What’s your stance on erotica? Haven’t settled on one yet? Well, don’t panic – as with sex itself, there’s an abundance of attitudes to choose from, so one is sure to take your fancy.
Let’s say you’re the upright type; well, you’re bound to be attracted to the missionary position, which means you’ll demonise any book that even hints at humpty-do. If, however, you’re more of a ‘cowgirl’ at heart, then you’ll happily bend over backwards for any old porn on the page.
My standpoint is different. When it comes to erotica, I prefer to play leapfrog. That’s right: I jump about, taking each text as it comes and trying to judge a work on its merits. Good writing excuses anything, I reckon – even a splash of the sauce.
Trouble is, I’m yet to put my approach to the test, having never really read any raunch. I like sex, so it’s not that I’m averse to its depiction in fiction; it’s just that I get bored by artless stories, of which there seem to be plenty.
What is artful erotica, then? As we writers are always being exhorted to ‘show not tell’, I’ve decided to try a little experiment. Rather than attempt to catalogue the qualities of the ideal erotic tale (as I see it), I’ll present for your delectation a purpose-written story instead.
More ‘doctored strangelove’ than sexual stuntfest, here then is the first stimulating instalment of ‘Feathers and Fur’.
‘I’m very passionate,’ she said, inspecting her nails in the light, ‘about the power of plumage.’
‘You’re into feathers?’
Goldie studied me for a moment. A long, searching moment.
‘Wait here,’ she said, before slipping from the room.
Groaning under my breath, I watched her go. She was swaddled in a sleek orange sari but had the kind of figure that would look good in a cassock. I mused for a minute, picturing her draped in a wet shower curtain. Not quite what I’d meant, but it proved my point – that for a woman she was remarkably well hung. Full and firm where it counted, like my fiancé, Christine.
I sighed and put down my pen. Fantasising about my clients wasn’t going to pay the bills. Maybe Chrissie was right – maybe the time I’d sunk into this ‘business’ of mine was all for nothing. Maybe I just didn’t have what it takes to be a freelance writer. I mean, I’d wasted an hour already this morning thanks to this woman and her cat.
‘Sorry,’ Goldie had called, as she’d come pattering across the street in her neat little sandals. ‘My puss usually wakes me at the crack of dawn, but I think she’s on heat or something. Went out through the bathroom window.’
Digging around in her shoulder bag for keys, she gave me the once-over. Twice.
We’d arranged to meet here fifty minutes ago, a full hour before opening time, so I could get some background for a puff piece I was writing on Goldie’s latest venture, a niche clothing store called ‘Feathers and Fur’.
Finding her keys at last, Goldie let us into the shop, a bright open space set out with racks of lingerie and outré outfits of all kinds.
‘So,’ she said, leading me across the room, ‘you’ve come to do a little digging.’
I dodged around one of the half-naked mannequins that dotted the room.
‘That’s the general idea,’ I said. ‘If you can still spare the time.’
She sniggered. ‘Oh, things don’t hot up here until later on. Actually, I’m kinda hoping you’ll warm these mornings up for me a little. You and your piece.’
‘I’ll do my best,’ I said, following her into a stylish office furnished with black leather couches and a desk. I glanced around. Two windows framed neat hedges and a strip of sky, while a door in the back wall opened on to what was presumably a storeroom.
‘The first thing to know,’ Goldie said, dumping her bag on the table, ‘is that this place runs on coffee. Good hot coffee.’
And she spent the next ten minutes fiddling with the espresso machine that stood on a bar fridge in the corner.
When I tried to shoot her a question, the response was swift.
‘No talking,’ she cried, over the whoosh of the machine. ‘Making coffee is my morning ritual. It grounds me for the rest of the day.’
‘Fair enough,’ I said, grinning at the pun.
Spotting my smile, Goldie decided I wasn’t taking her seriously enough, and launched into a detailed explanation of her ‘coffology’. To my discredit – I suppose I should have been taking notes – I tuned right out, preferring instead to visualise her in various forms of dress. The cassock was a flop, I decided, although the cross on a chain around her neck brought out two of her best features.
I was about to try her in a nuns’ habit when she turned and charged across the room, a cup cocked in each hand.
‘This’ll get you going,’ Goldie said, giving me one before dropping on to the couch opposite me with the other.
She drank with obvious relish.
‘Thanks,’ I said. A second later I was spluttering.
‘Some like it hot,’ Goldie said, with a smile. ‘I did warn you.’
I dabbed at my lips. ‘I’ll listen next time.’
‘Good boy. It’s the first thing a man should do. So,’ she said, settling back on the couch, ‘what’s your piercing first thrust?’
‘Well, I was going to ask about the mannequins.’
‘Wrong,’ she said. ‘People usually want to know about my name.’
‘Goldie. Right. After the actress, I suppose.’
‘Hell no,’ she said. ‘The metal.’
‘Gold. I get it.’
‘I was a weighty newborn, apparently, and soft – super soft.’
I pretended to write that down. ‘And precious too,’ I ventured.
‘Not half as valuable as my sister,’ Goldie said, with a pout. ‘Titty.’
I looked at her blankly.
‘Titanium,’ she added.
‘Of course. Atomic number 22.’
‘I’m impressed. Next question, Chemistry Man.’
‘Hooked on them, aren’t you. Trust me, you’re not their type. Let’s get back to my type. Your piece. Ask me something probing, about Goldie.’
‘Okay,’ I said. ‘The shop. Why’d you open it?’
And that’s when she said what she said.
‘I’m very passionate. About the power of plumage.’
And that’s when I said what I said.
‘You’re into feathers?’
And that’s when she disappeared, mysteriously, into the back room.
I sat and toyed with the idea of calling Chrissie. I’d promise to chuck this writing thing in and go back to being a photographic model. Doing shoots all the time was a drag, but at least I got paid for daydreaming. And, boy, what material I’d had to work with. Dress ’em up, dress ’em down. Back then, fantasising had actually paid off – it’d given me the hunky faraway look for which I’d become known.
‘Yes,’ Goldie said. ‘I’m into feathers.’
I looked up and saw a coppery feather boa shimmering in the doorway. Behind it was a body, mostly naked. Butt-naked, as far as I could tell.
‘You’re in feathers,’ I pointed out, somewhat pedantically. Then I raised my eyebrows, adding, ‘And now you’re not.’
To be continued, as they say, with apologies for the eroticus interruptus.
[Breaking News: ‘Feathers and Fur’ is now complete, its climax having been posted here.]