The following is my first online interview with The Writing Buddha (now The Infinite Ache) where I discuss my thoughts on sex, sexuality and erotica, and the key influences on both my erotica and self-portraiture…
What is the sexual climate like in Australia? Conservative? Liberal?
To be completely honest, I’m unsure I’m qualified to take the sexual pulse of the entire nation!
In all seriousness, much like many Western countries, I think there’s a constant tension between liberalism and conservatism here. On the one hand, the fact that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a family event, which headlines media coverage (and has been for a good while, even through periods of political and cultural conservatism) speaks volumes. On the other, instances such as the moves to ban the conscious exploration of sex and sexuality in art practice including film and the recent revelations of sexual harassment and abuse in the armed forces (that violently reinstates or plays out an underlying sexism), for me, say just as much.
While there will invariably be pockets of conservatism, for the most part I’d like to think we’re more liberal-leaning since we often frankly debate sexuality and gender in the arts and the media. I also think the sexual flavour or the tension between broadmindedness and conservatism can vary radically in accordance with place. Even with its diverse cultural, ethnic and religious mix, I’ve always found Sydney – my home town – wears its sexuality on its sleeve (in good part resulting from the impact of the large gay and lesbian community). We’re open, often (sexually) brash, unafraid to express ourselves and our opinions, to flaunt flesh and skin (also thanks to the weather). And while this isn’t to everyone’s taste, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of all the delicious things you’ve written, what’s your favorite?
That’s such a difficult question – but I thank you for the delicious tag. I feel an attachment to everything I’ve written because each piece tracks my desire, my passion for different men and of late, one specific lover. Having said that, I’m fond of ‘Exchange’ and ‘Exchange II’ due to their raw, often base carnality; ‘Linger’ and ‘Blue Note and Neon’ for their sultry eroticism; and ‘I Want…’ and ‘(Re)Call’ for their urgency and hunger.
Which writers or sex bloggers have inspired you?
There are so many, I barely know where to begin. I tend to draw inspiration from many writers and poets, both classical and contemporary, fiction and non-fiction and theoretical/critical. Often it will be a style, turn of phrase or an evocative image that sets my own thought process and sexual pulse racing. Right now, I’m revisiting Raymond Chandler, e.e. cummings and Henry Miller, as well as Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida. Quite the odd mishmash on the surface! At this point, they all speak to different facets I’m consciously (and unconsciously) exploring in very important ways.
But if I had to locate one key influence or inspiration, it would be Anais Nin. I feel a deep attraction to her work – a sense of simpatico – due to her exploration of desire and its connection to emotions and affects, especially love. And while this is more than likely the calling card for most of the notable and talented writers of erotica, with Nin it is likewise her examination of the erotic in the context of femininity and feminine desire, as well as her intensely evocative style. Even though I don’t try to imitate Nin (a near impossibility in the face of such an idiosyncratic talent), her work has been and continues to be a mirror of sorts; my interest lies in exploring the varied facets of my desire and femininity, and the way certain individuals and encounters speak to these different erotic sides. Much like Nin, I’m just as comfortable exploring my base, carnal desires as I am a softer sensuality and eroticism.
In terms of sex bloggers, five have been pivotal: Belle du Jour (Dr Brooke Magnanti), Girl with a One Track Mind (Zoe Margolis), MonMouth, A Gentleman Whore (who has since stopped blogging) and Easily Aroused. I stumbled upon Belle du Jour and Girl with a One Track Mind and literally devoured every post. They were the catalysts for Love Hate Sex Cake, even though my writing and concerns are radically different from theirs, because they allowed me to see the possibility of adding my own voice and experiences to the sex blogging sphere. Through Girl, I found MonMouth and Easily Aroused (EA) (and Gentleman Whore in six degrees of separation). Interestingly, four of the five are either Brits or Americans living in England, so there might be something to be said for an attraction to a British sensibility. Much like other writers who have woven themselves into my consciousness, reading their work wasn’t merely about sexual arousal (although here was more than a good deal of that), it was also a lesson in writing.
Of the five, it is EA who has proved to be the biggest influence. It’s not merely his imagery and evocative style that continually draw me in, but also a nuance that speaks of an affective and erotic truth. For me, he’s one of the most talented contemporary erotic writers, either online or in print. This is the main reason I feel very fortunate he’s been so supportive of my work. I’m unsure there’s anything more humbling and gratifying than knowing a writer you admire has a high regard for your creativity.
Which photographers do you admire?
Again, there are many photographers I admire and who inform my own self-portraiture. To name a mere few (in no particular order) who have taught me valuable lessons in beauty, the erotic, lightning, mood, colour, framing, and the photographic sublime: Helmut Newton, Ellen Von Unwerth, Annie Leibovitz, Eve Arnold (and most of the Magnum set from the 1950s and 1960s), Russell James, Douglas Kirkland, David Bailey, Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton, Diane Arbus, Erwin Blumenfeld, Cindy Sherman, Guy Bourdin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Milton Greene (especially his portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich), Chase Lisbon, Clayton Cubitt, Nathan Appel, Rick Legal, Chip Willis, Jan Saudek, fellow blogger JM (from There Is No Spoon!), and every photographer on my Image blogroll.
Just as important are certain film directors and movements such as Wong Kar Wai, John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, Chantal Akerman, Douglas Sirk, Agnes Varda, David Cronenberg, Shirley Clarke, David Lynch, Nicholas Ray, German expressionist cinema and film noir, the French New Wave and New American Cinema.
What are your favorite photographs of you?
I have no doubt that most people who explore self-portraiture feel an attachment to each of their photographs, even the unsuccessful ones. And I’m no exception. Since I’ve now posted over 130 photographs, I’m hoping you won’t mind such an indulgently long list:
- ‘HNT: Hum’
- ‘HNT: Round Midnight’
- ‘HNT: Before You’
- ‘HNT: Float’
- ‘HNT: Lead’
- ‘HNT: Noir and Night’
- ‘HNT: The Light’
- ‘HNT: Prowl’
- ‘HNT: Moth’
- ‘HNT: Riven’
- ‘Bring on the Night’
- ‘Innocence and Sin’
- ‘Winter’s Yearning’
What camera do you use? Does anyone assist?
For the first year and a half, I used a compact digital camera – a Nikon COOLPIX s500 (in fact, all the shots in my book, Sinfully Sensuous, were created with this little gem). I now use a DSLR – a Nikon D7000 – with a standard 18-55mm lens.
All of my shots are self-portraits, either hand-held or using the self-timer. I prefer to shoot alone because I enjoy the challenge and I can freely use my body and express the kind of desire or yearning I’m feeling.
What gets you off? A photograph? A story? A memory of a past lover? All of the above?
Definitely all of the above, depending on my mood. At other times, it can be the scent of a man, a whiff of his cologne, which triggers a reaction or a memory of a past or current lover. The same can be said of certain pieces of music or songs, which is very interesting when I’m out in public plugged into my iPod!
Do you watch porn? If so, what films or sites appeal to you?
This will sound rather boring, but I don’t watch porn in the conventional sense. While I have watched porn films in the past and I watch the odd segment featured on my favourite Tumblr sites etc or recommended by lovers, I don’t tend to watch it proper. I’m more a fan of erotic cinema – the kinds of films that explore sex, sexuality, the erotic, in relation to the intimate dynamics between couples or groups, or even the interplay between that eroticism and sexuality and issues of power. My favourites include Crash, Lust Caution, Henry and June, anything by Jane Campion because I think her oeuvre is a conscious exploration of sexual politics as well as female sexuality (In the Cut is one I keep revisiting lately also due to its noir darkness – and Mark Ruffalo!), the films of Catherine Breillat for the same reason, and film noir generally due to its sexy aesthetic and the iconic femme fatale.
Do you have a favorite sexual fantasy?
Yes and no. It all depends on my mood, although for the most part my sexual desire is focused around men. I adore the contrast between an intense and strong masculinity and my soft, feminine sensuality. There are times when I indulge in submissive scenarios; others where I’m dominant, but in the sense of taking pleasure rather than inflicting pain or asserting an emasculating power. Fantasies about public sex are also intensely arousing, which probably isn’t all that surprising considering my exhibitionist streak! When I’m feeling particularly insatiable, my default is a decadent and indulgent group sex scenario featuring a number of men who quite willingly indulge my every sexual whim and desire. And on the odd occasion, my bi-curiosity kicks in for a little FF or FFM inspired play.
What is the most erotic thing you’ve ever read or seen?
I’ve been very lucky to have encountered men who want to indulge me with visual, aural and written material. The most erotic thing I’ve read has been a piece written for me by a very generous and gifted lover. Along with this, he has indulged me with photographs as well as his intimate response to my own photographs. It was absolutely breathtaking.
What is “sexy” to you?
While I have a certain physical type that appeals to me, intellect, wit and a strong sense of self, particularly in regard to sexuality, are traits that instantly draw me in. Kindness and compassion are also very sexy because a ruthless and callous character leaves me (and my libido) cold. The same can be said for someone who is present in the moment, whose attention is focused and engaged. In the end, there’s something very appealing and sexy about a person who is real, who can share their truth and complexity honestly.
What would readers be surprised to know about Cheeky Minx?
Readers might be surprised to know I’ve never been unfaithful. When I’m in lust and in love, and in a committed relationship, my desire tends toward an intensity that makes me rather sexually myopic. My focus is solely on that man and my passions circulate around exploring our sensual and carnal desires. While I can appreciate the beauty of other people, their bodies and their erotic magnetism, I rarely have the urge to act on the spark that might be there. Having said that, I don’t judge people who have chosen to do so. I’ve had encounters and relationships with married men in both open and not-so-open marriages and understand the pain and frustration associated with a relationship devoid of passion and sexual connection, and the need to reach out to others. (In fact, I’ve been in that position myself when I was in a long-term relationship with a man who cared little for my voracious sexual appetite. In that instance, I chose to walk away because the relationship held no promise and was clearly holding both of us back.)
Do you ever think about revealing your true identity?
In all honesty, no. While I can understand the impulse to do so, the veil of the pseudonym allows me to be honest, raw and intimate without the noise, stresses and banalities of my everyday life. In many ways, this veil allows me to be free, to be the most authentic version of my desiring self.
What’s on your bucket list?
There’s so much I want to experience that it makes me a little dizzy… Being led to an alleyway, pushed against a wall, clothes and lingerie wrenched up and aside while a voyeur takes his own onanistic pleasure as he watches our coupling… Sensual love making on a slow moving, overnight train, the rocking of the carriage heightening the movement and sensations of our naked bodies in the dark… Having a man take me to the top of a tall building, strip me naked and fuck me in front of the biggest window, night and day… Threesome… Foursome… Moresome…
Yet, the one thing that tops the list is finding the right man who I can truly indulge in every way he yearns and imagines, in all the ways my own passion can conceive, a true erotic partnership where we explore my desire and sexuality and his as well as the unique one that comes into being through our union. The possibilities of that particular bucket list are endless.
Where can we find your book, Sinfully Sensuous?
The book is available in softcover, hardcover or eBook (for Apple) versions through Blurb.com: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2349539
Fingers crossed you all enjoy!
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a collection of short stories with a noir theme as well as toying with an idea for a collaborative project. Since I haven’t found the right candidate, all interested parties (who aren’t camera shy) should definitely apply…
(Originally posted on The Writing Buddha, 15 August 2012)