I was researching Black and White and Blue when I first encountered Chrissie Bentley, a google hit for an obscure British stag film I was chasing down. Intrigued that somebody else should even be aware of it, I got in touch and discovered that she has much the same fascination with these funny old films as I do… the difference is, while I was writing a scholarly tome, she was incorporating them into her erotic fiction.
I promptly commissioned her to write a preface to my book; she responded by having me do the same for one of hers. Since when, we’ve back-and-forthed on a variety of projects, including sundry book reviews and interviews for various “adult”-oriented sites, but the thing I love best about working with her is, if I were to call her right now and ask, “what’s the 1940s French porno where the girl does this with that in a room shaped like the other,” she would probably know the answer. There’s not many people you can say that about.
Chrissie Bentley interview
A SUCKER FOR SEXY STORIES
She has been described as the “Bard of the Blowjob,” the “Oracle of Oral” and, doubtless, a number of other wittily alliterative titles.
So far as Chrissie Bentley is concerned, however, she’s simply a super-specialist in a world where there are no limits.
“I guess you could say I write good head,” she says. But, before you dismiss her as just one more in the growing tide of erotic authors who are clogging the shelves and flooding the internet, when she says she targets a singular market, she means it. For other writers, the entire world of sexual experience is their oyster. Bentley, although she’s not averse to a little bit of everything, goes straight for the big blue vein.
Bentley started publishing erotica four years ago, “as a way of getting back on my feet at the end of a relationship. I figured that if I could bring myself to focus on the good bits, it’d help me forget what a jerk he was. ” Since that time, her stories have spread across some half a dozen different websites, and spilled into magazines, anthologies and her own novels.
Currently engaged in compiling and editing an anthology of women’s oral sex stories for Mojocastle Press, the aptly titled The Longest Kiss, Bentley’s first novel, Miss America, is currently being serialized on the prestigious Ruthie’s Club website, having been rejected by more than a dozen conventional publishers.
“They told me it was too extreme. ‘Gratuitously nasty’ is a phrase I remember. Yet the theme of the book is learning to trust, first yourself and then other people. There are a few passages that might shock people, but they’re balanced by this incredible sense of empowerment and strength, that builds and builds until it simply explodes triumphantly out of the end. I’m thrilled to see it finally reaching an audience, and the response from readers has been almost unanimously positive.”
A novella, What I Did On My Summer Vacation (Mardi Gras Publishing), following her tongue and tonsils around southern England, was published last March. She has an adult screenplay currently in production, while she has also published two further stand-alone novels: Below Blue London (Mojocastle Press), which she described as an historical epic starring Charles Dickens, Elizabeth I and an army of willing fellatrixes, and Naughty Miranda (Forbidden Publications), the confessions of an orally obsessed prime time television star.
“Naughty Miranda is the name I used for a lot of stories when I first started writing. Some friends and I were watching Sex and the City one night and one of them said I looked like Cynthia Nixon’s character, Miranda. So I adopted it for my stories, and it gained a lot of support. I’ve been slowly retiring it over the last year or so, but I wanted the old girl to go out in style.”
Which she does. Naughty Miranda closes with its titular heroine remaking the 70s porn flick The Sexorcists, a fellatio-filled occult thriller that makes Deep Throat look like a quick nibble. But Bentley’s literary fascination with the subject is not without its drawbacks.
“I posted my first stories at Eroticstories.com, an Internet site that encourages readers to respond to authors, private e-mails about the stories, and I was astonished by the attitudes of the guys who were writing to me. I hate to use the word ‘Neanderthal,’ but their attitude towards oral sex was so negative towards women, far more than with other acts.
“I’m not a feminist; if anything, I’m an equallist – sex should be the ultimate level playing field. But a lot of guys genuinely believe that the only reason a woman wants to go down on a guy is for his gratification, and we get nothing out of it at all. Which is bullshit.”
So, Bentley started playing up the girl’s power, to remind guys that, yeah, they may have this big powerful lance that they can knock down walls with. But women have teeth, and fists, and, most important she says, “we have the power to leave them hanging for hours.”
More than any other act, Bentley believes, oral sex demands perfect trust. “He trusts her not to suffocate him, she trusts him not to try and choke her. And you both trust each other not to bite things off.” But society in general continues to portray fellatio, in particular, as the province of the most sordid backstreet hooker.
“It has a terrible rap,” Bentley continues. “It’s only a generation or so ago that it was still considered, if not completely illegal, then at least unnaturally perverse. And people still behave as though it’s cheap and sluttish.”
It’s this attitude, she explains, that ensures that her most prized asset is her anonymity. The Delaware native has worked in mainstream publishing for close to twenty years. But her fame in the world of erotic literature remains a closely guarded secret. Even among her own circle of friends and associates, only her boyfriend is aware of her alter-ego, and she said that even he has a hard time sometimes, differentiating between fiction (“which is what I’m writing”) and fact.
“He’s getting over it, but it was difficult at first. He’d read something I wrote and it’d be ‘well, how come you’ve never done that to me?’ And we return to what I said before about other forms of storytelling. If I wrote crime books, would readers assume I’d actually committed or solved those same crimes? No. So why do they take erotica so literally?
She gives one example. “Not so long ago, I had to call up an editor, a guy, to sort out payment for a story I’d written. The kid who answered the phone didn’t even put me on hold, he just shouted ‘hey, it’s the girl who likes to suck cock.’ I was horrified. If I wrote murder mysteries, it wouldn’t be ‘the girl who likes killing people’; if I wrote historical novels, I wouldn’t be ‘the girl who likes beheading her servants.’ But, because it’s erotica and, especially because it’s oral sex, straightaway guys feel they can put you down.”
She laments how “cocksucker” remains one of the harshest insults you can throw at somebody, “when it should be one of the most beautiful compliments. Spiritually, it’s the most powerful act there is, and psychologically, it’s the most intimate,” she said.
That is the conflict that Bentley explores in her writing. “I’d never say I’m on a crusade to bring blowjobs to the breakfast table, partly because there’s a time and a place for everything, and in front of a bowl of cornflakes isn’t it, and partly because there’s a lot of other writers out there who are making the same points as I am, only maybe not as single-mindedly.
“I realized that when I was approached to compile The Longest Kiss. It proved that I’ve created a niche for myself. At the same time, though, reading through the contributions I’ve received so far, it’s great to see how much attitudes towards it have changed, just in the few years since I started writing.”
Bentley would not claim any credit for this, though. “The adult industry has grown so vast these days that, although it’s still not considered ‘mainstream entertainment,’ in some ways it’s even bigger than the mainstream. And, just as everybody has their own taste in, and take on, different bands or TV shows or Hollywood blockbusters, they all have their own taste in sex.
Still, she points out that adult movies are moving so fast now that “a lot of the things you see in them today wouldn’t even have been considered sexual a few years back. They’re just weird. So people are turning to literature instead, both as readers and writers, and perceptions that have been in place forever are now breaking down.
“I don’t think you ever want to completely shatter a taboo, because forbidden fruit will always taste better. But, if more men – and women, too – can start viewing oral as a meeting of equals, rather than some kind of power trip, that can only be better for everybody.”