if it was my dare to myself, being pissed off at her goading me that way, or what, but I really did stand up, kissed her hard on the mouth.

"She jumped like I'd shoved an electric cord up her ass, fell right off the ladder and burst into tears. I turned around and walked away."

I was getting so cold I was shivering, my teeth chattered enough to make me mangle my words, so we went inside and slogged away some more on the typing. Afterward, if S. ever wanted to tease or tweak me, he'd pretend to brush long hair or make a kissing gesture with his hand. I'd simply smile.

I didn't tell him just then about Alex.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fans August 2005 (sorry, almost no sex)

While a lot of Cassie's fans are sex bloggers, there are numerous ones who just like what they read here. A True Jersey Girl is pretty much representative of the modern woman today: opinionated, generous, funny, talkative, down-to-earth, a lady who speaks her mind and has lots of friends leaving funny comments on her site. Sub-titled "Big Hair, Bon Jovi and Bruce," she's just as likely to show you her family photos as tell you why the governor pissed her off recently. Ever wonder how Jersey girls think? Here's your chance to find out.

An early fan was Grad Student Madness. Like S. he's a student of European history. Cassie is typing S.'s Senior thesis (on the Versailles Convention) after she meets him in Yale Library's "Manuscripts & Archives" division. He's researching the Edward House papers on the Versailles negotiations (a big-wig in Woodrow Wilson's administration and a past president of Yale). How can a novel that has Paul de Man and Deconstruction not like a blog that talks about Derrida, the inventor of the movement? Sorry, no sex, just ideas!

Another blog from academe is The Invisible Adjunct. Adjuncts are instructors hired by colleges and universities to teach individual courses. They are poorly-paid, get no benefits, and usually are not eligible for tenure, the system that allows professors to gain lifetime employment. The site is now dormant because its author reluctantly gave up her quest to join the world of full-time tenured professorship, but it's a wealth of information and links to other things in the world of academe.

Now Pussy Ranch sounds pretty salacious and more like many of our regular fans, especially if you consider it's written by an ex-stripper who will show photos of herself dressed in nothing but a whipped cream bra. But there's actually very little sex here, just funny observations on life and no comments allowed by the peanut gallery. Diablo Cody is too busy sorting out things for herself to bother with any interference. Witty, funny at times, always off-beat.

More up the alley of its name is Pussy Talk by DTG (Dirty Talking Girl). One of the better sex blogs out there, the writing is snappy, the themes are racy and salacious, and there's almost no bullshit factor (ads, photos, distracting stuff). If you like your sex writing cool and unemotional (the polar opposite of the searing, passionate Demon Queen, Freya, or O), then be sure to blogroll DTG's Pussy Talk.

Monday, August 01, 2005

An Interview with Cassie

This interview format was stolen from The Holiday Life with his permission and is based on a suggestion by the bewitching Viviane at Vivian's Sex Carnival. His responses were so much more interesting than mine would be, so I'll have Cassie answer them as she would have at 24.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To work at Yale another minute.

Where would you like to live?
New York. Failing that, Philadelphia.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To have a ménage a trois with P. and S.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Temptation.

Who is your favorite hero of contemporary fiction?
I don't read much contemporary fiction. I suppose Miss Marple because she doesn't give a damn about her looks and can solve any murder case you throw at her.

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Clara Barton, Elizabeth Blackwell (the first woman doctor) and Florence Nightingale (who liked to sleep with women).

Your favorite painter?
Van Gogh, especially his "Sunflowers."

Your favorite composer?
Brahms, especially his Fourth Symphony and Second Piano Concerto.

Your favorite musician?
Janis Joplin and anybody from Motown, most particularly The Temptations. No double-entendre intended.

Your favorite film?
"The Godfather," of course. The wedding scene is just like my wedding, only grander.

The qualities you most admire in a man?
A strong character and smarts.

The physical qualities you most admire in a man?
Well, P. is tall, I like that. And strong arms to hold me.

Favorite ethnic or racial type?
Anyone but Italians. Not attracted to black guys, at least not that way.

The qualities you most admire in a woman?
Honesty and no game-playing.

Favorite ethnic or racial type?
No preferences.

The physical qualities you most admire in a woman?
I'm drawn to boyish, androgynous women with smallish breasts and short hair, but not butch or masculine.

How old where you when you had your first sexual experience with a woman?
Last year, I was 23.

What was the age difference?
Didn't ask her age, but nothing special.

Conventional sex?
Well, if you can call 69ing each other conventional....

How old where you when you had your first sexual experience with a man?
I was 17.

What was the age difference?
A year, it was my boyfriend senior year of high school.

Conventional sex?
We started with me giving him a hand-job. In fact, he preferred that over sex, which was OK, since I never climaxed with him. P. was the first man I ever came with.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with a woman?
Well, Jessica and I got started in the front seat of my car....

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with a man?
Now that I think about it, P. and I had sex in the back seat of the same car up the street from my parents' house when it was still light enough for the neighbors to see what we were doing.

Where is the most outrageous locale you had sex with both a man and a woman?
All my threesomes have been in our apartment on Clark Street.

Have you had sexual experiences with the friend of a boyfriend or spouse?
No.

Have you had sexual experiences with a colleague of your spouse?
Not unless you consider an undergraduate in history a colleague of a grad student in comparative literature. P. brought home a woman grad student from the German Department when he was student teaching last Winter.

Have you had sexual experiences with a male colleague from the office?
Eeeeeuuuww! Are you kidding? With someone from the Yale library? Never!

Have you ever watched your husband have sex with another woman?
Yes.

Is this your most enduring obsession?
Not particularly. P. likes to watch, but I don't care for it.

What have you watched precisely?
Missionary sex, blow-jobs and from behind (hate that term "doggie-style").

Are you a voyeur?
Not much of one. P. is much more into watching.

Has your husband ever watched you having sex with another male?
Yes.

What has she watched precisely?
Fellatio and missionary sex.

What is his biggest turn-on for this scene?
I'm not sure it quite worked out that way. It's too complicated for me to answer here.

Have you ever paid money for sex?
No, but S. did.

Have you ever accepted money for sex?
No!!

Your favorite virtue?
Tolerance.

Your favorite occupation?
Reading.

Your most marked characteristic?
The inability to sit still and concentrate.

What is your principle defect?
The inability to sit still and concentrate.

What is your favorite occupation?
I'd like to be something useful to the world, and not just take up space. Definitely NOT a secretary.

What is your dream of happiness?
A ménage trios involving P. and S.

What would you like to be?
Educated and accepted and no longer bored.

Who are your favorite writers?
Colette, Vita Sackville-West, Dickens.

What are your favorite works of literature?
Great Expectations, the poems of Emily Dickinson, Wuthering Heights.

Who is your favorite character of fiction?
Nancy Drew.

What works of fiction have influenced your sexual proclivities?
The Pure and the Impure.

Who is your hero in real life?
My husband, P. That sounds corny, but it's true.

What person in popular culture do you admire most?
Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers followed by George McGovern

What is it you most dislike?
Being treated like a second-class person.

What event in history do you most admire?
The American Revolution

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Willpower. P. has it in spades, while I just drift through my days.

How would you like to die?
In my bed, rich with many grandchildren (but no kids just yet!)

What is your present state of mind?
Bored with life at Yale, impatient to get started living.