When I was a teenager, my grandfather did a death cleaning.

Yes, it’s a very Scandinavian thing, and no, it’s not as morbid as it sounds.

When you’re plunged into a darkness that feels like you’re descending into the underworld for several months out of the year, you get on friendly terms with your own mortality.

Death cleaning is a Swedish tradition, the Swedish word for it is dödsstädning – “dö” means “death” and “städning” means “cleaning”.

Death cleaning isn’t about dusting or mopping up.

Like Kondo’ing or bullet journaling it’s about a permanent form of organisation that makes your everyday life run more smoothly.

It’s basically like a wholesome mid-life crisis, where you get rid of all the stuff you’ve accumulated that you don’t need anymore — so that no one else has to do it for you after you pass — instead of buying a Porsche.

You typically undertake this project when you hit your middle ages (or sooner if you feel like it, later if you’re late to the game).

So, when my grandfather did it, he decided to give his children their inheritances early.

My aunt, the woman with degrees in both physical therapy and sexology, took her inheritance and expanded her private practice.

My father, with a degree in being indecisive and a slew of failed businesses in his wake, decided to spend his inheritance on a twelve-month-long trip to North Carolina, to get certified in a particular meditation technique.

When he came back, he started wearing more linen and grew out his beard, started hosting meditation retreats, and philosophical evenings where the finer points of the mind, the veil, and reality were discussed.

Being a child of divorce, I had my court-mandated hours to spend with my father each month.

The only problem was that a child crimped his hemp-clad guru lifestyle, which meant I was dragged along to the evenings and retreats and had to sit through more of these “reality is subjective” conversations than I care to remember.

When I got bored I was told that I can either get with the guided group meditation program or gtfo. Namaste.

Considering that most of these events were hosted out in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t have much of a choice, which meant I spent a lot of my teenage dad-time meditating, talking about meditating, or listening to people talk about meditating.

And because this was still back when I wanted to make an effort to be a good daughter, I learned all kinds of meditations and teachings.

Not that anyone ever noted the effort I put into it.

But what does any of this have to do with smutty stories?

Because no matter which kind of meditation or spirituality practice I turned to, it was all about elevating the mind. I’m sure you’ve heard of chakras, y’know those energy centres in the body?

The first one is between your legs, the second one just below the belly button, the third one in the solar plexus, etc.

What I didn’t see at the time was that these ideas were so steeped in the patriarchy that it stunk as bad as The Great Stink of 1858.

The whole purpose of all the meditating was to move from the “lowest” energy centre (sex) to the “highest” energy centre (higher self), elevating your being in the process.

And it didn’t matter which guru I went to, they all said the same: sexual energy is a base energy and you don’t want to let it “rule your life”. And through the lens of the patriarchy this made perfect sense.

But I was raised by a feminist single mom, and through the lens of the matriarchy saying that sexual energy is the “lowest” makes no sense.

Sex is an intrinsic part of being human.

It’s how we made it this far, you, me, or any of us wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for sex – “we are our gametes” as Dr Sarah Hill put it, holds as true today as it did 500 or 10,000 years ago.

Pursuing sexual pleasure has been stigmatised through the long history we have of viewing it through the eyes of the patriarchy – and yes, sexual pleasure has usually equalled male ejaculation.

One of the things I love most about writing smutty stories is that, in our own way, we’re at the cutting edge of feminism here.

Because the one thing that has always been true of romance books is that women are the heroes of their own stories; the heroines that take action and claim their own happiness.

And these books have been a place where we have been able to see the trauma other women in the world have to deal with on-page.

These stories are also where women see themselves in happiness and in love, triumphant, full of hope and in charge of their own destinies.

These are powerful, provocative ideas.

And it’s an honour to be here, supporting the rise of the unapologetic romance reader: you.

Make fun of us, patriarchy, but we’re out here enjoying ourselves.

All the love, all the power,

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