No one’s sexual road looks the same; though, it can be said that there is a common thread that links us all: the desire to speak.
Thank God there’s Mona Darling – aka, Dead Cow Girl as you may have known her, the professional dominatrix and blogger turned mom and blogger. It was here that Darling blogged about the real, live complexities that define our lives, and how quickly and swiftly our identities can change, especially when the choices we make in our lives are still all too taboo.
So when Darling’s newest book, Glitter: Real Stories About Sexual Desire From Real Women, literally fell into my lap, I was nothing short of excited. While it is rare, even in the thick of it, to find stories that reflect the complexities of women’s sexuality, it is even rarer to find stories that just speak for themselves without promoting anything other than an individual’s experience. From Glitter:
Glitter is about the female sexual experience, which contrary to what the media would have you believe, is not all bubble baths and chick flicks. Women are constantly judged as slutty, or uptight, but the reality is somewhere in between those two, and sometimes, nowhere near either. We have secret shames and private desires and we all feel we are the only one. We are good church-going girls with a fondness for the paddle, PTA moms who hire escorts, feminists who like to bottom in the bedroom, slutty virgins, bi-curious married laddies and women with a past. We are gay, straight, and undecided.
Consider me hooked. Whether it’s sex work or sexual pleasure, a first time solo masturbation or the type of sexual trauma that leaves you with a panic in the back of your brain for all your lifetime, Darling has brought together what it means when we talk about women’s sexuality. She’s also taken the discussion beyond the regular black and white dichotomies of good/bad, pleasure/trauma, and sex work good/sex work bad. She is presenting us with the real and hard to pinpoint complexity that makes up the swaths of who we are sexually. Please welcome the author of Glitter, Mona Darling:
Persephone Magazine: Okay, so why Glitter? Can you tell us about why you decided to create this book?
Mona Darling: Glitter is a reaction to the idea that Fifty Shades of Grey caused some sort of sexual awakening in women. I heard this time after time from mainstream media and at first it made me giggle, but then it made me mad. I started collecting the stories I had heard from the women I talk to on Twitter to show that women were very sexual beings well before Fifty Shades of Grey. Women were enjoying Fifty Shades of Grey and passing it along because social media and ebooks have made it easy and discreet. Now it’s moved beyond easy and discreet, and into being “cool.” I hope that this means women can start talking about their own sexual interests.
PM: What’s interesting about the book is that it spans across several experiences – from first masturbation, to professional sex work, and everything in between. Most anthologies will concentrate on one specific experience, trying to delve into the nuts and bolts of it all. Can you talk about why you decided to cover so many different experiences in this book?
MD: When I put out the call for submissions, I purposely left it vague. I wanted defining moments. I wanted to know what women were interested in and how they got those interests. I wanted the real story: the good, the bad, the hot and the horrible. Not something curated or coaxed. I had heard so many stories from women since I began writing as the Dominatrix Mommy blogger, and pretty much all of these women felt like they were the only one; the only happily married mom who was secretly bi, the only one who couldn’t really let go during sex because she was raped and abused, or the only one who was “normal” on the outside but kinky at heart. I wanted to share those stories and show that it doesn’t matter what you enjoy, what has happened to you, or what you are ashamed of – you are not alone.
There are two aspects of Glitter. First, we all have interests and we shouldn’t feel embarrassed about exploring them. We should be able to determine our interests and our limits and feel good about the decisions we make. We should also respect others for having different interests and limits than we do. Hence the tag line of Glitterhood.com, the web site which accompanies Glitter – Explore, Determine, Respect.
Second, many women have had their sexuality shaped by abuse and trauma. This is a completely different facet, but I feel it is still a huge part of what makes us who we are. I think the more we talk about those abuses and traumas, the less alone and at fault we will feel.
For women, sex is both physical and emotional, so the previous elements are completely intertwined. It is impossible to address one without the other. Part of that is because some of the kinky things women want to indulge in are related to those abuses, which can compound the shame and confusion. The collection is very organic. I thought it would be lots of women talking about how they became interested in kinky sex, but it became so much more. One of the common threads is shame. Feeling kinky and alone can lead to shame. Feeling damaged from sexual abuse leads to shame. Women who share their experiences help others understand that they are not alone and that they don’t need to live in shame.
I don’t expect women to start shouting from the rooftops, but I would love to hear that they are able to discuss their interests, limits and experiences in the bedroom, and not judge other women who have different interests, limits, or experiences.
PM: It seems like the old phrase “speak truth to power” is perhaps the invisible thread in this book. Can you speak about why you feel it is so important to have a collection of women speaking out about their experiences?
MD: These stories are raw, emotional, and most importantly, true. The writers are from every walk of life, and their stories are all independent. It’s about what happened to them and how they reacted. It’s about what piqued their interest, what they chose to explore, and how they felt about it. These are the secrets all women have, yet rarely, if ever share. Some are too ashamed to admit they have a fetish or deviant interest, or they feel damaged because of something that happened to them. Anyone reading Glitter will identify with at least one story, one writer, and there is so much comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There is power in solidarity and I hope to create a sisterhood (a glitterhood) where women can share with and support each other.
I think if more women share their stories, they will realize that very few of us meet the hypothetical “good girl” standard. We all have fetishes and desires, emotional scars and bruises. These are what make us different, and different is wonderful! I think this will go a long way to end the “women shaming women” epidemic which I feel is one of the main reasons women don’t run the world – we are too busy trying to determine what other women can wear and do!
PM: How did you initially get started as a writer? What was the turning point in your work?
MD: I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I always kept a diary as a young girl and am still sad that I lost them when I was a teen. In college, I wrote fiction. As a professional dominatrix, I wrote press and blog posts for advertising, I had a food blog for a bit, and even tried having a family-friendly blog which stagnated pretty quickly. In the end, the one that stuck was my secret blog where I could write about IVF and other health issues, as well as family, BDSM, and sex work stuff. Because it’s anonymous, I felt able to open up and let my inner goofball out. I think that made me more relatable and helped women open up to me, which was fundamental in putting Glitter together.
PM: I always find myself rereading Audacia Ray’s Sex on The Internet, which talks a lot about the rise of Google-accessible culture and how you can now click a button and find out almost anything on a person – how anonymity is potentially ending and what that means for people who speak out on experiences and subjects that are still very culturally taboo. How are you dealing with this in regards to your life and your work? How are the people in the book dealing?
MD: I’ve been on the internet for so long as a sex worker that protecting my identity is second nature. At the same time, I understand that if anyone wants to figure out who I am, they will. It’s not that hard. Nothing is 100% private. I’m just hoping they have better things to do with their time.
As for my Glitter Girls, I encourage them to use their “porn name” if they are at all concerned for their privacy. I want them to feel free to share and be completely anonymous. I also help them change small details in their stories that might give them away. I will protect their identities like a momma badger protects her cubs.
PM: What are you hoping that readers will take away from Glitter?
MD: I hope people read Glitter and feel less alone, and that the women who read it feel less inclined to judge other women for their interests and limits. I hope they come away better able to have conversations with the people they are sexually involved with, about their interests and how they got them, and not feel ashamed. I want women to have happier, more fulfilling sex lives! I also hope some of them come to www.Glitterhood.com and support the women who have shared their stories, or even share some of their own!
PM: What amazing work can we look forward from you in the future?
MD: I’m going to continue “thinking” about writing my memoir of the twenty years I spent working as a Professional Dominatrix. While I do, I’m going to start taking submissions for my next anthology, which will be stories from women who chose the sex industry as a career, as a way to put themselves through college, or raise their kids. I’m completely over the idea that men can put themselves through college with their bodies as sports stars, and be worshipped for it, yet the women who use their bodies as sex workers for the same reasons are shamed. People seem to think that every woman who enters the sex industry falls into a dark vortex, which ends with her body washing up somewhere, or with a devastating drug addition and a pimp to support. In reality, I know plenty of women who, like me, chose sex work. I know women who have put themselves through college, raised kids, traveled the world, and enjoyed a life less ordinary. I would like the world to hear from these amazing women.