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Mother Goose Is A Very Naughty Bird

Monday, April 25 2011 @ 09:02 AM CDT

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Fairy Tale Lust

by Cherry Trifle

“Grandma, what big teeth you have...” Even as a child–perhaps, a slightly peculiar one–I noticed there was something more provocative about the wolf’s teeth than there should've been. I could see him, hulking and hirsute in grandma’s nightie, bed frame creaking beneath his sinewy bulk as he surveyed the young girl, his sinfully long tongue wetting those ominous, luminous canines. Slavering.

So, how could I buy Red’s wide-eyed naïveté?

Come on, Sister. Granny’s gown has gone transparent in a deluge of dribble. You can hear the beastly panting, feel his breath. You can see his nose twitching, scenting you as his instincts tell him, pounce, tear, devour. He’s not fooling anyone, least of all you. And yet, you stay. You play the game. You offer him your little basket of jam-slathered muffins….

Come to think of it, perhaps my fondness for double entendre was unwittingly kindled by Warner Bros. cartoons.

Oh, don’t be so vulgar, Cherry, you say. That’s a children’s story.

True. But you know, it didn’t used to be.

Most of the fairy tales we first heard in the nursery – stories made ubiquitous in the collections of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm and later translated to animated film and television versions – were born as folk tales spun over campfires and tavern bars after the children had already gone to sleep. Bawdy and beyond, they were stories in which sleeping princesses fell unwitting victim to lustful suitors and often awoke with children to tend; in which fitting into that celebrated slipper meant so much that women mutilated themselves to win the prince’s hand; in which the violence, gore and cannibalism (that later authors somehow felt was okay to leave in for the youngsters) were matched equally with all manner of licentious and erotic imagery.

Someday, My Prince Will Come

Author Mitzi Szereto never liked fairy tales. “I was a very precocious child,” she says, “so it’s not surprising that their pedantic and moralistic tone put me off in a big way.” Her distaste for the sanitized narratives was, in part, a force behind In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed (Cleis Press, 2009), a twisted, amusing and exceedingly erotic retelling of classics both familiar and obscure. “Little did I realize I was in effect returning to these stories their original integrity – namely the sexual content.”

Indeed, the stories most of us see as “originals” are hardly that, but rather, “bastardized versions that have had a long and checkered history,” Szereto points out, adding that she wanted readers to be able to recognize the tales that served as each fable’s building blocks. Not only does she manage to retain their essence, but offers an edification, as each is presented to the reader on a silky cushion of its own fascinating, sexy origins.

“Our ideas about relationships and sex are formed at an early age,” offers writer Kristina Wright, editor of Fairy Tale Lust (Cleis Press, 2010), a collection of fairy-tale inspired erotica to which she also contributed a piece very loosely based on “Rumplestilskin.” “While our attitudes certainly mature and shift as we reach adulthood, there’s something to say about the strong influence a Cinderella story can have on the psyche.”

Twisting the classics, she says, taking the familiar and turning it upside-down opens doors to the imagination. “Doors that present new ideas about what is romantic, what is sexual, what is love, what is human nature.”

Both Wright and Szereto acknowledge the resurgence in the fairy tale’s popularity. Wright attributes some of that to its fantastical properties. “There’s a reason why genre fiction – including erotica – is so popular, especially during economic downturns,” she explains. “We all need an escape from the day-to-day grind and worries about the future. Erotica is the most personal of escapes.”

Szereto, for whom the nursery stories held little appeal, welcomes the new twists. “This whole young adult market is far more sophisticated than [what] was available to young people a generation ago… vampires, werewolves, romance, desire, good versus evil.” In fact, her forthcoming book, Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance, due out this fall, takes its inspiration from Gothic fiction. “Think the Brontë sisters on up to Anne Rice – this new wave of fantasy is an area I very much revel in.”

In the pages of Wright’s and Szereto’s tomes, you’ll find women both demure and aggressive, but don’t mistake the latter as the naturally lustier of the two. There’s exhibitionism. Bestial cravings. Foot worship. Same-sex play. Bondage. Domination. Polyamory. And more, of course. In one of my personal favorites, a recast of “Sleeping Beauty,” a hapless princess becomes the dormant vessel for a fête of freaky phytophilia.

But then, I’ve often been accused of being a tree hugger.


Life in the Middle Ages was hard: Famine. Bubonic plague. The ever-present threat of witch burning. Even when the drama was minimal, generally speaking, you were filthy and crawling with parasites while you worked yourself to an early grave. “The kids’ stories we know now were the NC-17 escapist fare of the day, rife with sex and violence,” explains James B., who teaches a variety of literature classes at a small college in rural Washington. “They were the great grandparents of the horror movie, the fantasy genre, the comic book.”

Though G-Rated Disney fare has long been a sacred cash cow for Hollywood, the deeper naughty and very adult implications of fairy tales is something that has been lost on current auteurs. This year’s “Red Riding Hood,” which balances the primordial menace of the beast with a beautiful young woman’s sexual awakening, was one of the first in a coming string of classic fairy tale-inspired films that have been repackaged for older audiences. Soon, we’ll have two versions of “Snow White” with Charlize Theron and Julia Roberts each starring as the treacherous queen, a contemporary take on “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and a dark spin on “Pinocchio.” With Guillermo del Toro directing, I’ll be eager to see what wicked endeavors they script for that legendary proboscis.

“These kinks and fetishes aren’t concepts that came about with the advent of the camera,” says James. “Many of these ‘immoral’ practices have been going on for millennia.”

Who You Calling Princess?

It’s an idea that’s not at all lost on Ralph Tedesco, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Zenescope Entertainment, which produces the successful “Grimm’s Fairy Tale” comic book series, though he describes the content between its racy covers as decidedly PG-13.

GFT’s heroine is the comely Sela Mathers. A velvet ribbon tying the stories together, Sela is smart (clearly indicated by the glasses she wears with whatever bustier, negligee or saucy wench costume she is packed into) and has the ability to counsel characters in crisis via an enchanted book, pulling them into a fairy-tale world. “As the story unfolds, it shows them how their dilemma relates to that particular tale,” says Tedesco, who writes much of the series. “Many demonstrate how the character within doesn’t make the right decisions and faces some horrifying consequences.”

The stories tackle some heavy issues. The “Cinderella” story dealt with bullying. “Red Riding Hood” is a young girl whose boyfriend is pressuring her to have sex. “Hansel & Gretel” were potential runaways, while Jack, of beanstalk fame, is a drug dealer.

It might be a stretch to call the series a slick, beautifully illustrated new take on the ’70s-era after-school special, but Tedesco notes that they have a significant female following for a product whose marketing segment is primarily males 18 to 34. “It’s a growing fan base,” he says. “I see it in the women who come to the conventions, who like our Facebook page, who write in.”

He cites a storyline from their “Beauty & the Beast” comic in which a young woman in an abusive relationship overcomes her situation. “Many of our stories are, if unintentionally, female empowerment stories.”

The Zenescope team sees the value in knowing its roots. Readers familiar with earlier adaptations of the classics will notice nods to the bloodline. “In one of the older versions of Cinderella, the stepsisters have their eyes pecked by crows,” Tedesco notes. “We retain that in ours, a small homage.”

And This Bed is Just Right

As a longtime horror buff, I roll my eyes at all the graphs and charts saying I don’t belong in the demographic. Author Kristina Wright falls under a similar heading. “When I was growing up,” she says, “I was the only girl I knew who read comic books.” She preferred the darker storylines: the Dark Knight, vampires, stories that blurred the lines of good and evil.

“Although the romantic-relationship elements of fairy tales often overshadow the quest aspects while comic books tend to slant the opposite way, as a woman I’m not sure how I feel about the idea that [comics] are for men … I think a good story is going to appeal to an interested reader regardless of gender.”

Or orientation. Mitzi Szereto’s In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed has found many a fan in the gay community and she is delighted to have them. “I never think in terms of gender when I write,” says the woman who’s “The Turnip” – the tale of a modest farmer who finds both blessing and curse in the elephantine root vegetable growing from his groin – brought down the house during a reading at a London literary event at the Royal Festival Hall.

Szereto suspects comic books have been a format giving male readers “permission” to read fairy stories. “Many potential male readers might be put off by the whole fairy tale idea,” she says, noting that the product marketing tends to target women. “I think that’s unfortunate… I’m very proud of the fact that the title has been well received by a diverse readership.”

“eHarmony’s always going to have its place,” observes James. “And I still overhear more female students discussing ‘relationships’ while the boys talk about ‘hooking up,’ but speaking from a male’s perspective, a lot of that comes down to young men posturing for one another, anyway. Women might enjoy imagining themselves in the role of helpless princess in need of a savior, but I think that might be as much a fantasy as placing yourself in a Tolkien-style battle with a shield and a sword so massive no one outside a comic book could lift it.”

Happily Ever After?

For those who revel in sexualized fairy tales, there’s a plethora of material rife with lovely, lusty lasses who could give any of the fandom universe’s favorite sex symbols – “Avatar’s” Neytiri, “Star Trek’s” Seven-of-Nine, Lucy Lawless’s Xena – quite a run for the daydreams of their many admirers. Plus, they put out. But, ultimately, Mother Goose and her brethren are safe and familiar. And so erotica, deftly dissolved into a fairy-tale format might be Baby Bear’s porridge – making things just right for those less likely to indulge in the pleasure of carnal reading to take the plunge.

“It’s the form of literature most of us were weaned on, regardless of where we’re from,” says Szereto. “This alone gives it special appeal. There’s a comfort in the familiar, a sense that it’s okay to pursue it.” On a more simplistic level, she theorizes, it’s simply fun. “And who doesn’t enjoy a bit of fun now and again?”

Whether your handsome prince is straight out of Disney, with a coach and a palace and the promise of marriage, or a leather-bound slave satyr who loves the sting of the whip – or perhaps a creature who’s the former by day and the latter by night – there’s no boundaries in the realm of the faerie.

After all, the phrase “happy ending” has more than one definition.


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