3 min

Explicit words at play

Megan Butcher's a librarian and erotica writer

Credit: Christina Riley

Megan Butcher remembers the first time her mother came to see her read. Her stuffy aunt also came along for the ride. But Butcher wasn’t reading soft and gentle, flowery erotica for women; it was hardcore, graphic, ass-pounding anal sex porn. Her mother (a matter-of-fact registered nurse) was supportive in that maternal, non-judgemental sort of way.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can talk about anal sex around my mother.’ When I finished, she came up to me and said ‘Wow, Megan, that was really good!’ My aunt wouldn’t speak to me after. She left without saying goodbye,” says Butcher.

This reticent and shy woman of letters has such an eclectic métier, that it is difficult to believe she has any free time at all — much less to start a band, which she just did. Add it to the list for Megan Butcher — she is also a librarian, chapbook writer, blogger, poet, erotic fiction writer and sex educator.

Like most avid writers, Butcher has been creating since she was 10 or 11. Poetry was then, and has always been, her main calling, but she learned that sexual writing was her passion when she took a job at the first Venus Envy store in Halifax. Butcher was working on her master’s degree in library science at Dalhousie University. Although she loves her current job as a librarian, she found “library school” less than invigorating. She applied to work at Venus Envy to fill the gap and eventually became their book-buyer.

Steeped in a much more sexually open atmosphere, Butcher began to notice that explicit material was creeping into her own writing.

“At that age, I was writing about love and relationships – like everyone does — and I showed a poem to my sister and thought that it was quite sexy. And I knew that this was what interested me,” says Butcher.

Butcher says she is astounded at “how far we’ve come along” in the last 10 or 15 years. When Butcher came out about 10 years ago, she never thought she would see gay marriage in her lifetime.

“There weren’t stores like Venus Envy, either. I always wanted as much erotic literature as I could find, but there wasn’t anything really out there for women,” says Butcher.

She can remember reading a book that came out in the late 1980s, which was thoroughly cheesy and implied that women like it sweet and soft.

“But we know now that women buy all sorts of things,” says Butcher. “How we feel – as humans we can describe a lot of things very well, but we cannot always describe how we feel in sex. I think that’s a human issue.”

The literary scene in Ottawa was also a driving force for Butcher. She thinks that it is a “safe” literary community, because there are tons of venues for a new writer and the scene is robust enough to draw crowds, but there are fewer exclusive cliques than Montreal or Toronto.

“There are audiences that actually listen here, and they are really accepting of the sex thing. I never got a bad reaction. I know I can read my stuff and it’s just par for the course at this point,” she says.

Butcher is now working on her second zine (a follow-up to the just-published A Guide to Mannerly Wooing and Winning the Object of Your Affection) with friend and collaborator Jennifer Whiteford. She is also working on a new chapbook. This book, which will be published under Butcher’s own Asteroid A Press will feature sex writing in the spirit of the newly popular “flash-fic”: porn in blurbs of three sentences or less. These blurbs will be accompanied by photos on every page. The pieces are “male-female, male-male and girl-girl” blurbs.

Butcher says that her “hero” is activist Patrick Califia, who posts a monthly sex Q and A on the Venus Envy website. She also occasionally reads Josie Vogels’ “My Messy Bedroom” and, of course, Dan Savage.

“I think Dan Savage has done away with a lot of the taboos that were there. He has normalized a lot of stuff for people; people are a lot more open now. He’s like the touch point for ‘what’s happening,'” she says.

Butcher is also working on expanding a skit that she and Whiteford performed at the launch for their last zine. If they’re lucky, the play will be accepted as a one-act for the Fringe Festival this summer.

Butcher also has some sage advice for the queer community and their sexualities.

“They should be honest with themselves and other people about who they are sexually and how that impacts on their identity. Sexuality and sex is much more complex than what we give it space to be,” says Butcher.