Does anyone have a penis?
I don’t. And, as I wrote one particular book, not owning a penis was, well, sort of a problem. Owning is, of course, the operative word here. I have a husband, ergo, I “own” a penis, so it’s safe to say that I had a place to start, but it wasn’t the same thing.
But first, an explanation.
The book, untitled at the time, was a body swapping romance, aka, “Freaky Friday,” but instead of a mom and daughter swapping, it was two roommates, Keira and Dillan.
With a few caveats, I felt somewhat qualified to describe Dillan’s actions as he woke up in Keira’s body, because, after all, I wake up 100% of every morning in a woman’s body. The opposite, however, was less certain. What might go through Keira’s mind when she discovered her new anatomy?
And this was when the penis-owning men of my acquaintance got to know me a lot better.
And I got to know them a hell of a lot more than I ever anticipated.
Let’s do a roll call
My confession is this: I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to be a man. Even for just one day — maybe one week, tops. Sure, for the most part, I’m curious about the sexual aspect of it all, and in this fantasy-filled wish of mine, I’d naturally swap into the body of a super hot guy who dripped sexual charisma. You know the type — that guy who doesn’t have to work too hard to get a girl.
I mean, let’s face it, I have zero illusions I could actually seduce a woman in the 24 hours allotted for my wish. Granted, I’ve never tried, so I don’t want to sell myself short. But still.
So, for the sake of research (for the novel, of course), the next best thing I could do was ask a lot of uncomfortable questions. And by uncomfortable, I mean where the respondent has to pause and replay the question in their head to ensure they heard you correctly. If you’re married, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
To get started, I didn’t even have to leave the house.
My first resource was Mark, my husband. It was a Saturday morning, I’m brewing coffee and getting ready to write The Scene, when I ambush him.
“Do you always wake up with a hard-on?” I asked as I poured cream into my cup. I’ll swear to you right now that I did not have an evil grin. I played this one with a straight face.
He dropped his empty cup, a guilty look on his face. “This is for the book, isn’t it?”
On any given weekend, I’m writing something, so with most of my questions, his response is generally that one, or something close.
“That, and I’ve been looking up plastic surgeons in the area. Also, just how thin is the skin of your testicles?”
He nearly choked on his tongue, muttering a, “You’re killing me, Kelly. Most mornings, yes.”
But he struggled to describe the skin of his testicles as he searched for a new coffee cup, which, ironically ended up being a Mother’s Day mug, with the word Momnicient on the side. I thought about pointing this out, but I didn’t want to push my luck.
“I’m gonna write, ‘Paper thin’ for the time being. Now, let’s discuss the roll call.”
His face was a blank stare. “The roll call?”
“Yeah, where you scratch the hell out of your genitals. It must hurt like hell, the way you get all up in there. That’s the roll call. You’re double-checking to make sure you still own all your parts.”
“Like maybe I accidentally left them at work?” he asked, a weird smirk tugging at his lips. “You just made that up, didn’t you?”
“You’re married to an author. I make up stuff all day long.” At this point, Mark left the kitchen and went into the bathroom. “You can’t duck out of this conversation,” I told him through the closed door, laughing.
“I can’t hear you. I’m too busy conducting roll call.”
Cashing in favors
I have a lot of guy friends. Growing up with brothers, and dealing with their friends, and then joining the military right out of high school, I was always a tom girl and, incidentally, felt more comfortable around men.
Sarcasm is a source of pride, and I’m rarely thinking clean thoughts, so it was a natural progression to ask a few of my closest male friends similar questions.
At work, I approached my friend Chris, who happens to be a Navy Lieutenant Commander with a wicked sense of humor.
“Wanna get coffee today?” I asked. This in itself wasn’t odd, but I wanted to use the time to ask questions. I already wrote Dillan’s scene waking up as a woman, but I wanted more authenticity with Keira waking up as a man.
It was nagging me like something fierce.
“I’ve had, like, four cups,” he said, lifting the coffee from behind his monitor to prove his point.
“Darn. I wanted to ask you about sex.”
Chris looked up sharply, one eyebrow arched suspiciously. “I’m free at two.”
At the appointed time, and with coffee between us, I spilled the beans about The Scene, and he was rather amused by this “problem” of mine.
“Okay, this is not how I imagined our conversation,” Chris said, laughing, but looking around to see if we were being overheard. “Yeah, I usually wake up with an erection, but for the most part, I have to piss like a horse, and sometimes it takes a long time.”
“Can’t pee with a hard-on.” For some reason, he said this like he was a sensei imparting wisdom. “What else you got?”
“What about running? Can you feel your bits jangling?”
Not everything was about the wake-up part, but I’ve always wondered about it, and in the book, Keira is an active runner. She’d instantly feel the difference if she ran while in Dillan’s body.
“Bits? You make it sound like computer parts. Maybe if I was naked,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “There’s this thing called a jock strap, Kelly. Look it up.”
Not at work, I wasn’t, but I laughed.
“Let me ask you this,” I said before we had to go back to the office, “if you woke up one morning as a woman, what’s the first thing you might notice?”
Chris seemed to think seriously about this, which worried me, but sometimes he can surprise me.
He looked between us, like maybe he was comparing our figures to help visualize his answer, and said, “I’d probably notice I was shorter and weighed less. Like, getting out of bed would look and feel different.”
That night, after work, I modified Dillan’s scene. Chris’ observation was spot on.
But it also helped me with the reverse. If Dillan felt lighter, then Keira might feel heavier and clumsy.
Confident that I had what I needed, I wrote The Scene a week later, which you will get to read in the excerpt below.
In the heat of the moment
My husband was happy to know I was reserving all sexy-time questions for him. As a woman, there are a few things, well, maybe many things, that I take for granted during sex.
One of which is thrusting.
“Doesn’t it hurt your hips?” I asked Mark as I neared the end of the book, when Keira and Dillan finally do The Deed. “I feel like my entire body might cramp up.” Of course, I’m thinking like a woman who’s given birth to a ten-pound baby. My hips have never stopped hurting.
By this point, Mark had grown used to these sort of questions. He didn’t even bat an eye.
“It’s not the hips, but my lower back, but I know better than to stop.”
It was my turn to choke. I think I might have been brushing my teeth during this particular conversation. I won’t go as far as saying that these questions made me smarter, but it certainly opened my eyes to things I didn’t regularly think about before writing a gender swap romance.
“Good to know,” I replied.
I’ve always found it difficult to imagine what men felt during sex. The physical act of it, aka, penetration, but when I asked my husband, he didn’t have a simple answer. But I found his response to be pithy, and romantic.
“If I could give it one word, I’d call it heat. I feel the heat all over. The pelvic region radiates with it.” He looked up and noticed I was taking notes.
“Heat, got it. Pelvic region radiation. I like it. Go on, babe.”
“But it’s more than that for me. It’s because I’m with you.” He kissed me on the nose. “That’s what makes it wonderful.”
As I finished the novel and sent it to my editor, I felt that Keira’s scenes navigating as a man ended up as authentic as I could make them with the knowledge I’d gained. That, and an active imagination.
Collide Into You is, arguably, one of my favorite books and I think back fondly during the time of its writing. But, more than anything, I had a grand time asking questions. Mark and I had additional conversations, but I can’t reveal those (sorry!).
My confession still stands: I want to know what it really feels like to be a man, but I think I’ll have to save the imagination for the characters in future novels.
So now that you know my confession, what’s yours?
Collide Into You
My mouth tastes like crap. Good lord, what did I eat before I fell asleep? Sunlight pours in from the wrong side of the room and, for some reason, it feels like I’m naked under the sheets. Naked? That’s a stupid thought.
Turning slightly, I crack my eyes—why do my eyes feel so heavy?—and find that everything is wrong.
The walls are painted light gray, with dark blue trim. The images on the wall—canvas-style abstract artwork—certainly aren’t mine. The television is on the opposite side of the room. The smell is all wrong. It smells like sandalwood.
I don’t want to be smelling like Dillan right now.
I’m in the wrong room.
Not only that, I’m in the wrong bed.
What? The? Hell? There is no way on earth that I climbed into Dillan’s massive, king-size bed last night. Not after that hellacious argument. Glancing over, I confirm that I’m alone in the bed. Thank God. Yes, there was that one time I did think about climbing into bed with him, but that was just a passing thought. A heat-of-the-moment thought. I was probably dehydrated that day.
Staring out the window, I try to figure out what time it is, but I’m momentarily distracted by the fact that the blinds and the curtains are wide open. I can see into the building next door. What on earth does Dillan do when he needs to change? Display his goods to the world? Apparently. He’s good at doing that.
I still haven’t figured out why I’m in his room, or where the owner is. His clock reads eight in the morning. Good. I can still go for a run before it gets too warm.
Rubbing my eyes, my hands feel weird against my face. My face feels weird against my hands. I push my hands away from me and suck in my breath.
Hairy and rough-cuticled, manly hands.
Ohmigod. Ohmigod. Ohmigod.
Okay, there must be a logical reason for this. Don’t hyperventilate. I eye the white sheet as if it might decide to strangle me. It’s up to my neck. My chest looks surprisingly flat.
Ohmigod. Ohmigod. Ohmigod. I jerk the sheet down. Flat chest. A man’s chest. A scream bubbles in the back of my throat.
It’s a dream. This has to be a dream. Surely I’m still asleep.
I pull the sheet lower and nearly pass out. There’s male junk between my legs.
For some reason, taking inventory makes me feel better.
Hairy pubic mound. Check.
One penis. Check.
Two testicles. Check.
Ohmigod. Ohmigod. Ohmigod.
Holy shit…the penis…it’s erect. I poke it. It moves. It bounces. It’s freaking real.
That scream? It’s still in the back of my throat. I swallow hard. I throw a manly hand over my mouth to keep from yelling. The same finger that just poked the alien penis feels the front of my neck. I swallow again. An Adam’s apple.
My mouth instantly dries up. I don’t think I can open my eyes any wider than they are at the moment.
This cannot be real.
Please, dear God, if you’re listening, stop whatever this madness is. Wake me up, please.
Ohmigod. Ohmigod. Ohmigod.
Wait. If this is a dream, if I pinch myself, I’ll wake up. Relieved, I decide to pinch the part of me that would hurt the most.
But I don’t really want to touch them. I’ve never really found testicles attractive.
Reaching down, I take the veiny, paper-thin skin in between two fingers and pinch hard.
I am so not asleep.
My stomach rolls and I feel like I’m about to vomit. Any second, my intestines are going to rip through my groin.
I ball up, waiting for the pain to pass, but it feels like I’m dying. Don’t breathe. Don’t move.
What the hell is going on?
A sheen of sweat dampens my body. No wonder men collapse after they’ve been kicked in the balls.
Once the pain subsides to a dull ache, I shove the sheets off me. My feet are huge, wide, and I swear to God I must be the size of a giant.
Get out of bed, Keira. Make sense of this.
I don’t seem to be capable of operating whosever body this is. My feet crash into things. Clothes. Shoes. Books. DVDs. None of which are my things.
Dillan has a mirror on the wall. A full-length one. I step just shy of it. If I step into view, I’ll see what I am. Who I am. See what this utter madness is, and I’ll be able to get help. Call a doctor or something. Yeah, um, hi, I am a woman but stuck in a hairy, unfemale-like body. No, I’m not transgender. I was a woman yesterday. Today, there’s manly junk hanging between my legs. Don’t hang up on me.
I close my eyes and step to the left. I crack one eye open. Then the other. Maybe if I breathe deeply, things will seem better. Or maybe I’m suddenly insane.
Keira Holtslander is not standing in front of me.
I’m tall. I have Dillan’s brown hair, his light green eyes, his shit-eating grin, his I haven’t shaved in two days jaw, his smooth, touchable chest, his I can make any woman happy penis, his finely sculpted arms, shoulders, thighs, calves, and, if that wasn’t the worst of it, I own his cocky stance.
God, I want to punch his—my—handsome face.
Take a deep breath.
Now take another one.
Well, shit, that doesn’t help.
I can’t contain the scream any longer. When it comes out, I sound just like Dillan. But I’m not the only one screaming.
Next door, I hear my own voice cursing up a storm.