Good Girl Gone Bad: Sucking Up, Getting Down and Risky Encounters in the Kitchen


Good girl, bad girl. Virgin, whore. This age-old categorization of women based on their sexual experience should be nothing more than a quaint and dusty relic of the past. But it’s not. That’s one of the many things I’ve learned this year as I’ve tried to promote my first erotic novel [Amorous Woman]. In fact, I discovered that these stereotypes are as vigorous and fertile as an heirloom tomato plant in late summer.

This lesson was driven home several times as I visited independent bookstores in the hope they would support a local author and carry my book. Some of the book buyers were cordial and supportive, but a surprising number informed me they did not carry erotica. Period.

Before I became a published novelist, I most certainly would have wilted at such a bald rejection. But there’s something about holding your own baby novel in your arms that brings out a maternal ferocity. So instead I’d square my shoulders and argue with them.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but my first line of defense involves a resuscitation of the good-girl/bad-girl dichotomy. To prove I was the former, I’d trot out my academic credentials: “This isn’t what you think. I have a Ph.D. in Japanese literature, you see, and this book is based on a Japanese classic and….”

“Sorry,” the stony-faced ladies would say (the stonewallers were always proper ladies), “I know just what I’m looking at here. Your book is pulpy trash with a nearly-naked woman on the cover, and we don’t sell that kind of thing in our shop, so get back on the street where you belong.”


Of course, there’s a bright side to my humiliation. As an apparently model good girl who always wanted to be bad, the painful task of “selling myself” is finally helping me to achieve my life-long goal.

Yes, my naughty girl urges go way back. I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday walking past the smoking area of my high school on the way to another A.P. class. I’d never fail to glance, with a mixture of distaste and longing, at the kohl-eyed girls flirting with the tough boys, cancer sticks poised jauntily in their hands. Just for a moment I wanted to step away from my earnest path to lounge on the ash-flecked steps, my every languorous move a “fuck you” to the teachers I strove to please.

More telling still was the time in college I dragged a male friend to Macy’s lingerie department and tried on a series of nightgowns for him, from a frilly, high-necked flannel gown straight from Laura Ingalls Wilder to a slinky black negligee. To my utter disappointment he gave his vote to the Little House on the Prairie nightie. The sexy ones just weren’t me, he declared with rather too much conviction. Unfortunately, he was not alone in his opinions. Consensus had it I belonged on the prairie, not in the bordello.

I was so bad at being bad, after a while, I just gave up. For the next fifteen years or so I buried my yearnings and got on with the good life. I racked up the high grades and degrees, first instinctively, then consciously aware that what I was really learning was how to please my professors. Much of what the world calls “success” is indeed making the powers-that-be—whether it’s the boss or King Consumer — happy and coming back for more.

But then, at the ripe age of thirty-five, I discovered erotica writing. That turn in the road has led me to some naughty—and very delicious—places indeed.

The erotic impulse thrives on trangression, that is, being “bad.” That truism needs no reference, but I rediscovered it most recently in Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Basically Perel accepts the idea that marriage and hot sex are mutually exclusive. I don’t agree, but after reading her book I see that I have, first instinctively, now consciously, been following her prescription for injecting excitement into the conjugal bedroom. Married sex is boring because you’re supposed to have sex with your spouse. It’s safe, socially acceptable, “good.” And so you have to find some way to make it bad, so it can be really good.

I once suggested to a fellow backsliding friend that one advantage of being raised Catholic is that you enjoy sex more because it’s naughtier for us (likewise for anybody raised with a value system where having fun is a sin). She pursed her lips and intoned, “Sex with my husband isn’t naughty. It’s a beautiful act of love.” As I tend to reserve my arguments for prissy booksellers, I merely smiled and agreed, but inwardly I screamed “the hell it is, and thank God for that.”

Not that love and beauty and trust are missing from the recipe. I see that part of it as the bread slices of a Dagwood sandwich, necessary elements to give form and meaning to the unruly abundance of tasty goodies inside. In bed I am that bad girl all the way, so bad I sometimes need a spanking, but perhaps I should save such details for the October column on dress-up games?

But back to the role of erotica writing itself in the transformation of my life’s path. Of course, it’s served the obvious functions. My partner (that is, my husband, but “partner” sounds dirtier in this context) and I have been turned on and inspired by the erotica written by others. We’ve taken up the challenge to try activities and scenes from my own stories that stretch our boundaries. And, as I’ve mentioned before, the act of transforming experience into words has resulted in a greater sensual awareness and appreciation of what we do. These are all side benefits any marriage counselor, not to mention husband, would applaud—lady in the living room, whore in the bedroom.

There’s another more dangerous aspect to the writing, however. The “public” part of being a published writer makes me a “whore” in the living room, too. As the oh-so-proper booksellers constantly remind me, I have stepped over the line, straight into to that great brothel of our culture’s consciousness.

How could something so wrong feel so right?

I’ll admit I sometimes exploit this unfortunate throwback to female oppression for my marketing purposes as well. My research has shown that people find it interesting—or should I say titillating?–that a former professor is writing erotica. I know I certainly fantasized about my mostly male professors during those long, boring lectures. The more staid their outer demeanor, the more depraved they acted in my daydreams. As a feminist, in theory I’d like to wipe out all notions of an active sexuality making girls or boys “bad.” Yet the playfulness of the erotic imagination suggests we can also use rules and categories to enrich and expand our sexual experiences rather than punish or blame.

I’m doing my best to try.

Tomato plants and Dagwood sandwiches—there’s not been much food in my column so far, which is a shame since September marries the waning offerings of summer with fall’s sweet apples, pears and nuts. But I must add that my mid-life daring has found expression in my kitchen as well and this misbehavior, too, has changed my life for the better.

For me, a well-written cookbook can be as provocative as high-quality erotica. Over the years countless recipes have aroused me to some hot, steamy action in my kitchen. Good girl that I was, however, I was always careful to follow the directions to the letter. I’d run out to the store for missing ingredients or spices, measure and time with scrupulous care. I could never try anything new unless some “expert” had done it before me and mapped out the route.

Then we signed up for the box of local organic vegetables offered through my son’s school. At first I hadn’t wanted to commit myself. Wouldn’t it be constricting to have my week’s menu decided for me by some farmers’ convenience at the risk of having the relatively expensive produce go bad?

In a way, my fears were confirmed—but as anyone who’s tried bondage knows, constriction can be delightfully liberating. I was indeed given a fixed set of ingredients to work with every week, all fresh and in season and more delicious than anything I could buy at a supermarket. But instead of boxing me in, it finally set me free, because for the first time in my life I began creating my own recipes.

It started slowly. If the box had leeks, I’d substitute them for onion in a soup recipe. Low and behold, the sky didn’t fall. I got bolder, substituting cauliflower for potatoes in my Japanese curry recipe. Success. One day I created my own minestrone without even cracking a cookbook. It was one of the best soups we’d ever eaten. My pleasure at wandering off on my own was deep and visceral, not unlike the rush of writing my first erotic story.

I will admit that my years as a good cooking student making countless pots of soups and stews from a recipe made my improvisation possible and reasonably successful. Sure, I’ve had my flops, but for the most part I feel empowered, and newly in touch with the rhythms of the seasons. And so I conclude with a “recipe” for Empowerment Soup/Stew—for all you good boys and girls who want to be just a little bit bad this evening. Enjoy!

Donna’s “No-Recipe” Recipe for Empowerment Soup or Stew for Those Who Like to Misbehave By the Rules

(Serves 4 to 8 depending on how much stuff you put in)

1. Take inventory of what you have in this week’s organic vegetable box or your refrigerator and veggie bin. Decide whether you feel like a soup or stew and whether your present ingredients suggest a theme such as minestrone or Mexican corn and black bean soup. Or maybe it’s just potluck night in every sense of the word? Then take your chances—you never know what culinary masterpiece lies ahead.

2. Pull out a big, heavy-bottomed stockpot and set it on your favorite burner. Pour in a Tablespoon or two of olive oil.

3. Saute a combination of the following until limp:

An onion or two
A chopped leek or two
A few cloves of chopped garlic

4. Add a combination of the following crunchy vegetables:

A few stalks of minced celery
A few chopped carrots
Some chopped turnips, parsnips, rutabagas or potatoes
Peeled and cubed winter squash

5. Add 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth for a stew and up to 6 cups of liquid for a soup. Now’s the time to add a can of chopped tomatoes with juice and a cup of lentils if you plan to use them.

6. Sprinkle on any dried herbs you’d like to use for a richer broth. I’m fond of Penzey’s Italian Herb Mix for minestrone, cumin for Mexican-themed soups and sage for winter squash dishes. Bring the soup or stew to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

6. Add the crisp vegetables such as chopped zucchini or other summer squash, green beans, fresh tomatoes, fresh peas, chopped kale or Swiss chard. If you’d like to put a bit of pasta to the soup, do it now. Simmer another 5-10 minutes. Add more broth if needed.

7. At this point add any canned beans (black, pinto, or garbanzo) or tofu or frozen corn or peas. Heat until warmed through.

8. Finish off with fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, and Italian parsley or squeeze in some lemon or lime juice or a little white wine. Taste and adjust flavoring.

9. Give your creation your own special name and announce it proudly as you bring the steaming bowls to the table. Savor each bite sensuously and slowly….

Donna George Storey
September 2008

“Cooking up a Storey” © 2008 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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