Good morning and HAPPY SATURDAY!
I’m so honored to host Xan West on their blog tour for the release of Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica.
Here’s the blurb:
In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.
Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.
Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.
Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.
This is Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.
Xan was kind enough to give a brilliant write up on diversity in kink erotica, which you know is near and dear to me. But this is a perspective on how the disabled are represented. Diversity is about so much more than race. Never forget that.
(BUY LINKS AT THE BOTTOM!)
Writing Disability Into Erotica
By Xan West
Here’s the thing: Oppression often works through hypersexualization, fetishization, desexualization, and assumptions of predatory sexuality. This plays out in so many arenas of life. It’s built into concepts of criminality and state violence. It’s represented in media. It plays out in medical institutions. It is present in activist spaces and other community and family interactions. It impacts folks in so many parts of daily life, from work, to friendships, to romantic relationships, to what it’s like to move through public spaces.
So, when I write erotica, particularly because I write kink erotica that is laden with intense power dynamics, I need to remember this reality, and take it into account in the story. Because it’s part of people’s lives. And because I am guaranteed to reproduce it a hell of a lot more if I am not keeping my eye on it. So, I need to know the specific ways that this can and does play out for my characters, in all of the complexities of that. The broad strokes, yes, but particularly the details.
Let’s work our way around to specifics. Say I’m writing about a top who’s hot for firemen. At the foundation, he needs to know how to play carefully with burns and injuries, as both are common. That’s a core foundational piece that makes him a careful, responsible top.
But the thing is, that’s just the beginning. Once you are talking about someone who has a type, there are pieces underneath that need dealing with. Why is he hot for firemen? Are we leaning towards a fetish? Because fetishizations often twist and strand together. Makes sense, right? Once you reduce someone to a thing for your use and fantasy, they aren’t really a person to you. Which makes it easy to have a fetishization pile on, where a fetish for firemen could twist round a fetish for muscles could wind into a fetish for burn scars.
Let’s say I’m writing a story from the point of view of this top, who is playing with a fireman, who has burn scars and a healing arm injury. We know he can’t ignore the scars or the injury, but how does he interact with them? Because he also can’t find them hot in a simplified way, as that’s going to evoke fetish even if you don’t intend it to. I need to avoid words like fascinated and mesmerized, I need to avoid a detailed sensory description of how the scars feel or taste or what it’s like to lick them.
I’m thinking: How can I create this character that’s hot for firemen, and interacts with the men he plays with as whole human beings. Further, how can I show that to the reader? These questions are particularly important when I’m writing from the point of view of the character who is doing kink with a disabled character, especially as a top. I’m already on rockier ground, need to be much more deliberate in my characterization, and more careful in the way the scene plays out between them.
In stories told from the top’s point of view where the bottom is disabled, I need to get really clear on something: what does the bottom want and need from this relationship or interaction? Where is the bottom’s desire coming from, and how is it communicated? Because let me tell you, if you are writing erotica where you are casting a disabled person as purely an object of desire, you are in trouble.
Because disabled folks are so often desexualized, it is particularly important to make them sexual subjects in your story, where you value their desire. But it is also deeply important to tell a story about how that particular character is desired. To make that desire specific and concrete and complex and alive on the page. Because the last thing you want in erotica that includes disabled characters is to assist readers in a patronizing pitying smug smile about how nice it is that your disabled character found a man.
So, here’s the thing: My fireman character with burn scars and an injury likely doesn’t think of himself as disabled. The top character who is hot for him likely also doesn’t think of him as disabled. While you were reading this you may have been puzzled about how I got from this fireman…to talking about the representation of disability in erotica.
While my fireman character is temporarily impaired by the injury, and visible scarring is often a marker of disability, this is an example of a story that skirts the surface of representation of disability in erotica. For one thing, he might be descriptively disabled, but he is not politically disabled. What do I mean by that? The fireman doesn’t identify as disabled, and while he may have experience with his scars being fetishized, he likely doesn’t think of that as connected to disability (though I would argue that it is). As someone with a temporary impairment, he likely is experiencing some ableism, but he doesn’t think of it as such.
Even more importantly, the story isn’t told from his point of view. This fireman story is a toe in the water of representing disability in erotica, and likely slides by without many folks even noticing it is doing that. While this story is included in my new collection, Show Yourself To Me (it’s called “Facing the Dark”), it is not the kind of disability representation that I’m most excited about in my own work, or in the work of others.
What really makes a difference is when I tell a story from a disabled character’s point of view. It’s even better when they aren’t the only disabled character in the story, are in community with other disabled folks. Better yet, when disabled characters desire each other, play with each other, navigate access intimacy with each other, figure out how to meet each other’s needs in sex and play. When the disabled characters are front and center in the story and the story is not about the desire of nondisabled people for them, but instead their desire for each other, and the ways they actualize that.
Taking it one step further, as a disabled writer, what I really adore is writing stories about disabled characters, from my own disabled experience and knowledge, for disabled readers. Where I don’t explain things so that nondisabled people will get them. Where I don’t answer every question a nondisabled reader would have about how people’s bodies would move. Where my disabled characters have insider crip knowledge and shared politic and interact with each other from there.
Adding another layer of challenging ableism in story, how about stories where characters support each other? Particularly, where disabled characters support their lovers and friends and family. Where independence is not assumed to be everyone’s goal and it is not assumed that you have to be well or healthy or healed or cured to do kink or sex or take care of your lover or go after what you want.
A few years ago, I started working on centering disabled characters in my erotica. (You can read the entirety of one of those stories here.) In this post, I’m offering you a longish excerpt from one of the stories in Show Yourself To Me that I wrote as part of that work. The length is to give you a real taste some of the ways disability gets woven into my work when disabled characters are at the center. One of them is that people’s disabilities are not explained in detail. See what else you notice.
This excerpt is from my kinky genderqueer retelling of the Tamlin and Janet fairy tale, set in my imaginary accessible dungeon, Carter Hall. As a heads up, this excerpt includes descriptions of sensation play, blade play and public play. It begins right after Jan and Tam did a demonstration of negotiation for Tam’s class on transformative play. Now they are moving from the demonstration into figuring out if they want to do the scene they negotiated, where Tam would be pushing hir own edges as a top, and Jan would be supporting hir to have a transformative experience.
Excerpt from “The Tale of Jan and Tam”
“Tonight might be perfect for a scene like that. Shall we discuss it over dinner?”
As Jan was trying to figure out whether they were up to navigating the line on their scooter, that forty-something, black, tomboyish dyke who had been gathering the chairs approached with two plates of food. Tam thanked her and introduced Jackie to Jan. Jackie’s smile lit up her entire face. She politely asked what Jan and Tam would like to drink and brought it over, pride in her movements. If this is how bottoms feel in Tam’s pack, how other black folks feel when they are doing service with this group, Jan thought, then there might be a place for me. This shit was so fucking loaded, but damn—you are who you are, and hiding from it because too many people can’t come to it from respect meant you never fucking got your needs met. The possibility that Tam’s pack might be a safe place to submit, a place where queers didn’t just play out fucked-up racist shit on black folks, was too exciting to let fear get in their way.
Jan relaxed as they ate. Tam drew them out a bit about their kink history, spending time to talk about racist shit in the scene and the way hir pack of kinky queers of color engaged around race. They talked physical capacity, for both of them, and then finished negotiating, establishing limits, shared language (“mercy” for slow down, “please” for hit me harder), and honorifics (Tam said using “Sir” would keep hir anchored). It felt important to name these things, given how deep they were going to go and how little they knew about each other, really. The ritualized conversation over a meal settled them both.
No one had started playing yet. Everyone was still socializing, but they were ready. Tam set up at hir favorite room in the dungeon: a large circular padded bench, big enough that ze didn’t have to worry during rough body play. It was a luxurious piece of equipment and familiar enough that just being in this room was grounding. There was enough light, and the music wasn’t too loud in this room. No driving beats or flickering lights to trigger hir migraines. Tam left Jan to get acclimated to the space and went to the bathroom to strap on hir cock, giving Moses the signal to gather the pack.
The pack arrived in all their glory. Jo was in the lead, her corset gleaming with silver thread on the silk, her head high, showing tremendous cleavage and a mile of leg, wild curls cascading over her shoulders, her cane decorated in red and silver to match her corset. Leroy followed her, dressed simply in understated black leather from head to toe, walking the line between submissive and dominant in the most graceful way. When Val wheeled in, it was clear who Leroy was in service to, just in the way he looked at Val. A fag in service to a dyke! Damn, Jan was glad to be in the Bay.
Val was the essence of dyke momma, with shoulder-length dreads, bare-chested under her leather vest. They all looked to her—that was clear. Even Morgan, who danced in like some kind of a faerie, with glitter covering every inch of light brown skin the femme boy revealed. And ze revealed quite a bit in those tiny little black shorts and tank. Jackie came quietly, whispering in Val’s ear and nodding, gathering the chairs for them to sit in. She was soon joined by Moses, a Latino trans guy who reveled in the fact that every single one of them grabbed his ass as he passed.
Morgan danced over to Jan and did a bow that was almost a curtsy before moving to stand behind hir. What was that about? There were currents here Jan didn’t understand yet. Fuck. Could they really do this? Just strip down in front of this circle of queers they’d barely just met?
It was Val who helped. She wheeled over next to Jan. Looked into their eyes and smiled, introducing them to the pack, one by one. Told them how glad she was that Tam had found someone ze trusted to do this scene with.
“You look at me if you need help, all right? We’re all here to hold space for this, to help make it happen. If you need strength or to know that you don’t have to hold it alone, you just look into my eyes. I’ve got your back.”
Val wheeled to stop across from Jan. She was so clearly the momma of the whole pack, the one that really ran the show, even if outsiders looked for a masculine top like Tam to assign leadership to. Val was the backbone, and they all were her family. And she had Jan’s back. Now Jan felt ready. They removed their clothes quietly and waited until Tam returned.
When Tam got back, Jan was naked and sitting on the bench. Hir pack was gathered, their chairs in a circle surrounding Jan, with Moses at Val’s feet, Leroy at her side. Tam had a flash of memory: being in Moses’ place at Val’s feet, Leroy steady next to her. It was good to have family here for this. Jo was smiling wickedly at Tam. Jackie was nearby with two bottles of water. Morgan sat behind Jan, doing hir best to be still and just witness.
Tam’s eyes darted to Jan’s nipples. Hir plan changed. Ze usually started with a knife, but watching the pulse race in Jan’s throat as ze approached, and with those nipples hardening, Tam wanted to start with something else.
Jan couldn’t keep their eyes off Tam’s dick. It was as if ze walked with it in the lead, demanding attention. Until that moment—mouth watering, heart racing—it had been theoretical and not exactly about sex. Now Jan was all fuzzy with wanting and very aware that they were naked.
Jan was so mesmerized by Tam’s cock that they were surprised by the first touch, their head yanked backward by the hair, face tilted up to meet Tam’s eyes. Jan took a slow shaky breath. This was real. The sensation was cold and quick. It went so fast that it was hard to hold on to. What was that? It darted over Jan’s skin, their eyes steady on Tam’s, no idea what was happening to their chest. Jan gasped when the sensation moved through their nipple, like a tongue flickering. They reached for the sensation, trying to catch it as it moved, lizard-like, along their nipples, gone before they could grasp it. Frightening and exciting all at once, it made Jan throb, breath in their throat, just trying to hold on to Tam. It didn’t matter what it was. It was Jan’s job to stay with it, stay connected.
Tam liked the way Jan’s eyes got wide and pulse sped when ze ran the Wartenberg wheel across their nipples. Ze wanted Jan breathless and hot before ze brought out hir knife. This was a good way to get to know a bottom. Tam wondered why ze had never thought of starting a scene like this before. Jan’s chest and cheeks were getting nice and flushed. They trembled every time the wheel went across their nipples. Tam kept the wheel moving, knowing the delayed nature of it meant that Jan would never know exactly where it was. Tam wanted their nipples to ache for it. Jan was trying hard to be still. Their heart kept racing, hands clenched against their thighs. It was time. Tam brought out the knife and showed it to them.
“Please,” Jan whispered at the sight of it and offered their throat.
For ebook or print copies at Go Deeper Press: http://godeeperpress.com/projects/show-yourself-to-me-by-xan-west/
Thanks for stopping by!