Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dirty Mind vs. Debit Cards - Princess Leia on a Chain

Welcome Corinna Parr, today's participant in the Dirty Minds series. 
Corinna has two titles which were banned from Smashwords, and she's going to tell you why she writes transgressional erotica.

My first memory of sexual arousal was at the age of six, the direct result of watching Princess Leia in a bikini being yanked around on a chain by Jabba the Hutt.

This is an important memory for me because a year later, an adult friend of the family began to molest me. The abuse lasted for two and a half years and escalated in severity, as such things tend to do. This memory is important to me because I spent the next twenty years hiding from my own sexuality due to feelings of guilt. In those twenty years, I read a number of studies on the effects of sexual abuse in children, see. I read that I had a greater risk of becoming a child molester, myself. I read that I had a greater risk of being sexually promiscuous, of marrying an abuser, of developing into a pervert with a taste for BDSM.

In those twenty years, I did in fact place myself at risk, emotionally, physically and sexually. I slept with men I shouldn’t have slept with, though I didn’t really want to. I was raped. I married abusive men. I did not become a pedophile but when my son was born, you can bet I spent a lot of time being irrationally scared of the day that I would wake up and feel an urge to abuse my child. I buried my interest in BDSM because it felt like a symptom of the trauma that had been done to me.

And then, I woke up. It took me a long time to realize that my capacity to be a sexual being and my taste for submission did not come from being abused as a child but I did finally figure it out. Those parts of me existed before the abuse. My sexuality was not defined by what some sick fuck did to me when I was seven.

I owned my sexuality, I found a partner who I could trust and love to explore those parts of myself with. I stopped feeling ashamed. That was also when I graduated from reading erotica-- furtively, always in secret, always suffering guilt for having that urge-- to writing it.

I believe that reading erotica contributed to me finally reaching a place where I could set the shame aside. It opened up ‘what if’ worlds where I could explore various themes and experience them in the safety of my own imagination. I could determine what turned me on and what didn’t. Most importantly, it gave me a sense of control. I wasn’t a curious and deceived seven year old, or a confused and hurting nine year old, or a tortured and lost nineteen year old. I was an adult woman looking into herself with the help of words written by other people, using them to find myself. I still remember some of the stories that resonated most with me. One of them, The Wilds, carried a triple whammy of incest, rape and barely legal sex. It was a hot story. It turned me on and I got off to it, but most importantly, it stayed with me and this was a story that I found back in the late 90s. It’s been fourteen years. Fourteen years, and I still remember details from the story as vividly as if I’d read it yesterday. This is coming from someone who’s lucky to remember her telephone number or what she had for dinner last night.

That is the impact erotica can have on a reader.

As a writer, I’ve seen some of my titles removed from Smashwords. One of those is The Wild Hunt which has the dubious distinction of being the first erotica story I ever wrote.

At first glance, it really isn’t anything special: it involves a barely legal girl who is taken into the woods by a bunch of smelly priests. These priests rape her and then she’s “rescued” by a forest god. She flees from him, she’s caught and he claims his prize in a second rape, while his pack of hounds circle them and watch. So, elements of barely legal sex (in the original story, Cara was fifteen or sixteen), molestation, group rape of both her mouth and vagina, more rape by a half-man, half-beast deity which injects aspects of bestiality and possible outright bestiality because one of the dogs licks her while she’s presenting herself to the God of the Forest.

But digging deeper, it becomes apparent what the story is to me. A girl is ripped forcibly from her life and her family by men who abuse her. These are people she should be able to trust and look up to, but they betray her trust to work out their own lust on her body. And then a new element enters the story, a mysterious and fantastic element that is frightening to Cara. Terrifying, even. She doesn’t know what it is, or what it means; she only knows that it’s bigger than she is, more powerful, raw and primal and untameable. But in spite of her fear, she submits to it and in submitting to it, discovers the first stirrings of genuine pleasure. The story ends with her being lifted in the arms of this wild, fascinating lover and carried into the forest to begin a new life.

I think the parallels are clear. Cara is me. The priests are those who betrayed my trust and tried to make me feel dirty for the things we all feel and do. And the forest god is simultaneously my own sexuality, and the person I trust enough to explore it with.

In the indie publishing world, I’m small potatoes. I’ve only had two titles removed from the shelves. The other is entitled Captivity, and thanks to No Boundaries Press, they’re available for public consumption again. But in spite of their content-- no, because of their content-- they did not deserve this censorship. None of the titles hit with the ban-hammer deserved this censorship. Erotica is important, it is vital to us as sexual creatures who need safe avenues in which to explore ourselves and our preferences. I don’t care how poorly a story is written, it has worth.

It has worth to the person who wrote it and to the people who read it. Deep, personal worth. No one can make the judgment on whether it “deserves” to be out there or not, because the only person who can make that determination is the author.

So there it is. Why I write, what I get from it. I’m not going to pretend that it’s all high art. Sometimes you just want to make yourself and other people blush and squirm in their seats. Sometimes that’s all you need. But it can be so much more than that when it needs to be.

I’m living proof of it.

Thank you Corinna, for coming and for sharing in such an open and honest manner. I'll tell my readers Corinna and I discussed a Q & A format, but once I saw what she'd already written, I decided to stay out of her way and let her tell you her story her way. I'm certain you can see why.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Corinna. I'm starting to see a pattern emerge - we all seem to be gaining control of the out-of-control aspects of our lives, coming to grips with things, through writing and reading erotica. Far from being the negative influence it is made out by many to be it is, instead, a safe haven for us to grapple with the aspects of our sexuality and the aggression against that sexuality by others. All of which only confirms my thoughts that it is vital that we be allowed to continue to do so.

    1. I'm going to share so Corinna's not alone on the exposed edge of truth.
      When she sent in her copy, I cried as I read it.

      That was when I realized I'd only begun reading transgressive erotica after my mother died. It wasn't until I read what Corinna has so bravely shared that I made the connection.

      I was molested by my stepfather. The abuse began at 12 and lasted until I left for college, in some form. When I was 16 or 17, my mother demanded to know why I couldn't stand to be in the same room with him....and I told her. She got very angry, then very drunk. The next morning, she woke me to ask if I wanted to go shopping with her.

      When she died of brain cancer, the issue which had stood between us most of my life was still unresolved, though my stepfather had been dead about 17 years by the time she was diagnosed with cancer. She fought the disease for 18 months, and though I tried to open the dialogue during that time, she never would discuss it. She took with her any hope I'd ever have of closure.

      Do I want to be forced against my will? Of course not. No one's advocating real-life rape either by reading or writing non-co or dub-con. But I want the right to read about it in a non-threatening, fictional tale while I continue to grapple with what coming up against something you cannot control has done to me.

      My mother couldn't or wouldn't protect me, but now Paypal thinks they can? I keep looking over my shoulder for Jean Genet.

    2. Absolutely, Sessha. It is a safe haven and while I like to imagine I'd have come to writing erotica eventually even without these events in my life, I know that if I hadn't had this outlet, my recovery might have taken me much longer than twenty years. Not to say I don't still have issues I'm working on, but I'm in a much, much healthier place now.

      And Eden, you're going to make me tear up again. Thank you for everything.

  2. Corinna and Eden, apart from this being another brilliant post, my heart cried for you both. To lose your innocence at such young ages is not something we ever want for our children. But to realize that it was not your fault and to turn to writing to excise the demons per se is brilliant.
    Keep writing Corinna as somewhere some woman has read your books and has found herself to be freed from haunting's of a past she has long since buried.

    *bites n kisses*

    1. Thank you so much. That is my genuine hope and I have every intention of continuing, no matter what some man in a suit up in his ivory tower thinks of what I produce.

  3. Corinna and Eden, your stories are eloquently put.
    I would just add the point that many of us who enjoy erotica have not had any experience of molestation. For myself, I would have liked to discover sex a lot earlier than I did - but no-one asked.
    And of course, the key thing is control. These stories are fantasy. No-one gets hurt. If you don't want it to continue, you put the book down and find a thriller instead.

    1. I agree, very much so. I don't believe my experiences are universal; we all turn to erotica for different reasons. The common thread is something I think I addressed: there's a need there, whatever it is, and erotica allows us to explore it safely without physical or psychic scarring.

      Truth be told, I've been more disturbed with a few of the thrillers I've read. Not a genre I enjoy! ;)

  4. I believe that the imagination if given free reign always leads us towards wholeness and healing. That's why censorship is a bad thing, in the individual psyche and in society.

    Luckily I haven't had any experience of molestation, but your account of your experiences reinforces my suspicion that the responses of others, even those who are well-meaning, can be an extra burden for someone who has had this kind of experience. If a disgust at the action of the abuser transfers over into a lack of acceptance of the feelings of the survivor (in all their complexity or apparent contradiction) then it is a new layer of offence. But the imagination doesn't judge, it is the realm in which all the real life shit can be transformed into gold.

    1. So far I've managed to keep my sense of personal offense at the judgment being leveled at those of us who write in this vein at a low boil. But yes, that's definitely been on my mind. Not so much in regards to the suits at PayPal who decided to go this route, but at the other writers and women who've sniffed or gloated at this turn of events. More than anything, it makes me sad that people equipped with the sort of imaginations that allow them to write can't put themselves in the shoes of those who are being affected by this.

      That's partly what prompted me to take the direction I did, in writing this little essay.

      Thank you for your comment. And for your profile picture; I want to boop that flat nose.

    2. Sadly, Corinna, I don't think it's a matter of 'can't' so much as 'won't'. The only negative backlash I've had from any of this is from other writers of erotic and erotic romance. That's where my personal outrage is threatening to spill over and make me act unwisely. So, for the last two days I've been systematically unfriending individuals and leaving groups that I once thought I was welcome in. I expected backlash from writers in other genres and non-writers, yet the cries of 'disgusting, rule-breaking pervert' have been all from within the ranks of those I thought would understand :(

    3. I'm sorry to hear it, Sessha. :/ No one's yet thrown any flack my way and I certainly wasn' well established when this all broke, so I haven't had to cope with having my opinion of people and places change. I can't imagine that would be a good feeling.

    4. Oh, Sessha, I'm so sorry to hear that. And so fundamentally disgusted. But, on a positive note, I happen to find rule-breaking perverts to be among my most valued and long term friends. So you're in marvelous company.

      I have had a couple of very heated encounters with old-school feminists who felt that eroticizing rape in a novel was a traitorous act of acquiescence to the masculinist hegemony and a license for rapists to rape.

      I asked if they thought perhaps it was also wise to get rid of all murder mysteries, just in case millions of middle-aged women decided to take to murdering.

      I also asked what on earth had been motivating all those rapists before I wrote the book?

      I didn't get a very rational answer, so I blew them off.

    5. Most ironically,one of the worst offenders is now e-mailing me to remind me that I have an 'obligation' to still run her interview on my blog because "I promised" and she's 'counting on it'. Sadly, I had to tell her that dirty disgusting perverts often change their minds ;)

    6. I'm afraid my experience has paralleled Sessha's with regard to other writers. I had a debate with one who said rape fiction made her physically ill, due to her own molestation. When I asked whether she'd deny other traumatized women the right to read and write their way through the trauma, other's came to her defense. No one has more empathy for her than I, but because she is at one place on the healing curve, and others are elsewhere doesn't mean she never will be. It's the fact many of our peers cannot see past their own front yard that concerns me.

      I understand many groups are having similar infighting. Sadly, we seem to be completing the hatchet job PayPal began.

  5. Corinna wrote:

    "I believe that reading erotica contributed to me finally reaching a place where I could set the shame aside. It opened up ‘what if’ worlds where I could explore various themes and experience them in the safety of my own imagination. I could determine what turned me on and what didn’t. Most importantly, it gave me a sense of control"

    I think this is true for many, many women. And having stories that included those fantasies on a page, printed and there (or a screen) gave most of us a great sense of not being alone in our fantasies. That was empowering for me, for sure.

    1. Oh absolutely! That moment when you realize that there are others out there who are like you, who feel like you on one level or another is such a relief. Even, dare I say it, a release. It was like breathing out with body, heart and mind.

      Even here in all of this, I've been able to experience that again by discovering people like you and Eden and those who've posted here.

      Edit: Replied in the wrong spot, oops.

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