How I Adore You

by Mark Pritchard

Trade paper
San Francisco: Cleis Press
202 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 1-57344-129-5

How I Adore You is my second book of sex stories.
Like “Too Beautiful,” this book spans the erotic spectrum with stories featuring both men and women, straight, gay and bisexual, in various combinations and compromising positions.


Lessons in Submission
Ordinary Story
How I Adore You

–> Click here for other writings


Buy it from


DIVA Magazine (U.K.), July 02
Marcy Sheiner in The Spectator, 14 Jan 2002

More info about the book

Dr. Memory’s Secret List of Locations in the Book

Frequently Asked Questions

I thought it would be fun to answer some of the questions people ask.

Q. Do people really ask questions about this book?
A. Not yet.
Q. So this is just kind of masturbatory, right? You’re just fantasizing that people ask you questions?
A. Yeah. And it’s fun to write Q and A. If anyone really wants to ask a question, I’ll be glad to answer it.
Q. Are you just doing this as a way to avoid working on your next project?
A. Yeah.
Q. Okay. So, about that “Prom” story. What’s the background?
A. I attended a mammoth and ghastly high school in suburban Houston, Texas. The school is located a mile or so away from where that woman Andrea Yates killed all her kids one morning; but that happened in 2001, and I wrote this story ten years earlier. To say I had some kind of special insight into the violence and desolation that is Clear Lake City (see the section on locations, below) would be pushing it. You’d have to be a moron to live there for five years, as I did, and not see that someday, somebody would snap. In fact, I’m more surprised that it doesn’t happen more often.
Q. What’s so bad about it?
A. It is a collection of several tens of thousands of houses plunked down where, before 1961, there was nothing except cows, brush, and the occasional oil well. Situated halfway between Houston and Galveston, and adjacent to the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center — a huge office park that is NASA’s headquarters — and a shut-down Air Force base, the suburb has no center, no landmarks, no history, no culture, and no taste. There is nothing whatsoever to do besides go shopping at the mall. In this cultural vacuum, the desperate thrill-seekers who inhabit the lookalike dwellings are left to amuse themselves with all manner of crime and perversity. As I say in the story, on the surface everything is “normal,” which is to say utterly commercialized, paved over and landscaped, criss-crossed with streets with named like Willow Hill (no willows, no hill) or Meadowbrook (no meadow, no brook). Behind the beige façades, God knows what happens.
Q. But isn’t that simply a description of most of suburban America?
A. My point exactly.
Q. Is this setting used in other stories?
A. Yes, in “Cousin” and “Incest.” These two stories, and “Prom,” all deal with teenage sexuality, so I naturally set the stories in the place where I regrettably spent my teenage years. As I pointed out in the Afterword to the book, the sterile suburban environment provides a sort of blank slate on which to write perversion
Q. There’s a lot of incest-related porn in the book.
A. Yeah, it’s just kind of a turn-on for me to write about.
Q. Surely there’s more to it than that.
A. Well, there is something about the brother-sister incest theme that I find very touching. Here’s this person that knows you so intimately. A brother and sister with a close relationship trust each other with secrets they’d never tell their parents. And although you spat sometimes, there is a deep love and trust. Or there should be; I don’t know many people with close relationships with their siblings, so clearly I’m idealizing the relationship. Anyway, it’s this emotional closeness that I extend, in the pornographic world, into sexuality.
Q. What else is interesting to you about the idea of a brother-sister sexual relationship?
A. It’s essentially a revolt against the nuclear family, and anything that perverts, undermines and tears down the nuclear family is okay with me.
Q. That business with the little girl in “Incest” is pretty edgy. You’re not some kind of pedophile, are you?
A. Of course not. But something turns me on about that scene, as written.
Q. How the hell did you even get that published?
A. Well, in the context of the whole book, it doesn’t exactly stand out. It’s just one scene in the middle of a story in the middle of a book full of edgy, transgressive sex scenes.
Q. You’re sort of pussy-footing around the whole underage issue here. The fact is that your book is full of teenagers doing it, just about all of them underage, and then you’ve got this young girl who sort of breaks the bank.
A. Well, it’s not like they have this big orgy with her or anything. I just depicted what I thought would be reasonable for the sexuality of a girl that age. Mostly a lot of masturbation.
Q. Even so, aren’t your friends kind of looking at you weirdly now?
A. No, not yet, anyway. Maybe they haven’t got that far in the book.
Q. But you really should address the issue of a writer’s responsibility when depicting — as you do — incest, murder, rape, urination, defecation, abuse, all in the context of sexuality. Do you think your publishing pornography about these subjects influences people to imitate the people in the stories?
A. No… Look, first of all, all the stuff that happens in “Prom” — the murder, raping and pillaging, etc. — is fantastic, not realistic. There isn’t any way you could imitate it, any more than you could imitate what you see on TV in Star Trek. As for the more realistic “Incest,” I did shy away from abuse that happens in real life — namely older males abusing younger females in their families. That’s real incest, and it’s not funny or a turn-on. I turn the tables and show an older girl seducing her 15-year-old brother (as I did in “Lizza” in my book Too Beautiful). In this way I show a powerful female who chooses an incestuous relationship. That probably happens extremely rarely in real life. So there’s really nothing here that anyone is going to imitate.
Let’s go back to Andrea Yates and that morning she killed her five kids while hubby — who worked at NASA, naturally — was in the office checking his email. Or think about all the high school shootings that took place in the last five years or so. That’s reality. What I write about is people who love each other and turn each other on. It’s a lot nicer and sweeter than the daily news.
Q. Turning now to other stories in the book: Do you regard “Ordinary Story” as gay male porn or bisexual porn?
A. By any definition of bisexual porn, it’s the latter. But most of the story is about gay men and their attitudes toward bisexuals.
Q. What’s your beef there?
A. As a bisexual, I’ve heard all the jokes and attitudes from both straight and gay people. The fact is, there are plenty of self-defined gay people who have some kind of sexual contact with the opposite sex but who do not define themselves as bisexual. I just thought it would be fun to exploit these attitudes for humor, then explode them. Having the Ron character admit, at the end of the story, “I’m a big bisexual fag,” is a bit of wish-filfullment, I guess. I don’t resent people who behave as bisexuals but fail to identify as such, because there’s not that much to be gained, aside from a little visibility for bi’s. There are much more important issues that bisexuals have to confront for themselves, chief of which is “heterosexual privilege” and the extent to which they take advantage of it.
Q. What do you mean?
A. I’m a bisexual male in a long-term domestic partnership with a bisexual woman. We could get married anytime we want, and receive tax benefits and the approval of most of society. That’s heterosexual privilege. But my lesbian and gay friends don’t have that option, and it would be hypocritical for me to take advantage of it when they can’t.
There are other reasons I don’t want to get married: The domestic partnership Cris and I have sustained for 15 years, is an improvisational work that grows more significant as the years go on. For all intents and purposes we may look like a regular couple, but we aren’t, and that’s important, to me at least.
Q. “Trick” is also set in the gay male milieu. But once again, you undermine stereotyped gay male sexuality by parodying, first the “Daddy” figure, then gay male video porn. Do you find it hard to treat gay male sexuality seriously?
A. I think the key word there is “stereotyped.” The Daddy figure in gay male porn and in the gay demimonde is a total stereotype, and a somewhat toxic one, in my opinion. It’s not the fatherly or intergenerational connotations that I have trouble with, it’s the macho posturing. Except where it’s done as complete play-acting, and as easily dropped as a mask, I pretty much despise everything that’s macho. Emotional invulnerability, cruelty masquerading as cleverness, boorishness, hot-temperedness, competitiveness — it’s a recipe for emotional sickness, and anybody who acts that way as a lifestyle is an asshole. Nevertheless, some people find it attractive, and in “Trick” I wanted to play with the mixture of attraction and repulsion that are present in the narrator.
Q. In fact, in this story, in “Prom,” and in the title story of your other book, “Too Beautiful,” the true objects of the narrator’s affection are femme Asian males.
A. Yep, well, I’ll take ’em any day over some macho character.
Q. Isn’t this preference for feminized males, and your “repulsion,” as you put it, for masculine males — isn’t this really homophobia?
A. How could it be homophobia with all the cocksucking that goes on in these stories?
Q. My point is, in some cases the male objects of the narrator’s lust are sometimes so feminized that they seem to be almost stand-ins for women. In fact, in another story in “Too Beautiful” you refer to male pubic hair as “cunt hair.”
A. But that’s what I really call it. That’s what it looks like to me.
Q. You refer to your own pubic hair as “cunt hair”?
A. Yes, I do. And anyway, the exception is the Ron character in “Ordinary Story.” He’s specifically described as masculine.
Q. And as forgettable. And you make him bottom to a woman. What kind of masculine male is that?
A. But that’s just my point. You can be masculine without being macho. The reason the narrator in that story loves Ron is that he has the capacity — revealed in the story — to step outside his own gender role, and even his stated sexual preference (“I’m not bisexual,” he protests) for the sake of pleasure. That’s the transgressive element of the story. The sexual revolution is not about guys getting to dress up like motorcycle cops and live out their Tom Of Finland fantasies. The sexual revolution is, for gay men, about opening up the range of acceptable roles and behaviors for what it means to be gay. So you don’t have to be a “real man” who is so afraid of seeming vulnerable that he never even lets himself get fucked.
Q. There are still plenty of men like that.
A. And there are plenty of self-hating fags who advertise in the personals for “straight-acting” dates. Isn’t that pathetic?
Q. What about the narrator in “Lessons in Submission”? Isn’t he just the kind of macho top you say you hate?
A. But he’s a man having het sex and acting like a top. He’s not femmy, certainly. His pushiness and top-iness are coming from his real core of certainty and strength.
Q. He’s not acting emotionally invulnerable, cruel, and the other things you named above as being intrinsic to the Daddy stereotype?
A. A little bit — he’s not boorish or cruel. He’s just being very controlling. It’s kind of essential to an s-m story. I think that’s an important point. Daddy in “Trick” is not doing an s-m scene; he’s just like that because he doesn’t know any other way to be. He’s of the right age for the sexual revolution but he missed out on it; more than anything else, he’s acting out a lot of white male privilege. The narrator in “Lessons in Submission,” on the other hand, as well as the narrator in “How I Adore You,” are cruel within the context of s-m scenes. That’s what you want in s-m scenes. That’s the whole idea, for one of the people; you can’t do an s-m scene with two bottoms. (You can do an s-m scene with two tops, though, if one of them eventually gives in, as Pat Califia has brilliantly illustrated in more than one story.)
Q. “Lessons in Submission” strikes the reader as being a little different from other pieces. It lacks the characterization and the narratives of the other stories. It’s really just a depiction of two s-m scenes between a man and a submissive woman.
A. Yes, I guess that’s because I wrote it in the middle of an affair to sort of commemorate the affair.
Q. So the story is autobiographical?
A. More than the other pieces, yes, which is not to say every bit took place. I wrote it to capture the emotional tone of that affair.
Q. With someone named “O.”?
A. Someone whose name started with “O.” That was fun, considering it’s an s-m story. It’s like writing a story about baseball and dedicating it “to Willie.”
Q. I don’t get it.
A. Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. Do I have to spell everything out?
Q. So we have straight, bisexual and gay sex of both genders in the book — what are you, anyway?
A. Bisexual. But to get back to the question about whether “Lessons in Submission” was autobiographical — all the stories are, to some extent. I really did live in that Texas suburb. I really did trick with an Asian college student in a motel, though it wasn’t as much fun as it is in the story.
Q. And you really are a butch lesbian as depicted in the title story, “How I Adore You.”
A. No. But even there I put in snatches of my own experience. I have had sex in a car parked below Twin Peaks, shielded from passers-by by the fog. And the flashbacks in the story are based on real events told to me by a lover.
Q. How can you, a man, write a story about two lesbians having sex?
A. You mean how, technically? How can I as a writer pull it off? Or do you mean, how dare a man write about lesbian sex?
Q. Let’s take the first one first.
A. A writer’s ability to write convincingly from the perspective of someone different from them — someone of another gender, or race, or from another era — is a combination of observation, research, and being able to really put yourself in the skin of the person you’re writing about. In this case, the emotional conflict in the narrator, that she can’t risk revealing her true feelings to others, is not gender-specific. (In fact, it’s probably more of a male problem, but it becomes interesting in a woman, especially when they’re having sex. Because you’re supposed to be revealing your feelings during sex.) So once you have the main conflict of the story, you’re pretty much set. And as to how it is that I can write a convincing sex scene between two women, well, it’s not exactly a secret what women do together. It’s in tons of written erotica for the last twenty or thirty years.
Q. Now for the other question that some people will ask: What gives you, a man, the right to write about lesbian sex? Aren’t you ripping off lesbian sexuality for the titillation of straight men?
A. Yes, for everyone’s titilation, actually. I addressed this at some length in my essay “ Male Lesbians and Other Cunts.”
Q. In the book’s afterword you talk about how you wrote the first section of the title story and then had trouble finishing it.
A. Yes. The first section came out all at once and I liked it very much, but it was hard to follow up, partly because I hadn’t established the characters yet outside the bedroom and didn’t really know who they were. I finally did write an ending that was needlessly sentimental and completely different from what I ended up with — I had a roommate character for the narrator and a bad mushroom trip and all kinds of stuff I ended up taking out. But then a relationship I was in suddenly got complicated, and I was able to bring some of the dynamics of that emotional conflict to the story. It happened like this: I was seeing a friend fairly intensely for about four months. Then suddenly I didn’t see her for several weeks. I went off on a writing retreat where I had to finish this book. So I had all these exploding emotions and no way to express them other than through the medium of the story.
Q. So this story is autobiographical in some way? The narrator is really you?
A. It’s not as simple as that; there’s no one-to-one correspondence between me and my paramour on the one hand and these two characters on the other. In fact, I’m probably the only person who can see how our emotional struggles are reflected in these two fictional characters. But in any case, by sublimating this live emotional material through the story, I was able to create a story that’s as emotionally intense as any I’ve written.
Q. Yet it has this funny interlude in the middle.
A. It helps balance the intense opening and closing parts. I realized that the main character had this strange self-loathing quality that reminded me of Jane DeLynn’s great book “Don Juan in the Village.” This scene is an homage to DeLynn, who I think is one of the best and most neglected writers working today. I’ve loved her work ever since I read “Some Do” about twenty years ago.
Q. Since you mention it, who are your other favorite authors?
A. I’ve already mentioned Marilyn Jaye Lewis and Pat (now Patrick) Califia, and now Jane DeLynn. Kathy Acker and Mary Gaitskill are two others I’ve always admired, and, through it may sound strange, Larry McMurtry has influenced me a lot — his novels set in modern Texas, not the cowboy stuff.


List of Locations
Lessons in Submission
If you look east across the bay from San Francisco at sunset on a clear evening, you can see the windows of west-facing houses in Berkeley and Oakland all aglow with the setting sun. The first scene is set in one of those houses. The third scene is set at the end of 20th St. in San Francisco, where you can drive through a collection of warehouses to a disused wharf that has been the setting for a number of movie action sequences.
Ordinary Story
The Thai restaurant on 18th St. really is across the street from a card shop called Does Your Mother Know. Ron’s house is on one of the little streets, like Levant, that backs on the ravine above the Castro District.
Cousin, Incest and Prom
I already wrote a great deal above about the ghastly Texas suburb where I spent my teenage years. Most of “Prom” is set just where my high school prom was, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston.
The motels on Lombard St. are perfect and anonymous for the first scene (although the real-life equivalent actually took place on University Ave. in Berkeley). The mansions of Pacific Heights overshadow this area. “Basix” is a restaurant in Los Angeles I’ve never been to, but their website was festooned with rainbow flags and said they have a big weekend brunch.
How I Adore You
The lesbian bar described in the middle of the story exists only in my imagination. There is a hotel out in the Berkeley marina that, no doubt, has a bar, but I have no idea whether it’s a lesbian bar. Probably not.
email ]]> Last updated 22 Jul 05. Copyright 2002-05 Mark Pritchard, Bernal Heights, San Francisco
Copyright 2013-5 Mark Pritchard, Bernal Heights, San Francisco