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|May 14-20, 2009
Burlesque and fetish and drag! Oh, my!
Childhood friends start an erotica website and land a major book deal
by Dale Bridges
Samantha Sade and Jordan LaRousse each say the word “dildo” in very different ways. LaRousse, a saucy redhead who’s working her way into a pair of tattoo sleeves, tends to raise an eyebrow and curl the corners of her mouth slightly when she says it. She looks a bit like the mischievous Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland with one paw in the fishbowl.
Sade, on the other hand, squeaks out each syllable with nervous enthusiasm while a pinkish-red wave slowly creeps up her face. She resembles one of Botticelli’s angels accidentally cast in a John Waters movie. However, one shouldn’t necessarily interpret Sade’s reaction as reserved or prudish, since she also blushes when she says words like “tequila,” “piano” or “aardvark.” She’s just that type of girl.
Sade and LaRousse are best friends who met in grade school and now edit an erotica website called “Oysters & Chocolate” (www.oystersandchocolate.com), which recently caught the attention of Penguin Publishing. Their first book, Oysters & Chocolate: Erotic Stories of Every Flavor, is a collection of short fiction narratives spiced with sexual themes. Both women graduated from the University of Colorado —Sade with a degree in literature and LaRousse with a degree in creative writing — and they are slowly establishing themselves as the queens of highbrow naughtiness on the Front Range.
Last week, I attended a reading for Oysters & Chocolate at the Boulder Book Store, and I was somewhat shocked by the experience. It wasn’t the salacious material that surprised me; it was the audience. I wouldn’t use a banal word like “normal” to describe the people in the crowd, but they were at least decidedly “uncreepy.” I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I thought there might be a couple of sweaty men at the back of the room wearing trench coats. That was not the case.
For the most part, the seats were filled with the type of educated, upper-middleclass men and women you’d see milling around Pier 1 on a Tuesday afternoon — except instead of looking at overpriced furniture, these people were politely listening to the definitions of terms such as “sadomasochism” and “anal beads.” It was kind of weird but also comforting, like hearing Kenny G play “Baby Got Back.” It gave me hope for the future.
Erotica can be loosely defined as “literature or art that intends to arouse sexual desire.” It has many purposes in human society, but in modern civilization, perhaps its greatest function is to take that most private, secretive act (you know, s-e-x) and place it in the public sphere. Why is this important? Because sex is powerful, and, therefore, certain societal entities are always attempting to restrict it. Sex forces people in and out of marriage. It starts and ends political careers. It sells cars and war and tube socks. Sex is the most lucrative, universal cultural commodity on the planet, and if you can control it, you can rule the world.
This is why the idea of someone’s grandmother reading a story that involves medectasia (look it up) is so intriguing. Unlike pornography, which still operates largely on the theory that exploring sexual desire is primarily about controlling and commodifying personal deviancy, mainstream erotica normalizes that deviancy. It’s not dirty anymore; it’s just fun.
That’s not to say that certain people (and by “certain people” I mean “James Dobson”) won’t be shocked and horrified by the content of Oysters & Chocolate, but that doesn’t seem to be the intent of the material. Sade and LaRousse have gone out of their way to make sure the literary merit in the anthology exceeds the carnal sensationalism. In essence, these are stories about sex, just like detective novels are stories about crime and sci-fi novels are stories about aliens. In other words, it’s genre fiction.
Whenever we talk about publicized sexuality in this country, the conversation is almost exclusively focused on iconoclasts like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint. And while I certainly applaud these old geezers for breaking down puritanical barriers and defending the First Amendment, they have a fairly one-dimensional, totalitarian vision of sexuality. There needs to be more diversity and democracy in the system.
Sade and LaRousse are on the forefront of a new sexual revolution, but this revolution won’t take place in Hollywood or Haight-Ashbury. It’ll take place in Starbucks. It’ll take place in Olive Garden. This will be a suburban revolution.
The fact that we now live in a society where a roomful of middle-aged men and women can listen to stories about bondage without choking on their white wine is arguably the most interesting cultural trend of the past century. Aside from Ugg Boots, of course.
On the Bill:
You can meet Samantha Sade and Jordan LaRousse at Flavor: An Erotic Soiree and Book Release Celebration at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at The b.Side Lounge, 2017 13th St., Boulder, 303-473-9463. There will be music, dancing, burlesque, drag kings, fetish and much more. Tickets are $10.
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