Many things can cause a woman to need to lead a double life, I suppose, like being a deep cover agent for the CIA. But more often it’s our sex lives that drive us to hide a crucial part of ourselves from the world. Society judges women by a brutal double standard: we’re expected to be sexy at all times but heaven forbid your co-workers or students or boss finds out that you might like to get freaky in bed.
This is a problem. This is a big problem. Fear of being judged not only pushes women to hide their sexuality, it may prevent them from exploring it in the first place. Put simply: THAT SUCKS. Some women fear being judged so much that they will even hide their romance novels! No one should have to live in fear because of their choices for grown-up consensual pleasure. Why do we call them “guilty pleasures” anyway? There’s no reason to feel guilty whether it’s because you like leather or love stories.
Unfortunately there are all too many people who will jump to wild conclusions when they hear about anything sexual. Like the people who assume all romance novels are trash and people who read them must have weak minds, there are those who assume anyone who likes a little spice in their sex must have something “wrong” with them. But it’s like the old George Carlin comedy routine: the people who drive slower than you are idiots, and the people who drive faster than you are maniacs! Carlin’s joke points up the fallacy in expecting everyone to like things exactly the way you do. For some reason it’s sex that worries people the most.
In my romance Taking The Lead, our heroine Ricki wants very much to become a high-powered executive in the film industry. She already has money and connections, but she knows very well that what she can’t buy is respect. She also knows that in an industry built on image, that anything that tarnishes that image can leave a permanent mark. Once she loses the respect of Hollywood, she’ll never get it back. Her grandfather knew this, too, which is why he built a secret bondage club in their mansion’s basement, a secret that is now Ricki’s to keep. I made the club a focal point for the story to examine the idea that sexuality must be kept hidden to maintain appearances.
And I made Ricki’s love interest a rock star to get directly at the double-standard: is he really a bad boy sex machine or is that just a public image? Axel’s sex symbol image is crucial to his success, but does that mean to have a relationship with him Ricki will have to make him her dirty, little secret? Taking The Lead is a Hollywood fantasy of fame and fortune, but these are real questions that real-life women have to grapple with. Thankfully it seems to me that romance novels have pretty much come out of the closet in the past couple of years–even a lot of men are admitting to loving them now!–and ever since E.L. James came along, many people are admitting to enjoying BDSM fantasies, some only in fantasy and some in actual real life explorations.
Many people still have to live double lives. Schoolteachers, anyone who works with children, political appointees, and many others could find their jobs and reputations in jeopardy if it were known they frequented the local bondage club or fetish fashion night. But for everyone out there who is leading a double life, know this: you’re not alone.
Cecilia Tan writes about her many passions, from erotic fantasy to baseball. Not only is she an author, but she has also edited over 50 erotic anthologies and founded her own publishing house, Circlet Press. In 2015, Tan was awarded the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in erotic romance. She currently resides in Cambridge, MA. Find her on her website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.