(Illustration: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

Rachel’s Note: What Embarrasses This Erotica Writer?

Our guest editor this week is erotica author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel

You might think someone who writes about sex for a living wouldn’t be prone to blushing, but I most certainly am. When I’m faced with situations where I don’t know how to respond, my extremely pale cheeks turn traitor. I feel heat sweep across my face before anyone else can confirm it. The source could be a compliment, a flirtation or a faux pas, but most often, I blush in a professional context, when I’ve taken my sexy words off the page and read them to a live audience, unfiltered.

Merriam-Webster’s first definition for blush reads, “the red color that spreads over your face when you are ashamed, embarrassed, confused, etc.” But I think there’s more to it than that. I wouldn’t say I’m any of those qualities when I blush; rather, it’s my body speaking up for me in a way my mind can’t. Most of the time, I’m not blushing because I’m embarrassed; I’m embarrassed that I’m blushing.

In my lofty ideals of how an erotica author is supposed to behave, I shouldn’t show a tinge of unease when I read my filthiest fantasies aloud. I should be calm, proud and ready to challenge the status quo that tells us that those kinds of words belong behind closed doors. And I am — mostly.

But the truth is, I’m human. I am someone who is most comfortable using words in their written form. In writing or editing, I’ve found a welcoming playground for any and all manner of confessions, sexual and otherwise. There’s a safety to baring truths when you don’t have to look people in the eye. You can let your readers absorb your innermost thoughts in their own way, at their own pace.

Reading live, where people can hear every shaky breath, see every unsteady movement, witness that flood of blood to my cheeks, is not in my nature. Almost every time, I get to a section where some part of me is flashing a red alert sign to my brain, asking, Did you really write that? My eyes leap ahead to words I’m half shocked I actually wrote and half terrified to utter aloud.

As I write this, I’m questioning why I’ve been so resistant to blushing. I think it’s because deep down I’ve absorbed the notion that I should be “above” blushing, that my head should rule rather than those pesky, unruly rogue emotions. My blushes are my signal to myself, first and foremost, that there’s some element to what’s happening that feels a little alarming. As a control freak, I tend to avoid alarming situations, but maybe blushing is a way of tapping into something so primal I can’t outthink it. My blushes don’t mean I’m ashamed of what I’m doing but simply that I’ve left my comfort zone and am entering a new one, whose outcome I can’t predict. Maybe instead of danger, my blushes simply mean pay attention. 

Whatever relationship you have with blushing, I hope you can figure out a way to make it work for you, not against you. Perhaps you’ll even learn something about yourself?

This week, the TueNight writers get rosy:

Stay cheeky,


(Illustration: Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

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