In her mid-thirties, Beth Sheller makes her living publishing erotic fiction for local, national, and internet publications. She was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, is in therapy, and is starting to think about making changes in her life and career.
“So what’s that like, writing erotic fiction?” Penelope asked after they sat down with their pastries and coffee.
Beth leaned across the table confidentially. “I know some people, young twenty–somethings, who are exhibitionists. That’s their whole thing, revealing their sexual self. They like people looking at them naked, playing with themselves, having sex. The fact that people are watching is more of a turn-on than the sex itself.” Beth shook her head, musing. “And then there’s the voyeurs, and I think there’s something of that in most people. So it’s like we’re conditioned that sex is private, but when you start to break down that privacy, to bring down those boundaries, that is in itself sexual.”
She looked down at her hands, which had unconsciously torn apart a croissant while she was talking. She laughed.
“I don’t know, to come back to your question. Some days, I open a magazine to something I’ve written, and I blush, I do. Other times I get a thrill out of thinking about turning other people on, bringing strangers into my little fantasy bubble. Most of the times, though, I’m intellectual, even political about it: I think it’s good for people to explore their sexuality, I think repressing those feelings can be harmful, and I think it can be beneficial psychologically to bring what’s sometimes our darker selves closer to the surface for examination.”