Asking for Consent to Write About Fucking Them
Art by Camille Claudel (b. 1864)
My rapist believes in Jesus Christ. I believe in the universe, earth, and somewhat in humanity. He has a family, a wife, children, and the church. I have yoga, New York, and nonfiction erotica. My survival is a privilege of access to resources. I’ve paid thousands of dollars to therapists and drug companies. I have the space to reflect on the men that I’ve slept with thanks to my education and thanks to a job that has afforded me healthcare.
“That winter I read Bukowski’s Women. Bukowski horrified me but I heard him clearly through some of his more reductive descriptions. He described women by their age, by their bodies, by their mental health or hair color. Every woman was objectified but at least they were real characters with substance.”
I first met Carly Pifer at an apartment on Hemenway in Boston in 2006. A coworker whose room I was subletting was going back to the West Coast for the summer and so Carly and I ended up together as roommates. Acquaintances painted her as difficult.
“She thinks she’s better than everyone else.”
I was intrigued. After moving in, I invited friends over. They sat around playing drinking games while I danced above them, singing along to Karen O. Carly opened the door, coming home as I waved my hands in the air. We locked eyes and her face lit up. She was gorgeous and there was genuine kindness in her eyes.
We became friends quickly and signed up for contemporary poetry together. After class we’d smoke cigarettes and share stories of our early traumas—fathers, boyfriends, and the burden of our anger issues.
That winter I read Bukowski’s Women. Bukowski horrified me but I heard him clearly through some of his more reductive descriptions. He described women by their age, by their bodies, by their mental health or hair color. Every woman was objectified but at least they were real characters with substance. The women were all attracted to his fame and to his voice. I wanted to have that voice and to turn the objectification back around on the male gaze. I jokingly told a friend that someday I would write O’Hara’s Men.
I was fifteen and I had never kissed anyone. I was awkward and chubby and boys rarely paid attention to me unless I was being funny. I had an amazing personality. I was confident.
My best friend June’s parents went away for the weekend one winter. June’s boyfriend was the son of a Christian pastor. He was several years older than us and he invited friends from a neighboring town to party with us. I was wasted before they even showed up.
I had met one of them at an earlier party. He was tall with blue eyes and blonde hair. His father was a doctor. I had a huge crush on him. This time he brought a new friend along, a guy named Paul. Paul was a rougher-looking dude. He had brown hair shaved close to his head and crooked teeth like fangs. I remember him smirking at me from across June’s father’s poker table while I went on a slightly drunken tangent. When I think back to this moment, I interpret it as the time that he marked my aloof vulnerability. As I got drunker, we walked to his car to get his bookbag and deodorant. I started blacking out before that.
On the way back to my friend’s house, I lay down in the street.
“What are you doing?” Paul exclaimed.
It was an empty street in the dead of winter in the rural Northeast.
When we arrived back at the house, Paul walked me up a flight of steep stairs, propping my back up with his hand because I could barely stand. He walked me into June’s brother’s room. June’s brother was a late Gen Xer. When he was gone, we would sneak into his room to watch Adam Sandler and Chris Farley on SNL or to play his CDs while flipping through his Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. Now I was lying on the mattress on the floor while Paul removed my pants and underwear. He put the weight of his body on mine and I felt the pressure inside my vagina as I awakened from the drunken trance and stood up. I wrapped myself in the comforter and exited the room into an adjacent bathroom. Paul knocked on the door and walked in.
“Are you okay? Come back.”
I went back into the room and passed out. I woke up the next morning by myself in the same bed, without pants on. I stared out the window at the leafless trees and realized that I had just lost my virginity to a stranger. We hadn’t even kissed.
I don’t know what anyone else at that party thought was happening to me. I don’t know if they cared, if they thought I deserved it, or if they were just indifferent. I had no recourse and no words. I was confused and miserable. The joy in my life faded away and I became obsessed with every detail that I could remember about that night. I couldn’t focus at school, and I replayed the night in my head searching for a new outcome.
The summer after senior year of high school, I got a job at a local restaurant and met a girl who knew Paul through Christian camp. I told her what had happened. I couldn’t yet use the word “rape.” I passively explained to her that Paul had had sex with me while I was blacked out. The conversation made its way back to Paul and he reached out and suggested that we meet. We met at a Barnes and Noble the summer before I went away to college and he apologized. A few months later I was sitting in a dorm at Arizona State when he messaged me on AIM and asked to mail me a Bible. I refused.
“Aurore would be a site where people could write about their sex lives. Sex columns in contemporary media felt like spaces to prove that one could fuck, or that one was fuckable. She wanted to turn people on, but also force them to reflect, hopefully helping them to feel better about themselves. Aurore would be a digital space for sex stories based in reality, inspired by true events.”
Carly told me about being at a bar in 2016 the night Trump was elected. She described herself as despondent while sitting on a bar stool. She was speechless and drunk as her friends tried to snap her out of despair.
On the other side of Brooklyn, I had gone to bed before the results were called. My anxiety was too high. I remember waking up at 3 AM and googling the words “who won” or “president.” Safari presented me with an infographic. The length of the red bar denoted that the electoral college had named Trump our president. I was safe, lying next to a man that cared for me deeply. Within the year, I broke up with him. We had been together for nine years.
Later, in the summer of 2018, Carly and I sat on a bench in Bushwick after a yin yoga class. We were talking about dating nightmares and sharing the jealousies and problematic behaviors that we exhibited in relationships.
She pitched to me about creating a website, Aurore, named after the Goddess of Dawn. Aurore would be a site where people could write about their sex lives. It would be something less exploitive than porn. Anti-porn. Carly envisioned this as a space for people like us to channel our energy. She wanted to expose the hot but unglamorous parts of intimacy. Sex columns in contemporary media felt like spaces to prove that one could fuck, or that one was fuckable. She wanted to turn people on, but also force them to reflect, hopefully helping them to feel better about themselves. Aurore would be a digital space for sex stories based in reality, inspired by true events.
“Do you think people would want this?” she asked.
“Are you kidding me? Yes!”
Every individual absorbs—and reacts to—trauma differently. I decided a long time ago that the way through my pain would be emotional vulnerability. If I was bluntly honest, others would have to listen. I started writing down the infuriating and strange details of my sex life. I was determined to have others validate my view of the world, which would no longer be relegated to a diary.
Generally, writing allows us to reflect on how fleeting our emotions are. Writing erotica allows us to identify our desires.
If I was going to publish my experiences with sex on the internet, I decided that it was necessary to let my subjects know ahead of time. This would also allow me to reconnect with them, to hold up a mirror to our shared experience.
The men I write about are real, complicated, and flawed—but so am I. Complicated people have more interesting sex and more interesting viewpoints on sex. I picked the men I have written about because they inspired devotion and led me to my current path. They came to me as friends. I met them through dating apps and in bars. They were dysfunctional, beautiful, and always way too smart for their own good. Every character that I write about is a reflection of me.
I Facebook messaged one of my subjects. I read another the stories as I wrote them. I asked one for consent to write about him in my living room on a hot night in August.
“Back in my room he opens up Kazaa and downloads You are my Angel by Horace Andy. He jokes around that he and my roommate have sexual tension running between them. I tell him it annoys me that he never compliments or expresses what he likes about me. ‘You have soft skin,’ he says as he unbuttons my shirt and begins kissing my nipples.”
Boston is where I began to write about men and about my feelings toward sex. My journals and diaries begin here, detailing one-night stands, such as bartenders, boys from school, and my history with the King.
In “The King,” I target and seduce a very tall, very wealthy “card-carrying member of the Mayflower Compact.” Our sex is primarily defined by how angry we are at each other.
People who read “The King” find him loathsome but sexy. His story is a caricature of my relationship to class and privilege. At the time, I believed that his proximity to wealth would somehow transfer onto me. It was clear that the King believed power meant something, too. I told myself that witnessing his hypocrisy would enlighten me and that I could take this hypocrisy back to the real world in order to awaken others. But instead he only drove me to compete with his status. I wanted to prove to him that I could deep throat, that I could be as successful as he was in life, whatever that meant.
My interpretation of the King’s character is harsh, manifested in the ugly details of our relationship. It has been ten years since we parted, but I had little faith that he had grown or changed.
Fearfully, I shared with him over Facebook what I had written about him.
“I won’t write anything that makes you uncomfortable,” I said.
“No, it’s honest. Keep it. Your words are strong, feminine. This needed to be written for the both of us.”
The King was not haunted by his behavior or character. However, he was proud of me for finally speaking. I was shocked that he had grown and softened. His messages back to me were healing. I replaced the idea of him as a careless asshole and was freed from the toxicity of our original narrative.
“‘Why can’t you tell me who you are?’
‘Because I couldn’t do this if you knew who I was, Miss. I’ve told you that.’
‘Okay, pet. It can be our secret.’
‘Yes, Miss, I trust you with my deepest secret. Should I get in position?’
He spins around in front of the camera onto his hands and knees. He lowers his chest toward the bed, swaying his ass in the air.”
Kink and BDSM have become mainstream and fashionable. GGG and sex-positivity communities have grown simultaneously as we come to terms with rape culture and the abuse of power.
I heard about a professional Mistress who said there are three types of dommes: the haters, the fakers, and the mothers. I’ve probably been all three. Haters just hate men, fakers don’t know what they are doing, and mothers exist to create a safe space for those who want to explore their deepest needs.
In “The Pet,” I transcribe a webcam chat session with a submissive man who shows me his asshole and jacks off for me.
Some think the Pet is sad, others find the story funny. His secrets are sad but like most rich white men he has a light spirit. Our games and role playing reflected the end of my relationship with the Boyfriend who appears at the end of the story, reflecting my introduction to femdom and the bizarre ways in which we cheat in the digital age.
Unlike the King, the Pet rejects his status, at least when he plays the role of the Pet. I didn’t know I wanted a man to bend over and spread his ass cheeks for me until it happened. But when he began to share this side of himself, I became obsessed with exerting control over him. I had always been the one shaking my ass and begging to be penetrated and now I understood what it felt like to be on the receiving end of that coy flirtation. It wasn’t just funny: it was radical and liberating.
He dreamed about being dominated by two women. He asked me to share his most X-rated photos with my friends. I obliged, but ultimately his needs began to feel hollow and selfish. Carly and I would read websites about how to be dommes and about how to establish our own female led relationships (FLR). We’d take trips to Purple Passion to try on strap-ons and patent leather cone bras.
That Halloween we bought domme costumes and labeled ourselves Patriarchy Hunters. We struggled to discover our domme identities, but the pageantry and performance was exhausting. It felt no different than roles ascribed to us by conventionally toxic men. I wanted the Pet to reveal himself to me. I wanted real intimacy. He refused and retreated.
Officially, I don’t actually have consent from the Pet. Officially, I have only received silence in response to my requests. Sometimes I think I see him out in the city or on the subway.
“The Boyfriend (part of the Pet)”
“That night I ask my boyfriend to go down on me. I ask him to tell me about women at work he wants to fuck. ‘Fine.’ He is annoyed having to play along but wants to please me so I will stay with him.”
At the end of The Pet, I write about the Boyfriend. I ask him to tell me about women he wants to fuck at work while he goes down on me.
We spent every day together for nine years. We were each other’s best friend and biggest supporter and we had known each other since childhood. Carly, an exceptional judge of character, lovingly referred to the Boyfriend as “Dad.”
The year I was raped, the Boyfriend sat next to me in statistics class. At the time, he was only a friend. Every day inside my head, I would obsess over the details of that night. What did it feel like? Who was this person? What could I have done differently? In these trance-like states I would disassociate from class and the world around me.
The Boyfriend sat next to me while reading BMX magazines and cracking jokes to entertain me. I would tell him years later that in those moments it was as if he brought me back to reality and into myself. We made each other laugh a lot. He saw through my self-destructive walls. He taught me about commitment and about saving money and about not being antisocial.
He loved me harder and more strongly than I deserved. Toward the end of our relationship, I was tripping on shrooms alone in my living room in Brooklyn. I remembered a conversation with a therapist years earlier where she told me that as a form of self-sabotage I gravitated toward emotionally dangerous, seductive, and narcissistic people. I stared out the window in our apartment in Bed-Stuy and thought that I was sick of feeling ashamed for the things I desired.
I didn’t ask for consent to write about the Boyfriend and he’d probably tell me to go fuck myself if I had.
“He’s put down a sheet over his bedspread to protect from the massage oil. I lay on my stomach. ‘Alexa, play Burial’ he chirps. He told me when we met online that he liked my taste in music. It’s adorable listening to him speak to a device. ‘Alexa turn it down to a 3.’”
The Masseuse was a friend while I wrote about him for Aurore. He dedicates himself to pleasing women without projection. His sexual prowess is intoxicating. In the story, I find him in an app and sign up to receive erotic pleasure. He delivers.
The Pet needed me to adhere to this fantasy to win his attention and pleasure. I couldn’t show signs of weakness or self-doubt. The Masseuse fed on the parts of me that were submissive. He accepted my shyness and liked to push boundaries. We’d watch porn and complain about our 9-to-5 jobs. He was mature and honest with his intentions and his addictive behaviors. I couldn’t help but develop feelings for him.
When I sent the Masseuse a link to the Aurore story about him over text, he replied: “This is brilliant.”
I went over to his apartment later on and he stared at me with his mouth open in a way that he had never done before.
He fucked me, and then asked to hear more about the Clown. When it came to the details about himself in the story, he laughed at the way I described his back pain or the way he spoke to Alexa. The Masseuse embraced his nerdiness, his perversions, and even his narcissism. Our friendship has endured. He shares books and movies with me. We meet for drinks and discuss the absurd details of our industry. He listens to me complain about life and love.
“We discuss politics. Donald Trump is president now. I bring up the drama on Twitter over Cornel West and Ta-nehisi Coates. ‘I should make a video explaining neoliberalism to liberals.’ He says, as he pulls out his phone to start typing furiously then stuffs it back into his pocket.”
When I was dating the Clown, I thought I had grown out of being into people like the King.
Regretfully, I had not. The similarities in the Clown and the King are not obvious, and might only be apparent in how I react to them. I placed both of them on a pedestal and they have both incited a lot of rage. One aspired to wealth and the other to fame.
I started writing erotic non-fiction very shortly after the Clown and I broke up. He was the only one I asked for consent before I even started writing and he enthusiastically agreed.
In The Clown, I write about our first three dates, culminating in us going to a sex club together, which finally leads to sex between us.
Some interpret the way that I wrote about him negatively. Some have said it’s clear I’m painting a picture of love and acceptance. He was the easiest to write about because I had spent most of our relationship in my head cataloging the details of our interactions. Visiting a sex club so soon in our relationship was neither healthy nor rational, but it was the kind of excitement I had dreamed about in my relationship with the Boyfriend.
When I had completed all four stories, I emailed the Clown what I had written.
“That was really awkward to read about myself,” he said. “I come off as an asshole in some of the ways you describe me.”
“That was not my intention at all!” I replied
In the months following, I reached out to the Clown, repeatedly asking to be allowed back into his life. He was dismissive and fearful of my intensity. I laid bare my inability to communicate, my infatuation, and his power over me. Writing was the only way to process my fragile state of mind. I had not rested.
Eventually, the Clown and I sat on a bar watching the sunset on the bay in Fire Island and he told me he wanted to have a family and kids one day. We talked about attachment styles and he asked me to clarify the story of how I was raped, which I had told him about earlier. I told him the same narrative I had exposed to so many people before him over the years. As I went through the details, his eyes widened.
“You should MeToo him!”
“I couldn’t do that. If you compare our lives, I’ve already won!”
That evening we watched RuPaul’s Drag Race at a bar. We stood in the crowd while a contestant accidentally murdered a bunch of butterflies on live TV. He sipped his whiskey out of a plastic cup while tears filled his eyes. He allowed himself to cry over the beauty of the community surrounding us.
Nonfiction erotica is self-indulgent. I get high, I journal, I write about the truth. I drown in music and relive the moments that touch me the most deeply. In a society built by masculine energy, emotional vulnerability is seen as a sign of weakness. However, when writing nonfiction erotica, vulnerability is a basic requirement to even begin.
Through Aurore I’ve met other erotica writers at book clubs and writer workshops. We come together in the evenings and Carly hands out the curriculum with “thought starters” and “group edit” exercises. We do more than talk about who we are having sex with: we talk about our bodies. We talk about the words we would use to describe the feeling of an orgasm or the sexiest fruits.
I see a new image of an assault survivor every day. I see them in art, on television, and across national and global media, from Sansa Stark to Chanel Miller. I gave myself the pen name Camille Claudel because she represents the frustration of feeling voiceless and unheard, of living in the shadow of the male gaze. Through Camille I get to be the unapologetic one, to reimagine a memory from a position of power. Writing for Aurore has taught me to frame details in a way that allows me to forgive myself and others.
People don’t always think my characters are sympathetic. I yearned for their attention at one time. I wanted to expose them. Yet, in many ways, I wanted to exalt them because I could not exalt myself. No relationship is perfect and sexual experiences can often be difficult to process. They can be both physically and emotionally painful. My healing may have come through writing, but the true reckoning with myself came when I had to confront the narratives that I was telling myself about these men.