Today I have an exciting interview with beloved Victoria Brooks, holding a Ph.D. in law, sexuality, and philosophy. I found her through one of her research papers and as I loved her perspective, I found out about her book "Mistress Ethics". As I'm working on a new novel that has the elements Victoria is discussing about in her works, I reached out to her and she kindly accepted my request for an interview. Victoria is a writer and researcher on sexual ethics. She has published academic, media, and fictional pieces on the connection between philosophy and sex. I stop blabbering and let you get to know her through her own words.
Hello Victoria. I’m glad to have a chance to know more about you and share your wonderful words with my community. Could you introduce yourself a bit?
Hi Neda, thank you so much for interviewing me – it’s a great pleasure. I’m a writer with a background in academia. I’ve published two nonfiction books: Fucking Law (Zero Books, 2019) and Mistress Ethics (Bloomsbury, 2022). I’m now embarking on a career change to fiction writing. My debut novel is a queer sci-fi book forthcoming with MOIST Books in 2023. I also occasionally write essays and erotica.
Fantastic. I really enjoyed reading your book “Mistress Ethics”. Can you tell us about it a bit?
Mistress Ethics was an important book for me to write. It draws heavily on my own experience as a mistress, or as the ‘other woman’. Although she is a much-maligned figure, the mistress is also a mysterious one whose voice and story often gets lost among judgement and fear. She is also very often silenced by those in power – which is no coincidence, since those in power are often the ones who have mistresses they want to keep secret! This book was my attempt at creating a space for her story, and to reframe her as a revolutionary figure, like Anaïs Nin’s ‘spy in the house of love’ – a hero who draws attention to the failings of not only our relationship structures but also wider political and social structures. The book is my response to the place of the mistress in our society, and a call to hear her stories which can be painful to hear, or sometimes sexy to hear, but always necessary to hear.
I agree. It is necessary to read and write from and for the minority or the outcast, if I may. Could you explain about your background in writing and research?
I started out wanting to be a lawyer and so studied for a law degree, although I did so relatively late having worked as a legal secretary and caseworker for several years after I left school at 16. However, I realized quite soon that I did not want to be a lawyer, and instead pursued a PhD in law, sexuality and philosophy. Subsequently, I soon realized I also did not want to be in academia! After a career researching sexuality – particularly sexual ethics, I have happily realized that it is writing that is my drive and my creative practice, and that’s what I need to pursue. I then studied for an MA in creative writing, which confirmed for me that novel-writing is where my heart is, particularly sci-fi, and feminist and queer approaches to the genre. I love the new worlds and new bodies that can be imagined through sci-fi writing. I’m also a trauma survivor living with PTSD, so I am also passionate about incorporating this into my writing, and experimenting with ways in which narrative art can capture trauma and how it lives on in the body.
Impressive background and change. Can you identify a time that you found yourself attracted to this topic?
I have always been fascinated by sexuality, which I think is because I’ve struggled with it, like so many people. I’ve wanted to understand, and researching sexuality has meant that I have been able to scrutinize sex and sexual desire in great detail. But this has not, strangely, enabled me to understand! It has more been through understanding my own history, trauma, and embracing my bisexuality that I have understood what sexuality means for me. That is not to say that there aren’t still many exciting and wonderful mysteries though!
I have been through the same struggles, I can relate easily. Could you tell me what counts as transgressive behavior in general?
This is such an interesting question! I think actually it’s the most important question. I think it’s one we have to answer for ourselves. If something feels like we’re crossing a line, then it’s transgressing. This line will be in different places for everyone, and different in every context. I don’t think it’s always ethical to cross the line, but sometimes it can be – but this is a whole other question – whether something must be unethical for it to be transgressive. I think transgression is important to do in some contexts, because the line has to be challenged, but sometimes it’s important not to transgress – in the case of personal boundaries, for instance, and/or where there is a risk to ourselves and our safety, or that of others. I think in art though, in writing, transgression is always necessary! Although again, the ethics of that transgression will be another matter.
In the website “the Church of Jesus Christ” there’s an article describing sexual transgression. I would like your idea on such views.
I think this piece has its roots in Christian purity culture, which has been and still is very damaging. This whole idea that sex is somehow innately shameful, or impure, is an idea that is deployed to control and punish people – particularly women and queer people. I don’t think that sex is inherently transgressive, but even if it were – this is a good thing. Sex can be powerful and exciting – it can shake things up – it can make us reflect on the place of ‘the line’. It can also be very pleasurable – and this is a good thing too, but reading the definition in the article, it would seem that in their view pleasure is not a good thing at all!
If something feels like we’re crossing a line, then it’s transgressing.
I'm wondering, in your opinion why historically and when has sexual adventure become transgressive?
I think this is a big question and quite difficult to answer. I think there has always been a drive to contain sexuality, because those in power need it to be contained. I think if we look back in time, in terms of religious origins, we only need to read the story of Adam and Eve to see that sex has always been the ‘forbidden fruit.’ Looking to Freud and Foucault, we can see that this idea has played out psychoanalytically as well as historically. I think sex has always been transgressive – in both the good sense of being powerful, but also in the bad sense of being manipulated into a weapon to shame people.
Wonderful answer. Thank you. As a writer, I write a lot of transgressive stories and include many elements of it. Currently, I’m working on a transgressive erotic. When I use that term, people mostly ask me what is count as transgressive sex. I was wondering what would you answer in my place?
Non-heteronormative, full-colour, pleasure-centred, taboo-busting, warts and all real, sexy description and narration of bodies and encounters that disrupt the expected (and accepted)!
in art though, in writing, transgression is always necessary!
Wow. They will ask me about the definition of each. I think I better never discuss with these people about my novel. Another question about sex. Does sex necessarily need to be ethical?
No I don’t think so, but I guess we need to clarify what we mean by ethical. I think it perhaps needs to, ideally, be ethical to the individual, but inevitably that won’t always be the case, since we’re human beings and we have to learn how to be kind to others and ourselves and we make mistakes. I think the key thing is being intentional about understanding what we need sex to be, and how best we can ensure the pleasure and safety of those involved.
Last question. Do you have any upcoming books or articles? Anything you’re working on?
Mistress Ethics is my most recent book – I’d love for people to read it and let me know what they think! I’m also interested in potentially creating an online anonymous space for mistresses to share their stories. In the meantime, I’m mainly working on my debut novel, while also working on some short erotica pieces and essays.
Thank you, Victoria for being here and sharing your knowledge with us. Look forward to more collaborations in the future.
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