Friday, March 26, 2010

Whip Smart's Melissa Febos at Elliott Bay Books

Melissa Febos will be at Elliott Bay Book Company on Saturday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m., to read from her new memoir, Whip Smart. This event is FREE.

On first appearance, one might assume that Melissa Febos' new memoir, Whip Smart, is only a story about sex. And granted, the memoir does involve sex--considering that it details Febos' four-year experience or, "secret life," as a dominatrix in a Manhattan sex dungeon--but if you ask the author herself, she'll be the first to tell you that Whip Smart is, "a story about love, identity, getting honest with oneself—all that normal and incredibly difficult human stuff." Check out the trailer below for a better idea (btw, we LOVE book trailers)...

WHIP SMART Trailer from Quailhead on Vimeo.

Of course, Febos was not always a dominatrix, nor did she have aspiring dreams to become one. Febos knew at the age of seven that she wanted to be a writer; the dominatrix part just seemed to happen. As show in the trailer above, Febos moved to New York and began to have a serious drug addiction. She saw an ad in the Village Voice which read, "Attractive young woman wanted for nurse role-play and domination. No experience necessary. Good money, no sex."

When asked in an interview about the most common requests that she would get as a dominatrix, Febos replied,
"Well, almost all my sessions were based on the same character, in varying degrees of meanness and varying costumes: Mean Mommy, Mean Cheerleader, Mean Babysitter, Mean Nurse, Mean Teacher, Mean Female Customs Officer… you get the drift."
And on the strangest requests that she had ever gotten?
"Where do I begin? There is a fetish for everything, and an underground community to go with it. Did you know there is a fetish for squishing bugs with your bare feet (or for watching sexy women do it)? Yup, it’s called “crushing,” or having a “crush” fetish. As a friend to all animals, I could never do that. Sweaters, stinky feet, tooth-pulling, extortion, farting, electricity, balloons—you name it, they wanted it."
One of the most interesting themes throughout Whip Smart, is the idea of transformation--having the ability to appear one way, but actually be another--Febos' transformation in and out of drugs; in and out of a life spent in a Manhattan sex dungeon; and overall, Febos' ability to transform from within and give her self a much-deserved life free of drugs, secrets and extremes.

While writing Whip Smart, Febos explains that she tried really hard not to play up or glamorize her experiences as a sex worker. "I wanted to be faithful to the reality of that world, as well as to my own emotional and intellectual experience." Febos says. "While my goal was to create a literary portrait of a subculture, and of addiction, mostly I wanted to tell a story of personal transformation, of how a life lived in extremes led me to myself, and to a life of surprising normalcy and joy. I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be a kind of love story."

The thing that strikes us the most about Febos' memoir, is how it all ends. Rarely do these stories have happy endings, or do you hear about women pulling themselves up by their bra straps, getting clean, and quitting the "industry." The fact that Febos was a dominatrix in an underground world, addicted to heroin, and yet she was able to put herself through college, get healthy and become the bright, young writer she is today. It's as if she's already lived someone else's entire life, and now she's living her own; the life she'd wanted since she was a child growing up on Cape Cod with dreams of becoming a writer.

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