Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stories That Should Have Been

By Annabeth Leong

Rather than talking about stories I’ve written that should have been dirtier, this topic makes me think of stories in books and films that I wish explored their sexual dimensions more thoroughly--and also times I’ve held back in my life, when I wish now that I hadn’t.

The first story that comes to mind is Bend It Like Beckham. Ostensibly, it’s a coming of age story between a girl (Jess) and her soccer coach (Joe). However, I’m not the only person who’s noticed the considerable chemistry between Jess and her female friend (Jules). (This story would be less confusing if the producers of the film hadn’t given everyone names that start with J). While there are rumors that the story originally explored a relationship between Jess and Jules, the version of the film that was released ends with an apparent happy ending for Jess and Joe.

I say, why not get into it all? I think this story would be super hot if Jess explored her bisexuality and dated both Joe and Jules. Also, one major point of conflict is that Jess and Jules both have feelings for Joe. There are times when I’d really, really like to see people solve their problems with bisexual polyamory, and this is one of them.

Over the course of the last couple weeks, several people have rightly pointed out that there’s something inherently judgmental to calling a story “dirty.” I don’t want to play into that here. I’m not saying it’s bad or dirty to practice bisexual polyamory (unless that’s what turns you on--I wouldn’t want to ruin anything for anyone). Here, what I mean by “dirty” is onscreen explicit activity. I want to see more people making out. I’d really love to see Jess and Jules have no holds barred lesbian sex (not just the kind that’s symbolized by gently burning candles and footsie). And, of course, in my version, everyone is age appropriate.

Another story that holds deep eroticism for me is the movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. There’s plenty to suggest a predatory romantic and erotic relationship between these actors’ two characters (Jarreth, a full-grown goblin king, and Sarah, a young and precocious girl), and I think it would be really hot and interesting to explore that relationship more thoroughly and explicitly.

Some of the lines in Labyrinth would make for incredible BDSM. At one point, Bowie’s character tells Sarah, “Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.” There’s a fascinating power dynamic between them.

Ultimately, what Jarreth wants seems threatening and abusive, and I would always want Sarah to realize that (as she does in the released version of the film). But I think it would be pretty amazing to see these characters do more obviously sexy things first.

As far as life experiences go, I’m personally torn. The idea of held back desire is very intense, fascinating, and arousing to me. There are probably people and moments that I remember exactly because I didn’t take the opportunity that was presented to me. It’s possible that the eroticism of not-doing has at times been greater than any eroticism I might have experienced from doing. At the same time, I have lifelong curiosity over what might have been.

The friend who frequently drew and painted me naked--what would have happened if I’d made a move on her? The time the guy I was crushing on invited me to shower with him, but I was afraid to say yes, even though I wanted to. Those are lifelong regrets, but they’re also centers of erotic power and fantasy.

I guess the point of this is that, as others have pointed out, there can sometimes be a great deal of eroticism present precisely when nothing explicit is happening. Maybe Bend It Like Beckham would be another mediocre lesbian movie if the relationship between Jess and Jules had actually been consummated. Maybe the shower with that guy wouldn’t have been any fun.

What I do know is that I’ll always wonder, and a part of me will always think these things should have been dirtier.


  1. It may be that most writers believe the style guides that tell us to keep sex behind doors. Susie Bright's 'How to Write a Dirty Story' the exception.

    One of my favorite tropes is the idea of prolonged foreplay or denial of orgasmic release. In Franzen's The Corrections, a lesbian denies her lover to the point the lover, who absolutely won't indulge in masturbation, begs for release. Though not an erotic work, that scene sticks in my mind as very sexy.

  2. I rewatched Labyrinth recently, after many years, and this time I too was struck by the strong aura of BDSM in that part. I mostly wanted her to kick his as and get out of there, but it's true that more interplay before that would have been...interesting.

    I used to have theory that in terms of romantic fiction, women value sexual tension more than explicit sex. Times have changed, and that may no longer be true, but I'm sure sexual tension is still a vital part of erotica. Some erotica. i'm not sure about the kink niche of "dry fucking," though, when the woman is required not to be aroused (or insists on that herself). There must be tension involved, but I don't think I'd call it sexual tension, at least not on both sides of the equation.

  3. Annabeth, you've started a fruitful topic, especially since so many narratives of the past suggest intense sexual desire that is never explicitly named, or coyly veiled in metaphors ("the earth moved"). I agree about those 2 movies. It would be interesting to write alternative scripts. :)