Sexual Memoirs

There’s nothing very new about the sexual memoir. Fictionalised or true; anonymous or not, racy memoirs can be traced back to at least John Cleland’s Fanny Hill. But in the last five years ‘posh porn’ – as some publishers call this genre – has moved from the edges to the mainstream. In an industry suffering a sales slump, it’s a market that sells bucketloads.

As it happens, I’ve already posted the birching scene from Fanny Hill on this blog, and I’ve mentioned quite a few more modern sexual memoirs in passing too: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl; The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan; The True Confessions of a London Spank Daddy are a few which spring to mind.

There’s Niki Flynn’s Dances With Werewolves too of course, which it’s great to see being advertised on bookseller’s websites alongside other memoirs like those above. Niki was even nominated as a finalist for “Writer of the Year” at the Erotic Awards.

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Other recent spank-centric memoir writers include Joan Kelly (The Pleasure’s All Mine) and Catherine Townsend (Sleeping Around):

Like Niki, Joan Kelly is a woman who has long held dark submissive fantasies. Whilst the old cliché would have painted her as a victim of abuse – someone who therefore equates pain with closeness – Kelly fesses up to no such “issues”. In fact, she says, she’s simply always fantasized about being spanked:

Unlike some other kinksters, I could not remember a ‘first time’ or defining moment that flipped an internal switch for me. As far as I know, I always felt like I do now,”

Clear understanding, however, comes during eighth grade, when she decides to masturbate for the first time, and describes her fantasy:

“I saw the boy I had a crush on, spanking me.”

Kelly struggles through a series of failed teenage and early college relationships before finally finding someone willing to both spank and humiliate her. It is the humiliation that seems the most sexually arousing and she quickly finds herself looking for that next level of pain, that next level of pleasure, until she ultimately begins working professionally as a submissive.

Taking a weekend job in a private dungeon in Los Angeles, it seemed she’d finally found a perfect outlet for her pent-up desires. She was being paid to do things she’d only fantasized about.

*****

Hailing from the South of the United States, Catherine Townsend is now based in the UK and writes a regular column for The Independent. Her memoir Sleeping Around: Secrets of a Sexual Adventuress was published in 2007.

One of the earliest pieces I could find by her on the net though was from New York Magazine in 2002, shortly after the release of the film Secretary.

Describing the influence the film was having on New York women at the time, she compiles a list of reactions, but doesn’t mention her own “interest” in the subject at this stage:

That’s it,” snaps the willowy blond in a sequined miniskirt after the premiere of Secretary. “I’m finding a man to take me home and spank me tonight.”

“I think that a lot of women feel they can really relate to this character,” says Maggie Gyllenhaal. She plays a wallflower who blossoms under the tutelage of her lawyer-boss James Spader. Indeed, judging by the reaction of Manhattan singles, the paddle may be this fall’s must-have accessory.

“Women in New York are realizing that submissive in your sexual life does not mean submissive in your everyday life,” says Emily Kramer, co-founder of the roving feminist strip club Cake, whose Website has fielded hundreds of e-mails lately from powerplay-curious women.

“My fear was that the spanking would turn people away,” says director Steven Shainberg, “but we found that women in particular were responding incredibly well to the screenings.”

Like the twenty something brunette who got so turned on by the film that — after knocking back several vodka tonics at Lot 61 — she dragged her date home in search of a spanking instrument. Unfortunately, all they came up with was a (new) toilet brush. “It was fun,” she says, blushing, “although in hindsight we could have used a spatula.”

“I’m much more into the idea of a dominant woman, but I’ve tried spanking and I really like it,” says Claire Cavanah of sex-toy shop Toys in Babeland. In fact, after a spike in inquiries from women, the store is releasing Spank Me Santa — an S&M starter kit with a leather paddle and furry handcuffs. Good idea, since apparently toilet brushes chafe.

In her subsequent writings she has often spoken of her own taste for the kink, and it’s tempting to see her as spokesperson for a whole generation of women who have been encouraged to come out as spanking enthusiasts by the Shainberg film.

In Sleeping Around for example she compares her ex, Charles, with a new lover:

People often make generalisations that women want romance, and men want gritty sex.

This may be true in some cases, but personally, when I meet a new man, my first thought once we are intimate is: how long before I can start to get kinky without scaring the hell out of him?

Charles didn’t run, even when I pulled out the male sex toys. In fact, he took control.

We didn’t have long chats about our feelings, or take sensual bubble baths together. But he understood that I want rape fantasies, not rose petals. I crave hair pulling, nail-scratching, heart-pounding sex.

He used to text me in the middle of the afternoon with explicit instructions about what to wear usually very tall stilettos, a corset and lacy knickers. He would describe in detail how he planned to bend me over the chair, spanking me and telling me that how much I loved it. And I did.`

Trite romantic rituals like Valentine’s Day and moonlit cruises don’t turn me on they leave me cold because they seem so forced. I’ve even tried Tantric sex, and I just find it boring. Who the hell has the time?

I’m much more into the spontaneous, filthy banter that Charles and I perfected. Still, I haven’t given up on the new guy. Last night, when we were at dinner at he told me how lovely I was, I whispered: “Actually, I can be a filthy slut. Fancy tying me to the bed face down and spanking me?”

He smiled and raised an eyebrow. “That sounds lovely, darling. We’ll definitely do that after the coffee.”

Later we get a story about a friend who likes her to spank him. It’s is still on topic because of what it reveals about her more usual tastes and practices:

“Darling,” the sweet, rather strait-laced banker said to me the afternoon before our third date, “I really want you to spank me tonight.”

From David’s shy, affectionate nature, I’d expected that ordinary vanilla sex – not BDSM – might be on the menu. But on our second date, I teasingly bit his ear when we kissed in the taxi, and it quickly became clear that the more I clamped down, the more excited he got. By the time we made it back to my flat, he was begging me break out the bullwhip. So I ended up going upstairs alone.

As I’m really a submissive at heart, I’ve always found dominating a partner a bit difficult. A couple of years ago, I had a boyfriend who asked me to use nipple clamps on him. I was so panicked about hurting him that I couldn’t really relax. Instead he asked me to spank him, but we were pretty drunk and I ended up using the only implement I could find – a kitchen spatula. It wasn’t exactly 9 1/2 Weeks.

Guys usually ask to spank me, which is why I’ve spent more than one evening donning “naughty schoolgirl” kit. Though it’s always fun at the time, I would pick a tongue-lashing over a riding-crop-lashing any day.

Still, I’m intrigued by the prospect of unleashing my dormant dominatrix. So I decided to go shopping for spanking accessories. The salesgirl showed me an acrylic ruler that promised “more bite than bark for a stinging spanking”, and a rubber tassel-whip. A bit daunted, I decided to stick with the wooden paddle I had unearthed from an unused “Spank Me Santa” kit someone sent me last Christmas. “You may also want some aloe vera gel, in case you break skin,” she told me. Not for the first time, I wondered what I was getting myself into.

I was so far outside my comfort zone that I decided to role-play with a different persona to make the transition easier. David was a public-school boy, so I became the stern headmistress disciplining an unruly pupil. We met on the top floor of a bar with a panoramic view of the city, and I wore a black power suit rather than my usual jeans and sexy top. He could barely contain himself as he paid the cheque, but I would not let him touch me – yet.

Back at the flat, I tried not to giggle as I put a 38-year-old professional over my knee. I started out gently, and began to administer some discipline. At first, I kept nervously asking: “Harder? Faster?” I kept repeating the spanking mantra with a Jedi-mindset intensity: “Build-up is essential. Starting out too rough right away can quickly wear out your bottom.”

He started to writhe and redden, so I picked up the pace – and the paddle. I realised how thrilling it was to find the key to his sexuality that made him lose all inhibition. As it was his 38th birthday, I made him count down from 38. “But if you miss one, I’ll have to start all over,” I warned. He slipped up twice – on purpose.

In the end, I relished the feeling of being completely in control. So when he asks me if I would mind caning him next time, I tell him I’m game. In fact, I’m rather enjoying my dalliance as a dominatrix. Maybe next time I can order him to clean my flat afterwards.

In addition to dressing up as a schoolgirl, she has also spoken about role-playing a “naive Southern girl.”

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So it’s about time we had a look at her picture, and also consider a description of her from an interview in The Observer:

She is neither buxom nor blowsy. In fact she is as skinny and tall and angular as a stick of celery. But she has lovely almond-shaped eyes and is amusing, which is always attractive and, as she says herself, ‘super-confident’, which helps too. Her thick, treacly vowel sounds – she was born in Arkansas – make everything sound somehow alluring in a Jerry Hall kind of way.

I bet those almond-shaped eyes and Jerry Hall vowels sure make her one highly spankable “naive Southern girl.” I’ve not read Sleeping Around: Secrets of a Sexual Adventuress (John Murray, £7.99), but it should be worth checking out as it almost certainly includes further spanking scenes and references.

And all written under her real name.

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