Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Praise of the One-Handed Read

I'm a bit like a kid at Christmas when May rolls around. Why’s that, you ask. It’s National Masturbation month, that’s why! I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see something as healthy, life-affirming, and down-right fun as masturbation get a little much-needed positive press. So I decided that, as National Masturbation month draws to a close (not that the fun is ending, just the month) that I'd write a few words in praise of the much-maligned one-handed read.

Doesn’t it seem strange and more than a little sad that some of the world’s best, most celebrated writers find themselves on the not-so-coveted short-list for the Bad Sex Awards? Is there some misguided, unwritten rule that states a story is only 'worthy' if it doesn’t make the reader squirm deliciously in her seat, if it doesn’t makes her need to engage one hand in areas far south of the novel in her grip? And where the hell did we get the idea that just that one act, in fact the most crucial act of the human condition, sex, should not be treated with the same weight, or the same tongue-in cheek irreverence or the same heart pounding delight or wonder or horror as any other part of the human condition?

If a writer gets the sex right, I mean gets it really right, then what other response should there be but for our bodies to tingle and our hands to stray?

Which leads me to another reason why a one-handed read should be praised and sought after by readers and writers alike. A well-written one-handed read engages the reader on a physical level that no other type of read can. A one-handed read takes the reader a level deeper than the voyeuristic experience that reading tends to be. A one-handed read allows and demands reader participation in solidarity with the characters, and, indeed, with the writer. The story suddenly becomes interactive in a literal sense. And even more than that, the story suddenly becomes a sexy ménage between the reader, the characters and the writer.

I've always felt that just because a writer strives to give the reader a well-rounded literary experience with a story that's gripping (no pun intended), pacey, thought-provoking and satisfying on some level; just because a writer tries to offer the reader a well-written, stonking good story doesn't mean that  stonking good story can't involve a little one-handed pleasure mixed in. Why the hell shouldn't it?

Okay, maybe it’s that feeling of exposure; maybe it’s that fear of being caught in the act, so to speak, that frightens writers away from making the sex hot and squirmy. But it’s a lesson straight from the pages of creative writing 101 that the place we most fear, the place we feel the most vulnerable is the place where the most powerful writing happens. Embrace the wank!

Those of us who love to read love a story we can be pulled into. I love a good adrenalin rush, a good heart stopper, a good brain teaser, a good tear jerker, a good happy ending, so why wouldn't I like a good wank all in the spirit of a sexy story? Why do we think that good writing is negated if our stories make people want to go rub one out?

I've been involved in the world of erotica for enough years now to have seen the quality of writing go through the roof, enough years to have been gripped by heart-stopping, tear jerking, brain-teasing stories that STILL have fabulous, seamlessly-written, deliciously sensual one-handed scenes. Why can't a good book be both a page turner and a one-handed read? We now connect with story on so many more levels than ever before. We read eBooks, we listen to audio books, we curl up with a good old fashion trade paper-back and a glass of wine. But really, was there ever a time when reading a good book wasn't intended to be a sensual experience, wasn't meant to make us FEEL things in our body that we wouldn’t otherwise feel, wasn't meant to scratch an itch that nothing else could quite scratch? So why, oh why, should we exclude that best of, most intimate of -- that even better than a nice glass of wine sensual experience of the one-handed read?

Oh no doubt there’ll always be a need for sexy snippets just long enough and hot enough to get the rocks off, and I like those just fine too. But why should one-handed reads be reserved for just such works? Why shouldn’t the sex scenes in any type of novel or story be well-written enough, steamy enough, raunchy enough to send one hand straying? It seems to me that if a sex scene is well written, then we should at least feel something down in the genital direction. I’m not saying that everything written about sex should be a turn-on, but I am saying it should affect us in some way because sex affects us. It affects us powerfully, uncomfortably, sometimes disturbingly, and it often affects us the most because we don’t want it to and we don’t understand why it does, nor do we understand its power over us. But it most definitely DOES have power over us. It’s supposed to have, so to try to write sex that excludes and banishes the one-handed read seems absurd.

Without getting all mystical and goose-pimply and bringing on the sex magic; doing my best to keep it real and genuine, I have to ask; when is there a time that a writer doesn’t want a reader to feel her work, to experience her story as so much more than words on a page? Why should our sexual responses not be fully included in the experience of story? So I’ll say it again: let’s hear it for the one-handed read!

Happy Masturbation Month! I wish you all gripping, touching, deliciously squirmy reading. And writing!


  1. Fabulous post, K.D.! "Interactive" indeed!

    Thank you for expressing this so eloquently.

  2. Thanks for this insightful and exciting article. Strong feelings are a big part of the reading experience for me and i have on occasion shouted out angrily and laughed uproariously when reading (other physical reactions!). If a reader takes a moment in the book as a jumping off point for exploring their sexuality a litte further and a litte more directly, it's a crative act that really takes co-authorship to to next level.

  3. Thanks for the post! I like the comments about reading and writing should be physical experiences -- and it's not just erotica. A friend last night told me about this Emily Dickinson quote:

    "If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way"

    I think both your post and Dickinson's quote are saying that good writing should affect all parts of a person.

  4. Hi K D!

    This is definately close to the heart in all of us. I think the two most ancient genres of story telling must be the Ghost Story and the Sex Story. I can imagine paleolithic shaman around a fire telling the tribe the old stories of the gods and the powerful spirits, and I can imagine men in bear skins returning from the mammoth hunt bragging about how they stuck it in good to the old lady last night and how she begged 'em for more and what total studs they are. We haven't changedt hat much either.

    I think therepression of sexual writing is still part of that patriarchal thing of men wanting to control women. But I also think that the love of sex narrative is kindo f a woman's thing to some extent. People will get pissed at me for syaing that, but yeah, men are more visully oriented and women are more verbally oriented, consequently FSOG has found more readers with women than men.


  5. . . . Also clearly women are better typists on these little keyboards than men are . . .

  6. Garce, you are so funny! I wondered who was having such trouble typing! If your fingers are too big...hmm...
    Ahem...back on topic.

    K.D., excellent post! No one flinches at writers who offer graphic descriptions of explicit violence that makes me too uncomfortable to continue reading. Yet those books are on the best-seller lists, while romances sell a lot, but never get any respect. Books about power struggles that men like, with women as trophies, and sex with them being mere power-displays, are best-sellers, while people raise their eyebrows and turn away when I tell them I write erotic romance. Sigh.

    One-handed reads deserve respect! And yes, just because you write a rousing good sex scene, doesn't mean that the rest of your story is tripe. Let's hear it for stories that allow us to pleasure ourselves, so that when we have a willing partner, we can share those feelings and enhance everyone's sex lives!


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