Please note: This piece discusses my sex life -- specifically, my sexual fantasies and my tastes in porn -- in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don't want to read about that, please don't read this piece. Thanks.
Sex, religious cults, atheism, spanking, pen-names, astrology, being made an example of, and the process of writing porn... what do all these have to do with each other?
Susie Bright (of Best American Erotica fame, and of Susie Bright's Journal fame) has put together a new erotica anthology, X: The Erotic Treasury. It's a beautifully- edited book, as Susie's books always are... and for once, the production values are worthy of the content: a cloth-bound hardcover book, gorgeously printed on non- crappy paper, all in a sensuous- to- the- touch die-cut slipcover.
I have a story in the collection... a rather disturbing erotic story that I thought I'd have a hard time ever getting published, so I'm thrilled that it's not only seeing the light of day, but is being showcased in this beautiful format. The story, "Deprogramming," centers on physical and sexual abuse in a religious cult... and a couple who escaped from the cult and are now consensually re-enacting it.
Susie interviewed me recently about my story, and we talked about -- you guessed it -- sex, religious cults, atheism, spanking, pen-names, astrology, being made an example of, and the process of writing porn. Here's that interview. Enjoy!
SB: You were raised as an atheist, but when do you remember being fascinated with the "cult" experience?
GC: I wouldn’t describe myself as fascinated by cults, although I do find religion in general to be a compelling subject.
But it sounds like what you want to know is what inspired me to write this piece. It's not a very nice story, but it is a true one, so I'll tell it.
I was watching a documentary about Jim Jones (of Jonestown fame) and his People's Temple. At the point in the story where things were starting to go wrong in the church, it said that members of the church who disobeyed the rules were punished by being spanked.
It's a terrible story. They described the incidents, and what they called "spanked," I would call "badly beaten." But there's a deeply ingrained part of my mind and my libido that almost inevitably gets turned on when I hear the word "spank," and that starts to conjure erotic images and stories. So I found myself having sexual fantasies about this scenario... while at the same time being horrified by it, and feeling ashamed for being turned on by it.
That's where "Deprogramming" came from. I was trying to capture that feeling of being simultaneously horrified and turned on. I decided to have the survivors of the abuse in my story re-enact it in an erotic way: for the characters, this was a way for them to reclaim the experience and move past it... and for me, it was a way to give myself, and my readers, permission to be turned on by it.
My story isn't specifically about the People's Temple. It's about a fictional religious cult that I made up. But it's definitely influenced by real cults that I've read about...
Does your family know about your erotic writing? Have they read it?
I've asked my family not to, actually. My porn is like a window into my libido, and it crosses a boundary for me to have my family looking through that window. I don't want my family to know what I think about when I jerk off. Call me old-fashioned.
Have you written any manifestos?
Definitely. Many times. In my blog. Probably the best known and widest read is Atheists and Anger -- an attempt to answer, in detail, the question, "Why are you atheists so angry?"
This was a conscious decision I made very early on. It's very important to me to keep my identity integrated; to resist the tendency to present one face to some people and a completely different face to others. Writing under my own name is an important part of that.
I totally understand why other writers use pen names, I'm certainly not critical or judgmental about it. But it would be wrong for me. I want to stand behind what I write 100%.
Has your work ever been "made an example of"?
The best example: I wrote a piece a few years back for the Skeptical Inquirer, called Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do With God.
The piece talks about how, although it might seem that an atheist philosophy has no comfort to offer in the face of death, in fact this is not the case. And it offers, as examples, some of my own atheist thoughts about death that I find comforting and hopeful.
I started ego-Googling my name and the title of the piece... and found that several Christian ministers were quoting from the piece out of context, as an example of how even atheists admit that life without the promise of life after death is bleak and hopeless.
No, really. Here's how they did it.
They would quote the part at the beginning, where I talk about how atheism seems to offer no comfort in the face of death. And they would completely ignore the entire point of the piece... which is that, while that might seem on the surface to be the case, it most emphatically is not.
FYI, when I find that happening, I write to these ministers; point out that they're quoting me as saying the exact opposite of what I'm actually saying; and remind them about the commandment against bearing false witness against your neighbor.
What is your astrological sign? Any other signs and symbols regarding the occasion of your birth?
What's the astrological sign that thinks astrology is bunk? That's the one I am.
Seriously. Of all the religious/ spiritual/ metaphysical beliefs out there, astrology is one of the few that actually makes testable claims (namely, that people's personality and behavior are affected by the time of their birth). These claims have been tested. Extensively. And they've been conclusively found to have absolutely no basis whatsoever.
The only thing special about the occasion of my birth -- apart from my being born, of course -- is that it was on New Year's Eve. Which meant (a) my parents got to take me as a tax deduction for the entire year, and (b) I got a great excuse for throwing a big birthday party every year.
When you think of your recent writing, for "X," and then consider your recent sex life in reality, what comes to mind?
I think, "I really hope people understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Otherwise, they're going to think I'm a total nutjob."
"X: The Erotic Treasury" is available at Powell's, Amazon, Last Gasp, and fine bookstores everywhere. If you've enjoyed this interview, a PDF of other interviews with "X: The Erotic Treasury" writers (most shorter than this one -- I took the liberty of posting the longer version of mine here) is available online.