Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Death of Orpheus

In the Victorian fantasy paintings I've posted on this blog, the veiled BDSM elements usually (though certainly not always) feature the female as victim. The myth of Orpheus allows the opposite side of the coin to be displayed ... in of course, a respectable and educational manner. This is high culture, after all  ;-)

George Frederick Watts (1817-1904): Orpheus and Eurydice

The Classical Greek Orpheus lies at the centre of a complex web of mythology and even gave rise to a mystery religion. He was the ultimate musician, a singer who could enchant wild beasts with the beauty of his song and lyre: he loved his wife Eurydice so much that when she died he descended into the underworld and almost succeeded in winning her back from the dead. He stands out from almost every other Greek hero, not only in his romantic attachment to a single woman, but in that he isn't famous for killing monsters or Amazons  - or in fact anybody. He's an artist.

John Macallan Swan (1847-1910): Orpheus

If you look at the Victorian depictions of Orpheus, the underlying suggestion that he was "not like other men, ahem," is pretty clear. He's painted as a beautiful but extremely feminine-looking man. He's depicted in poses normally reserved for female models, sometimes even in the coy half-draped clothing of an erotic model.

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929): The Lament of Orpheus

His end is tragic: forswearing sex with women after losing Eurydice for a second time, he is set upon by the Maenads: raving female worshippers of the intoxicating wine-god Dionysus. When he refuses to fuck them, they hack him into pieces.

Emile Levy (1826-1890): The Death of Orpheus

They kill him for not being heterosexual. This is not subtext, btw - Ovid states that after losing his wife, Orpheus took to sleeping only with young men and introduced the practice to Thrace. And Albrecht Dürer, back in the Fifteenth Century, specifically labels his picture of the murder, "Orpheus, the first sodomite."

 Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528): The Death of Orpheus

But death is not the end for our tragic hero. His head  and lyre drift downriver from where they've been discarded. Drifting out to sea, they are washed up and discovered on the isle of Lesbos. The head is still singing and now uttering prophecies, and it's installed in an oracular shrine there.

 Jean Delville (1867-1953): Orpheus

We're talking about a severed head here folks - something that might in other circumstances be described as in poor taste, at the very least. But in the hands of artists it becomes something beautiful and very very malesub.

 John William Waterhouse (1849-1917): Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus

Gustave Moreau (1826-1898): Thracian Girl Carrying the Head of Orpheus

Edward Berge (1876-1924): Muse Finding the Head of Orpheus

Note that the Maenads have not simply punished him by castration, but by the removal of his entire (masculine) body. What's left is sexless or androgynous. Remember also that he fails to rescue Eurydice because he indulges a vice normally ascribed to women: curiosity - he disobeys the commands of Hades and looks back to be sure that Eurydice is following him.

Artistically, Orpheus may be seen as a gay icon: an object of wonder, enchantment and allure to the heteronormative world. He blurs the traditional boundaries between masculine and feminine by being pacifistic, artistic and beautiful. And ultimately he is brutally punished by women for Not Being Man Enough.

I suspect a lot of psychological projection here by the artists in question, consciously or unconsciously!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Eyecandy Monday

For my current work-in-progress I've been trying out a new writing regime. Instead of waiting to write until I have a nice clear afternoon with all my chores done (Hah!), I've been waking up, letting the dogs out in the garden, fetching a cup of soy-milk and going back to bed to write for a couple of hours.

This slovenly habit has a number of advantages:  by the time I am actually up, dressed and facing the day, I've got the bulk of my writing target done (sometimes all of it), so I don't grouse around all day feeling guilty and annoyed with that task hanging over my head. It means I'm much more likely to get the work done. And it puts me in a good mood for the day too, creatively and sexually  :-)
Actually prioritising writing is something I need to do more. It should come before everything else ... though sadly it can't always. There are appointments to keep, and irritating petty things like meals.

The bad news is that my blog is getting done later and the dogs aren't getting walked until after lunch. But they'll live ... That's what I tell them anyway ;-)

When do you write?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Simple minded

Oh, I am so excited! I'm off to see Eighties stadium-rock group Simple Minds play live tonight! I never got to see them in their heyday, so this is total wish-fulfilment nostalgia.

I played this album so often:

I am, I admit, now slightly puzzled nowadays by why I thought Jim Kerr was totally gorgeous at the time.

I mean ... he's sort of, um ... Maybe it was the floppy hair? (He did have great hair - all gone now, sadly.) The tight leggings? Nah, it was the anthemic music. He sang and I thought he was beautiful. Lurv is blind.

Heh ... I did hear a joke about him, long ago:  
Q: How does Jim Kerr get a seven-inch erection?
A: He folds it in half.

I have NO IDEA whether this is fact-based. But I like to think that, unlike hair, some things don't diminish with age ;-)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Book review: City of Dreams

City of Dreams by Brian Tarsis is a stand-alone graphic novel:  a BDSM fantasy/fairy tale. When it arrived I told myself I wouldn't read more than the first few pages before doing my writing for the day, but as you can guess ... Yes, once again I failed my Will Save.
(I have a very low Wisdom; that's my excuse.)

Taris both writes and illustrates. His careful linework is clear and clean; sometimes spare and sometimes lushly detailed, as befits a fairy tale like this.

The plot is pretty slight: virginal Christine dreams herself in a fantasy realm every night, where she is woken from her enchanted sleep (rather vigorously!) and initiated into the glorious mysteries of submission by a handsome prince. It turns out he has a real-world counterpart too, and that guy turns up and takes her off to meet his mom for a good whipping. The storyline zigzags back and forth between real life and the dreamland, until finally everyone escapes happily ever after through a magic mirror into the land of healthy, filthy fun. 

In fact the novel is a really good introduction to the various tropes and practices of BDSM fantasy. And more than anything, City of Dreams bears a huge resemblence in terms of tone and incident to Anne Rice/Roquelaure's Beauty books: sparkly, well-scrubbed, pretty people doing naughty things without any emotional backlash, and falling in love through it. Oh yeah - and Pony Boys :-)

There's no darkness in this BDSM, despite the eyewatering things our heroine is subjected to. The only thing that stops it being almost respectable is the gleeful depiction of all those cocks and pussies at work.

I especially liked the Penisfish. ("Oh no! Please don't send us to the penisfish tank, mistress!")

So - if you're visually oriented like me, and love comics and BDSM and fantasy settings, this is a hot read and great fun. It's eyecandy only, but I think we all need more eyecandy like this.


Blogger isn't uploading pictures.
I'll post when it works!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Eyecandy Monday

Suck v Suckle

I find these words slighty problematic in an erotica context. I do like to use suckle sometimes because I find it a dirtier word than suck for some reason.

Suck is straightforward: it's a transitive verb (ie it has a subject and and object): "She sucked his big cock" ...  "He sucked her pert nipples."

Suckle is a weird one. It's not a synonym for suck. To suckle mean to breastfeed when transitive: "She suckled her child." But if used of the sucker, it is technically intransitive (no object) so you can't say "He suckled her breasts."

I think you could say "He suckled on her breasts."  (It does carry a heavy connotation of actually feeding ... but that's okay because you can use metaphor in erotica. Just think how boring it would be if you couldn't!)

Any English majors out there who can correct me?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Bologna - the grisly bits

... Or: a quick trip round the science collections in the Palazzo Poggi.
WARNING: most of the photos in this post range from being in poor taste to being downright macabre. If you are too squeamish for CSI, you should probably leave now.

Still with me?
Okay, the Palazzo Poggi houses the old collections of the Institute of Sciences in Bologna. It was intended, in the 18th century, to present an encyclopedic array of all that was known about science at the time - geology, natural history, anatomy, astronomy, physics, military architecture etc etc. It is just awesome, if you like the old-fashioned Cabinet of Wonders style of museum, and are tickled by the differences in the way the world was seen in the past.

 A chimaera: winner of the Ugliest Dead Fish competition

Now, in the 18th century medical anatomy was vital cutting-edge science. Surgeons and doctors needed to know human anatomy, but the supply of cadavers was problematic and - certainly in hot and muggy Bologna - they didn't keep well. In response, the cottage industry of anatomical wax modelling arose, and climbed to astonishing heights of accuracy and artistry. They were the 3D virtual models of their time.

This is a self-portrait (in wax) of Professor Anna Morandi (1714-74), anatomist and one of the greatest modellers. Notice how she poses with a severed head and exposed brain, though I guess she wouldn't really be wearing her posh frock when she worked.

 Some of her work...

This is a model of the muscles surrounding the anus. Thought you might like to know.

A typical "flayed man" model. They're posed as walking, living creatures. Artistic sensibility is an integral part of the display. Of course, Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds exhibition (which I saw a couple of years back) is a direct descendant of this school.

The specimens were emphatically not treated as cold lumps of inert matter divorced from living reality, which can seem really creepy to modern eyes. For example, here's a skeleton - accoutred as Death with his scythe.

This is a model by Clemente Susini, called the Venerina. It's a jigsaw dissection of a young female cadaver, layer by layer. Except that she doesn't look like a corpse - she's warm-coloured, elegant and is still wearing her pearls. It's a sexualised image. Misogynistic exploitation? Necrophilia? Not necessarily, though it looks like it to our eyes. There's a really interesting post by Jessica Palmer (with some startling pictures) postulating that this serene artistic style made things less stark and disturbing for the historical viewer.

After the waxworks we get onto the plaster models of the Obstetrics collection, which frankly I found way more disturbing. (Dead bodies don't upset me. Pain and terror upsets me.) There were walls and walls of models showing what could go wrong with childbirth. Enough to make you keep your legs crossed for the rest of your life.

The solution? This is a glass uterus! Doctors and midwives were trained at the university to deal with breech births and other bad presentations: the lecturer would put a stuffed cloth baby into this womb, and then the student would be blindfolded and have to get it out by touch alone.

How brilliant is that? Ingenuity and scientific rationalism applied to make the world better. I love it!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Once upon a time...


If anyone out there ever glances at the wordcounter to the right, they might have noticed that the count for a new novel, Named and Shamed, has been creeping slowly upward. This is my current project and I'm VERY excited about it: I've even  put writing short stories on hold :-)

I'm working on this with a new British publisher. Specifically, I was asked to write a "dark, lustfully depraved bondage fairy tale" full of  "surprise sex, bondage, abduction, bdsm and forced orgasms." So this is at the other end of my spectrum from the emotional erotic romance - it's a dark romp, a scary rollercoaster ride.

And the more I write, the more I'm surprised by the wicked filth popping out of my imagination!

What's it about? Well, there's a foundation of this:

A flavour of this:

And a seasoning of this:

Some of this and this:

But rather more of this:

So if I look a bit dazed for the next few months, you'll know why!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Eyecandy Monday

This one goes out to everyone who has to be in an office on a Monday morning...

Sunday, 12 June 2011


The perils of spending too much time in your own head...

Of course, if you're an erotica writer, you also run a severe risk of hand-cramp ;-)

Friday, 10 June 2011

Not So Easy-PZ

Well, that was an interesting experience...

I went into London last night because one of my blog heroes, PZ Myers, who writes Pharyngula, was over from the USA and appearing in conversation with Richard Dawkins. I lurv PZM - his blog is fiery, smart, funny and courageous, though in person he is mild-mannered and softly spoken.

So, who will be crowned Emperor of the Atheists?

But before the guys came on stage, we were invaded by a small but noisy student protest. They were protesting, at rock bottom, against government cuts to education and student support, but had decided to target Dawkins because he's involved with a proposed new independent high-flying (and high fee-charging) university. This apparently made him the "cause" of the cuts, in their eyes.

Now, I've been on a few political protests myself. I'd call myself a liberal, on most issues. And I'm willing to bet there was not one person in that audience, all eager to hear about evolutionary biology and rationalism, who was in favour of cuts to education.

But boy did we not like being told who we could or could not listen to. There was a collective shift to the Right in that room that was palpable.

At first the audience was bemused and curious. Then we sighed ("Oh, students"). Then, as the three police officers who turned up did nothing, and it began to dawn that our event might be cancelled not just delayed, they got irritated. There was jeering. Someone did a Monty Python recitation to applause ("We are all individuals!" "I'm not!"). Then the whole audience stood up and turned its backs on the protesters in rejection. One Romanian student came up on stage and bitterly complained that he'd paid to see this lecture, enough to eat for a couple of days back home (£6), and that he was going to start ejecting protesters himself - he got quietly warned that he was commiting an offence by threatening violence and sent back to his seat. Finally the police turned up in force and took the students away. Then they staged themselves round the lecture hall on watch.

There was one more outburst by a single protester mole in the audience as Dawkins started to speak. The police came down, grabbed him and hustled him off, not terribly gently this time - to extremely enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Freaky. I would call that an own-goal by the Left, though they'll never see it that way. All they did was raise antagonism and make enemies. They're probably still congratulating themselves, though.

And it's the first time I've attended a talk under police guard.

Update: there's a consideration of the protest, by another attendee, here.

On a lighter note ...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Bologna - the rude bits

Janine gets some Culture in

As a tourist, my specialist areas of sightseeing are the Naughty and the Slightly Macabre. So for your delectation today I present a selection of intellectually improving boobies, bums and dangly bits from my weekend in Bologna. Click to enlarge, of course.

It's his hand

Actually this is one of Bolgna's famous landmarks, the statue of Neptune in the Piazza Nettuno. Made in 1567, apparently it annoyed the Catholic Church so much that for some years it had wear clothes. My guidebook also says that locals delight in pointing out this angle to photographic tourists. And yes, it's true - the woman who did our breakfasts in the hotel urged us to take this shameless smutpic!

These are the nereids at the base of the Neptune fountain. They represent the rivers Amazon, Danube, Nile and Ganges, I think. And they squirt water out of their tits. Cos that's classy.

"Camp? Moi?"

A rather sweet hermaphrodite from the archaeology museum.

This isn't sweet - it's just in very poor taste! From the medieval museum ... it wasn't labelled but we think it's an oil lamp. You can just imagine a university professor enjoying his reading by the light of someone's burning arse.

Topless martyrdom! She's smiling bravely through it all, though.

A detail from another painting in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, the main art gallery (which has the best medieval collection). There's actually a huge fresco in the San Petronio basilica in the same style and theme: the Devil devouring sinners on Judgement Day and shitting them out of his fiery bowels into Hell. Note the guy in the bishop's mitre directly below the Satanic Butt.
(The church fresco, btw, has an amusing and highly controversial extra detail which you can't actually get close enough to see clearly. Oh, you naughty Christians. Why can't you just play nice? *sniggers*)

Votive genitalia from the archeological museum. Either Etruscan or Roman, but the labelling wasn't in English and didn't give a date. Since these were made as thank-offerings, presumably the afflicted parts got better. Or bigger. Or whatever it was that the supplicants were praying for...

This is one of the wooden caryatids that holds up the canopy of the lecturer's podium in the old anatomy theatre. It depicts a flayed male corpse in remarkably ambulatory condition.

On second thoughts, maybe that belongs in Bologna - the grisly bits...