A lot of people make important life decisions for love. Schahrzad Morgan made hers for sex.
A few years ago, Morgan, a 53-year-old living in Vista, chose to give up her 25-year marriage and a successful career as a consultant and realtor to focus on getting the most out of her sexual life.
To that end, she became a stripper at local strip bars like Cheetah's and Deja Vu, engaged in many sexual affairs with both men and women, and turned the whole sex-perience into a book called The F-ck List.
The book is sort of an Eat, Pray, Love-type memoir for people who aren't hungry or religious but definitely into the love.
"My book is meant to inspire people to love their sexuality," she says. "I am driven by freedom and self expression and pleasure and being a contribution [to the world]. I want to get people to ask themselves what they are driven by, what is important to them. Most people never consider this."
But Morgan says her journey isn't just about the sex (though that's a big, big part), it's also about giving herself permission to want a more fulfilling sex life than she was getting from her husband.
"I started looking for more sex after taking a vacation with my husband in the summer of 2010. We fell in love again," Morgan tells CityBeat. "At the same time, I got over a 10-year Vicodin addiction and it was like a rebirth."
Conventional wisdom suggests that sexual desire decreases with age, but Morgan says sex became more enjoyable as she got older for a variety of reasons, some physical, some mental.
"I really didn't enjoy intercourse until my mid-40s," she says. "It was often painful, plus my response was gauged off men. I didn't feel comfortable with myself."
Morgan's increased desire for, well, desire, was a progression from her youth. When she was in her 20s, she worked briefly as a call girl, earning $180 for 20 minutes of work.
She also had a few short-lived affairs with women when her kids were toddlers, but was otherwise monogamous for 25 years.
When she and her husband realized his libido didn't match hers, they attempted to try open marriage.
But at some point, Morgan made the decision to follow her heart, and lower parts.
"I numbed my heart for 10 years with Vicodin. When I stopped, I wanted to be fully human," Morgan says. "I like to question rules and society and I gave myself permission to do so."
Part of that permission meant finally taking advantage of the romance cornucopia offered by the Internet.
However, the hardcore reality of modern romance took some adjustments.
"Men sent me penis pictures and I felt bad for not reciprocating," she says. "I needed to get over my body shame."
To do that, Morgan quit an unfulfilling office job and became a nude dancer at Cheetah's and Deja Vu.
"I enjoy dancing and I wanted to get comfortable with my genitals," she says matter-of-factly. "I loved the girls. I became Facebook friends with a few and some even bought my book. But I didn't like the hustle. I don't like talking men into getting a lap dance. Plus, I didn't like the rules or lack of sexual freedom. I couldn't touch the men."
Ah, the men.
There have been a number of them since the divorce, sometimes as many as 10 a week. There were times early on after her divorce when she felt she got too emotionally attached to her sex partners, especially Marines.
That has changed as she's learned to enjoy sex as sex and not to assume it's anything more.
"The sex is good," she says. "That's what's interesting. Sometimes, people I wouldn't necessarily find attractive at first turn out to be really good in bed. And the men want to please me. I don't feel the same emotionally, but it's passionate and I get lost in the moment."
Morgan's life choices might be shocking to some, but she believes the path she's chosen have led to renewed appreciation for herself.
"I decided to fall in love with myself," she says. "Having all the men gives me freedom."
That doesn't mean she's not open to love if it happens—on her terms.
"It's hard to find someone," she says. "I need a man with good energy, full of life and fills a room when he walks in. But I don't know if I want a relationship. There's so much heartache."
Morgan originally hoped The F-ck List would strike a chord with other females, but discovered that many women found the title off-putting.
"I had a friend who refused to take a bookmarker because she said her husband wouldn't understand why she had a book with that title," Morgan says.
Morgan is now writing a second book, tentatively titled Permission, that she says will cover the same themes, but less graphically.
"I'm softening it, and adding a lot about my childhood," she says. "People want to see a reason for my behavior. There is none, they will see. I had a great childhood. I'm taking out some of the random sex stories and replacing them with a list to give a sense of the number of men without repeating the same sex stories over and over. There's also a new ending about how I fell in love with myself."
Morgan hopes telling her story about why she chose to go after a sex life that was satisfying on her terms inspires others to pursue their own desires, be they sexual or not.
"I want you to give yourself permission to be you, whatever that is," she says. "Be real. Discover yourself, and don't be constrained by rules imposed by others, expectations of society or pretending to be happy if you are not. Be real."
Scharhrzad Morgan will do a Talkback and Book Signing on Thursday, Feb. 11, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Vision Pulse Creative (7310 Miramar Rd.).