Friday, September 30, 2016

Phallic Friday - Madonna/Whore Complex

At the 2016 RWA Conference, I attended a day at the Academic Conference where papers were presented by students and staff working in the areas of popular culture and creative writing. I heard papers on varying topics, but the theme that was most interesting to me was the one where women experience a Madonna/Whore complex. It was a thread in a few of the papers presented.

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this dichotomy - where women are expected to be like a Madonna (is the Virgin Mary one, not the pop star one!) on the one hand - virginal, meek, mild, non-questioning, nurturing, full of mothering, loving goodness. Yet, is also expected to be a whore - being true to her needs, getting what she wants, wearing what she wants, doing what she wants.

This complex isn't necessarily confined to sex, but it's a constant push-pull for many females just in regular life decisions.

Family and societal pressures create it the most within me. Let me give you a very simple example: My aim in life was to move to the country and own a horse. I worked towards doing this, and when I finally got a job in the country, within the next few weeks death and ill-health affected my family - the one I'd left behind in Sydney when I moved. I was 23, a month into my new job, just striking out in my career. Not from within my immediate family, but from the wider family and friends, I was subjected to quite a big push to 'come back home and care for the family'. I'm the eldest, so I could see why people expected me to take on this responsibility (ie be the Madonna) - but damn it, it was my life to lead my way (ie be the whore) and that was to live in the country.

Thank goodness Mum, who was very much a Madonna, was quite adamant that I should follow my dreams and do what I wanted to do, because I would have caved. If she hadn't kept me propped up in my beliefs, I would have given into the pressure to look after everyone else. I would have hated myself, I would have been a miserable bitch, but I'd have done it (grudgingly).

So many times, I get pushed into being the Madonna that I'm not. And it really really bugs me when I realise what I've done.

On the other hand, when I stand my ground and be the whore I want to be, sometimes that hurts because you're exposed to criticism and ridicule, ostracised or excluded.

I think I'm going to spend many many weeks exploring this theme - maybe I won't bore you with it every week! It's got me completely fascinated.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - bird baths

We have a tap in the front garden with a concreted "bowl" beneath it. It came with the house, but it seems that the previous owners used it as a bird bath, so I have continued the tradition.

Throughout the day, birds seem to take their turn at bathing. Around the 4 pm mark, the Rainbow Lorikeets have their turn. They have an all in, very noisy, very splashy bathing routine. It's like family groups come down for a swim!

The rosellas come earlier in the day and they're so much more dignified. They bathe singly, with others standing guard. Sometimes it's just a pair, but often a few stand guard and wait their turn. Should anyone come, there's a call from the trees or the fence, and bathing bird is away. They each seem to spend roughly the same time bathing, which is cute :)

The Masked Plovers don't really bath. They splash water on themselves, drink, and preen.

The cockatoos, corellas, and galahs seem to prefer a bird bath on a stand that is wider as well. It also came with the house and is out the back. Koels have also bathed in the larger sized bath.

I like a bathtub that fits me. I like to sprawl out and soak. Relax my shoulder muscles as I sink into the depths. I'm not terribly fond of the tubs where your knees are under your armpits and you do a quick splash without the joy of soaking! So I completely understand the birds needs for a suitably sized bath!

Do you like a good soak in the bath?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Phallic Friday - limits/taboos

I read a very interesting post (here) on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association blog, written by Lisabet Sarai. She always writes thoughtful, thought-provoking posts.

Her post was about taboos and limits in erotic writing. She's questioning what taboos and limits should exist, or should there be any? Is it a personal decision, or one that should be made for people?

She lists some taboos, which are becoming more commonplace in published erotic writing - rape, incest, bestiality - and gives reasons for and against, asking if they should still be 'banned'.

Then she explores a few taboos that aren't common in published erotic writing - sex with minors, violence, physical harm, death.

She makes some very good points about how 'rules' have changed in recent times, or how they've been bent to include different fads. Then she has this beautiful paragraph, which I love -

"In my view, erotica should not only turn readers on, but should also expand their perspectives. Sex is inextricably intertwined with so many other emotions—love, guilt, ambition, shame, anger, and compassion, to name just a few. Erotica derives its singular power from this psychological complexity. It’s not a safe genre, or at least it shouldn’t be. Sometimes the most arousing stories are the most disturbing."

There's something in those words that clangs a big gong in my chest. That's why I write erotica, to explore, to expand, to question, to understand. I want to dig into those emotions through story, to help unravel the giant mystery of emotion and sex and connection.

Erotica isn't safe. That's what I find thrilling.

It's not safe reading it, or writing it. I learn things about myself as I read and write - I can be shocked at my own double standards, my lack of critical thinking of issues, my lack of understanding of another's perspective or life choice.

Sometimes I can be writing and my words pull up as my brain can't take me any further into the topic. It's where my thinking has stopped, or where my limit is, or where my knowledge fails. It's always enlightening to reach that point, to see where/what it is.

Sometimes when reading, I may have to stop a book, or put it down until later because the topic has slapped me in the face, or I just can't handle the scene. Finding that point in myself is intriguing. Niggling at it to work out why, or why not, is fascinating.

In a completely non-erotic example, when I was in high school we had to read John Steinbeck's The Red Pony. The opening scene is horrific with a horse being cut open and dying (I vaguely think it was a caesarean, but maybe I'm wrong, it was a long time ago!). I loved horses and longed for my own, so this hit a wall inside me - I wanted a horse and they were 'wasting' them in this book. I also have a vivid imagination and Steinbeck's description was rather gruesome, creating vivid images in my mind which became recurring nightmares. I've never read that book (I bargained with my teacher and read a couple of others instead). In truth, I have never picked up a Steinbeck book or even wanted to. No matter how much people tell me of his genius. That's my limit. It may have changed - I'm sure it would have - but I haven't gone back to test it out!

I'm not fond of violence, horror, torture, humiliation, degradation. But I understand that other people like these things. I don't think because these are my limits, they should be banned. I think I should be entitled to choose. It should be a personal decision.

How do you feel about 'rules' in erotic publication?

Do you have limits/taboos you can't read/write?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Masked Plovers

We have Spur-winged Plovers (also called Masked Plovers) around all the time. Each year, we have a pair lay eggs in our yard, but the last few years, it's been on our roof. One year a chick ended up being swept down the guttering and dying in a rainstorm. They don't have much luck keeping chicks alive even though the parents are fiercely protective and move their chicks regularly.

Anyway, this year they gave a me rough time when I went out to the garbage bin - and I guess it was the day the chicks hatched. So I had stern words with the swooping pests, telling them it was my yard and I wasn't looking for chicks to feed. Gosh, I hoped the neighbours didn't hear me negotiating with birds!!

A couple of days later, the parents brought their brood to visit me. I'm sure that's why they were in the yard making such a racket!

Here's Mum and Dad and the 4 chicks. I think the chicks are cute bits of fluff on stick legs :)

Sadly, I haven't seen them again. I'm hoping some of the chicks have managed to survive. At least none were washed away in rain this year, so that's one less threat.

The local pets, cats and dogs, are the most serious threats but wildlife too. One year I saw the parents chasing a hawk/eagle away from the area above my house, which was quite spectacular. I wasn't sure who'd win that, but the bird of prey left after about 15 mins.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Losing Your Virginity

I found this article online, which I thought was interesting. You can find it here. It's pretty much a book promo, but the interesting thread they've taken on it is 'losing her virginity at 30'.

I thought it'd be saying 'how old' she was, or how unrealistic that is, because I've read similar sorts of articles with those themes. Strangely enough, they're saying that it's cool to do it when you're ready. That sometime oddballs have to wait until they're right.

At the start I was worried it'd be a blame game, but it kind of wasn't.

This whole article is rather refreshing. It's light-hearted, a bit goofy, but it still gives a great message that you should be your own self, do things when you're ready, not get caught up in what everyone else is doing. I think that's awesome.

There seems to be some high-profile personalities coming out and showing their strength by being different. I guess there's always been some who promote this, but they're often labelled 'different' anyway. Now it seems more mainstream people are embracing their 'differences'. I think I'd like to see a world where different was celebrated.

I'm sure there'd be problems too, but I'm going to leave my rose-coloured glasses on for now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kennedia rubicunda

I was wandering the streets the other day when I went to take a photo of a tree and this little flash of red caught my eye. I knew it was a plant from the pea family, but I wasn't sure what sort of a pea. So I took a heap of photos and came home and dug out the books. And it's a native, Kennedia rubicunda.

It was a little vine twining up a fence, with the flowers only about as long as your finger.

Peas (Fabaceae family) have quite distinct flowers. They have flashy big 'banners' that sit up the top and attract attention. Then the centre of the banners is where the wings and keel sit... or you know, if you're an erotic writer with a mind that runs to sex, it's like a big bottom and female genitalia - labia and a large clit. I know, sorry, you'll never see sweet peas the same again, will you? :)

Peas produces pods (like fresh pea vegetables you buy for shelling and eating) with seeds. So I'm hoping that I might be able to grab a few of these seeds and grow myself some beautiful flowers. Here's hoping no one else in the neighbourhood has the same idea!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Married At First Sight Week 3 Ep 2 Final

Tonight's show was the Final. After the 4 week long experiment, there were a compulsory few days apart, before they decided where the relationship would go post-experiment.

Nicole and Keller
After his drinking binge, which caused him a great deal of remorse, things were a bit rocky but these two decided to stay together.

He told her he was 'head over heels' for her. She said she had doubts but wanted to keep going.

Michael and Bella
I thought he seemed like he was pulling back. He made a few comments about Bella making the 'not moving in together' decision without discussion. He also said that he as really angry. But then when it came to the big question at the end of the experiment, he agreed to stay together.

I'm not sure what he was angry about. I took it to be that she was selfish, but I must have misread that.

Also, she says in the discussion with the relationship experts that sex is a very big part of a relationship and that once the sex has gone, the relationship is over, which is why it's so important to her. Being an erotic writer, I should definitely be agreeing with her, but being a person too, I struggle with this. I think a relationship can also be about friendship, companionship, mutual respect, enjoyment, and if the sex wanes, I'd like to think there was more to a relationship to keep it going. But, let's put it down to editing!

Monica and Mark
There was some intimation that he was goofy and she was worried that it meant he didn't trust her and that the relationship wasn't working - but I'm pretty sure this was editing/required. These two look sensible and solid. Sure there aren't fireworks going off for them, or not that they'll show on TV, but they seem to have progressed a lot over the 4 weeks and their relationship seems to be built on respect and shared experiences, fun and developing trust. I hate to say it, but I like that the foundation doesn't appear to be sex.

Sadly, the episode finished there. I thought the last ones had shown the couple after 3 or 6 months, but not this time. I was disappointed. I wanted to see if they'd lasted outside of the experiment. I guess that gossip will be on social media in the next few days.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Married At First Sight Week 3 ep 1

Tonight's episode was with the 3 remaining couples. It's post dinner, meeting up with families and a week before the 'end of the experiment' so decisions need to be made soon.

Nicole and Keller
It appeared like they didn't speak after the dinner but I think this was just editing. It looked like they spoke the next morning. Keller thought he was defending Nicole. She said she didn't need protecting. So there's a difference in values, as well as reading of the atmosphere at dinner.

He apologises and says that he'll do anything to be with her, and that he'll change to suit her. I found this unrealistic and a really silly promise to make because it's almost impossible to keep. But she accepted it, said if it was broken she'd be heart broken (I'm feeling really cynical and jaded!!).

At Keller's family, his mother and Nicole seem a lot alike - laugh a lot, same attitude towards him (he's like a kid). His mum says that he's usually commitment-phobic, so she's seeing a huge difference in him (she says that she thinks Keller must really love Nicole, but this isn't said to Nicole).

Then Keller goes out with Navy mates. Gets rotten drunk, comes home still drunk with a new tattoo (which he's socked to discover). He keeps drinking and she's really shitty. She goes to stay with friends. Next day, he's remorseful but still wearing the same clothes! He's self-sabotaging and he knows it.

These two are both big-hearted people. Keller has some real issues which I hope he gets help for. If he gets help and works on these, I could see them lasting, but I don't know that he'll get help.

Michael and Bella
After the dinner party, Bella says, "I know that whatever I did, he'd have my back." I found this a strange comment - almost like she'd put him to a test. But again, it's editing of the show which takes this out of context, so who knows what else she said. This is where I find analysis of the show frustrating. I don;t think I'll do it again. I can't tell if I'm reading things into what's being said because of the way it's skewed for TV.

Michael is noticing her walls, and even when he tries to talk about this, she doesn't seem to drop them - even for him. He wants depth and intimacy; she's not giving it. I'm suspecting that he might walk away from this relationship (but again...editing!).

When meeting Michael's mother, Bella is still all handsy with Michael. But she's all bubbles and not a lot of substance, even with his mother.

Then Bella catches up with her mate. He asks if she's fallen in love, she says yes, and he asks who said it first - and is relieved when she hasn't. This is kind of odd - does she fall in love often/easily? Then she tells him that at the end of the experiment, she and Michael aren't going to move in together because they both have their own places to go to. He's stunned and says that's weird - but she doesn't find it odd at all. When she tells Michael, he has the same reaction as her friend - stunned.

I think this relationship has never got past the surface. I don't have much hope for this pair.

Mark and Monica
After the dinner, Monica sees that their relationship is quite different to the other ones, so they sit and chat about that. Then they chat about what they feel about their relationship and where they see it going in the future. He says he feels more for her each day, he likes her more, and wants to keep spending time with her. She's the same.

They go to spend time with Monica's mum, and it seems like they get along well - easy going and fun. Then we see Monica telling Mark about her childhood (being one of 8 kids, her dad dying young, her mum having to work, all the kids working too). He's asking questions (gently) and he's really listening (turned to her, head down, eye contact, moving closer). There's not a lot of touching while they talk, but these two aren't touchy feely. Then there's a big hug.

I think these two have the most in common and have gone about their relationship slowly and without being pushed by TV. I hope they make it beyond the show.

So, there's my latest predictions! See how I go tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Married At First Sight week 2 Ep 3

The Dinner Party
Fireworks were promised and happened but let me look at the normal stuff first because the fireworks is a mess in my head.

Monica and Mark are comfortable, funny, relaxed and at ease with each other. They both say they like each other and they're taking it slowly. Which is great. I like their kookiness. But I bet they're a TV producer's nightmare - no drama!

Jess and Dave turned up, aired their views, but there's not a thing happening between them. She's strong though, and maybe stronger from this experience.

Craig and Andy didn't rate a mention, which was a surprise.

Nicole and Keller, and Bella and Michael were the couples in the fireworks. Mostly because the two couples are total and complete opposites. Let me look at Bella and Michael first.

B & M have quite a focus on sex/intimacy, with excessive PDAs even at dinner with others talking, sitting opposite the couple who've broken up. They don't seem aware of others or others' feelings. Bella says she isn't into kids, had no plans for kids, and never saw herself having them because they detract from the sex and intimacy of the couple. Michael doesn't say anything. Which is odd. (Could be editing). Then Bella begins questioning who had sex and when...even with the defunct Jess and Dave there. This is where things get heated because she just doesn't give up, no matter how politely others try to fob her off.

Nicole and Keller. Right before the party, he says he loves Nicole but doesn't know how she feels so he's not saying anything yet. So he's rattled already. Then we hear he's never been to a dinner party before. I'm really worried for him. Nicole seems to laugh when he's a goose, so she's not really helping him learn what she wants. She says he's immature, and indicates that he's not well-informed. He's also a bit of a shit-stirrer. At the dinner, he makes a couple of inappropriate 'jokes' that no one seems to notice (edits maybe). But he says at one stage when Nic jokes about being with Dave, "But then you'd get left on your honeymoon." He seems uncomfortable, out of his depth, and Nicole doesn't seem to notice.

After Jess and Dave talk about their split, Nicole says that maybe Dave should have given it more time because sometimes the "oh wow" doesn't happen right away - and Keller's floored by this. He moves back from the table a little, his expression is shocked and frozen, and he doesn't make any jokes. I don't think he's any clue Nicole wasn't as into him at the get go.

Then Bella talks about kids, and this too upsets Keller's sense of the world, his strong need for family, and he's on the defensive.

When Bella the starts on about sex, Keller and Nicole are both evasive, even saying they like to keep private things private, but the questions keep up and Nicole blurts out that they've had sex, isn't that enough now. No details. It's uncomfortable, and I think Keller wasn't prepared for her to cave. Then he gives this story with lots of detail leading up to sex - which made me wonder if it was true (his odd telling, her strange reaction).

Keller seems to have really defined sense of right/wrong, black/white, public/private. The "experts" comment that he has strong boundaries and that Bella isn't reading these. But I think Nicole has missed these too. I think while Keller and Nicole share similar views about a lot of things, their relationship has gone smoothly. They haven't yet had opposing views, so maybe she hasn't realised how rigid his views are.

Keller makes quite a low shot at Bella, Michael gets defensive and then attacks Keller (his verbal attack is as nasty, if not more personal, that Keller's). Meanwhile, Nicole has up and gone. She's uncomfortable so she's run, leaving Keller defenceless and unsupported, which I can't imagine is good for him.

At the end of the night, Keller apologises to the men for his behaviour and Michael accepts it well. I think it took a big man to make that heartfelt apology, so my hat was off to Keller. Not sure if his apology went to the girls too as they'd split into groups then.

So my learning from tonight was CONSERVATIVE vs LIBERAL. It's probably not going to work if you mash two very different people together - eg Keller and Bella would never work. And friendships get strained when you have this mix of couples too. So a character's attitudes to society are quite important, and pairing too many opposing views won't ever work.

On this show, Keller is a fascinating person. I wondered earlier about his tattoos and why he had them if he was so conscious of people's negative reaction to him because of them. Then when you see him in shorts, the Tatts are really only in places where they're visible (hands, forearms, calves, neck, upper chest, shoulders). It makes me wonder why you get them in confronting places, if you're concerned by people's reactions. Is it the shit stirring part of him? Is it cover up? 

Tonight he showed very conservative views about family, sex, relationships, careers, even some homophobia (or at least anti-metrosexual). Maybe this is a product of years in the defence forces, or maybe it's him, but it's intriguing. He's the most fascinating person on the show...but I also worry about him being exposed like this on a national TV program when he seems vulnerable.

I think tonight I realised I need more depth to my characters, more layers of issues and confusion. Plus I need to think about their societal views and how that might work with their relationships and friendships.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Married At First Sight Week 2 Ep 2

Tonight we saw 2 couples call it quits - Jess and Dave, along with Craig and Andy. And we saw one couple declare their love - Bella and Michael.

So I wanted to think about the contrast between Craig and Andy (who split) and Bella and Michael (declaring love). Craig is demonstrative and an all-in type of guy. He wanted affection, touches, kisses, and displays of love. Andy's slow and reserved, so this pairing didn't get off the ground because of the difference in expectations, largely. (I'm sure there was more - possibly lack of mutual attraction as with Jess & Dave).

Bella and Michael are both like Craig. They're both touchy, demonstrative people who have gone all-in very quickly. Their relationship has worked, to date, because they're both moving at a suitable speed, with signs they both understand. They've found a lot in common, and seem to be quite open in their affections (Bella even saying they'd christened rooms).

But how does this sort of a relationship work when they get to a point where signs aren't clear to one;  or the speed changes? Tonight Michael had old photos out and Bella got prickly when there were photos of old girlfriends. She walked away. And the discussion of Michael's child was quite brief (which may be editing) and this hasn't been brought up again (may be editing), not even when looking at photos. These couple of things make me look at how relationships get deeper, and it seems to all rely on communication - and if you aren't communicating in the same way, or a way that each understands, then the relationship seems doomed.

Jess and Dave were doomed. Right at the start, he wasn't physically attracted to her and although he said he wasn't sure that was important and he thought things might develop, he was kidding himself. When there was no instant chemistry, he turned off. He wasn't interested in anything that wasn't insta-love. Which is interesting for a writer...because that 'chemistry' at meeting seems to be almost a necessity for putting an effort to get to know the person deeper.

Bella and Michael had an instant chemistry that they've taken to love with their fast paced relationship.

Craig was instantly attracted to Andy and then was bitter when his affection wasn't returned.

Keller was instantly attracted to Nicole, and she was won over very quickly by his caring vows.

Monica and Mark both saw each other as hot.

A lot to be said for instant attraction or chemistry or just being 'into' someone.

Married At First Sight week 2 ep 1

I know, I wasn't going to post until 3 shows were done... but... I need to vent.

Craig and Andy.
OMG. These two are the strangest pair. Craig is all lovey-dovey, and Andy is most reserved. This wouldn't matter so much if they could communicate, but they can't communicate. So there's no middle ground because there's no talking. No talking means neither knows what the other wants/needs.

Craig's gone off in a huff...but I suspect it's a beat up for the show. Could be wrong though!

Jess and Dave.
This pair are the definition of awkward. She's trying so hard, and he doesn't seem to give a damn. Last night was the honeymoon and he's there in a shirt that has to be a relic at best (faded, one pocket ripped off, almost a rag). Now, I own shirts like this. I hang around in them at home. I did not take them on my honeymoon, I don't wear them down the street. Why? Because Mum drilled in to me that you have to 'show you care' by wearing something decent, going that extra mile. Maybe it's a girl-thing, or else Dave's mother never fed him those lines.

Then they went for a swim. Jess isn't petite and she's wearing a bikini which she isn't overly keen about. She's straight-froward, straight-talking, so she tells him it's a big deal for her to show her body off in public. And he, bloody hell, he goes, (not word for word because I was too stunned to write to down), Get over yourself. I was 130 kg and now I'm 98 kg. You just gotta accept who you are. How's that help her? How's that show any emotion connection or understanding?

Then he 'forgets' about her when they're learning to surf. Then he sits watching cricket and when she tries to engage with him by asking questions about the cricket, he's virtually monosyllabic in his responses. Then she tries to have a chat about how she's feeling and he goes, "Yeah. Yeah."

Maybe this is edited to make him look bad and then they'll have a 'surprise reunion' and be all pally...or maybe it's real. But this is the stuff that makes me look at romance writing and learn for my writing.

In a romance novel, the guy would be emotionally connected, and he'd talk back. He'd understand the girl - or at least try to. In romance, we have the people talking so that they can understand each other and begin to connect - especially those who find no immediate attraction.

In real life, I'm not so sure this happens. All these couples are so far awkward, or superficially bonding. Talking and creating a connection takes time. Sometimes in romance we gloss over this. We have them together and chatting and connecting quickly - because that's what we're reading for. We don't read romance to feel the awkwardness of real life, or at least most readers don't!

So that's what I learned last night.