April 21, 2011

Fairy Tale Lust: Mother Goose Is A Very Naughty Bird, Part 1

by Cherry Trifle

“Grandma, what big teeth you have...” Even as a child–perhaps, a slightly peculiar one–I noticed there was something more provocative about the wolf’s teeth than there should've been. I could see him, hulking and hirsute in grandma’s nightie, bed frame creaking beneath his sinewy bulk as he surveyed the young girl, his sinfully long tongue wetting those ominous, luminous canines. Slavering.

Someday, My Prince Will Come

Sela - Zenescope's Grimm’s Fairy Tale series. Artist: J. Scott Campbell

Author Mitzi Szereto never liked fairy tales. “I was a very precocious child,” she says, “so it’s not surprising that their pedantic and moralistic tone put me off in a big way.” Her distaste for the sanitized narratives was, in part, a force behind In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed (Cleis Press, 2009), a twisted, amusing and exceedingly erotic retelling of classics both familiar and obscure. “Little did I realize I was in effect returning to these stories their original integrity – namely the sexual content.”

Indeed, the stories most of us see as “originals” are hardly that, but rather, “bastardized versions that have had a long and checkered history,” Szereto points out, adding that she wanted readers to be able to recognize the tales that served as each fable’s building blocks. Not only does she manage to retain their essence, but offers an edification, as each is presented to the reader on a silky cushion of its own fascinating, sexy origins.

“Our ideas about relationships and sex are formed at an early age,” offers writer Kristina Wright, editor of Fairy Tale Lust (Cleis Press, 2010), a collection of fairy-tale inspired erotica to which she also contributed a piece very loosely based on “Rumplestilskin.” “While our attitudes certainly mature and shift as we reach adulthood, there’s something to say about the strong influence a Cinderella story can have on the psyche.”

Twisting the classics, she says, taking the familiar and turning it upside-down opens doors to the imagination. “Doors that present new ideas about what is romantic, what is sexual, what is love, what is human nature.”

Both Wright and Szereto acknowledge the resurgence in the fairy tale’s popularity. Wright attributes some of that to its fantastical properties. “There’s a reason why genre fiction – including erotica – is so popular, especially during economic downturns,” she explains. “We all need an escape from the day-to-day grind and worries about the future. Erotica is the most personal of escapes.”

Szereto, for whom the nursery stories held little appeal, welcomes the new twists. “This whole young adult market is far more sophisticated than [what] was available to young people a generation ago… vampires, werewolves, romance, desire, good versus evil.” In fact, her forthcoming book, Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance, due out this fall, takes its inspiration from Gothic fiction. “Think the Brontë sisters on up to Anne Rice – this new wave of fantasy is an area I very much revel in.”

In the pages of Wright’s and Szereto’s tomes, you’ll find women both demure and aggressive, but don’t mistake the latter as the naturally lustier of the two. There’s exhibitionism. Bestial cravings. Foot worship. Same-sex play. Bondage. Domination. Polyamory. And more, of course. In one of my personal favorites, a recast of “Sleeping Beauty,” a hapless princess becomes the dormant vessel for a fête of freaky phytophilia.

But then, I’ve often been accused of being a tree hugger.

(tune in for Part 2 tomorrow….)