Some stories find homes right away. You write them and send them off and the editor loves them and says yes, and you get all goosebumpled and squee-ish. Other stories are harder to find homes for. Not because they’re not good stories (ok, sometimes because they’re not good stories), but because they’re controversial or they hit an editor’s hot buttons or the publisher puts the veto on something because of the content.
“Beneath My Skin,” was rejected twice before it found a home in Women in Lust. It’s a good story. Actually, I believe it’s a damn good story. And the two editors who rejected it thought so too. The trouble with it is that it’s dangerous.
All stories are dangerous. Even the insipid ones like Twilight (in which scads of young women are learning to be blank slates and give up their everything for a guy who has the personality of a box of plastic). But some stories are more clearly dangerous. More obviously dangerous. Stories, about race and hate and homophobia. Stories about the ways we kill each other and break each other. Even stories about the ways in which we lift and heal each other. Stories about anger. About sex. About desire. About death.
Or in this case, a story about fear and power and knife play.
The reactions to “Beneath My Skin,” from early readers were often the same: “I don’t normally like reading about this topic, but I thought it was a great read,” or “I’m not into knife play, but this story was hot.” That need to preface their enjoyment of the story doesn’t bother me. Are they reading it? Yes. Are they enjoying it? Yes. Is it asking them to stretch their comfort level and see things from a new perspective? Yes. The fact that it makes them uncomfortable is not an issue for me. It is part of the job of writing, of stories, to make us reach and stretch.
You want safety? Watch the news. The news tells you that someone got raped. Someone got beat up at an Occupy event. Some teenage girl got spanked with a belt by her judge of a father. Someone saved a starving dog by the side of the road.
What makes any of that safe? It’s the reporting. These are the truths of the incident, but not the truths of what it means to be human. Those truths come after, as you sit at the dinner table and talk about it. As you tweet it. As you read the essays ten years later. That’s when the scary emotional truths emerge, the truths of why we do these things, why we fear them and loathe them and commit them.
The news gives us the face.
The stories give us the heart.
It’s part of why I write about a lot of things that aren’t “my things.” People want to categorize you based on what you put on the page. In my case, it’s mostly about sex. “Are you a furry?” “Are you a submissive?” “I read that story about the woman who was a dominant. Was that you?” “Do you really fuck girls on busses/in trains/on the subway steps?” “Do you actually get off on someone cutting you with a knife?”
Wouldn’t you like to know my real kinks? My real interest in sex and writing?
This story actually answers that. All of my stories answer that, if you read them carefully. Don’t look at the small truths. Not at the knife. Not at the kiss. Not at the way his hand moves across her skin.
Look at the emotional truths.
Here are some hints: No, it’s not about knife-play. No, it’s not about getting fucked while having a blade at my back. No, it’s not about having an orgasm.
It’s about opening ourselves to something greater than us. It’s about pushing past our safe places and seeing what lies beyond. It’s about taking the ‘real’ and turning it into something more, something that allows us to see the larger essence of our hearts and minds. It’s about touch and connection and those rare, precious moments where life splits us open and lets us be free
Thank you to Rachel Kramer Bussel for saying yes to this story, to Cleis for printing it, and to all the men and women who will read it, with trepidation, with pleasure, with pain, with fear, with joy.
You can read the opening of this story over at the awesome Smutketeers site, so here’s a bit of the middle…
“Beneath My Skin” Excerpt
Surprisingly, the first thing Kade did when he got in the car was to take the knife out of its box and hand it over to me. It weighed more than I expected, fitting into my palm and hanging off it like a live thing. “Get familiar to it,” he said. “Open and close it. The blade is seriously sharp though. I wouldn’t recommend touching the edge.”
“But…” I was confused, and disappointed. I didn’t want to learn about it. I didn’t want to hold it or use it. I wanted him to wield it, to scare me and arouse me with it.
He turned from the wheel, his expression saying everything. Those golden eyes could turn into steel if I disobeyed, especially when it was something important. “Handle it,” he said. “Or I’ll return it right now.”
I handled it. The whole ride home, as he took the side streets and went slow and I fondled the gift he’d given me. At first, I was afraid to open it, so I held it, letting the weight of it rest on my palm. With my other hand, I traced the lines of the handle, the almost filigree-like design in it. It could have been a flower. Or snakes entwined.
Finally, I opened it. Not like Kade did. A slow, soft open that made my pulse stutter in my wrist. He wasn’t kidding — the blade was so sharp and thin. I could see how sharp it would be against someone’s skin, how easily it could cut right through body and bone. It made me want to throw it away, just roll down my window and chuck it into the road. I was afraid to admit that it also made me wet. I could feel the heat soaking my jeans, even before Kade reached over and put his free hand between my legs, curling his fingers into damp fabric.
Still, he was right. Handling it made me more afraid. But it also made me less afraid. And, beneath that, the other thing that I knew was true, even if I wasn’t sure I wanted to admit it yet: afraid or not, I wanted it. I wanted that knife in Kade’s hands. I wanted him to cut my clothes off, piece by piece, the knife so close to my skin, but not touching. I wanted him to bend me over and fuck me with it. But more than that, I wanted to know what it felt like when he put that blade against my skin, scraped it over my back, dragged the tip between my shoulder blades. I wanted to hold so still that I was sweating, to hear his voice above me, reassuring me while he fingered me with one hand and cut me open with the other.
And do visit the other sites who will be hosting bits and pieces of the book for the rest of the Women in Lust book tour.20 The Four Horsewomen of the Metropolis 21 The Green Light District 22 Leilani Loves Books 23 The Dirty Geisha – Exile in Smutville 24 XOXO and All That Jazz 25 Erotica du Jour 26 My Whole Sex Life 27 Un Frisson Nouveau 28 Erotica for All 29 Del Carmen 30 Writing Sex
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.