Betty’s Lit Lounge
Behind the Bedroom Door
Because we’re all really curious, right?
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When I discovered Paula Derrow’s Behind the Bedroom Door, I wanted to shake up a martini and hole up in my own bedroom to read all the sexy secrets these 26 women writers had to share about their sex lives. But the book is so much more than just sexy secrets. It’s deep, it’s raw, it draws on emotions; sometimes it’s hilarious, and it always brings pause for thought. No matter where you find yourself in your relationship, at some point during your reading of Behind the Bedroom Door, you’ll discover a moment where you’ve been there, done that, or at least thought about being there and doing that!
I was thrilled to be able to chat with Paula via e-mail and learn more about the whys and hows of bringing Behind the Bedroom Door to fruition:
Stephanie Elliot: Hey, there, it’s been so much fun following your Facebook page and reading about the excitement of your book debut, Behind the Bedroom Door.
Which essay in Behind the Bedroom Door moved you the most?
Paula Derrow: When it comes to this book, I kind of feel like a mother might about her children: I have soft spots for each of them and am loathe to name a favorite. All of them are meaningful to me and reflect many hours of conversation with writers, pouring out their hearts, and many hours of editing. That said, I did find some of the essays particularly moving, though none made me cry; I had my work hat on too firmly for that.
SE: Was there one thing that resonated with all the contributors that surprised you?
PD: I think it was pretty clear to me that for women, it’s nearly impossible to separate sex and emotions. Even Susan Cheever, who praises one-night stands, ultimately falls in love despite herself. That surprised me, especially living in a culture, as we do now, where friends with benefits and hooking up seem to reign supreme.
SE: Anything that was unexpected in your findings?
PD: I like to think that all the essays overturn expectations – that sex often gets better (not worse) after kids; that sex can become hotter as you get older; that you can’t tell anything about someone’s sex life by looking at them, by how sexy they act, by whether they are single or married; that type A women seem to want to be dominated in bed … the surprises kept coming, just like in real life.
SE: Is there any lesbian sex in Behind the Bedroom Door?
PD: One essay is called Look Both Ways Before Crossing, by Meredith Maran, who gets involved with a woman after a long marriage to a man. That woman breaks her heart, and she dabbles in men again before ultimately falling in love with another woman. Ali Leibegott’s essay, In the Beginning, is about a relationship between two women (Ali is a lesbian).
SE: Do many women behind closed doors experiment with the same sex but discover they are heterosexual?
PD: The book doesn’t touch on this, though Meredith’s essay is about starting out hetero and ending up a lesbian. What I’ve found though, is that love is love and sex is sex, no matter whether your partner is male or female.
SE: Are there any essays on threesomes?
PD: There aren’t essays on threesomes. I really wanted the book to focus on kind of ordinary, unsensationalized sex. I think many people talk about threesomes (especially guys); my feeling is that women often participate in these situations to please a mate, thought I don’t have any evidence of that. But I really want to stick to the kind of sex women have most often … which tends not to be threesomes, orgies, etc. …
SE: What did you want answered when you began writing the book that went unanswered upon completion of the book?
PD: I was hoping for a good, insightful essay on anal sex – some of the ambivalences women may feel about it. But despite the fact that studies seem to show that 30 percent or so of people have tried it, I couldn’t get anyone to write about anal sex under their own name. It seems to be one of the last taboos in our society.
SE: What do you think women search for when it comes to a relationship?
PD: I think we also want to be understood, listened to, respected and accepted.
SE: Amen to that! Are there plans for a sequel where we get to peek behind the bedroom door of male writers?
PD: Maybe. The problem is that whenever I ask men if they’d be interested in a book about what men really think about sex, many say: “I don’t think during sex!” But I do think women would be interested – if dismayed – to find out what really goes on in the average guy’s head.
So, if you’re not having sex right now, which would be pretty awkward since you’re reading this interview, pop on over to BettyTalk’s Lit Lounge and drop us a comment about this interview and you may win a copy of Paula’s book, Behind the Bedroom Door.
Paula Derrow is articles director at Self magazine and teaches writing for Mediabistro.com and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar and Lifetime Television. Paula has a degree in British history and literature from Harvard University, and she lives in Manhattan. You can learn more about Behind the Bedroom Door at: behindthebedroomdoor.com