>Standing Naked and Vulnerable

>The Nike Girl?

Today, a post I wrote is up on The Knight Agency blog. It’s a post I’ve been working on for some time. And by time, I mean that for the past year or so I’ve had discussions about this topic with my husband, close friends and my agent. I wavered between coming out into the open or staying hidden in the warmth and safety of keeping my own counsel. For me, wavering is virtually unheard of. I’m a Nike Girl. I just do it. So when I tell you that it took me a year to make a decision, please understand that I did not make my post lightly.

The Why

I wrote my post for one reason only. I wanted to help other women like me. Even if it’s only one woman who comes to believe in herself again, then standing with my soul naked and vulnerable in public will be worth it.

Signs

I believe in signs. Yesterday when I was panicking and thinking maybe the post might be a mistake, I saw a fellow author announce they’d just done their first book trailer and asked for comments. I’m always happy to give opinions, and I went to watch the Kerri Augusto’s book video for Strawberries in Winter. I watched in amazement at the words coming across the screen.

If you write it, you will be free.

I knew then I was doing the right thing. God only has to hit me upside the head with a skillet one time for me to accept I’m treading the right path. That line from Kerri’s video came at me out of the blue, and it reassured me that no matter what happened; I’m going to be just fine. I am reposting my TKA blog here. Monica

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Romance. I’ve been reading it since I was 12 years old. The first time I “fell in love” was when I read a Harlequin Romance. I think the name of that book was Beat of a Different Drum. Others romance books followed, and I believed in love’s happily ever after with all my heart.

I believed it right up until the night I was raped by the man who’d taken me out for the evening and then decided he was entitled to something he wasn’t. Right now you’re probably gasping in shock. Me—I’m sitting here teary eyed, wondering how to frame my words in way that make sense and yet don’t sound maudlin. I sit here wondering if sharing my experience is the right thing to do. Wondering if I really have the courage to post this. It’s a direct confrontation with all the emotional ugliness that still lingers inside me. I also have no doubts that there will be sympathetic people and those who will be cruel.

So why tell my story? I’ve considered doing so for some time now. I would read something about forced seduction or hear about the blurred line between erotic romance and erotica. I’d express my belief that while love and hope are constant themes running through romance, there is still a strong “fantasy” component in romance books. In all of those instances, I knew my experience had played a major role in shaping my opinions, but fear kept me from speaking out. I knew I’d be vulnerable, and I don’t particularly like people seeing the chinks in my armor.

But little things prodded me closer toward this moment. Things like a friend reading one of my novellas then telling me afterward, that while reading my book she felt sexy for the first time in her life. I’d already begun to acknowledge that my writing was helping me overcome some of my sexuality issues, but here was a new twist. My writing had helped another woman feel sexy and beautiful. I found it to be a damn powerful statement. It made me wonder what sharing my experience might do to help more women feel better about themselves.

Women like me who have great difficulty trusting anyone, who resist physical intimacy and who question their self-worth. I wanted to share the message that it’s possible to survive rape or domestic abuse and eventually develop a healthy romantic relationship with someone who loves you. I wanted to help other women understand that sex can be beautiful, fun, playful, loving and wonderful despite the past.

Was my “sex isn’t bad” revelation easy to come by? Hell no! I’ve been married 21 years, and my biggest challenges throughout my marriage have been trust and intimacy. I struggle with those demons on a daily basis, and on occasion my husband has paid a high price because of my struggle. Even when you’re with someone who loves you a lot, trust still doesn’t come easily. And physical intimacy is based in deep emotional trust. The fact that my husband and I are still together is a testament to how much he loves me. I would have left me a hell of a long time ago.

I’ve had family comment that they don’t understand how I can write explicit sex considering my past. Trust me; no one’s been more surprised by that than me. I didn’t expect writing erotic romance to be therapeutic, but it has been. It’s helped me reclaim some of my self-worth. As an erotic romance writer, I believe that love and hope are integral themes in romance books. I can believe in those themes and yet remain true to my belief that strong fantasy elements are always prevalent in romance books. There’s always the happy ever after, there’s the hot, hunky hero and the lovely, sexy heroine. They both have issues, but they manage to work them out in the span of a book. They ride off into the sunset, leaving the reader with that feel good sensation. In real life, it doesn’t always work that way, but that’s why I think romance books are so important. They give us hope. The make us feel good. They make us either believe in love or they give us hope that love might actually exist somewhere out there.

With erotic romance in particular, there is an even more powerful message. Erotic romance gives a woman a choice. She’s empowered to read on or put a book down. She’s able to explore her feelings about sex in a safe environment. In other words, she’s in charge. If a book’s content becomes too intense, walking away is perfectly fine. Erotic romance gives women permission to be vulnerable and explore subject matter that may be difficult for them. It’s a safety net for the reader who’s making a choice, not having something forced on her. When it comes to writing erotic romance, it’s safe because I simply delete anything I find frightening or uncomfortable.

Has writing erotic romance washed away all my pain, all of the darkness? No. It’s not some magical elixir. I’ll always carry the pain and darkness of the rape inside me. What my writing has done is empowered me. I’m able to take back some of what was stolen from me. I find it easier to believe my husband when he tells me I’m a beautiful, sexy woman. Five years ago, I didn’t believe a word of it. Does that mean I believe those words all the time? No, but with every page I write, it gets easier to believe I’m sexy, I’m beautiful and I’m worthy of being adored.

This entry was posted in Healing, Rape, Sexual Assault by Monica Burns. Bookmark the permalink.

About Monica Burns

A bestselling author of erotic romance, Monica Burns penned her first short romance story at the age of nine when she selected the pseudonym she uses today. From the days when she hid her stories from her sisters to her first completed full-length manuscript, she always believed in her dream despite rejections and setbacks. A workaholic wife and mother, Monica believes it’s possible for the good guy to win if they work hard enough.

20 thoughts on “>Standing Naked and Vulnerable

  1. >Thank you Dee. I wrote the post because I wanted other women in my situation to see that it can get better. Thanks for posting.

    Monica

  2. >Monica, I’m very proud of you for sharing your experience with your readers. Talking about rape is not an easy thing; getting over it is even harder. The fact that you have bared your soul about this very personal experience will help other women to deal with it, and if they have not already done so, will possibly seek help. God bless you. Dee

  3. >Gina,

    Thank you for sharing your story here. Hope is what I wanted to give other women by coming out into the open with my story. I still have extended periods of doubt and worthlessness. I don’t think that will ever disappear. But those moments are a lot fewer since I’ve been writing erotic romance.

    And you’re right! We are not alone!

    Hugs, Monica

  4. >Books4Ever
    I soooo understand you about the weight and lack of self-love. I do believe that time plays a role in easing our heartache, counseling is critical, the love and support of our loved ones, but most important the willingness to accept that what happened to us WAS NOT OUR FAULT. That’s the hardest lesson for victims of sexual assault. Thank you for sharing your pain here on my post. Talking about and sharing our pain with other women is something that helps us all. We are not alone.

    Hugs, Monica

  5. >Monica,

    I was also a victim of sexual abuse from a family member and nearly raped by another had my best friend not saved me. It has deeply effected my feelings of trust and my ability to be very intimate with anyone throughout my life. I am lucky to now have a good husband that loves me and is very understanding about how my past has effected the way I behave in the present. He doesn’t push me either. Your story gives one hope that you can have a fuller life and perhaps find greater intimacy in the future. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Gina

  6. >Monica,
    I can relate to your story. I was a victim of sexual abuse from a close family member for 14 years. As a result, I have always self abused myself as well, hiding my pain thru eating. I did go thru counsiling while I was in college and managed to get my weight off with a lot of hard work and a diet program. But I found the weight and a whole bunch of friends came to stay after I got married. I trusted my husband, but wasn’t emotionally or sexually wanting to be close to him. I read erotic romance to help me feel like a desirable woman even if my husband doesn’t. I have again started getting this weight off and if I can keep it off, maybe I can feel like a normal desirable woman again. I commend your husband for standing by you for all those years. Mine is more like a friend that I live with more than a sexual partner, but I hope that will change here soon. I know I have to make an effort to bring that change about myself. Hearing your story opened my eyes to that truth. Thank you much. Carolyn

  7. >Monica,

    My belief is that our strength comes
    from the Lord. I will keep you in
    prayer, asking that your personal
    strength be allowed to grow, bringing
    you more courage and power each day.
    God bless you and your wonderful
    husband.

    Pat Cochran

  8. >Thank you for your kind words Tricia, I do like to think I’ve taken back some of what was stolen from me. I definitely feel stronger for having done so.

    Monica

  9. >Monica

    What a brave, inspiring and life-affirming story. To have taken back your power and channelled it in such a fantastic way is testament to your strength of character.

  10. >LeeAnn, thank you for commenting. I’m like it when I make someone’s life a little brighter. Makes me feel like I’m useful. *smile* Hugs back, Monica

  11. >Wow Monica what a moving story.

    You may not see your self as brave but you really are. Like you told me it just takes a little bit more time for some to see those types of traits in themselves.

    You have made my day a little bit brighter today so I really just wanted to drop by and say Thank You!

    ((((HUGS)))) LeeAnn

  12. >Jennifer,

    Thank you for your kinds words. I’m so sorry to disappoint, but I had to cancel my trip to Radcliffe as Oldest needs to have wisdom teeth cut out and my travel dollars disappeared as a result. I am still attending the Women’s Expo in Kingsport, TN the 19-21 of Oct if you happen to be anywhere near there. You can visit the expo site at http://www.womensexpoauthors.com/

    Monica

  13. >Monica, I admire your courage and your compassion in posting this. I have long enjoyed your books, but now I am especially looking forward to meeting you next month at the Radcliffe signing.

    God bless you.

    Jennifer Ray

  14. >Cathie, thank you for your thoughts. I know you’ve had it rough lately, and I hope you continue to find solace in your reading.

    Monica

  15. >Monica, I too find reading is so therapeutic for me too in many ways. I know during my surgeries and the healing still, that I couldn’t do it without my reading to give me joy, a good escape into a historical and other genres, laughter, and so much more. Reading this does give so much more hope as the writing does for you. Thanks Monica.

  16. >Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. I don’t see myself as brave or courageous, simply a woman who knows healing is an ongoing process. Sharing my story has made my heart lighter, and I don’t feel the shame quite so deeply. It took me seven years just to tell anyone about the incident. I am not alone in that either though based on the private emails I’m getting from women who are sharing their pain and trauma with me.

    Sharing and openness is cleansing, and writing has been a great blessing for me.

  17. >Monica,
    I absolutely love your comments about how reading erotic romance allows women to explore sexuality with total control; the ability to put the book down, flip the page, or even — tear it out, scribble on it, and burn it if they want to! As a therapist, I can see a lot of value in doing just that… You are a sensitive and resilient woman who has my deepest admiration.

  18. >Monica,

    You already know I think your great! Your bravery in itself for standing up and being honest is inspiring.

    (((HUGS)))

  19. >Monica,

    You did a very brave thing, opening yourself up that way. Has this helped you? I hope it has… If anyone gives you grief over this, just ignore them, they’re just unable to handle a discussion on such a sensitive subject. Kudos to you & your husband for lasting this long… I hope you have many more years together! 😀