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Fiction and Poetry / February 25, 2019


Lise Soskolne, <em>Bikini Girl</em>, 2000. Oil and monoprint transfer on canvas, 60.9 x 40.6 cm (left) 66 x 43.1 cm (right). Courtesy the artist. Lise Soskolne, Bikini Girl, 2000. Oil and monoprint transfer on canvas, 60.9 x 40.6 cm (left) 66 x 43.1 cm (right). Courtesy the artist.

On our first call, the young executive told me that Romance was the only branch of publishing in growth. In Romance, she said, money is still being made.

She said, “We want to do for polyamory what Fifty Shades did for S&M.”

“The story of a young woman looking for a love, an ‘everywoman’ struggling in our era of constant distraction.”

“Sounds good,” I said, thinking of cash. I did not know a thing about polyamory or romance as a genre.

“The young woman falls for a man who she discovers is a seasoned polyamorist, and the erotic episodes launch from there.”

“Right,” I agreed, googling Romance.

In Romance, I learned, the lover is always rewarded with love. This is called “emotional justice.” Polyamory for the masses via emotional justice. I thought, I’ll rejig women’s lib.

On our next call, the executive delivered more details: “Dana, our lead, has to be introduced to a completely new sexual lifestyle, which appears to her, at first, as the opposite of ‘true love’ when she meets Carson, a man with multiple lovers, a veritable rock star on the world stage of pop science…”

“Pop?” I interrupted.

“Carson speaks and writes about the end of ownership as a concept and what effect that will have on our society,” the executive explained.

“We want to see Dana inspired by Carson’s gold-medal passion for the sharing economy. We want to see her fall madly in love and experience mind-altering jealousy in the presence of Carson’s secondary lovers. We want to see Dana work through her stuff to realize that this man is worth an incursion into the collective unknown.”

I took my time, trying to understand.

“An everywoman’s struggle in the sexual economy…” I started. “I think we first need to get rid of Dana’s ‘ick.’”

“What ‘ick’?”

“For the romance to work,” I continued, undaunted, “polyamory needs to be her idea. Dana should not want to be swallowed or inducted. She needs to be horny as her prime state, kind of like Diane Arbus or something. Carson should be her subject. She should arrive with an urge to fuck all her subjects.”

“Polyamory,” I pitched. “An exegesis of female horny.”

The executive coughed into her phone and said, “Polyamory is our vision of a regulated system. It’s like a board meeting, consensus. It has to be a novelty for women, this sexuality of sharing, so that when Dana finally gets a handle on her jealousy she lets Carson take her to her first group sex party. It’s both scary and exciting for Dana to witness this.”

Bear witness to her man humping tertiary flesh?

“Also, remember, Dana lives with a roommate. Her name is Diana, not Diane. Diana will be one of those women who walk around the house topless—a woman who inspires Dana to be freer. The first sign of something more between Dana and Diana (Double D!) is an innocent kiss in the glow of a beautiful night—dancing, drinks—when everything feels magical…”

I saw dawn-breaking dildos, men’s eyes seeping and flayed.

“…to conclude with Dana’s epiphany that there are many different ways to feel pleasure out there.”

“Humans will geyser for anything,” I said.

“You have to write it before we approve it.”

“How much?”

“Three chapters.”

Before I saw cash? I realized that the executive was talking to other people. She’d found me while trawling Amazon.

I hung up the phone. I googled Diane Arbus and read about when she shot Germaine Greer.

Greer said that Arbus berated her while running around her hotel room with a camera. Then she straddled her on the bed, forced the camera under her chin and waited for her composure to break. She wanted to freeze her: fuckworthy and fraught.

This is an article from our Winter 2019 issue, “Pleasure.”

Tamara Faith Berger

Tamara Faith Berger is a writer living in Toronto. Her books include Maidenhead (2016), Little Cat (2013) and Kuntalini (2016). She recently published Queen Solomon (2018) with Coach House Books.