Rachel Kramer Bussel interviews Lillian Ann Slugocki for Dirty Girls, Seal Press, 2008
Tell us a little about yourself, aside from what's in your official bio.
I just finished a Master’s Degree at NYU at The Gallatin School which was a huge eye opening experience for me. As a guerrilla feminist producing radio and theatre in the 1990’s in New York City, it was illuminating to read what other feminist writers and critics had to say about story telling, about female protagonists, about what our limitations were and what we were up against. In other words, I had the instinct and the intuition, but the formal education, gave it a broader platform and helped placed it in a feminist historical context.
What inspired your story "Truck Stop Cinderella?" What do you hope people take way from it?
I see Gracie Angelique DuBois as a proto-feminist, one of the first models coming off the assembly line in the early 1970’s. She is acutely aware of the power of her sexuality, and isn’t afraid to use it to her advantage. Unlike the classical story of Cinderella, which I see as a model of passive femininity, Gracie has agency and power because she also takes pride in the money she makes, her own money --- which brings autonomy and freedom. When Prince Charming comes into her life as the mysterious handsome man, he rocks her world, yes, but in truth, she is already well on her way to becoming her own women. She’s not waiting to be rescued, she is rescuing herself. Her goal is not a husband, but escape. This is what I love about her, along with her bouffant hair-do and her baby blue 1971 convertible.
This story is part of a series you're doing retelling fairy tales in the form of erotica. Can you tell us more about this project and how the two are linked? Do you think there are already sexual elements to the common fairy tales?
This series is part of the ongoing feminist desire to “re-write”our myths. Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid, and Snow White, to name just a few, perpetuate the idea of submissive female protagonists. The strong women, like the Evil Step-Mother in Snow White are diabolical; the witch or the bitch. My role model for this is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. Like her, I borrow many of the conventions of fairy tales, but the narratives are amplified beyond these static boundaries with erotica. The heroines now have agency, they are empowered, exhibit Eros. I do believe that power is there, has always been there, but its been hidden or repressed.
Your stories also are markedly feminist, and make statements about class, gender roles, and sexism. How are erotica and feminism intertwined for you? How can they complement each other?
Anytime a woman takes it upon herself to write her story, it is a feminist action. Anytime a woman decides that she is subject not object that is a feminist action. I decided in the mid 1990’s to take objectified feminine sexuality, which I saw on the cover of almost every magazine across the city, and make it personal, to define for myself what its like to be sexual and female. To become subject, not object. Coming of age in the 1970’s, the ideal woman and what made her sexy--- these definitions came from the male paradigm. I think writing erotica is an ideal way for a woman artist to proclaim her freedom from “the male gaze” and define for herself what it means to be a woman.
What's your general erotica-writing process like? Do you write on a set schedule or when you're inspired?
Truthfully I’m always thinking; what can I subvert? What is axiomatic in our culture, regarding women, and how can I change it up? How can I offer an alternate view? “Mary Magdalene”, a monologue for The Erotica Project re-imagines one of the greatest whores in history as a strong and intelligent, sexual woman who deeply loves her man; who just happens to be Jesus Christ. I was publicly denounced by the Catholic League when the monologue was published on Salon.com who called it blasphemous. That was a very proud moment for me--- religion and mythology have been male dominated for so long, and I was thrilled to have ruffled some feathers.
What do you think makes a good erotica story work?
I think the protagonist has to be a three dimensional woman with a story to tell. She has to be a complex woman with psychological and emotional depth who is on a journey, and the vehicle for that journey is her sexuality. I think women read erotica differently than men read it. I think we read it as validation for being sexual beings, who enjoy and revel in the erotic, who can choose the form of that expression--- we don’t have to be the whore or the witch, we don’t have to worry about being denounced, we can just be who we are. If that joy and that freedom and that complexity are all present in erotica, written by women, it will be, I believe, a good story.
You've worked in different genres and storytelling styles. How is writing erotica different or similar to your other work?
Writing erotica is fulfilling to me as a feminist artist because it is always political and always deeply personal. Before I wrote erotica, I wrote a great deal about the women burned as witches in the 17th century. I had this idea in my head that I could try and resurrect their voices, because they were lost to our traditional historical narrative. It was thrilling to work with primary source materials; the letters they wrote, their trial transcripts and try to, again, re imagine them as strong women stuck in a very bad time. Their biggest crime, according to their persecutors, was their gender, their deviant devilish sexuality. So now in retrospect its not surprising that I would turn my attention to women and their devilish, deviant sexuality in the contemporary world.