A Sex Writer’s Defense of Visual Porn

MyeroticxfilesWords or pictures? When it comes to erotica, what turns you on? And why? For me, it’s almost always about the pictures — something I feel a little odd about, what with being a porn writer and all.

The Good Vibrations magazine has just started running a photo gallery — and they’ve published my piece, A Sex Writer’s Defense of Visual Porn, as part of their opening festivities. If you’re interested in the “dirty pictures versus dirty books” question — or if you’re curious about why a dedicated sex writer turns to photos and videos when it’s time to get off — come check it out. Here’s a taste:

“It’s about feeling like I’m really there. The pictures don’t just make it easier for me to imagine the scene — they make it easier for me to project myself into it. Having a picture thrust into my brain makes me feel like I’m there; like I’m one of the people in the scene, or a new person wedging myself into the goings-on, or even an invisible voyeur watching it all up close. And that’s true whether the pictures are photos of real dirty people doing real dirty things, or drawings of dirty people doing made-up dirty things that an artist thought up.”

SpankTo read the rest, come visit the Good Vibrations Magazine. There’s tons of great writing in addition to mine — and now they have dirty pictures, for drooling perverts like me!

People Who Bought This Book Also Bought…

I was doing a variant on ego-Googling and checking the “people who bought this book also bought” feature for my two books. Amazon’s are really boring and predictable — people who bought “Paying For It” bought other books about sex work, and people who bought “Three Kinds of Asking For It” bought other Susie Bright collections. Ho hum.

But Last Gasp’s are hilarious — and weirdly apt.

Threekindsblog_2At Last Gasp, people who bought “Three Kinds of Asking For It” also bought:

Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture
This Is Heroin
Baby! (a collection of baby-themed graphics from India)
The Copyright Handbook: How to Protect and Use Written Works
J&L Illustrated 2 (an illustrated fiction collection)
The Skullz Press Compendium (tattoo-inspired graffiti art)
Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir
Even a Daughter Is Better than Nothing (a travel book about Outer Mongolia)

PayingcoverblogOn the other hand, people at Last Gasp who bought “Paying For It” also bought:

Original Bondage Fairies 5
The Illustrated Book of Dominatrices
Cherry 6
Cherry 8
Cherry 9
Cherry 10
New Bondage Fairies 1
Bad Girl

So people who are buying literary smut are also pursuing an eclectic assortment of modern cultural interests, only occasionally connected to sex. And people who are buying the guidebook for sex work customers are pretty much buying dirty comics and dirty picture books.

And good for them. Both groups.

On the Rhythms of Writing and Fucking Off

A few months ago, a good budding writer asked me for advice about writing. I gave her what I hope was good advice — but I had a recent revelation about how I write, one that I feel like an idiot about not catching on to earlier, and I want to share it with her, and with the rest of the class.

My revelation was this: In order to write, I need a large block of uninterrupted time. Several hours at least. I can’t have a writing schedule where I write for two hours every day — I’ll get fuck-all done.

Here’s why. It apparently takes me a long time to rev up my writing engine. I can’t just sit down with guns a-blazing — I have to ease into it, start the gears turning slowly. In a typical writing day, I start off just mucking about on the computer for a while: doing email, updating my Website, submitting finished pieces to publishers, that sort of thing. (I often get a fair amount of writing-related business done in this time, but it’s almost never the actual writing part.) Once I’m settled into that groove, I start reworking drafts, polishing and rewriting pieces where the basic churning-out of ideas has already been done. (Blogging usually happens in this phase as well.) Only then can I start the actual churning out, the Godawful hard work of dredging through that black wordless place in my head, dragging out the stuff that might be good and trying to wrestle it into coherent sentences. It’s like I’m tricking myself into writing, sneaking up on my brain and gradually turning up the gas. (Like a lot of writers, I don’t really enjoy writing all that much. I enjoy having written — but the actual writing part usually kind of sucks. I’d give it up, but not writing sucks even more.)

So the bottom line is, I’ll get twice as much done in one eight-hour block than I ever will in eight one-hour blocks — and most of that will get done in the last five hours. But apparently I need those first three hours to get me to the place where the last five will get me anywhere.

It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to recognize this and accept it. I think I saw it as amateurish, prima donna behavior. I’ve never had much patience with writers and artists who sit around moaning about their muse and their writer’s block — it always seemed like the mark of a dilettante — and complaining that I can’t work in short bursts always seemed like that sort of “princess and the pea” crap. (I always hated that story…)

But I’m beginning to accept that I was being too hard on myself. After all, I’m not using the vagaries of my muse as an excuse for not writing. I’m not whining about how I need large blocks of time to write while I sit around in bars or cafes trying to impress chicks. I actually *am* setting aside large blocks of time to write. I’m structuring my job and my social life around my stupid Goddamn muse, who only shows up when I’ve been dicking around on the computer for a couple of hours (and who also, I might point out, tends to get really excited and gushy when it’s two in the morning and I have to get up at eight). I’m beginning to realize that it’s not “princess and the pea” behavior if I’m getting work done and meeting deadlines.

So that’s my revelation. But my advice to other writers and artists actually isn’t, “Be sure to set aside large blocks of time for your creative work.” My advice is, “Pay attention to the rhythms of your work, and respect them.” You may be the exact opposite of me — you might only be able to work for a couple hours at a stretch before you burn out. Or maybe it doesn’t matter when you work, but it does matter where: I like to work at home, where I can putter around like a butterfly in between burst of output, but maybe you need a separate place, completely free of distractions and devoted solely to your work. Whatever it is, respect it. Figure out what it is — and then structure your life to make it happen.

A seriously classy gig: Hastings Women’s Law Journal 2006 “Sex and Reproduction” Symposium

HastingsThis is one of the coolest, classiest speaking engagements I’ve done to date. The Hastings Women’s Law Journal is having a symposium on sex and reproduction law this Wednesday… and because of my book “Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients,” I’m going to be on the panel discussing sex workers. (Hastings, in case you’re not familiar with it, is one of two law schools in the Bay Area connected with the University of California, and is the oldest law school in the state. So this is a serious goddamn gig.)

PayingcoverbigIt’s a little daunting — after all, I’m not anything resembling an expert in sex work law. But I told the organizers that, and they said that was fine: they already have legal experts, and they want my perspective on the effects of sex work laws on the day-to-day working lives of sex workers. Which I now do seem to be an expert in. What with the book and all.

Best of all, I just found out that the event is open to the public. So if a scholarly symposium on sex and reproduction law is your cup of tea, do come check it out. It’s going to be Wednesday, February 15, starting shortly after 4:00. There will be two panels before the one on sex work; one on same-sex parenting at 4:30, and one on late-term abortion and disability law at 5:30. The sex worker panel begins at 6:30; there will be a reception afterwards. It’s in San Francisco, at 198 McAllister, room A, on the first floor.

For this particular gig, friends and family are requested not to bring giant foam rubber “We’re Number One” hands and shout “Woot, woot!” Thank you for your co-operation.

The oddest interview yet

Bannerinterviews_1It was with RomanceJunkies.com.

No, really. I was as surprised to be asked as you probably are to hear about it. But it seems that the world of romance novels and the world of erotica are beginning to overlap quite a bit. Romance novels are apparently getting more and more explicit — many of them are essentially becoming erotica. And romance novel readers and reviewers are paying more attention to barefaced porn, and paying attention more openly and unabashedly — especially if it’s written by women.

ThreekindsbigSo when “Three Kinds of Asking For It” came out, (for those of you just tuning in, that’s a collection of three erotic novellas edited by Susie Bright, one of which is mine), this website called RomanceJunkies.com asked me for an interview. It just recently went up…

…and it’s one of the oddest, most interesting interviews I’ve done.

Not because it’s with a romance novel website. Because of the interview itself. The interview is a melange of serious questions about my writing career, personal questions about my life and hobbies… and almost surreastically random questions about what kind of food I like, what my favorite appliance was, and whether I was right- or left-handed. And although they were interviewing me because of my erotica (and had reviewed “Three Kinds” earlier), they never once asked me about sex or erotic writing. In fact, they edited out my comment about the Hitachi Magic Wand in the appliance question.

Anyway. Odd, interesting interview. Check it out on their website. Enjoy!

Come listen to me talk dirty!

Come listen to me talk dirty! (I know, like that’s such a rarity…)

I’m going to be doing a reading this Friday, December 16, along with three other writers from my book “Paying For It”: Carol Queen, Cleo DuBois, and Roxie Rosales. We’ll be reading bits from our chapters in “Paying For It” — plus we’ll be doing readings from our other sex writing as well. So there should be a fun, entertaining variety of dirty talk, from a fun, entertaining variety of dirty women.

Details: The event will be at the Femina Potens gallery, at 465 South Van Ness in San Francisco (between 15th and 16th, just a block and a half from the 16th and Mission BART station). All four readers in the event contributed to “Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients,” the book I edited of advice for sex customers written by sex workers and former sex workers. The event is part of the “Sizzle” series, a monthly series of erotic open mic nights at Femina Potens. Admission is very cheap at $5.00, or $3.00 if you sign up for the open mic. It’s this Friday, December 16, starting at 8pm.

Here’s some info on the lineup:

Carol Queen’s newest book is “Whipped! Stories of Dominant Women.” She’s the author of several books, including “The Leather Daddy and the Femme” and “Real Live Nude Girl.” She works at Good Vibrations and is the founding director of the Center for Sex and Culture, but before all that, she was a call girl.

Cleo DuBois is a renowned BDSM educator, ritualist, personal trainer in the kinky arts and educational video maker. She currently writes a monthly leather column for Alt.com. Her Academy of SM Arts, created in 1995, is in its third year of offering Erotic Dominance Intensive Weekends for Women and its second year of offering Dominance Intensive Weekends for Men. Her skills in SM, bondage play, safety, and communication reflect her sense of humanity and respect for others’ erotic sensibilities.

Roxie Rosales is a performance artist, writer, and dancer whose work strives to implode classic and modern form and create social change. She has contributed to Girlfriends Magazine, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, and of course, “Paying for It.” A former stripper and sex worker, she now spends most of her time writing and dancing with her clothes on. Currently she teaches pole dancing classes at Good Vibrations and other venues around town, and is re-starting her pole dancing performance group. Rosales is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Literature Program. She lives in San Francisco.

Greta Christina (that’s me!) is editor of the collection “Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients.” She is also the author of the erotic novella “Bending,” which appeared in the three-novella collection “Three Kinds of Asking For It” edited by Susie Bright for Simon & Schuster and published in 2005. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Ms., Penthouse, and the Skeptical Inquirer, as well as several anthologies, including Best American Erotica 2005. She has worked as a stripper, a pornographer, an order-taker for a phone sex company, the buyer for a mail-order sex products catalog, and the personal ad manager for a gay newspaper — all of which she considers sex work.

Okay, I’m done talking about myself in the third person now. Do come down to the reading and say howdy if you can. Hope to see you there!

Travel Diary, 7/26/05: L.A., N.Y., Annandale-On-Hudson, D.C.

Don’t worry. There’s no effing way I’m going to bore you all with a detailed diary of everything I did on my summer vacation. I’m going to content myself with a single exceptional (or exceptionally weird) moment from each city we went to.

Los Angeles:
A really good question from the audience at the reading/book signing from Three Kinds of Asking For It. I’d been reading from Bending, my literary smut story about a woman’s obsession with a specific sexual position, and a woman in the audience asked — I wish I could remember her exact wording — about depictions of fetishism in erotica, and whether we (I was there with editor Susie Bright and fellow “Three Kinds” contributor Jill Soloway) thought fetishists got short shrift in writing about sex, and whether my story was an attempt to rectify that.

(In general, this reading kicked ass. Packed house, attentive audience hanging on our every word, many smart questions afterward, and people actually lining up at the end to buy books and get them signed. Short of being carried away on the shoulders of an adoring crowd cheering wildly and chanting my name, it was every writer’s dream of how a reading/book signing should go. I will now be disappointed in every reading I do that doesn’t live up to it.)

New York:
A tie: Eating Ingrid’s corn souffle at that cool Brazilian restaurant near Bluestockings while talking with my friend Matt about trying to live as an artist; and eating Frito pie at Cowgirl Hall of Fame while talking with my cousin Caitlin about trying to live as an artist. Also “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus” — a gorgeous documentary (why are all the good movies these days documentaries?) about music, Pentacostalism, and poverty in the deep South — but I want to do a proper movie review on that, so I’ll hold off for now.

A student art presentation at Bard College (we were there for my sister-in-law’s graduation) that hovered beautifully on the line between naive klutziness and brilliant parody. It was the artist’s proposal for his next year’s project, an elaborate performance art/opera about marriage starring 17 actors and a Greek chorus, which would feature his own green-card wedding and ultimately be performed at every Frank Gehry building around the world. Not one of us could tell when he was serious and when he was pulling our collective leg: it was clear that he was doing both, but it was never clear which was which. I don’t remember the artist’s name; I’ll post it here if I can find it. (I also liked the short film about steering bulky film equipment around tight corners.)

Washington, D.C.:
Dancing with Ingrid to “You Light Up My Life” at the piano bar at the Mayflower Hotel (of “Mayflower Madam” fame), while very, very drunk. (We’d asked the piano player for a waltz, and for some reason that’s the one he played.) Also smoking a cigar with my in-laws at said piano bar. (For the record… no, I don’t smoke cigars. My cousin-in-law Dirk had one and was passing it around like a joint, and it just seemed like the thing to do.)

Porn: Visual or Written? Also, my book is out!

So I’m writing this essay about the differences between visual erotica and written erotica, and I wanted to spew about it here for a bit. As a long-time sex writer, I’ve always felt faintly guilty about the fact that I usually prefer visual smut to the written variety. It’s not that I don’t enjoy and appreciate good sex writing — I do — but it’s often more of an aesthetic or cultural appreciation. When it comes to actually getting off, I almost always head for the dirty pictures or videos.

I’m just so very picky about written porn. It’s rare to find erotic stories that are as well-written as I want them to be, *and* that hit my own particular erotic buttons (which are very particular indeed). Compared to my own sex fantasies, I almost always find other people’s dirty stories a bit disappointing.

And visual porn has this immediacy that I really like. Photos and videos especially: I like the fact that the camera is capturing real people doing real sexual things. It makes it very visceral, and easier for me to suck into my own fantasy world.

But obviously this is very much a matter of taste. After all, I’m a porn/erotica/smut writer myself, so I obviously think sex writing is a pretty cool thing, with potential to be arousing both sexually and otherwise. And it’s not like I’ve never been turned on by a dirty story. There are a few that live in mind and my libido years after having read them. (“The Hit” by Aaron Travis comes to mind…)

So I’m curious about how this works for other people. What do you think? What are the differences for you between written and visual porn? If you enjoy porn, which do you prefer? Or do you prefer comics, with its elements of each? And why?

P.S. My new book is out! My erotic novella, Bending, has just been published as part of the three-novella collection Three Kinds of Asking For It, edited by Susie Bright and published by Simon & Schuster. “Bending” is an erotic novella about a woman who is sexually fixated on being bent over. More broadly, it’s about obsession and what happens when you finally get enough of the thing you’ve been craving.

Three Kinds of Asking For It is in stores (both the physical and the online variety) right now. I’ll blog more about it in a few days: in the meantime, you can go to my Website to read an excerpt from it, or get the details of my book tour. Quickie details on the tour: I’ll be in San Francisco at A Different Light Books on July 7 (with Susie Bright); Los Angeles at Skylight Books on July 16 (with Jill Soloway of “Six Feet Under” and Susie Bright); New York at Bluestockings on July 19 (just me); and Capitola/Santa Cruz at the Capitola Book Cafe on August 3 (with Susie Bright). Come by and say howdy.

Kirkus Reviews and the Hollywood Reporter Say “Make Greta’s Book Into A Movie!”

No, really.

This is probably the most hilarious review I’ve ever gotten.

Here’s the deal. Kirkus Reviews and the Hollywood Reporter apparently team up for a regular series of "books-to-film recommendations" — and my new erotic novella, "Bending" (part of the three-novella collection "Three Kinds of Asking for It" from Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone) recently got listed. It was part of a piece they did on sexy books that might make good movies, ranging from PG-13 to unrated. My book, needless to say, was one of the unrated ones. Here’s what they say:

"If you look carefully, you can find novels whose sexual charge makes them natural movie fodder in nearly every rating category… Contributors Eric Albert and Greta Christina provide an even more inventive pair of sex fantasies in Susie Bright’s latest collection of erotica, ‘Three Kinds of Asking for It’ (Touchstone, $14). A young man’s deal with a witch to make every woman he meets powerless to resist his advances? A young woman who can be satisfied only when she’s bent over and taken from behind? What would L.B. Mayer say?"

If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.

In case you’re wondering why I’m laughing my ass off about this instead of scrambling to find a movie agent, it’s because it’s so unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely proud of "Bending" and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written — but it’s unbelievably smutty. It’s very sexually explicit; the sex is, shall we say, extreme; and there’s pretty much nothing in it other than sex. With the exception of a sentence here and a paragraph there, every word of the book involves either people having sex, talking about sex, or thinnkig about sex. It’s a little hard to imagine it being made into a movie directed by anyone other than Rocco Siffredi. (Even if the sexual climate were otherwise, it’s hard to imagine "Bending" being made into a movie, since so much of the book consists of internal monologue and mental landscape. Vividly depicted internal monologue and mental landscape, but still.)

But hey. What do I know. Any movie moguls out there who want to take a flyer on "Bending," drop me an email. We’ll do lunch.

P.S. "Three Kinds of Asking for It" comes out at the end of this month. You can get more info about it on my Website.


Hi. I’m Greta Christina, writer/editor/all around fun gal, and this is My Very First Weblog.

A brief intro: Among other things, I’m the author of Bending, part of the three-novella collection Three Kinds of Asking For It edited by Susie Bright and scheduled for publication by Simon & Schuster at the end of June. Watch this space for more details.

I’ve been a freelance writer since 1989. I write books, essays, movie reviews, other reviews, features, interviews, fiction, irate letters, song parodies, and assorted commercial copy.

There’s a lot more about me, and lots of samples of my writing, on my Website, which is at gretachristina.com. Come by and say howdy.