Welcome, curious soul. It’s good to have you here. Come and pull up a chair and sit with me by the fire. We’ve got lots to talk about, I’m sure. It’s no coincidence that you decided to join me at this time. You’ve obviously been thinking about desire and felt the need to explore what it means to you. Me too.
I’ve got so much I want to share with you. But first I need to tell you this:
Despite the undeniable truth that my desires have brought me sadness as well as joy, my greatest fear is being desireless.
I fear the absence of my desires, and yet, as a cis woman living in western society, my cultural conditioning tells me it is their presence I should fear. I’m told to ignore them, squash them down, and look the other way. Not all desires, of course. Some desires are socially acceptable: if I desired a husband, children, nice home, good career… That would be okay. The trouble comes when I desire relationships and experiences outside of that narrow paradigm. When I desire more than one lover and of differing genders. When I desire my independence and freedom more than I desire a family. When I desire equality and an end to the patriarchy, whilst also desiring to be sexually submissive. These things are not compatible with inhabiting the ‘good girl’ stereotype we are urged to conform to. The alternative – to be a ‘bad girl’ – is generally not welcomed by mainstream society either. We need to release ourselves from both of these labels and, in their place, we simply need to be truthful to who we know ourselves to be.
Why are desires important?
To be desireless is to not hear the yearnings of your inner self. We can look outside of ourselves and focus on what we have been told we should want in life, but those externals will never give us the fulfilment we crave. And when we are not fulfilled – when we are empty – there is little we can give to ourselves and to the world. Our desires are signposts to filling stations on the journey of our life. Without them, we are wandering in the desert, hungry and thirsty, our reserves – our reservoirs – getting lower and lower until… We may as well be sleepwalking through a drought we call life.
Please don’t get me wrong, when I use the word ‘desire’ I’m not talking about having ambition or drive, I’m not talking about being ‘successful’. I’m not even talking about libido. I am talking about your inner flame: what feeds the flame and helps you to burn brighter and be more of who you truly are, and what dampens the flame and masks your true self.
I’m not against ambition or success or any of those other things; I am very much in favour of women identifying their true desires and feeling able to follow the paths that will lead them there.
I have tussled with my desires: all the things I want but have been taught I shouldn’t. First it was about wanting a female sexual partner instead of male one. Then it was about loving a body I was told was not desirable. Then about wanting more than one partner, and embracing more than one gender in my partners. And, in amongst all of this, it was about the type of relationships and sexual experiences I desired: kink and BDSM, romance and love, hearth and home.
As I’ve got older my desires haven’t gone away. They change, evolve, point me in new directions. I face new and different challenges: as a woman over forty, as a woman approaching menopause, as a woman feeling – sometimes acutely – the impermanence of life and the need to get on and live it now, because someday there won’t be another day.
And the challenges don’t end there. For many of us – myself included – even knowing what we desire can be problematic. We are not taught to ask ourselves the simple question: what do I need and want? We are taught to follow the lead and leanings of other people, to acquiesce, to always be the one who compromises their own preferences. Now is the time to be our own leaders. Now is the time to question what we have been told, to ask the important questions of and for ourselves: What do I need and want? What do I desire? Who do I desire? What do I need to fill myself up? Who am I, really?
What is a desire line?
Desire lines are the answers to the questions above. They are the unique paths we each walk to journey towards our deepest longings and fullest self-expression. We choose these paths in preference to the pre-set routes that others have laid out for us. Sometimes we walk them intentionally – in pursuit of an experience or an awakening. Other times we may feel we have no choice – all we know for sure is that we can no longer stay on the known path; we have to make our own way.
(In town planning, ‘desire lines’ are recognised as the bespoke paths that people make and walk rather than take the pavement or route that has been designed by someone else. They are visible as the worn strip of earth on an area of grass that has been trodden by people taking a more personalised route than the pavement offers. Once you start looking, you are bound to see desire lines in your neighbourhood.)
Why a book about desire lines?
Understanding who we are and how we express our sexual selves is my passion. My intense curiosity in this topic goes way back to when I was discovering my own sexuality and making choices about how I wanted to share that with others. It turns out they were never one-time decisions: my sexuality continues to evolve as I go through life; with periods of great expansion interspersed with times of sexual hibernation. Writing this book has followed a similar pattern. When I first had the idea for Desire Lines my curiosity was well and truly aroused. I wanted to talk about how it actually feels to be a sexual woman but, importantly, to do this in ways that break free from mainstream representations and expectations of sex and sexuality. I wanted to offer a language for other people to talk about this too, especially when it comes to expressing who we each are and what is important to us. I wanted to understand where our desires lead us, as well as answering some of the questions about what inspires them in the first place.
I began to explore and write the stories of my own sexuality. But then I got scared. What would people think? Who would care about what I had to say? Could I really say that? Like bears bedding down in a cave for the winter, those early draft chapters were placed in a drawer and left to slumber for several months.
I didn’t forget about them though. Some previous advice from Lisa Lister, author and all-round champion of women, their magic, and their menstrual cycles, kept nudging me to “write the freakin’ book!” Her voice was joined by others: offering reminders and opportunities to embrace courage over comfort and to tell the stories I believe need to be told. (Choosing “courage over comfort” is a phrase created by Brené Brown in her powerful work on integrity and vulnerability.) Lee Coleman (astrologer on StraightWoo.com) prompted me to remember the ancient stories of Lilith, Adam’s first wife. Lilith was committed to being true to herself, and her sexuality, even though that meant leaving the Garden of Eden (I’ll share much more about Lilith in the next chapter). Then I was fortunate to be introduced to Nicola Humber and her modern-day principles of being an “Unbound” woman. She extended an invitation to write using those principles and I accepted without hesitation.
Desire Lines was re-awoken but this time I was not writing it alone. Initially I thought I would be able to simply draw on the qualities of the archetype that Lilith represents (untamed, intuitive, free), but then my relationship with her became more personal. Throughout this writing, Lilith has been my co-creator: she has challenged me to be courageous in my vulnerability, compelled me to be raw in my authenticity, and reminded me again and again that our stories are our power. In sharing her stories as well as my own, I aim to offer you new ways of thinking and feeling about your own sexuality and the stories that form your unique journey.
I believe it is time for this book to be out in the world. In the wake of the emergence of the #MeToo movement, there is more need than ever to reclaim our stories and our truths as our own.
How to use this book
This book is a mixture of questions and answers, ideas and opportunities, passion and prose. I have included some prompts for you to pause and reflect on your own stories. You are welcome to use these in whichever way feels best for you: you can ignore them; leave the questions unanswered; journal your responses; or even share them with a close friend, a lover, or a therapist.
Fictional Lilith stories appear throughout the book. I believe that each of us contain aspects of Lilith. Thus, Lilith’s stories are offered to help us to remember – and to create – our own.
I share my own experiences and stories, my own fantasies and desirousness, to tell you something of who I am and to encourage you to know more about who you are. Our stories will be different and unique. Some of our desire lines may be similar, others may be worlds apart. You might feel turned on and you might feel curious; you might get more clarity about what is a ‘yes’ for you and what is a definite ‘no’. It is my hope that you will find out more about yourself and use that knowledge to choose your next desire line.
I invite you to suspend any judgements or comparisons you might want to make. There is much to feel vulnerable about when talking and writing about sex: we live in a society and culture that attempts to limit and keep us constrained in what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘normal’. I may feel vulnerable sharing what I have to say about my own desire, but – just like walking my desire lines themselves – that is a journey I’m willing to take. It is my hope that my stories encourage and support you to look at your own. By identifying the routes I have taken in order to come to know and express my sexual self more fully and honestly, I hope you will reflect on the journeys you have taken – and those you are still longing to take. There is no ‘normal’; there are only unique expressions and choices and discoveries. We may not walk the same paths, but I am sure we will have visited comparable landscapes, experienced similar blocks and forks in the road, and been amazed at where we have ended up.
My desires have led me to take many journeys. My heart has been broken more than once in the process of following my desire lines. I have taken risks and experienced losses. I have also expanded my mind, reconnected with my soul, experienced great pleasure with my body, and healed my heart. Again and again. Again and again.
I invite you to delve into the topic of desire with me. Together, we can explore both familiar and new territories; the unique paths that comprise our individual desire lines.
Wherever you are now, please know that there are still more paths to explore. I wish for your journeys to be filled with curiosity and courage, passion and pleasure, desire and delight.
You are magnificent. You are powerful. You are already enough.
Please read this bit, it is important
This book comes with a content warning. Please remember that all the desire lines I describe in this book are based around consensual agreement between adults. However, it is possible that you will read something here that may negatively trigger you in some way. If this happens, I am sorry and I urge you to get any support you might need around this. I did consider omitting some of my stories for fear that they might upset a reader. However, these are the same fears that can hold us back from expressing our desires to ourselves and to our partners; the same fears that lead us to turn our backs on our authentic desires. For this reason, I have chosen courage over comfort. I trust you to make your own choices about reading this book, and I trust you to look after your needs. Desire Lines is offered to you as a container, and as a brave space, where you get to choose the lens through which you see.
This book contains sexually explicit and graphic language and imagery. Some of the stories are fictional whilst others are based upon real-life experiences.
I have given due consideration to the ethics of sharing stories that involve other people and my intention has always been to honour those who have walked alongside me. Those who currently walk my desire lines with me have given their blessing for our stories to be shared.
Safety is important. During the exploration of my own desire lines, I adhere to the guiding principles of checking first that any activity or relationship I want to embark on is safe, sane and consensual (SSC). These are standard principles within the BDSM community, along with risk aware consensual kink (RACK) – which acknowledges that the terms ‘safe’ and ‘sane’ are both open to individual interpretation. If you wish to explore these concepts more you can find lots of resources by searching for these terms on the internet.
Finally, I offer a reminder to you to explore your own desires and desire lines without judgement or comparison. Your desires are unique to you, as mine are unique to me. There is no standard to be reached. You are the person who knows best what is important to you, and what you need and want. Please be open to self-enquiry but know that you are always in a position of choice.
The information and ideas contained within this book are not a substitution for medical, psychological, or psychotherapeutic intervention. Please seek appropriate professional support if required.
Ready for more?