Well over a year ago, a close friend used a term that struck me as profound—so much so it’s been simmering in the back of my head ever since. The truth is that it was said in reference to a relationship I’d experienced, but eventually, I realized how wide the scope of it was, and how very much I needed to write about it.
See, at the time of our conversation, I was wrapping up one of the most painful breakups of my life. I’ve had many relationships in two decades—some of them waking me in one way or another, others serious enough we nearly ended up engaged, and still others breaking me in ways that required many years of lightness to heal—but this was different. It was heavier somehow, more real, more intense. If I were to describe my past relationships as watercolor paintings, this one was made of oil—dense with color, small details, and texture, and labored over not just with brushes, but with rags and carving tools that molded the canvas of us. It started as a casual fling that should have meant practically nothing, but in the mere nine months we lasted—including four breakups, three standoffs, and two attempted months of silence—the impact still coursed through my blood and transformed me.
So on the night we chatted, this friend of mine listened while I cried to him for probably the third or fourth time, dragging myself in circles over this new kind of hurt, and this strange feeling of having had my heart and soul wrenched open in ways I couldn’t understand. And in the midst of it, he said, very sweetly, “Honey, don’t you see? You got turned out.”
This friend has long been special to me for a variety of reasons, but his frankness—paired with his somewhat uncanny understanding of women—has always captivated me. Having never heard the term, I sniffled a few times and asked what the hell he was talking about. I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing his response, but the basic concept is this: getting “turned out” means someone has fully broken through to you—turned you upside down, cracked you open, and unraveled you completely. Sure, you may have had sex and love before—hell, you could have had endless sex and love, and believed you’d felt the magic—but this experience is not common, and when it happens, you know. It’s more powerful than any love or good fuck or orgasm you’ve had before; it’s like you’ve found that person who can sink right into your soul, delve into your pores, and bring you out into the world as an entirely altered, more phenomenal version of you.
When he said this, it clicked. I’d known love, lust, empathy, closeness, hurt, passion, and all of the feelings that connect us with one another—but this thing, even as short as it was, had me lost in an emotional and sexual haze all the way through and well after it ended. Truth be told, it’s one of the most complicated things I’ve ever experienced, so uplifting and murky and amazing and excruciatingly painful, charging me even beyond the time it took to heal. This is why I strongly believe the last part of what my friend said in that phone call, too—that this type of experience will inevitably end in one of two ways: ideally, you and the person seize the magic and end up together for life, exploring this brilliance discovered together; or, you and the person call it quits, she who got turned out is hurt for a long, long time, and then—once all the pain dissipates and she can see straight again—she’s essentially reborn with so much more sense, emotional power, and feeling than she’d ever dreamed of before.
A phoenix rising from the ash, if you will.
That’s a big concept to pin on a relationship, I know, but I’d venture to guess a few of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe while you’re reading this, your hearts are thumping in your chests, your heads lifting and falling as you whistle to yourselves because you remember what this felt like. It’s that feeling of putting your heart, your love, your soul, your very essence in someone else’s grasp like you could never have fathomed before—and still being unbelievably okay with it.
Sometimes, it works out. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But no matter what, you will never be who you were before.
So, that’s what’s been churning in my head for a while now, seeping into my work, my stories. I don’t mean to do it, and then suddenly I do. The first time I saw it was in the last book I wrote—I’d drafted it early last year and then came back a month later to edit, following my character through her adventure in love and sex while I made my scribbles on the page…and then WHAM. I actually saw it in her character arc, and said it out loud:
“Oh, look at you. You got turned out, baby girl.”
I thought it was just a one-time thing. Then the feelings kept resurfacing in other stories I wrote, essays I penned, and poems I posted, without me ever intending it. It was like in finding myself, my characters had to, as well. Even in the book I’m editing now, I saw it happening all over again—the protagonist shedding her old skin, embracing this new life and awareness she finds with the one who broke through to who she honestly was. It wasn’t that she wasn’t whole or happy before—only that, in a way, she had to set fire to who she was to leap into this vivid new self. In doing so, she’s become richer, more powerful, and eager for every sensation and experience yet to be had.
She’s been turned out.
Sometimes, I wonder if the intersection of my own experience happening shortly after I sent my first erotica story into the world was a coincidence, or if it was the Universe trying to give me a message. That in embracing my writing, I’d opened up a personal door. Or that in releasing the erotica I’d kept quiet for years, I was finally able to bare my heart and soul, even if it was going to hurt like hell. Or that, since I was going to explore so many things in real life, I would need to feed it all into my stories over time.
Honestly, I don’t know the answer to the how or why—and like the phoenix, I don’t think the past matters anymore.
When you get turned out, the only thing you need to do is soar on.
You may recall that the ever-sweet and charming Molly interviewed me a while back on her new KissCast podcast. The episodes she’s put out since have been so delightful—I’m enjoying getting to learn about a bunch of erotica authors and bloggers, and of course listening to Molly chat with them in her fabulous style. But a little after we had our super fun episode, she asked if I might want to narrate one of my stories as part of a podcast devoted entirely to authors reading their words.
Well, good news—the episode is out now! I’m so proud to be reading alongside the amazing authors BD Swain, Malin James, and Malfic. And though “Toys” made its debut in Best Women’s Erotica 2014, I’m thrilled to get to share it with you in its entirety here—in your ears! A giant thank you to Molly for including me in this fantastic Storytime episode!
So, please click right here to give the Storytime podcast a listen. I hope you enjoy not only “Toys,” but the whole episode of smokin’ pieces from a wonderful crew.
Thank you for listening!
Okay guys, look—I need to veer way off course right now. Yes, I’m an erotica writer. Yes, I talk about sex often frequently all the freaking time. But after spending the last week sicker than ever and doing virtually nothing but camping in front of the TV, I did a lot of thinking about why the shows I watched were fascinating me. Um…all right, that’s a blatant lie. Other than discovering the Vikings opening theme song has turned into a sort of lullaby that actually soothes me to sleep, I didn’t honestly think about that at all.
That is, until Grey’s Anatomy came bursting out with a big enough disruption to my vegetative couch state I had to do some serious mulling. Unbelievably, that serious mulling has persisted all weekend long, into a few hysterical sentences I shared over lunch with Malin James, and now, oh my god, I can’t stop myself from saying something to all of you about it. I know Grey’s Anatomy and television shows are totally not my usual M.O., but since Charlie Powell of Sex blog (of sorts) just talked rather thoughtfully about not separating blogs into categories all the time, I’m breaking the rules and running with it today (thank you, Charlie!).
So let me start with some background: I watch a short list of shows, but goddammit, if I’m in, I’m in. Grey’s Anatomy is one such show, both because I spent my teens thinking I wanted to be a doctor (this included a brief internship in a trauma room, no less), and because I like quirky characters with real problems who also randomly hook up in on-call rooms while waiting to tackle the next bloody mess. I mean, hello. Curing people and sex and bizarre catastrophes? Works for me.
And despite the naysayers, I’ve stuck by this show since day one, no matter what. Even when Callie and George stupidly got married. Even after Meredith did crazy shit like jumping off a dock or sticking her hand into a bomb-laden body cavity. Even through Alex’s nutso wife. Even when Izzie had an entire affair with a fucking ghost (what the fuck, Shonda Rhimes? WTF). Hell, even when I was getting threatened with no sex in the good thing I had going with a favorite friend with benefits who watched with me during Seasons 5 and 6, because I kept rambling on and on about the DP I had planned with McSteamy and McDreamy. (You think I’m kidding? No. And apparently, the satisfactory response to “What are you thinking right now? You’re awfully quiet” is not “Whether stunning Dr. Sloan or gorgeous Dr. Shepherd is going be in front tonight.”)
But okay, I’m a loyal gal. And sticking it out has resulted in seeing some awesome recent plotlines and characters. Derek’s whippersnapper little sister, Amelia, formerly of Private Practice (another doctor show I watched religiously) was a great add, and so was sassy Dr. Herman (Geena Davis!) as a partner in surgery crime for Arizona Robbins. Oh and there was the grandson of the famous doctor who joined the Board but ended up shirtless one time, rendering me unable to ever remember his name again thanks to that bod and those ridiculously hot eyes—he’s been fun. And you know, sure, I don’t watch Grey’s live anymore—I’m sorry, nothing gets watched live except my beautiful college vamps on Vampire Diaries every Thursday night at 8 pm sharp, thank you very much—but I still have a routine with it: if I’m not going out on Friday night, then I snuggle with my cats on the couch to watch Grey’s before bed. It doesn’t quite beat karaoke or dinner out or happy hour, but it’s a good runner-up if nothing else is going on.
Which leads me back to the week of the cold, and me finally streaming Grey’s while I tried not to hack up a lung. I’m going to issue a major spoiler alert right now just to be safe, but holy crap people—I ended up so completely disturbed by Shonda Rhimes’s insane trip down the rocky potential of Meredith and Derek’s currently long-distance marriage last week that I lost my shit.
For those of you who don’t know, MerDer have been through the wringer. They started as a casual bar hookup after Derek’s failed marriage to the uncannily beautiful Addison Montgomery, and while little Miss Grey takes us along through her doctoral education with a bunch of kooky other doctors-to-be, she ends up having this deliciously sweet relationship with the dreamy-as-fuck brain surgeon, Derek Shepherd. All sorts of craziness happens (Bus accidents! Dead friends! Izzie Stevens! Plane crashes! Electrical storms! Shooters in the ER! Being stood-up at the altar! Fake legs! Neglectful moms! Alcoholic dads! Mysterious siblings! The death of my future lover, McSteamy!), but eventually, they solidify their vows and get married—on a post-it. It was a charmer of a scene and takes way too long to explain, but what’s important is that this post-it loving woman has, to this day, never found a more delightful use of her own post-its, which might be why their sticky note marriage still tickles me to pieces. And of course after that, they went on to have some kids and rah-rah, everything is happy.
But then Rhimes comes along with her maniacal ploy to test them, real hard, again and again. As if Meredith’s miscarriage and Addison’s face and everyone moving in and out of their house wasn’t already enough for these two, now she goes and sends Derek off to D.C. and leaves Meredith to learn she’s actually damn successful without being under his shadow. That’s tempting fate now, isn’t it? And then two episodes back Rhimes launches some madness with a mystery woman answering Derek’s phone that starts calling his integrity into question.
NO, SHONDA, NO. YOU CANNOT DO THIS WITH MY BEAUTIFUL DEREK SHEPHERD, INVENTOR OF THE POST-IT MARRIAGE AND ONE HALF OF ONE OF MY LIFETIME SEX FANTASIES.
But she does! She starts making this intensely weird. Meredith is freaking out. The residents around her are freaking out. I am freaking the fuck out. And people, I was sick. This was not good for my health. I’m getting feverish and trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I might for the first time in my life write something I would never dream of drafting—a letter telling a writer I don’t like what she’s doing with my beloved characters—but I’m so fucking enraged by how she’s puppeting Derek around, I want to throw my TV to the ground. I kid you not.
So this whole run of stress continues for most of the show until, thank god, she brings us all back around to reality. Derek is not the bad guy. Meredith is not going to leave him.
I can continue believing in post-its.
And despite this, despite settling down and kicking back on my couch and breathing a true sigh of relief over a goddamn TV show, it hits me what just happened.
Shonda Rhimes did what we writers all want to do: she made her plan, then wrote her brilliant heart out exactly as she wanted to, and even if I didn’t like what she was doing, she got me fired up enough to care and kick and scream and threaten to break my $1,000 TV.
And that, people—that’s great writing. Damn fine writing, in fact. Ambitious, follow your wild-little-mind kind of writing that we should all aspire to each and every time we sit down to write, even if it makes our audience fucking crazy.
No wonder I keep coming back to this show.
PS More sex-writing next time. I promise.
Hey everybody! Malin James, Tamsin Flowers, and I are back again with our newest Pillow Talk Secrets…and this time we’ve had a lovely conversation about everything taboo—from the underaged and adulterers to the beasts and undead! Oh my! Please join us as Malin lead our highly controversial conversation. And as usual, I’ve posted a snippet of our session here with a link to continue back to our site at the end, or you can hop on over now to read Secrets in full.
Thank you so much for joining us!
Pillow Talk Secrets
Malin: Hello ladies, how are you both doing this fine day?
Jade: Great, thank you. How are you both?
Tamsin: I’m very well – we have the sunniest day here and it’s positively balmy! A bit of a shock to the system!
J: Oh, same here! I’ve got the loveliest glare on my computer screen.
M: Ah, yes! My relationship to the sun isn’t quite so friendly, but I’m always happy for those who love it…. So, we’ve been thinking about discussing taboo in erotica for awhile. Shall we tackle that today?
T: Yes, let’s. It’s an interesting subject. Every publisher has a list of taboo topics – incest, bestiality, rape/non consensual sex, underage sex and so on. It’s interesting that some subjects are taboo because the acts are actually illegal – necrophilia, for example – while others are widely held to be taboo on the grounds of taste, such as scat or watersports. But that begs the question, should publishers be acting as arbiters of taste in this way?
M: I think that’s a great place to start, Tamsin. I like that you brought up the fact that “taboo” covers a lot of things, from serious consent issues (like rape and pedophilia) to different kinks and sexual tastes. It strikes me that putting rape in the same general categories as two teens having consensual sex is a bit disingenuous, but that’s how many mainstream publishers handle the issue. Better safe than sorry, I suppose, but it feels like a slippery slope. After all, rape is not the same thing as a consensual golden shower…
J: Right. And then we have lighter (and not necessarily illegal) taboos like the “dreaded infidelity.” Oh dear…
M: Exactly. Some acts are simply more taboo than others. Cheating in erotica (and certainly romance) is taboo, but you can get away with it, while incest is a much harder sell in mainstream publishing…unless you’re George R.R. Martin, of course.
T: I find the whole cheating thing a bit weird. This seems to be a reader taboo rather than a publisher taboo – and why not have it in a story if the cheater gets their comeuppance?
J: I agree – but it seems that, to increase readership, publishers follow the tendency. This is very strange to me, since it’s actually such a common event in real life. Plus, cheating is not necessarily a one-time thing for characters – often there’s so much more depth to it.
T: I’ve never seen it on a publisher’s list of no-nos.
M: I don’t think I have either. It might just be one that writers (and readers) shy away from, particularly in the romance / erotic romance market.
J: Maybe because we have to keep our good guys and girls looking good?
M: Possibly…personally, I’m more interested in seeing people be people, which means bad / grey area behavior, but that’s definitely not something everyone wants.
T: Actually, this whole discussion makes me want to run off and write a hot cheating story in which the cheating heroine always gets away with it! (Actually, I have had one in mind for a while!)
M: Ha! Yes! And I would read that!
J: I wrote one a long time ago that’s still awaiting some tender touch-up…it’s got the hint of some sort of affair going on, and I’ve never quite decided if I want to keep that or cut it. Time will tell, I suppose. It’s definitely not the taboo that the others are, though, for sure.
M: My story in Chemical (se)X is all about the dynamic in an affair. I guess it all depends…. Okay, so now, I’d love to actually tackle a taboo Tamsin brought up in a Skype – the difficulty with underage protagonists.
T: Yes, this is one that drives me mad. I think it’s perfectly valid to want to write about teenagers having sex with each other – not with adults – but within their own peer group, because of course this is what happens. And I’m sure loads of teens would want to read it – to discover more about sexuality and relationships. But it’s totally not allowed.
J: Right. We must keep the children safe, or whatever the theory is…. I get it, on one hand – but I also think it’s strange that we can have so many violent books available for teens, and yet, the concept of them having sex (which we all know is totally happening) is strongly unacceptable on the page.
M: What’s also interesting is that it really is the technicality of age that determines that taboo. Ella Dawson writes beautiful stories about college age students / people in their early 20’s and they are brilliant, but if someone were to shave the ages down to 18, the same stories would not be acceptable in most publications, and would certainly get censored by Amazon.
T: Amazon is crazy – they took down my book, Zombie Erotoclypse, because one story is called “I Was a Teenage Zombie Virgin.” The character was 18 – but just the words ‘teenage’ and ‘virgin’ in the blurb got it thrown off the site. When I changed the blurb it became once more perfectly acceptable, even though it was about humans and zombies having sex – another taboo, necrophilia!
I rarely write while drinking. For one, I’m usually out with friends, and sitting down to pen something wouldn’t work in the moment. Then, there’s the fact that my creative process simply doesn’t flow under those circumstances. I might have some good ideas, but they won’t come to fruition in any sort of cohesive way until I’m completely clear-headed.
That’s why today’s poem is a bit of an anomaly for me. A month ago, my friend and I met and played our usual rounds of dice games over drinks at a local bar. And as the evening progressed, we shared a powerful conversation on those people who rip you right out of your comfort zone—loves who make you see things differently, move you in ways you didn’t imagine, and break straight through to your soul. Sadly, he had to leave soon after, but I was still buzzed and nowhere near ready to drive. So I sat in my car for a while, texting friends, reading blog posts, and replaying the conversation.
It was then this poem started writing itself, inspired by the heady nature of the discussion and some memories of my own. I wasn’t able to finish it that night, but I’ve finally pulled it up off my phone notes and touched up a few spots. For the most part, I left the original poem intact.
So today, I’d like to share “He’s Got Her” with you:
Jade A. Waters
He’s got her
Her limbs stretched across this bed
Wrist to headboard
Foot to base
But this has nothing to do with
It’s the way he looks at her
The way he sees inside her soul,
The way his fingers dig
So deep inside her cunt,
Finding her secrets
And all her dreams,
With the flick of his wrist and a glint in his eyes.
She thinks for a moment
It’s not right that he can do this,
Not right that he can take her
From cynical to believer in seconds
But he does,
Every time he holds her
This is what she realizes
As he circles her clit with his tongue
And drives those fingers inside;
He’s got her,
Ensnared her heart and soul in his net
For a lifetime to come
Because it’s supposed to be,
Was meant to be.
So when he thrusts into her,
Grunting, bearing, deep and loving,
This love he takes from her
This love she freely shares,
It was never hers to give in the first place
Because she’s always
Belonged to him.
I hope you enjoyed it.