Learning to Say Yes

by | April 21, 2016 | General | 9 comments

By Lisabet Sarai

I still remember what I wore that night. It must have been summer, between my junior and senior years in high school. My dropped waist dress was light cotton, a rusty red with white polka dots. A line of buttons matching the dots ran from the neckline to the hem.

My boyfriend’s parents were out of town. Looking back, I wonder that my mother didn’t object to my being in his house, alone with him and his friendly Doberman, but perhaps she didn’t know. I wasn’t the rebellious type. I would not have deliberately lied. Maybe I didn’t realize P. and I would end up there in his bedroom, after going out for a bite to eat in his VW Beetle. I can’t recall.

We were sprawled on his bed making out (do kids today still use that term?), hot, wet, desperate kisses with lots of tongue. His hands wandered over my back and then, tentatively, cupped my breasts through my dress. “Take it off,” he murmured, amazed, I’m sure, at his own daring.

“I can’t…” I began. I knew that society required me to keep my clothes on when I was with a boy. I was well aware that girls who gave in to boys’ requests would inevitably acquire a “bad reputation”. Back then, even letting a guy get to second base (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_metaphors_for_sex) would certainly result in whispered gossip and possibly in public taunts. Strictly speaking I wasn’t a virgin, but my single sexual interlude hadn’t taught me much. I was as awkward and confused as any sixteen year old.

P. kissed me harder, but he didn’t press the issue. I was the one who wanted more. I wanted to remove my dress, to feel his hands on my skin. Resentment filled me. It seemed so unfair that society should forbid what felt so wonderful.

Then it hit me, quite literally like a bolt of lightning. I gasped. P. broke our embrace, afraid he’d somehow hurt me.

I didn’t have to say no, just because other people insisted I should. I was free to say yes. I was dying to be closer to the guy I loved. Was that wrong? I understood that I’d have to accept any consequences, but seriously, was there a good reason why I shouldn’t do as he asked?

“Wait,” I told him. I stood up and started to unfasten my dress, one button at a time.

I wasn’t deliberately trying to be seductive, but I felt the heat of P.’s stare as, button by button, I exposed my plain white bra and panties. I felt light-headed, jubilant, powerful. And free.

I don’t think I knew the word “lust” back then. Certainly I didn’t have enough experience to recognize it when I felt it. I saw my own excitement mirrored in P.’s face, along with a touching gratitude. He seemed quite astonished that I was trusting him.

I lay back down on his bed, clad in my underwear, more fevered and needy than ever. We didn’t push things much further that night. It was almost as though the step I’d taken was enough for us, for a while at least.

Looking back now, I see that high school epiphany as a first step toward defining my own personal philosophy of sex. Why should I refuse pleasure just because someone else thinks it’s not proper? Since that evening, I’ve said yes to many sexual adventures, and enjoyed almost all of them.

Of course, that was a golden time, after the invention of the Pill and before the discovery of AIDS. Sexual freedom had few if any restrictions. The Morality Police didn’t yet have much influence. The boundaries between love and lust were deliciously fluid.

I learned something fundamental, back there in high school, not just about sex but about life in general. You can’t allow others to make your decisions for you. Don’t listen when someone tells you that you’re not allowed to pursue your dream. Weigh the consequences and risks for yourself, but then don’t be afraid to say yes, if that’s what your heart tells you.

We all have more freedom than we realize. We just need to claim it, to make it our own.

This insight applies to writing, too. Say yes to your passion, to whatever moves you. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. When an idea taps you on the shoulder, whispering dirty suggestions in your ear – when you get the urge to create something completely outrageous – when you’re oh so tempted to break out of your literary bonds, but afraid of what “the market” will think – say yes.

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.

9 Comments

  1. Tabitha Rayne

    Yes! "Say yes to your passion!" I *love* this Lisabet x

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Thanks, Tabitha! With all the negativity running through the publishing world these days, I think it's important to remember just why we are here.

  2. Tia Tormen

    Thank you, Lisabet for these lovely words of affirmation. I too had a similar experience at around the same age. Isn't it wonderful to feel freed from the judgment of others.
    ~Tia

    • Lisabet Sarai

      There's so much guilt and shame they try to push on us… but we don't have to accept it.

  3. Donna

    I love this! An inspiration and a reminder of what needs to happen to experience pleasure, freedom, autonomy in everything we do in this life.

  4. KD Grace

    Great post, Lisabet, and SO true! I can't count the number of times I've said 'no' and STILL fantasise about what might have been if I'd said 'yes' more often. xxx

  5. Jean Roberta

    This definitely is something we need to hear when there are so many negative messages about writing and publishing. (Selena Kitt's account of scamming on Amazon is one mind-blowing example.)

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