sexual revolution

A Trip to Cockaigne

This image is from The Land of Cockaigne (literally, “the lazy-tasty land” in Dutch) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1567.


Lately, when my spouse Mirtha and I were having a drink in the local queer bar, a gay-male friend of ours told me he had read some of my erotic stories, and he thought I was writing about the Sexual Revolution of the late 1960s, the heyday of the hippies. He knows I am 70 years old, and he suggested with a grin that I have lived through some wild times.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to say. In my teens and early twenties, I dated young men who identified as “radical.” They told me that all the old rules about sex needed to be thrown out. I completely agreed. I remembered how easy it was for girls in high school to get bad reputations based on the slightest indiscretion: being seen with the “wrong” boy, or wearing a skirt that someone else considered too short.

I couldn’t wait for the culture to change. More specifically, I wanted an era of sexual freedom to arrive. I’m still waiting.

My father warned me that I had no right to refuse sex with any young man if I had “led him on” or “flaunted my body.” Boys told me the same thing. The same boys had a vocabulary of ugly words for girls who had (gasp) committed sex with someone other than themselves.

I never lived in a commune on the West Coast (American or Canadian). If there was a patchouli-scented era of enlightenment, joyous polyamory, waterbeds, and ecstasy for all, I missed it.

I’ve written true stories about some of my relationships (to use the word loosely) before I ventured into the sex trade and the LGBTQ community at age thirty. There was the high school boyfriend who aspired to be a writer, and who dumped me after I won a major award in a national student writing contest. He seemed to believe I had sold out to the Man.

There was the guy who claimed to be a Yippie (member of the Youth International Party) and who raped me in my dorm room in my first year of university.

There was my Nigerian husband (whom I met in London, England) who claimed to be a social justice warrior, and who seemed convinced that all white women are sex demons who can never be faithful to one man. You can guess how compatible we were.

When I ventured outside of monogamous heterosexuality, the 1980s were starting, and a backlash against “women’s lib” had already set in, along with a retrenchment of conservative policies in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. The first AIDS patients had died of a disease that was known to spread through sexual contact, and their suffering seemed like a cautionary tale to those who thought “promiscuity” was the road to Hell.

I was a divorced mother living in a housing co-op for low-income single parents. My ex-husband stopped making child support payments, and I learned that I had no way of squeezing money out of him.

I spent three years in a relationship with a married man who dominated conversations by proclaiming his radical political vision. He told me I was naive and “trying to be bourgeois,” which seemed to mean that my need for a livable income showed what a hypocrite I was: a slut trying to pass for a good mother. I believed that he was separated from his wife and children because we sometimes spent the night in his sparsely-furnished apartment, which turned out to be a temporary shelter so that he wouldn’t have to commute between a small town and his job in the “city” on weekdays in an icy Canadian winter. After I overheard him telling his wife on the phone how much he loved her, I had to lock him out of my apartment to prevent him from showing up late at night for free sex.

For a few months, I lived with my first woman lover, whose hard-drinking friends were always hanging out in our apartment when I was trying to work on my Master’s thesis. My relationship ended when I discovered that she had emptied my bank account and taken the proceeds with her to the summer Stampede in Calgary, Alberta.

If anyone was having fabulous sex parties at the time, I was not invited. I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway, since I didn’t want to risk losing custody of my child.

However, I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and that’s where I go to get inspiration for sex-stories. In the Land of Fantasy, the weather is always perfect for outdoor sex, the other inhabitants are attractive, eager, and honest, and there are no disappointing revelations afterwards.

As far as I know, the real world has never been like that. And speaking of backlash, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the right to a legal abortion looks like the first sign of a general stripping-away of hard-won rights for everyone other than wealthy, conservative white men.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have savings and relatively well-paid jobs (based on seniority) are no longer as young and nimble as we used to be.

It seems as if the only safe space is in our own heads, and this is nothing new. Luckily, there is a tradition of sex-writing which features pleasure in all forms, and which serves as a consolation for having to live in the real world.

We need to find or create versions of the Land of Cockaigne, which Wikipedia describes as: “a land of plenty in medieval myth, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures are always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life does not exist. Specifically, in poems like “The Land of Cockaigne” it is a land of contraries, where all the restrictions of society are defied (abbots beaten by their monks), sexual liberty is open (nuns flipped over to show their bottoms), and food is plentiful (skies that rain cheese).” Apparently Cockaigne appeared often in the Latin verses of travelling scholars of the 12th and 13th centuries. It represented wish fulfillment in times of scarcity and resentment of the rules of the medieval Christian church.

Maybe the occasional trip to Cockaigne can help give us the energy to fight the general slide into a shortage of everything human beings need and want. Even (or especially) if a Sexual Revolution never really occurred, it seems like a worthy cause.


The Spirit of the Age

As far as I know, my revised erotic novel, Prairie Gothic (set in 1999) is ready to be released, but I haven’t heard from the publisher about a publication date. The process of revising something originally written in the 1990s prompted me to consider the definition of “historical fiction.” In a recent post on Facebook, legendary BDSM writer Patrick Califia claimed that historical fiction can’t cover an era in which the writer was alive. This is one limitation. I’ve also seen more-or-less arbitrary dates in the guidelines of various publishers (“historical fiction” defined as anything set before 1985 – or in some cases, before 1960.) And then there are theme calls-for-submissions specific to particular eras, e.g. Regency (1811-1820) or Victorian (1837-1901).

Technically, “history” is the past, period, including one’s personal history, which always intersects with general trends. The Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties (with their increasing dread of the New Millennium), and the early 2000s will never return, and they each had their own flavour.

I’ve seen discussions in the Writers list about sexual morality in the recent past. Specifically, I’ve seen questions about when it became socially acceptable (in “mainstream culture,” loosely defined) for women to have sex with anyone other than their husbands. That depends on whom you ask.

Let me introduce you to an early period in my scandalous life, from long before I entered the sex trade in the 1980s.

It was the early 1970s, and I was 21. I had recently moved out of my parents’ house and into my own cheap but adorable (IMO) apartment, the attic of an old house in the Cathedral Neighbourhood, which even then was described as the hip, artsy Greenwich Village of a Canadian prairie town with a population of about 100,000. My apartment had windows that faced east and west, so my bedroom was flooded with sunlight in the mornings, and sunsets glowed through the Indian-cotton curtains in my front room in the evenings.

I was taking classes part-time at the “New Campus” of the university, which required a bus ride or occasionally hitchhiking. (This particular route was travelled by university types, so I felt fairly safe getting rides with people who were usually less than six degrees of separation from me. My dad was a prof.)

My daylight hours between English classes were largely spent modelling for art classes on the “Old Campus,” a more picturesque location within walking distance of my apartment. Models for most art classes had to be nude. The secretary of Visual Arts told me it was hard to find people who were willing to pose naked for strangers, despite the attractive hourly wage. She told me that all the art profs were delighted with me because I was usually available, I showed up on time, and I took direction well. I was young and flexible, and I trained myself to hold still for relatively long periods.

I stayed calm when posed next to a skeleton, a venerable prop of Visual Arts which probably dated from the founding of the college in 1911. The prof would ask me to display myself, front and back, while he moved the skeleton, and the students were instructed to look for similarities. I was thin, so my bone structure was fairly easy to see.

When my parents found out how I was supporting myself, they were not happy. They managed to refrain from full-scale parental rage because they knew this would only alienate me from them.

There was a guy. He was slightly older than I was, and he was a friend of Joe, whose academic father had known mine forever. The guy claimed to have a girlfriend whose name reminded me of a doll or an X-rated cartoon. I’ll call her “Barbie.” The guy himself had the family name of a famous Scandinavian composer, to whom he was distantly related. He was proud of his Viking roots, so I’ll call him Erik.

I had come with Joe to visit Erik in his own apartment in an old house in the Cathedral neighbourhood, and we stayed past midnight. Erik offered us “coffee,” but he was looking at me. By then, I could guess what this really meant. Joe also seemed to catch the vibe, and said he had to leave. I told him I would stay a bit longer for coffee with Erik, and find my way home later.

That was our first night together. Erik seemed pleased that I was on the Pill, even though I didn’t have a steady boyfriend. I had been date-raped in my first year of university somewhere else, and I was determined not to risk getting pregnant in a chance encounter with any guy who might not take no for an answer.

Most of the guys I had met were convinced that a Sexual Revolution had already happened, and they valued spontaneity, riding the wave or going with the flow. The Pill gave me a way to control my own fertility without having to explain over and over again that unprotected sex is like Russian Roulette.

My affair with Erik became intense immediately. While my days were spent attending English classes, writing assignments and modelling, my nights belonged to him. The more time we spent together, the more I suspected that Barbie was his invention, or possibly a plastic sex doll in a closet, a form of protection from any girl who might expect him to make a commitment.

Erik claimed to have psychic powers. He was familiar with a tarot deck, and he read my fortune several times. What he saw in my future was alarming: violence, ill-gotten gains, addiction, incarceration, hints of early death. He mentioned that he had been a dope dealer in Sudbury, Ontario (home of the world’s largest nickel mine), where he claimed that everyone needed to stay high to ignore the ugliness of their surroundings. Apparently he had partied with bikers. I wondered aloud if he was seeing his own life in the cards, not my future.

I told Erik what I had told my concerned father: I was doing well in my English classes, which looked like a sign that I was capable of earning a degree with honours. When I modelled for art classes, I seemed untouchable, and no one even dropped a double-entendre on me. My stillness and my status as a live version of the skeleton apparently caused everyone in the room to think of me as an object, and I enjoyed floating out of my body for awhile. I was paid in paycheques by Visual Arts, not in crumpled bills by drunks.

I hated my parents` filthy smoking habit, and rebelled by being a non-smoker living in smoke-free space. I didn’t waste money on luxuries such as dope or alcohol, but I would accept a drink if someone else offered me one.

The more times I asked Erik how my current lifestyle could possibly be a portal to Hell, the more he snorted and rolled his eyes. One night, he suddenly announced that he wanted to marry Barbie because she was a fine girl, an education student who planned to become a teacher. I told him that teaching was one of the future careers I was considering, since it could easily be added to a degree in English. (At that point, I wanted to keep my options open.) Journalism had not yet become professionalized, so I could also imagine myself boldly walking into the office of a tough, squinting newspaper editor, ignoring his foul cigar and saying, “You don’t think you need me, but you do. I can write, and I’m like a bloodhound on the trail of a story.”

None of the scenarios I imagined in my future seemed plausible to Erik. He knew a Good Girl when he met one, and Barbie embodied that role. He wanted me to realize that I was not her.

I tolerated this nonsense, as I thought of it, until the day I went to visit Erik on a whim, and there was another girl with him. He introduced me to Barbie, his girlfriend. I babbled something and rushed out, feeling faint.

That should have been the end of my relationship with Erik, but it wasn’t. He invited me back when Barbie wasn’t there, and I recklessly answered the summons. By that time, I felt unbearably guilty about helping him cheat on the Woman of his Dreams, but I couldn’t bring myself to stop seeing him altogether. Things got worse. He was openly sarcastic about my scholarly pretensions when it was clear to him what I really was. I tried to change his mind, and felt like a failure when his sarcasm intensified.

Luckily for me, I had a chance to go to England for a year with my parents and sisters. I seized this chance, partly to get away from Erik. When I told him my news, I had a faint hope that he would beg me not to go. He barely twitched.

Did Erik marry Barbie, and did they have many obnoxiously well-behaved children? I have no idea. I never saw either of them again, and I was greatly relieved when Erik’s predictions for my future didn’t come true, at least not exactly. In England, I met another man who wasn’t good for me, though I couldn’t see it at the time. But that is another story.

Old Poison in New Bottles

By Jean Roberta

I was lucky enough to be young when the “Sexual Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s was happening, and it coincided with the birth of “Second Wave” feminism, so called because it looked like a revival of “First Wave” feminism, which gathered strength from about 1850 to the First World War, when adult women gained the right to vote in Britain, the U.S. and Canada.

The guys I dated in high school and afterward all wanted me to know that sex was a wonderful thing, and that I had no logical reason to say no, since we were living in a time of sexual freedom and Women’s Lib. I even heard rumors about exotic experiments in “group marriage” or communal living in cultural meccas such as San Francisco. I really hoped that the old sexual double standard was dying out all over the world.

As an erotic writer, I would love to write realistic stories about relationships based on pleasure for everyone involved, as well as general good will. I only have to turn on my TV to realize that a culture that would support such generosity is still nowhere in sight.

To write about women who are sexually exuberant, creative, as horny as animals in heat, yet also intelligent, practical and powerful, I need to write fantasy. I can’t see any alternative. A world in which women are not horribly stigmatized for enjoying sex outside the bonds of monogamous marriage (or for openly enjoying sex at all) is not the world we live in. Even now.

Consider the latest news in the media. I understand that the birth of an heir to the British throne is newsworthy, but realistically, neither the little princeling nor anyone else in his family is in a position to govern an empire. Not anymore. The arrival of little Prince George was really not a political issue, yet a horde of reporters has been endlessly commenting on the miracle of an ordinary birth, the new mother’s wardrobe, the princeling’s pedigree, and the reactions of everyone on the scene. Why has this event pushed every war off the front page of every English-language newspaper? Could it be a hysterical celebration of traditional marriage and childbearing? Could it be that Princess Kate is being held up as a model for all women in contrast to the waywardness of her deceased mother-in-law, Princess Diana?

Well, maybe I’m being a grinch about all this. The princeling looks cute (as far as I can tell) and his parents look happy. I wish them all well.

However, there’s more. Anthony Weiner, currently running for Mayor of New York City, was caught “sexting” yet again. He has apologized to his wife and the voting public for making inappropriate comments to someone in cyberspace, and for displaying his, um, weiner. He has apologized and asked for public support.

Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York state, another married man who was caught in an indiscretion, is now running for Comptroller of New York. He also hopes the public can forgive him, and he has supporters.

While we’re focusing on New York, let’s consider Melissa Petro, who is not currently featured in the news. She is a gorgeous young woman who sold sex via Craigslist for 11 months while she was a graduate student. In due course, she earned her degree and a job as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx. By all accounts, she was loved by her students and respected by her colleagues. In September 2010, she protested the closing of the “adult services” section of Craigslist by writing about her experience under her real name.

See her piece, “Thoughts from a Former Craigslist Sex Worker” here:

The administration of her school discovered this admirably clear, brief, straightforward article and fired Melissa. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg himself, said that she should be removed from the classroom. Since then, she has not been able to find another teaching job. It looks as if her teaching career has ended because she is known as a Fallen Woman. So much for human rights in the workplace.

Maybe Canada is a more humane country for young women to live in. After all, Canadian women got equal status with men (on paper) in 1982, when the Charter of Equality Rights was signed. In 1983, our laws against rape (as it used to be called) were thoroughly overhauled, it was renamed sexual assault, and no longer has anything to do with the victim’s reputation, in theory. In 2005, we got same-sex marriage, which implies that all spouses (including the heterosexual majority) have equal status under the law.
Surely any girl who is growing up in Canada now is even better-off than I was. But no.

In September 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd, who lived near Vancouver, British Columbia (on the west coast) posted a heartbreaking 9-minute video about how she had been hounded since she sent an image of her naked breasts via webcam to a man she met in cyberspace. This event eventually caused her to change schools twice in a fruitless effort to escape being persecuted as a “bad girl.” After two unsuccessful suicide attempts which were met with ridicule, she succeeded in October 2012.

This was not an isolated case. A 17-year-old on the opposite coast (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) hanged herself in April 2013. Rehtaeh Parsons had been persecuted for two years, since four boys had sex with her at a drunken teenage bash, someone photographed the scene with a cellphone, and these pictures went viral. Rehtaeh’s mother has defined the event as gang-rape and has criticized local police for not taking action sooner. A national reporter on court cases, Christie Blatchford, has claimed there was not enough evidence in this case to prosecute anyone for sexual assault.

Rehtaeh’s stepfather responded to Christie Blatchford by pointing out that Rehtaeh’s state of intoxication (as shown in the cellphone images) indicated that she could not have given meaningful consent.

Any resemblance to another recent case involving a drunken teenage bash in Steubenville, New York, is painfully obvious.

I am not interested in arguing whether Rehtaeh Parsons was sexually assaulted or not, or whether Amanda Todd, as a “child,” responded to a dare by exposing herself to a stranger because she didn’t know any better. Re Melissa Petro, she was a grown woman who clearly arranged to meet men for the purpose of exchanging sexual services for money.

None of these events seems to me to be an adequate reason for the orgy of harassment, ostracism and life-threatening abuse that followed. As far as I can see, none of this is about “bullying in school” or the ages of the victims or the use of modern technology (evil computers). This is about the persistent, irrational hatred of young women who are perceived to be sexual beings.

This is Biblical, like the stoning of the woman taken in adultery—except that, in that case, Christ was her advocate.

When reading and hearing about these cases, I find it hard to stay calm and focus on writing fiction. Whatever happens to male politicians who cheat on their wives, in person or in cyberspace, they are not subjected to the lynch-mob persecution of any woman who is even suspected of being less than “pure.”

So far, the media loves Princess Kate, with her breezy, “modern” fashion sense and her apparent immersion in an ancient feminine role. As long as she never steps out of line, she might not be attacked.

We all need to imagine and create a better culture. We need it now, before another case hits the headlines.


Why Aren’t We Sexually Liberated Yet?

By Donna George Storey

Hard as this might be to believe, in the 1960’s and 1970’s “liberal” was not a dirty word. Today you must be brave even to use the euphemism “progressive,” but there was a time, or so it seemed to my youthful, idealistic self, when many believed that if we recognized the evils of racism, poverty and sexism, our society could quickly come up with solutions and move forward to a just world for all. Of particular relevance to this blog is the Sexual Revolution, which once promised liberation from the rigid morals of the past—which, let’s face it, were chiefly about controlling sexuality with fear and shame to assure a man of his paternal rights.

When I came of age in the late 1970’s, remnants of the bad old ways still lingered—I was often called a slut for the sin of being comfortable discussing and joking about sex, for example–but I was confident my children wouldn’t be troubled by the virgin/whore complex or face obstacles to reproductive self-determination.

As we all know, I was wrong.

Fortunately, I can point to one area of “progress.” Erotica, once discreetly swathed in brown paper wrappers, is now burning up the bestseller charts. It’s even possible for an author to use her own name without being socially ruined (discretion is still advised depending on your job and community standards). Yet Lisabet Sarai has correctly pointed out that the genre’s commercial success has led to homogenization. There are exceptions, but for the most part publishers and readers bring certain expectations to their erotica reading experience—to the detriment of originality, surprise and depth. In that sense, the more the genre has “succeeded,” the more freedom of expression has suffered.

More disturbing is Jean Roberta’s recent discussion of our society’s efforts to silence honest discussion of the sexuality of anyone under eighteen. Public discourse on the topic tends to hysteria, allowing for no nuance or complexity. Suggest a lesbian seventeen-year-old should have access to intelligent, thoughtful information about her sexual orientation and to some minds you’re no different from the founders of the North American Man Boy Love Association. Be but under suspicion for downloading child pornography (which could actually mean a 17-year-old consensually sending a topless photograph she took of herself for her lover’s eyes, although we all immediately imagine the very worst kinds of brutal victimization), and you’re condemned without a trial. It’s an effective way to silence us all with fear just like the old days.

The sexual abuse of a child is a heinous crime, and even speaking of it pains me. I am also horrified by the physical and emotional abuse of helpless children as well as the suffering caused by the refusal to provide medical care and food to impoverished children, although that far more common misuse of adult power seems to elicit little concern among lawmakers. I’m also deeply saddened by an environment where a natural human instinct cannot be discussed in any way that would suggest enjoyment or any positive outcome other than pregnancy. Far too many people feel shame about their sexualty because of ignorance, and thus are vulnerable throughout their lives in a childlike way to those who would exploit that shame (to the profit of capitalism mainly).

Jean’s column reminded me of a book I read recently by Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. The first section is all about why the author had such trouble publishing the book. And this is 2002 when the tolerance and enlightenment that first blossomed in the 1960’s ideally should have been fully incorporated into our national consciousness. Alas, the Big Five publishers might cautiously publish a book by a Ph.D. on sexual dysfunction or the dangers of the hook-up scene, but a suggestion that sex education for those under 18 should mention pleasure was too incendiary for the printed page. It was eventually published by a university press.

Such is progress in our time.

Erotica writers explore the pleasures of sex in their writing—that is in fact why and how our work is categorized as erotica. Characters must bizarrely exist without a sexual thought or feeling until their eighteenth birthday, but I have personally found enough to fascinate me in the erotic lives of happily married middle-aged couples, a relatively new territory of outrageous sexual expression that has yet to be made illegal. Yet Jean’s column got me thinking that in writing (the world of imagination) as well as law (the world of real actions), the rules designed to protect the innocent are arbitrarily applied.

For example, although the TV adaption underplays the ages of the protagonists as written in the books, the wildly popular Game of Thrones is bursting with sexually active teenagers and incestuous relationships of various kinds. Why do they get away with it without any of their millions of viewers protesting or engaging in copycat behavior? Is it only because the sinners suffer imprisonment, death, thoroughly evil spawn or miserable, miserly lives so that “pleasure” is clearly married with punishment? Or think back to Risky Business, Tom Cruise’s breakthrough movie, about a highschooler who earns money by running a brothel in his house while his parents are away. Skinny boys obviously in their early teens are shown cashing in savings bonds to take advantage of the new local business. Shouldn’t this horrible and dangerous endorsement of perverted entrepreneurship be pulled from the market as harmful to our morals? Yet somehow it has eluded the eyes of the censors.

Sometimes I fear we’re moving backwards or at best sideways.

Yet perhaps I am being too impatient. The pace of modern life accelerates, but revolutions always take time to root and flower. The rise of the middle class took centuries—let’s hope its reported fall is equally leisurely. Why shouldn’t a more enlighted view of sexuality be allowed a lifetime or two to stick? There are some promising signs that the progressive spirit need not despair. An African-American is president. Gay marriage is gaining mainstream approval, most promisingly among the young. A respectable married woman like E.L. James uses a pseudonym, but nonetheless appears in public to be celebrated for her provocative story. The forces of profound change provoke reaction, but democracy is slowly gaining ground throughout the world and in new, more subtle ways like self-publishing.

Okay, I’m feeling a wee bit better now.

Twenty-first century society is not as liberal as I imagined it would be 40 years ago, but I have to admit, we’re better off now in important ways. So I’ll do what I’ve always done–keep writing erotica, calling myself a progressive and doing whatever I can to make liberation a reality.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt



Pin It on Pinterest