Tag Archives: why i write

Freedom to Write: On Truth, Courage, & the Right to Write

The writer’s relationship with the truth is a curious thing. Today, I’m thinking of writing’s power after hearing about pianist James Rhodes’ legal victory for free speech. He is finally legally allowed to publish his memoir detailing extreme abuse and frequent rapes inflicted on him as a boy.

It offends me that he had the courage to write this searing book on his abuse only to have some asshole of a judge ban it because it’s “offensive” material. What a cruel irony.

Truth won this week. Writers should rejoice.

James Rhodes: Pianist, Author, Free Speech Hero. Photo from Herald Sun.

James Rhodes: Pianist, Author, Free Speech Hero. Photo from Herald Sun.

As writers, those of us with the courage to rip off the Band-aid and expose our wounds to others, we change lives. We inspire people with our struggles. Not just me, anyone who does it. The writers I admire most, even bloggers, are people who dive head-first into the human condition without apology. Fear, pathos, doubt, rage, lust, angst, pettiness — it’s all who we are. How dare you sanitize that?!

So many people are comfortable with glossing over their ideas so to be palatable to the broadest spectrum of people. They are who I find offensive.

Those who would tone it down, dress it up, soften it, take the edge off — they feel to me like betrayals in wartime.

Life may not be war, but it’s certainly a struggle for all of us. Everything we do is measured and weighed in ounces of joy, heartbreak, satisfaction, or any other emotional currency you devise.

Sanitizing that so it can be swallowed by the least open-minded of us offends me to my core.

Writing close to the bone can’t be done by everyone — it’s too hard. The more harrowing and authentic it gets, the harder it is to push through it. Being truly honest with yourself is challenging enough, but pressing “publish” and sending it to the hungry hoards — that’s truly daunting stuff.

I don’t know how my writing has evolved over the years — I’m too busy doing it to analyze it. I can tell you that what has definitely changed over the years is the reason why I write so openly. I’ve learned no matter how open and honest I am with my words on a page, my readers are never in my head. They’ll never experience the world as I do, be in a moment with me. And I’m grateful for that. In that way, being open doesn’t feel like being laid completely bare, no matter what my end-reader might think.

My fingers always filter my experience. I keep a little for me, share a little with you, and we both get what we want.

What’s also changed is that I’ve learned the value of sacrificing that part of my experience for public consumption. Much of the time my words just fly by folks, like dust on the wind. Hopefully, it finds those who need it at the time.

Nine years ago, I wrote about my mother’s death in a way that ripped both the Band-aid and some skin off. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. After struggling with the words for three weeks, I published it, it went out in the world, and fell silent thereafter, like an echo in a dark cave. Or so I thought.

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Now and then I’d meet someone who’d mention that post, how it moved them or changed them. One day, I got a PayPal email. A woman in Germany sent me $500, to this day still the biggest donation I’ve ever received. She wrote that she cried for half an hour, then went and sent it to everyone she knew. She finally found something that explained her grief over her mother’s death in a way that others could understand.

For me, that was a life-changing moment. It was as self-affirming as having a blog post go viral with 250,000+ reads in a couple days. I know, because I’ve been there too.

Having one person, though, say I finally put words to a pain they couldn’t voice — I mean, that still gives me shivers now. When someone pulls me aside at an event and tells me what my words meant to them, I play it cool, but inside I’m doing cartwheels.

Because that’s what we fucking do this for. That’s why we probe the dark places. That’s why we risk sharing them. It’s not enough to understand what’s going on with us, or seek understanding. Helping others do the same, that’s the pay-off.

I’m no guru. I don’t have life figured out. Lord knows I’m trying. But that’s the thing. Life isn’t one-size-fits-all. What’s right for you won’t be right for me.

For example, I got friends with the perfect family life. Several friends are doing parenthood and marriage in such a fabulous way that I know, if marriage was my thing, I’d do it just like them.

That makes me vomit a little, though. It’s great for them, but the mere thought of that life fills me with nauseousness and unease.

You know those moms you hear about who start out good, but come apart in a haze of addiction and depression because they feel like the kid wrecked their life, and they hate themselves for it because they also love the kid and know just how much they’re fucking that child up?

That’d have been me. If I were a mother, I’d love the kid, but I’d spiral into a depression I’d then chase with alcohol and drugs in hopes of taking the edge off my self-loathing. As a result, I’d neglect my child, my child would grow up knowing that they were the reason for my self-loathing.

I laugh at people who say “Oh, but you don’t KNOW that.” And you do? Come on. This is my head.

Does it make me evil, knowing this about myself? Or does it make me courageous to admit I could never be Suzie Homemaker? Either way, I don’t give a shit, because it’s simply what’s true. I’ve decided against doing that to another human being. Good for me.

So what’s wonderful for my friends would probably destroy me. My story, though, isn’t the prevailing mantra we hear in the media. Instead, we’re told family is the ultimate reward in life, that an existence without children means no legacy will follow us. What idiocy.

This is why we need different voices in the mix. We all have different truths. From the things that define us through to the roads we should take in life, there is no one universal account.

I never would have imagined I’d be packing up my life to be a nomad, but somewhere deep inside me, I wonder how it took so long to see that this was what I needed to do. Writing about this “pre-journey” phase has been teaching myself a lot about who I am and what I need. Sharing that with others, I think, is a great dialogue to begin.

Maybe, thanks to following my journey so far, someone somewhere has already realized they’re trapped in a life not right for them. Maybe my reasoning has helped another person create a bold new dream for their life.

I don’t know. I don’t care. I’d still write about it anyhow. Catharsis is its own drug.

In the end, putting my story on page is probably powerful for someone, somewhere. Maybe I’ll never meet them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have the right to say “This is my life. This is how I see the world.”

Speaking to our experience, sharing with others, that’s what humans have used their words for since time began. How can a court steal that right from anyone in our supposedly western, free society?

James Rhodes fought for our right to own what has happened to us. To share what has been done to us. He fought for our ability to have community, empathy, and understanding with others.

And he won. Today, all writers, and all readers, are the richer for it. Thanks, James.

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Who I Am and Why I Bother

Hi, there. I’m Steff, and I’ll be your pilot.

I seem to be getting new readers every day, and I wonder what their reactions are when they get here. I’d like to say a little about myself and what my little mission is. So. Without ado.

Who am I? Well, I ain’t your standard-issue sex writer. I’m cute, but I’m more comfortable in jeans and a funky shirt than anything else. I ride a scooter. I listen to indie rock and know what the inside of a mosh pit looks like. I work with kids sometimes. I’m smart, I’m independent, I live alone, and I’d rather be single than in a less-than-filling relationship. I went to Catholic school as a kid, was elected to the student body in college, always had good grades, used to volunteer a lot, always have done well professionally, can work a room and schmooze with the best of ‘em, have never worked in a sex trade, haven’t had a lot of partners due to old-school ethics… Et cetera.

In short, I really am the good girl next door who likes to play a little bad from time to time. Any parent in the world would be thrilled to have me in the family, but god forbid they ever find the home videos.

As a result, being a do-gooder goodie-two-shoes for most of my life, coming to terms with my sexuality has been a long and hard path. I went through hellacious battles with self-esteem, with judgment, and with self-scrutiny. I wondered if giving head meant I was a whore. I was scared that being a hard-core lover girl in the bedroom would mean I’d find a $100 bill by the bed when I was through. I didn’t want to be this thing I had inside of me, this chick who wanted to tear into a guy’s flesh and devour him whole. It was dirty, wrong, and in God’s eyes, not something I should do. Sex was for procreation, not for entertainment, was the memo I’d gotten.

I was passionately religious in my youth, and it’s the case with anything I ever come to believe: I get behind it with a vengeance. Catholicism was no different. The Sound of Music was my favourite film (and I have the special edition on DVD now, heh — “the hills are alive with the sound…”). I wanted to be a nun. (It’s why there’s a really sexy nun in the banner of this site. Hell, she gets me hot. I like to imagine sometimes that I really did it, I became a nun, and some man some where gets me so goddamned riled that I throw down my Bible and my rosary and take ‘im down then and there. Well, there’s always role-playing.)

I kid you not, man, but every time they spoke of Jesus getting spikes driven through his wrists, I had to sit on my hand ‘cos I could imagine the pain of stigmata. I remember the funny look my mother gave me when I told her that at the age of eight. She said, slowly, “Well, that’s very… pious of you.”

It was fucked. I was intense. I drank the Kool-aid, and then I learned about the world at large in my teens. I began reading about cults, about the myth of religion, about the world religions, and I learned all the similarities and all the fear tools. I began asking why a god who was supposed to be love personnified would make us bodies that could know such incredible pleasure, and then sit back and laughingly tell us it was a sin to know it. Not the god I had in mind, I thought. I started walking away from organized faith while swearing to keep the ethic (and I have). Then began the slow process of learning to get past guilt.

Then that was followed by this process of really owning my self and my body on my own terms, learning about sexuality. I began seeing what the lack of sexual expression seemed to do to all the old housewives and husbands I knew. I knew I never wanted to get old that way. And I wanted to be alive now.

I then explored my sexuality in the confines of my relationships, and was doing really well at learning about my more confident self inside.

But then, life. Life threw me a curveball, tossed me some death and depression, heartache and loss, and I gained weight, lost my sex drive, and with it, a lot of my will to live life as it deserves to be lived. Whew, I fell apart for about three or four years, into this horrible cavernous place of blackness, despair, and shame.

Then, whammo. Got into an accident, should’ve died, didn’t, realized I was the luckiest bitch ever, and a stupid one for wasting my life, got my shit in gear, began losing weight, got back into writing, and started having some serious experiences in the circle of life once again.

Rediscovering my sexuality* for a second time, after literally learning that whatever didn’t kill me made me better, stronger, faster, has been a fucking miraculous experience. Every week I’m a better, cooler, sexier chick who’s more in touch with who she was than seven days previous.

So this place is as much a record of my journey – but with certain details kept for my enjoyment only – as it is a reflection of my anger for having to have fought this hard this long to get where I am now. Women, when it comes to sexuality, are the victims of a system that has idealized the notion of sex without ever really talking about what the real components of it should be. Men, therefore, are victimized by a system of their own making. Funny how that works. We live in a society that fucking worships sex and hasn’t got a goddamned clue how to have it. This, my friends, is the Age of Irony.

And some of us out here on our sexual soapboxes hope to turn the attention where it needs to be – on the fact that this is an act shared between consenting adults using only what “God” gave them, their bodies. How sex ever became perceived as being so amoral is beyond me. It can be wildly fun, tragically passionate, incredibly tender… sex can be anything you want it to be.

If you only know what you want.

And I guess that’s what my goal is. To play a small part in helping people learn what they want. By writing positively in an everyday gal kind of way about sexuality and about sex acts that are normally written by people who are, well, a little more enthusiastic and lifestyle-ish about it, I try to take what some might consider exceptional sex back into the realm of the ordinary.

I’m just an ordinary gal with an extraordinary appreciation of sex. And I like to share. So, welcome to my world. I hope you stick around awhile.

*The interesting thing is, the more I learn about my own sexuality, the more I realize I need to know about others’. Every human body is unique, but there are commonalities of experience, and the more we learn about others’ loves and needs, the more we’re able to adapt to our own. It’s when I stopped looking at just me for my growth that I finally began to grow. We need others. And sexuality, well, it’s about others.

Christmas Night Musings of Aloneness, a la Bridget Jones

(Ed. Note: In my semi-drunken/contented state last evening, I wrote this and spontaneously published it without editing it. I awoke, and suddenly thought “what have I done?” and then saved as draft, suspecting I might’ve been too open. I’ve since received some very thoughtful, considerate emails, which leaves me thinking I should keep it up… although I’m not too comfortable with that, but it’s really great to get comments like those. Thanks. If you interpret this to think I’m really lonely, then don’t — I’m not. I’m just aware of my aloneness, and that’s an altogether different matter. Without further ado…)

Steff is drunk. Why, a Christmas tradition, no? GayBoy and I get together each Xmas eve to drink, and eat, and be merry, and to watch an “anti-Xmas Xmas movie.” What is that, you ask? A film that contains Christmas, but is not about it. For example, Gremlins, Die Hard, etc. This year? Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Some days, I feel like Bridget Jones. I belt out alongside classic “Ain’t you lovin’ me yet” type songs, just like Bridget. I flap my lips and say the most inappropriate things at the worst times, oh, so fucking often, really. “Flippant” is an adjective which often precedes my name. I have gotten into boatloads of trouble for saying what occurs to me in each and every job I’ve ever held. I watch cheesy films, drink a little (much), and sometimes wallow in my singleness. I often deliberate before a date about whether it will result in getting laid, and whether I should wear the sexy panties, or the “granny” panties that will hide my figure under my clothes, but be oh, so unattractive should said clothes be peeled off in a heavy makeout session on the floor.

BJD is one of those “time of the month” classics with obscene insights into the single girl. I remember working in the bookstore, and whenever someone was looking for a gift for a 25-40ish woman, I’d simply open the book to any random page, scan it, read a short snippet, and presto, sold. Why? Because it’s true. Because as many good things there are about being single, there’s ultimately something shitty about not having a warm body next to you in bed. That’s not pessimism or cynicism, it’s realism. There’s something blissful about having warm skin within reach when you’re under the covers, and we all know it. That smell, that feel, that knowledge… it’s all so very good.

And there’s no worse morning to wake alone than on Christmas, as Armistead Maupin wrote in his San Fran classics, Tales of the City. But you know what? 24 hours passes, and it’s Boxing Day. Presto, life goes on.

Although there’s nothing I want more than to not be single right now, I have to say, I’m all right with it. I’d love to wake up on Christmas with some 6’+ god of sinewy pleasure lying next to me, with an orgasm on order, but there’s something appealing about rolling out of bed on my own, to a hot bath and a pot of coffee, and not one iota of bullshit to deal with, lazy clothes at hand, and the ability to be my “worst” self on a day that really deserves laziness.

You all read this blog for whatever reason you’ve found to be here, and that’s great. Welcome to it. I write it for my own reasons. In a lot of ways, this is a journey to a new place for me, regardless of where I’ve been before. That place isn’t really something I’m comfortable sharing as of yet, and I’m proud that I know where to draw the line when it comes to divulging the secrets of Steff, despite my quest to become vulnerable at will during this past year.

I’m caught up in the spirit of what I consider to be this season, that of self-reflection, but also, that of willing change — what with New Years and its resolutions fast on our heels. While I’ve been reflecting plenty on here of late, there’s been far more screaming in my mind that I’ve kept to myself, and will continue to do so, for the short-term, at least.

Whatever the stressors, whatever the frustrations, there’s something unforgettable that I love about this season, single or not. I love the feeling of being conscious of my values, of knowing my wants, my needs. I love the spirit of giving that comes this time of year. I’d love to share that giving in every way with a man who deserves a little getting, but since I can’t, I’ll have a hot bath instead, and maybe indulge some dirty thoughts I’ve been nursing.

And y’know what? That’ll be just fine.