Updated: Sep 28, 2021
After a night of drunken revelry, Maddie awakens in the middle of the night to discover her husband Jackson downstairs. He is sharing nude pictures of her with one of his friends online, who is masturbating to them, the two men talking about how hot and sexy she is. Rather than being angry or repulsed, however, Maddie realizes that being objectified arouses her: feeling desired, and knowing that men other than her husband want her, turns her on. In fact, as she returns to bed, she is more than a little disappointed that her husband did not involve her in the fantasy. Upon awakening the following morning, she leads a series of conversations and explorations with her husband to change that, and return to an earlier time in their marriage when they explored their sexuality together with much more adventure, frank communication, and deep gratification.
Such is the opening of Catharsis, a sensual and sexually stimulating novella by Toronto-based writer Dierdre Winter. The author of over a dozen short story collections and novellas, Winter´s latest book contains multiple episodes of sex--remembered, current, and fantasized--each more arousing than the one that preceded it, escalating towards an inevitable conclusion. On one level, this erotic story is a classic cuckold tale, as Maddie´s ultimate desire is to have sex with another man while her husband watches. However, through Winter´s detailed and superb writing, Catharsis offers much more.
Unlike many of her peers within the realm of erotic fiction, Winter takes the time to distinguish each of her main characters. True, there are plenty of passages here to turn on both men and women, but Catharsis is also invested in illustrating the relationship between Eros and Psyche. How does this couple, specifically, communicate about their desires and their fantasies? As they begin fulfilling their sexual fantasies, how does this affect Maddie´s self-image at work? Too few books of erotica get into this level of nuance and psychology, revealing the subtleties between our public and private selves, and how our sexuality is a force within us wherever we go.
While Maddie´s kink is to be consensually objectified, Winter tells Catharsis from her point of view. She is the subject. The more she becomes a "slut", the more in-control and liberated she feels. Each chapter leads the reader deeper into her growing sexuality, her dynamic and loving relationship with her husband, her desire to not only be wanted by other men, but to have this fantasy fulfilled.
While under seventy pages in length, Catharsis offers a wide variety of sexual scenes, each one beautifully described by Winter. More than that, it is a story of personal growth and fulfillment, and of how one woman finds happiness through objectification within an open and consenting relationship with her husband. Maddie may be fictional, but she is written with such attention to personal detail that readers will be left wondering if Catharsis is perhaps autobiographical.