Meet Our Teachers–Dena Hankins
We’re about to meet a new teacher! An author whose book we just began carrying in our stores this summer, Dena Hankins hails from Seattle and will teach a class and host/participating in a free queer lit reading next week. Her class topic is close to my heart: using erotica to inspire your own sex life! Come to one or both of these terrific events. Details are below! — Carol Queen, Staff Sexologist
CQ: It sounds like your workshop makes the link between the fantasy we read on the page and the fantasy we might want to act out. Is it your impression that many people derive erotic inspiration from the sexy stories they read? What do they need to consider if they want to go from the page to “real life”?
Dena: I have experienced links between the fantasy on the page and my real life desires. In reading Macho Sluts by Patrick Califia, I identified some of my formless yearnings and found paths that have led me to greater sexual and emotional satisfaction. Carol Queen’s The Leather Daddy and the Femme showed me communities that rang true and opened me up to being honest about what I wanted with people I had previously feared judgment from. I know that I’m not alone in developing my sexual self through comparison to and reaction to erotic stories.
On the other hand, I have not experienced everything I read in those books or the hundreds of others I’ve read since. The nature of my excitement in each case varies and sometimes leads me away from wanting to act out the fantasy even while I’m in the throes of a one-handed orgasm.
One of my goals is to encourage you to consider your desires and the nature of fantasy. There is a realm of arousal that stretches far beyond the specific sensations and relations we may prefer. I would like to help you cultivate your fertile imagination for the fun you can bring to your active, personal and/or interpersonal sex lives and also learn to recognize a turn-on that is powerful in the imagination but not a good candidate for acting out.
In the workshop, I will also discuss how to move from fantasy to reality and back again. There’s a skill – which some lucky people have as an inborn talent – that I call the graceful exit. The stakes in trying something new can feel high but can be brought down by deft handling of setting expectations and providing honest feedback. What do you do when acting out your fantasy isn’t working out as you’d hoped? I’m looking forward to talking about that!
CQ: What are the best reasons to share stories with your lovers? What can be a challenge about that kind of sharing?
Dena: The most altruistic reason to share stories with your lovers is to bring them pleasure, but that’s not the only good reason to do so.
Most people in sexual relationships will identify some discrepancies between their respective needs, desires, fantasies, and hopes. Sometimes, those discrepancies can be bridged with the exercise of a little imagination. Sharing stories with our lover can be the spur for an essential empathy, an unexpected arousal that makes the previously uninteresting take on a new sheen. Whether demonstrating why you find something a turn-on or hoping to turn on your partner, the goal is to help your partner empathize with your desire.
This kind of sharing can be done with warmth and empathy on both sides. It can be challenging to share something so intimate, especially if there’s a possibility of a negative reaction from your lover. It can also be difficult for the receiver to hold onto boundaries under clear statements of desire from a partner, especially if you’re in a growth phase and don’t want to put up a lot of barriers to impulsiveness and possibility.
CQ: Why are you an erotic writer? What do you want to bring into being via this kind of writing?
Dena: In the romance genre, “sweet” means that the writer will turn away from the sex, fading out or closing the bedroom door. It seems to imply that sex is not a meaningful and crucial aspect of the increasing closeness between two people (the whole point of a romance) and/or that we all do it the same.
I accept neither!
I love how we reveal our deepest selves in the multiplicity of ways we express our sexuality. The character who wants to fuck and doesn’t care about anything but getting us both off makes me swoon. So does the tender lover who gets maudlin in the middle of things because of a stray thought about mortality and loneliness. We are ourselves, full and real and huge, in our sexual moments just as we are in life’s other opportunities.
As for the idea that we all fuck the same, well…pshaw. The building blocks of sexual diversity – gender identity, sexual and romantic orientation, preferred relationship style, and the myriad ways we relate to our own bodies and the bodies of others – are a robust and fun starting point in erotica, and the journey can go deep into the different kinds of arousal we experience. As an erotica writer, I want to stimulate you viscerally, sexually, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sexuality is sometimes framed as a lower form of animal behavior taking us over. I think that the most amazing thing about sexuality is that it can be layered onto or integrated into all these other highly complex and deeply fascinating ways of being. That sexuality itself is highly complex and deeply fascinating.
CQ: You’re facilitating a reading of writers of queer fiction the day before your workshop. What should we expect? Did you choose this line-up for any special reason/s?
Dena: I chose this great group of folks because they fire my imagination and bring wonderfully varied visions of queer life.
Expect stories true and fantastic, sexy and awkward. Expect show-tune queens and social justice queers. Expect at least three distinct iterations of cock and a whole lot of different ways to play with them.
We’re a group of authors who’ve been fostered by Bold Strokes Books, our common publisher. We are all queer, gay, or lesbian and share an excitement for stories about doing more than suffering for these identities. Our literary conflicts are strong and, don’t worry, we make our characters suffer, but we also give them love and fun and the joy of living their very queer lives. I can’t wait to light up the room with all the colors of the rainbow!
Come by and meet Dena at one of these two great events:
Queer Prism: Readings
Monday, September 29, 2014
Queer fiction runs the gamut! A tasting menu to make you laugh, cry, and squirm in the most delicious ways. With Eric Andrews-Katz, Dale Chase, Dena Hankins, Clifford Henderson, Kathleen Knowles, and Felice Picano.
Open Windows: Look Inside with Erotica
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
$20 in advance, $25 at the door, as space allows
Whether describing fantasy scenes or exactly what you did last night, words add power and excitement to sex. Erotica and romance writer Dena Hankins will ask which words turn you on–and do you want to try what you just read about? Let’s talk hot language, exploring new ideas, and sharing stories with your lovers.