Like the rest of the world, I always assumed that being an old lady meant being shocked if not downright disapproving about sex. Boy, was I surprised when life served up a rejuvenating adventure and broke the news, in the the most delicious way, that a woman of any age can feel like a teenager at heart. And in her loins.
This awakening inspired a foray into new thoughts and feelings—and new literary territory, as I invented an urgent romantic encounter between ethereal beings. Writing about sex felt as dangerous as walking on scree at the edge of an active volcano. Reading my out loud at the book launch was terrifying.
And I didn’t even read the sex scene!
So then, somehow, I got invited to read the hot stuff out loud in public. Two years ago, when I invoked the muses at the Octopus Literary Salon, I had no idea I would be asked back to come read erotica at a reading series called Dirty Old Women. I said yes but I was scared… kind of like sex was, when it first began.
What was more disconcerting? Talking dirty in front of an audience? Or just facing the fact that I am aging? (I was downright insulted that I had to turn 50 at all. Wrinkles look great on other people, but are just not my style.) (And did I just tell my age? Nice ladies don’t do that!)
There are a lot of things nice ladies like me don’t do.
But being funny is like a soothing ointment (that’s the old-lady word for emollient) that puts me and others at ease. So, I sent in a tantalizing bio along with a seductive, soft-focus headshot.
“Kristen Caven is an upstanding member of the community who has been trying not to write erotica since her first published work (The Real World Adventures of Sammy Sperm paper doll & coloring book)…but is not doing so well at that right now.
Having authored books and blogs about psychology, parenting, business, dance and shoe-related fairytales, and having been recently elected as president of the California Writers Club (Berkeley Branch), she is much too polite to discuss erectile tissue in public. Her tender, true and/or tantalizing stories, cartoons and articles have been published in Oakland Unseen, Oakland Tribune, ADDitude Magazine, The Monthly, Rudolf’s Diner, Doorknobs and Body Paint, Synchronized Chaos, Full of Crow, The Sophisticate, and The Good Men Project, but none of them were designed to titillate anything but the imagination—nor have they featured throbbing body parts other than hearts.
Kristen will be reading the sexy bits from this year’s novella, The Vesuvian Affair, about an elemental and explosive attraction between strangers in Venice, plus—should cooler heads fail—other unmentionable works by her various alter egos. Meanwhile, ask Kristen about her new incubator for artists and writers burning with creative projects.
Then I got an email from the curator of the series, Susan Kuchinskas, (who writes erotica under the name Lynx Cannon):
Hi, Kristen. I was putting together the newsletter and read your bio more closely. I’ve edited it slightly to make it clear that a) you will read erotic material and b) you do not feel bad about that. One of the big goals of Dirty Old Women is to normalize and celebrate expressions of sexual pleasure; we don’t act coy about it.
It was like she gave me permission to go ahead and be a grownup.
I was going to just do the reading for my own growth and thrill and not tell anyone about it, but damnit, she’s right. I love my irreverent husband and son (dick jokes are as funny now as fart jokes were when he was a kid), but crave adult conversation where I can say things like, “deep conversations are hard to come by these days,” without everyone snickering at the triple double-entendres. As a mature women, I have strong opinions about sex, and they are the opposite of disapproving. Sex is not a joke, and horny 14-year-old-boy culture shouldn’t define sex talk any more than pursed-lip, old-maid culture should. “That’s what she said” doesn’t begin to touch the importance or truth of women’s pleasure, the profound and political sacrament of sex. Sex is real, desire is demanding, and the dance of egg and sperm is the source of life. I’ve written memoirs and novels about the dynamic struggle between The Voice of Propriety and the Need to Feel Alive. Sex, as a topic, is always on the table… so—
—Thank you, Muses, Octopus, Cosima, Jan, and Susan/Lynx, for giving me a fun way to step into my early decrepitude—with style and a smile and some sensual words for my audience.
Readers, feel free to snicker at will, when I say: “Please come.“
Tuesday, July 25th, 7:30pm to the Octopus Literary Salon.
Older women: Wise enough to tell the truth about sex – what they want, what they’ve done, what makes them hot. Dirty Old Women, a monthly series at Octopus, celebrates erotic writing by self-identified older women of all flavors.