Conspiracy Theory by Beate Sigriddaughter

     "It's not that I don't like sex. I just don't like it in literature," she declared, working her ostrich feather fan. A few heads turned. A few jaws dropped and one wine glass.

     That night she dreamed.

     Men in blue and white shirts sat around a mahogany board room table, their sleeves rolled up, their dark suit jackets slung across the backs of cushioned chairs. There wasn't a woman in sight. The only women in evidence were those that were the subject matter of their stimulating discussion. These women were all literate now, and almost all of them liked romances, with the exception of a few who had been meticulously shamed out of it at the same time and with the same tools as they had been shamed out of everything else labeled sentimental during a preemptive intellectual education. Maybe another very few were simply not romantically inclined.

     What to do? The publishing world still needed these women's lucrative devotion, without surrendering the world to women's sentiments entirely.

     One man in a blue and white striped shirt came up with a brilliant idea:

     "While we like girls in their summer dresses," he said, "as well as ladies barefoot on swings, let's face it, we like sex even better. Let's insert mandatory sex scenes into their romances. Furthermore, let's tell them they're the ones asking for it. Never mind asking. Let's tell them they are clamoring for it. Let them have their swaggering devoted heroes, but the price will be sex, just as it should in real life. "

     "Great idea, Tom," said another. "Let's run a market study pronto to back up our claims."

     "Never mind market study, Dick," said a third. "We're not running this by the women. We'll tell them what they like. We've always done that. We're good at that."

     "That sounds more like a punishment than a fair price, Harry," said Dick. "Especially without asking the ladies first."

     "Ask, shmask," Harry said.

     "That's right," Tom said, colluding in hushing Dick's concern out of consideration. "It's our world. We make the rules. If somebody, especially a man, writes an intellectual or literary tome, then sex can still be optional. But if someone wants to write something that is strictly for a woman's fantasy market, we have a perfect right to add a little indoctrination. Sex is good. All women worth their salt should be capable of earth-quaking pleasure. With the right shaft, the right core, and the right seed everything falls into place. Amen."

     "Do you think it will fly?" Dick was still skeptical. "For five thousand years we've been able to manage with sexless literature. Give or take a few hush-hush pornographic items, we've gotten by sexless pretty much until D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller and their ilk. And now you want to have not just optional but obligatory sex when women write for women?"

     "It'll fly," Harry said. "Trust me. It'll fly. What do you think the sexual revolution was for if not for this, to be able to take advantage of it?"

     "Let me play devil's advocate, or angel's advocate, if you will. What if they really don't like it? "

     "But they will. Remember, we will have told them they like it. We will have told them what they want. Besides, it is only right. If we allow them their impossibly gentle and generous and chivalrous heroes, who are making all the rest of us look bad, they will have to pay the price."

     Tom tittered. "I can just imagine my Grandma Tildy folding her hands together in astonishment, reading half a paragraph of swords and sheaths and seeds and shafts dancing around trembling cores, then skipping over the rest of that chapter until things look reasonably safe again. I can imagine, too, one fine day she'll return to one of the fairy tale romances of her less explicit youth. It will comfort her. She'll read and read with stars in her eyes. But suddenly it will occur to her. 'There's something missing here.' He-he."

     "Stop tittering, Tom. It doesn't become you."

     "I'm still not sure that we can just shove it down their deep throat," Dick said, with a gleam in his eyes while his ears turned pink.

     "Oh, stop it, Dick," said Harry. "Do you want to set off Tom again?"

     It was too late. Tom was quaking with amusement, as were the dozen or so interns in attendance who had not spoken up but had followed the debate with blushing interest.

     "Seriously," Harry said. "It's not betrayal. It's simply win win in our favor. Like friends with benefits. Now romances with sex. It's good to be alive."

     "Hear, hear," he heard.

     "That's settled then," Harry said, expanding his chest to where his shirt buttons would barely contain it. He glanced around the table, collecting roguish and unanimous nods.

     And this is how it came about that all romances now have obligatory sex in them, while for the remainder of the literary world, sex is optional.

     She rubbed her eyes, waking up. What an odd dream, she thought.

About the Author:
Beate Sigriddaughter,, is a US citizen currently living and writing in North Vancouver, Canada. Her work has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. She has also established the Glass Woman Prize to honor passionate women’s voices. Currently she is working on a novel called Tango.