Interview by Leslie Barrett
How did you come to write a novel on such an unconventional topic as women climaxing in the bedroom?
I wrote Love, Only Better for the millions of women who feel “less than” because they suffer with unfulfilling intimate lives. It’s a taboo topic to discuss, even with one’s partner, and this leaves too many women feeling ashamed and alone. Love, Only Better puts women’s sexual gratification front and center. My hope is that as women experience the main character’s sexual transformation, they’ll feel empowered to seek transformations of their own.
What makes now the right time for us to have this cultural conversation?
Women’s gratification is so relevant to the current conversation we’re having about women’s empowerment. From work, to home, to the public square—and the White House, women are finding their voices. It’s time we extend that agency into the bedroom. We as women deserve it all, especially in bed.
Why did you choose to write a novel vs. a memoir or non-fiction work?
The journey in the book is one I personally experienced. But when I was seeking help, the only information available was clinical, dry and useless. Writing it as a novel enabled me to share all those useful lessons an approachable package that’s easy to consume. And truthfully, if I wrote it as nonfiction, no one would believe it!
How much in the book is your authentic story, vs. fictionalized?
The entire sexual journey presented in the book happened as depicted. From the doctor visit, to my participation in the clinical study, the radio vibrator comparison, all the way through to the experiences with the masturbation coach. It all happened. The romance and all the characters are completely fictionalized, though as all writers do, I draw inspiration on my personal life.
Did you have any concerns about writing a book on this topic?
Yes of course. I would be crazy not to. But it was a story I felt compelled to tell. I’ve always felt that If I had a question, or a complaint I needed to speak up. Undoubtedly, there are always others with the same question or concern who are not comfortable using their voice. I happen to be someone who is comfortable using my voice, and Love, Only Better is the ultimate test of that courage.
What does your family think about what you’re doing?
My family is very supportive, especially my husband. It took a lot of courage on his part as well. We are partners in all things. This is a story I’m more comfortable publishing now that my children are grown, but I hope the book can be a catalyst for change. It’s a shame that the topic of women’s orgasms is still relegated to shadows and whispers. Women deserve better.
The study scenes in the book are striking. Can you talk to us about what it was like to participate in a process like that?
Sitting in the spotlight talking to a room full of doctors sitting in shadow was the most violating experience of my life. But that gives you a sense of my level of desperation that I would put myself through that. Their questions were brutal: What arouses you during sex? How did you feel when you touched this or stroked that? Those types of questions are so deeply personal. Our sex partners may not even know. However, every step got me close to my goal, so that includes the study.
Can you share what a masturbation coach is and how that process works?
You can think of it as coaching of any kind. You’re with the expert getting personal instruction about how to master a skill. In this case, the skill is masturbating. My session was a private, 1-on-1 session that lasted many hours. Some coaches host group sessions. Either way, once you get over the fact that you’re naked with one or more strangers, you’re able to focus on the experience and the sensations and make great breakthroughs. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it changed my life forever.
Why do you think women’s sexual gratification has been so taboo for so long?
In many ways, society still likes to keep women chaste and muzzled. Men are the virile ones. Their sexuality is on display, discussed and measured. Their prowess comes first, while women’s is an afterthought. It’s important to note that our gratification often comes not through intercourse, but other stimulation. That turns the male standard of sex on its head, and it’s perhaps not something men want to even consider. It makes more work for them!
What message do you have for women who had the same challenges you did?
Don’t give up. You’ll get there. Sex is an amazing experience when women are able to climax. It’s worth the effort to understand one’s self and learn the techniques that will make sex worthwhile.
What do you hope women will gain by reading your book?
That it’s okay to talk about orgasms. That every woman should demand more of herself and her partner to make sex an enjoyable experience.
Is your novel a how-to book?
No. it’s a fun romance novel. But it does have enough how-to information to guide women to more satisfying bedroom experiences. I’ve even created a tip sheet of topics covered that’s available for free on my website, paulettestout.com.
Talk to us about the best friend character, Barbara. She’s a lawyer. Was having a Black professional significant for you to include?
Barbara is a great character and I enjoy writing her. I may give her a series of her own one day. Growing up in Manhattan, I was surrounded on a daily basis by a melting pot of people from all walks of life, including many successful Black professionals. Too often in our society when we talk about the Black community, we only talk about those struggling in inner cities. However, there is a growing Black middle class, upper class and millionaire class, so I wanted to accurately portray the people I saw around me when living in New York. I wanted to share that perspective.
Did the main character’s estrangement from her parents mirror your own life?
I was a quintessential latch-key kid, so yes. I had a tremendous amount of independence at an early age. That can be empowering, but also isolating. Rebecca definitely reflects aspects of the loneliness and frustration that can happen when teens are left to their own devices a bit too much when growing up.
The love interest, Kyle. Is the stunning man with the black motorcycle based on someone in particular?
Yes of course! He’s a composite of all the wonderful qualities I love about my husband.