Trigger warning: This article discusses sex and female anatomy and includes a brief mention of spanking.
A year ago, on Valentine’s Day 2020 (a few weeks before a sold-out theater would become impossible) I stood up in front of an audience of five-hundred and shared intimate details from my sex life. It was a wonderful night. The story was about spanking. My wife of 20+ years sat in the front row. I wore a gorgeous outfit. The recording of my story has now been viewed 29,916 times.
I used to be shy.
Growing up, I dreamed of being a writer. I imagined writing alone in my garret with a fountain pen on velum paper. In reality, writing, more so than almost anything in my life, has brought me out of my shell. The fantasy of writing everything on velum implies you’ll get it perfect the first time.
As a younger woman, being perfect was cripplingly important. It was the bar I had to meet to make sure people loved me. So one of the pivotal moments in my life was the time I shared a truly horrible—I mean H O R R I B L E—passage with my writing group. It was so bad, they still talk about it. Remember that passage. And you know what…they loved me for it. It blew my mind. The more I let my façade of perfection (which really only amounted to mildness) slip, the more I connected to people.
Sex is another place where we’re taught to be mild. Be discreate. Fade to gray. And not talking about sex also leads to a sort of unspoken perfectionism. If I don’t know what other people are doing, I don’t know if I’m doing it “right.” The pleasure gap is an example of this. The term describes the phenomenon wherein women having sex with men reach orgasm at a much lower rate than their male partners. The problem is the focus on penetration and the lack of attention paid to the clitoris which is, to many people’s surprise, about as large as the non-erect penis. It’s just on the inside.
So what better way to teach people how to eliminate this gap than to show them fun, beautiful, cliterate sex. And who better to do that than a woman-loving-women romance writer? That’s what I’m doing with my next novel, Satisfaction Guaranteed. It’s the story of a sexually inexperienced woman who inherits her aunt’s sex toy store and must save it from bankruptcy along side an alluring woman who teaches classes on sex and pleasure, including a drink-wine-and-paint-a-portrait-of-your-vulva class.
As part of my research, I read books about sex. I watched videos. And I took the class on erotic spanking that inspired my talk at the Mystery Box Show, a story-telling show devoted to stories about sex. Real sex. Imperfect sex.
Incidentally, I’m trying to reclaim the word vulva. Ever notice how rarely romance novels use the word? Please send me any examples you can find.
When the show’s producers asked me if I’d like to tell a story, I thought, I couldn’t! I’d be talking about my wife. I’d be putting our bedroom on stage. She said, Do it.
I was nervous until I was standing in front of the crowd. Then my fears faded away. I felt called.
I’ve always loved writing, but now I have a purpose. I am going to use my romance novels to help women and other vulva owners have better sex and not just because sex is fun, but because understanding and honoring our bodies, our real anatomy, and our imperfection selves makes us whole.
If you care about this too, join my newsletter for more cliteracy and affirmation. After you sign up, send me an email with your mailing address, and I’ll send you your very own, handmade clitoris painting.
Karelia Stetz-Waters (she/her) writes happily-ever-afters for women who love women. Whether it’s romance or thriller, her characters get the epic wins they deserve and more. She lives her own happily-ever-after in Oregon with her wife of 20+ years. When she’s not writing, she’s teaching college writing, gardening, drawing, or trying to figure out how to make a model of the clitoris out of paper maché.
She’d love to hear from you at www.kareliastetzwaters.com
Pick up a copy of her book Satisfaction Guaranteed.