Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Cocktails with CockTales

This past Sunday evening, Venus Envy hosted a full-to-capacity event for the Ottawa Writers Festival where the audience was giddy, packed and surrounded by dildos. Sipping on their Mouthful Cocktails and watching the microphone positioned toward the back of the store, we had gathered en masse for a discussion on sex, intimacy, and the written world. Host Amanda Earl started the ball rolling by breaking through inhibitions with her poem that overflowed with various hot and dripping body parts before introducing that night’s line up. Tamara Faith Berger, Nerys Parry, Daniel Allen Cox, and Jasmine Aziz satisfied the crowd from beginning to end with their various gripping takes on intimacy, sex, and fiction.


Leading the charge was Tamara Faith Berger, author of Maidenhead , with an excerpt from her novel. The story focused on a young girl of sixteen years embarking on a sexual adventure that had the audience clinging to her every word. Tamara’s style is intense, direct and unapologetic. She embodies erotica, avoiding the stereotypical language in many paperback romance novel. No "budding flowers" or "yearning loins".  As we were taken on a journey through the eyes of the young girl, Tamara contrasted the impression of youth and innocence with hunger, lust and inhibition. Very stimulating, to say the least.


Following Tamara was Nerys Parry, author of Man and Other Natural Disasters , who explained her surprise at being an invited author for the CockTales evening. “There’s no sex in my book really,” she asserts before explaining the sexual undercurrent within her novel is wholly connected to the idea of intimacy, sharing of shames, and making oneself vulnerable to another. Simon, the protagonist, puts himself at risk as he reveals all to Minerva, and in return, opens himself to not only falling in love, but reliving dark moments he had previously suppressed.  As we learn Simon’s secrets, his deepest shames; as an audience we in turn become invested, clinging to Nerys’ words as she reveals a dark and engaging story.


With yet another approach to erotic fiction, Daniel Allen Cox followed Nery’s reading with two excerpts from his novel, Basement of Wolves .  “Thanks for liking sex and thanks for liking books,” he begins, paying homage to the audience before him and the audience behind him (a wall of protruding dildos and strap-on harnesses) before launching into his excerpts. From examining the social habits of wolves (who, by the way, can be rather cruel in their isolation of a shunned pack member) to investigating the psyches of straight men who must have invented bombs and wars due to lack of anal rimming, his work was both provocative and insightful; sexuality mixed with relationships, behaviour, and an enjoyable contemplation of the world.


Last but not least was Jasmine Aziz, author of Sex and Samosas , and former sex-toy party hostess who is laugh-out-loud funny. Her approach to sexuality in the writing of Sex and Samosas is really a slow dip into the world of erotic fiction – using humour coupled with family antidotes as the mild manner protagonist attends a sex-toy party and has flashbacks to her mother’s tantrum over the plant Uranus. Coming from years of selling goodies at parties, Jasmine knows how to grab a room of listeners and explore the world of sexy, fun things. Her light approach to sexuality creates a space for those who are hesitant to erotic fiction, and gently – with humour galore – guides them forward. 


Who knew so much fun could be had in a sex shop? Well, I suppose everyone knows. This presentation of erotic literature – from the intensely sexual, the deeply revealing, the carefully discussed, to the lightly treated, was absolutely enjoyable. The Ottawa Writers Festival discussion of sex, lust and desire was certainly an evening not to be missed.