JARBOE: Let’s start with your background. Tell me about it…
CARA: I have always loved writing. Currently I am a Senior Editor at a new women’s sexuality website, Libida.com, which will be launching this summer. Previous to that I was a Senior Editor at GettingIt.com, a great pop-culture subversive magazine. Before that I worked as a Production Coordinator at a TV show (I had gone to school for film) but on my off time at work I found I could make money writing porn. I got bored of the porn they wanted me to write and taught myself HTML and started my own Webzine – Venus or Vixen?
JARBOE: What is the most recent book you have read?
CARA: Right now I’m reading “The Virgin Suicides”, which is a great book. Before that I read “Sarah” by JT Leroy, also a wonderful book. He’s probably the best young writer out today.
J: Why do you have an interest in erotica?
C: When I first started writing erotica it gave me more self-confidence, it allowed me to dig into feelings about myself and express them. Now I’m more interested in pushing the boundaries, it seems that most erotic writing is very “safe” these days, like everyone is so interested in being sex-positive (which is good) that they are afraid of offending anybody. I don’t think sex should be safe. I think if you take away some of the danger and the risk you miss out on a lot of what is sexy. The writing I’m doing now might not get most people off but I enjoy the link between sex and death, it fascinates me.
J: If there IS an agenda to the realm of ‘erotica’, what do you think it is?
C: I think the trend now is to make erotica for women. It’s made by women for women, which is cool, but I think that sometimes we forget that women don’t just like “nice” sex, but they have fantasies about everything.
J: Do you believe in ‘the secret life’?
C:I believe everyone leads two lives, the outward life and the one in your head. To me, ‘the secret life’ is what you think of yourself or things you do in your fantasy world, while your “real life” is how other people see you. So yes, I definitely believe in the secret life.
J: Can you tell me something about your own (if you do)?
C: I spend a lot of my time in my head. Since my profession is making up stories I sometimes walk around thinking about my fantasies or fantasies other people might have or making up characters or even putting myself into characters. Since I spend so much of my “professional” life dealing with fantasy my personal life is actually quite normal.
J: What is the role of the editor with regards to erotic writing? Is it different from other fiction editing?
C: I think the real difference in being an editor is not between erotic writing and fiction writing but between fiction and non-fiction writing. When I get a piece of fiction I take it for what it is and do very little editing. With non-fiction I sometimes have to rewrite the piece to make the tone match the magazine.
J: Tell me about your website(s).
C: Venus or Vixen? (http://www.venusorvixen.com) is the website I run by myself. It’s an erotic magazine with stories, essays, features, reviews, serial stories, horoscopes and sex advice. I’m adding a weird sex through history column, a fetish column and a column by me which will be more of a journal. Libida.com is the new website I work for and it’s going to be a mainstream site for women’s sexuality. This is the most mainstream site I’ve ever worked for. I still work for GettingIt.com, because once you work for GettingIt you never stop, except now we have no money so when we do stuff, we do it out of love. GettingIt is a subversive sort of zine, we cover culture, politics, sex, celebrity and general oddities.
J: What to you are some of the classics of published erotic writing?
C: The Story of the Eye, by Georges Bataille, I love Bataille. Story of O by Pauline Reage. Anais Nin, of course. I really like the French surrealist erotica.
J: Where do you draw the distinction between porn and erotica?
C: I don’t, which is why I prefer the term “smut”.
J: Why are there so few ‘sex’ sites on the net geared for women?
C: Traditionally porn has been created for men. There are many myths about women’s sexuality, like women don’t enjoy porn, especially visual porn. That women aren’t as sexual, that they don’t actively look for sex literature, videos or artwork. The majority of the world lives under these beliefs and in capitalistic societies things are created to make money. With men seen as the major buyers of sex, most everything sex related is geared towards them. This is changing though and there are a lot of great sites out there now for women. Scarlet Letters and CherryBomb are two great one’s. I think we’re going to see a lot more sex sites specifically for women popping up within the next couple of years.
J: Is fantasy always better than the real thing?
C: Ha. No. Fantasy is a great gateway to getting what you want in the real thing. It lets you realize what really turns you on and can get you off and to be able to see that it is possible. But having the real thing is hopefully amazingly satisfying! Maybe it’s because I spend a lot of my time living in the “fantasy world” that I appreciate the real thing so much more.
J: Who are some visual artists you enjoy who have an erotic edge?
C: Trevor Brown is probably my favorite. There are a lot of photographers I like, Phyllis Christopher, Richard Kern. I’m actually looking for erotic visual artists now so if anyone has any suggestions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J: How did you meet Trevor Brown?
C: I first contacted Trevor Brown because I love his work and I thought he would make the perfect book cover for me. I actually sent him an email and he was so cool about it. Then he came to Los Angeles for a show he was having and I flew done to pick up my artwork and meet him. He’s a wonderful guy. My short story collection will also have a cover done by him.
J: What are your thoughts about ‘virtual reality sex’? I’m sure you know about Real Doll. They are even making a male real doll. What are your thoughts on this!?
C: I’m not going to judge someone for using something to get them off or give them pleasure. If someone substitutes a doll or virtual reality sex for human companionship then they may have other issues to deal with. But there’s nothing wrong with using sex toys or watching pornos to get off, so why should there be anything wrong with fucking a doll (just a larger sex toy)? Personally they creep me out and they’re really expensive but that’s me. And if someone is lonely the Internet may offer them a chance to connect with someone, even if it is only in a sexual way.
J: Traditionally, in the media anyway, women are supposed to need romance and an emotional connection with someone to really enjoy sex with them. Your thoughts on this concept?
C: I don’t agree with this at all. Personally I don’t confuse lust and love. I think women can often want just sex or pleasure just as much as men. This misconception propagated by the media is one reason for the terms “slut” and “whore” (when used in a degrading sense) and have made women feel that having sex just for the sake of getting off is bad, therefore, making them bad.
J: Also–how much of great sex is in the mind? How important is mental fantasy – even while you are with your partner?
C: I think most of great sex is in the mind. Whether it’s mental fantasy or a mental connection your mind is not separate from your body. There is nothing wrong with fantasizing while you are having sex. Many people need it to achieve orgasm.
J: How do you feel about censorship on the web?
C: If something hurts somebody else then it should be questioned. Child pornography, in my opinion, is wrong. That should be censored, someone was hurt in creating that. I am a strong free speech proponent and I don’t think the web should be censored more than anything else. Maybe not censoring the web will force parents to talk more openly with their children about sex. Also, if we censor the web we censor more then children, we censor everyone. Censorship is a way of not dealing with what’s out there and what’s going on in the world, instead of burying it, we should deal with it.
J: How do you feel about children ‘discovering sex’ via the internet?
C: Children are going to discover sex somewhere. It really is the parents choice to decide how they discover it. The more honestly they talk to their kids about sex and the sooner then children won’t be discovering sex via the Internet. The only problem with kids discovering sex on the Internet is if they discover something that doesn’t seem right, or pleasurable, or is something they don’t understand. With proper sex education then they will have guidelines to judge what they are seeing on the Internet and be able to put it into perspective, because there is all kinds of sex portrayed online.
J: Do you have an opinion about the best way for a young person to learn about sex? (I grew up in such a repressed, religious, formal restrictive household that I didn’t even know what a penis was until I was 14 !)
C: For one thing sexual information needs to be made available for children. Sexual information definitely needs to be made available for children, I couldn’t agree with you more. If sex is portrayed in a positive and factual light then children will have high standards to expect. If sex is “dirty and bad” then if something “dirty or bad” happens they might, in a skewed way, think this is normal.
J: And finally, ( and you certainly can decline this one!) as someone who edits and reads sexy stories professionally, could you tell the readers of this site, what you objectively enjoyed about my little ode to the religious life, The Eucharist, which is featured in your imprint’s collection entitled: Viscera. Some of my fans ‘got it’ but others definitely didn’t! I realize the humor in my work is less than comforting or obvious….
C: First of all, The Eucharist was extremely well written: short, sweet and sexy. I love the idea of making fun of those who are repressed and supposed to be holier-then-thou. The story was perfect for Viscera in the very fact that it was uncomfortable. It did exactly what I wanted to do, turned people on, creeped them out and made then cringe.