Carly Milne was plagued by nightmares stemming from the night she was raped.
Then she wrote a book about it.
Not just about the experience of surviving sexual assault; that’s really just skimming the surface. Milne has also penned an unflinching portrait of molestation by her father, an honest look at dealing with herpes, homelessness and alcoholism all before turning 18, and the comedy that ensued from working as a sex toy tester.
In her first book, "Sexography: One woman’s journey from ignorance to bliss," Milne has recorded both the hilarious and harrowing visions of her sexual self, with a frank tone and unpitying wit. No excuses.
"I didn’t really go into it going, â€˜Oh boy, I wonder what everybody’s going to think,’" Mline said. Though by the end, a surprising turn of events with her dad admittedly gave her pause. "There was a small part of me towards the end (wondering), â€˜Well, are people going to think I’m a fraud because I reconciled with my father?’" she said. "I have my reasons for choosing that path."
Working to salvage that relationship meant explaining some parts of her book that was about to hit the shelves.
"I wanted to make it clear to him: I didn’t write anything to hurt him," she said. "I didn’t write anything to hurt anybody."
Several characters in Sexography are faithfully depicted down to using the real names, she said. But for anyone she’d fallen out of contact with, Milne opted for pseudonyms. "Unless they jumped up and down and said, â€˜Hey, that’s me!’ no one would know," she said.
Besides, the journey was hers to tell. Writing the book was draining and cathartic, as Milne dove into memories starting with the childhood comfort in her own naked form, and the long years spent trying to reclaim that feeling.
"I didn’t really entirely know what was going to come out of me until I sat down to write this," Milne said. "I spoke to my therapist a lot when I was writing."
Recording the scene of the first time Milne was raped, after taking a ride home with a stranger during her early teen years, was easily the hardest part of penning Sexography. "I had never written so vividly about that experience, ever," she said, fighting back tears. "Not in journals not in articles. I mean, I’d reference itâ€¦but I never really detailed in quite that way."
But she credits that intricate record for helping to put some demons to rest, and ending more than a decade of nightmares brought on by that night. "It was almost like I had to get everything out of me and onto paper in order to be able to release it," she said.
The scene is a disturbing portrait of the assault, made all the more horrifying by Milne’s internal dialogue. It’s hard to remain distant from the rape while reading the victim’s thoughts. And that’s just as it should be.
"I think the only thing that was a comfort to me was, you know, I made it through once, so I can make it through," she said. "You know, I felt so alone when I went through this, maybe telling people what I went through will make them feel less alone. Having that drive was what made it easier to work through, which I realize sounds utterly clich©."
Although it may leave readers with a taste of the nauseated feeling of being violated, or at the very least squirming in their seats, the rawness of even the most painful memories is what makes the book work, from those heavy moments, to the lighter side.
Early explorations, including discovering the difference between boys and Ken dolls and practice make-out sessions with Milne acting as a stand-in for Rick Schroder, are written in a playful tone. And a scene where Milne tries to Create A Mate, casting her then-husband’s penis in "buddy batter" goop for a personalized dildo, is laugh-out-loud funny.
"That was a lot of fun," Milne said. "I loved writing about some of my mishaps that happened with testing out sex toys. Or when my friend and I happened upon my step-mom’s vibrator. People often overlook those kinds of experiences as not necessarily what ends up being a part of what helps them shape their sexuality. Oftentime, it’s those little moments that really make the big difference."
Next up is a study of the spiritual kind. "In a way, it’s kind of the sequel to Sexography," Milne said, a look at the spirituality that helped her to transcend "all that other junk."
Sexography: One woman’s journey from ignorance to bliss by Carly Milne, is available for $24.95, by Phoenix Books.