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I write sex books

My older daughter, Athena (not her real name) in her first week in an American school made a new friend. The friend’s mom was volunteering for playground duty, and upon meeting Athena asked her what myself and my husband did for work. My husband’s job is innocuous–he’s a programmer.

“My mom writes sex books,” Athena tells her.

Fast forward to last week. I meet the mom for coffee–it’s my first time hanging out with her and I’m hoping to make a good impression. The story comes out after I said I write romance novels.

I am mortified.

That afternoon I shared what I’d learned with my daughter, and asked why she’d said that. I wasn’t angry with her, I just wanted to know why.

“That man is naked on your cover. He’s not wearing a shirt.”

She means RJ.

I asked her what she thought sex was.

“I don’t know.”

Cue my buying Sex is a Funny Word from Amazon, and asking her to say I write books, or I write romance books instead of sex books.

My friends have found this whole story hilarious. I am moving from mortification to amusement as well.

Wicked Wednesday: Questions my daughter asks about my writing

This Wicked Wednesday’s theme is questions. It’s actually a timely prompt, because my oldest daughter, Ms. 7, has been asking a lot of questions about my writing.

Ms. 7 knows that I’m an author, and that when I say I’m writing the only reason she or her sister, Ms. 4, should bother me is if someone is bleeding. But now that she can read, my writing isn’t just scribbles on a computer screen. I have to be aware of where she is at all times to ensure that she doesn’t walk up behind me and read inappropriate content over my shoulder (which has happened a few times). She is a curious child who is also a bibliophile, and she has begun asking questions about my stories.

I want to talk about what I write in an age appropriate way, but also in a way that doesn’t imply shame over my stories.

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When I got the email with my cover art for Capturing the Moment, I got really excited and called my husband over to see it. Ms. 7 was around and she came over, too. When she saw the cover, her comment was “Mommy, is that man naked?”

Yes, yes he is. “No, he’s just shirtless,” I responded, steeling myself in case she asked why.

She shrugged and said, “Okay.”

I confess I was relieved.

I was raised in a very sex negative home. As someone who has been a sex educator, and as an erotica author, I believe in having a positive approach to sexuality. That sex between consenting partners is a healthy part of life. That it’s totally normal to have various partners over the years. That sexuality is fluid.

Unfortunately, Singapore is a very conservative and sexist society. I am constantly battling against the heteronormative and traditionally gendered notions she is fed in school. I once said to a therapist that I thought it was irritating that girls have to wear dresses and don’t have the option of wearing shorts. I was told, effectively, that wearing shorts would turn them into lesbians. Friends tell me that girls at their high schools with “too short” hair were considered lesbians and punished accordingly–guilty regardless of identity and regardless of the fact that it’s just wrong. The reductive attitudes toward sexuality and gender roles makes me question my choice to bring up daughters here. (Not that the US is a utopia, but there’s a wider range of “normal” there.)

Ms. 7 and have had a few conversations about sex. She knows the proper names for the male and female body parts, including genitals. She’s learned about the fertilization of an egg, and how it can grow into a fetus (or not–I’ve been open about the fact that I had a miscarriage before my pregnancy with her). Ironically, I think we’ve talked more about abortion than we have sex. But that’s because she’s more interested in the concept of being pregnant or not being pregnant. She isn’t all that interested in what happens before pregnancy (or not getting pregnant).

We’ve talked about masturbation, sort of. That it’s healthy and normal to want to touch yourself, but that your bedroom is the right place to do that, as opposed to the middle of the living room.

lets talk about sex

I know that Ms. 7’s questions will change, and despite my preparation as a sex ed teacher and my desire to create a sex-positive home, I am nervous that I won’t get it right.

I want to teach her that sex is a good healthy thing. I want her to understand consent, and to feel comfortable saying “no!” when she doesn’t want to do something. I want her to know what a healthy relationship looks like. I want her to have access to birth control of all kinds. I’d rather that she have sex in her room in the house at sixteen than going down on her partner in the bathroom of a subshop because they have nowhere else to go. (True story–both I and my boyfriend worked at the sub shop, and the bathroom didn’t have cameras, so we’d fool around in there. That’s where I learned to cover my teeth when giving a blow job because I’d never given one before. And yes, ew.)

I want to help her advocate for a better tomorrow for women and their sexuality.

On the flip side, I need to teach her about rape culture. That she will get catcalled. As a biracial woman, she will need to fend off idiots who ask “what are you?” like she’s an exotic pet. I need to help her navigate the quicksand that is being a woman. That you will get criticized for being “too ambitious.” (Just look at the criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for a zillion examples of sexism leveled at ambitious women.)

With regards to my writing, I don’t want her to think that I’m ashamed about writing explicit sex. But she also needs to know that there is a boundary as to what I’m going to share, regardless of how old she gets. If she reads any of the anthologies I’m in when she’s older, I honestly don’t want to know. I was 11/12 ish when I started stealing my mom’s books and feeling tingles when I read the sex bits, although that freaks me out as a parent when I think about Ms. 7 and Ms. 4. I think she should read erotica when she’s old enough, but it squicks me out that she might read mine. If she wants to read anything by me, I have mainstream fiction she can read.

For now, my answer is “Mommy writes books that are meant for grown-ups. I’ve written a few stories that you can read when you’re a few years older. (meaning my mainstream fiction)”

I feel lucky that her response is, “Ok. Can you write a book just for me for my birthday, then?”

That sounds like a story I’d be proud to have her read.

wicked wednesday