Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sex and the Big Brain

I had a sex blogger ask me once how I could possibly write about things I hadn’t experienced. My answer at the time, though accurate, was a bit flippant I suppose. I said that it’s fiction. It’s no more difficult for me to write about sex that I’ve not experienced than it is for Thomas Harris to write about serial killers when he certainly isn’t one.

I think I can write about sex I’ve never experienced, would never even want to experience in the real world because I have a big brain. Oh, not my brain in particular. All humans have ‘em, and we use them in sex even when we’re not having sex. The thing about having a big brain is that it adds a new dimension to a biological act. In the hormonal, pheromonal soup that drives us to fuck, we get the added pleasure of making it up as we go along. In our heads -- anyway we like it. And this, we can do completely and totally without the help of anyone else.

Which leads me to wonder how much of fiction writing – any genre of fiction writing – is really our big brain masturbating – first for our own pleasure, and if we get lucky and our work gets published, then we get to be exhibitionists and do it for an audience. Is that yet another layer of our sexuality? There’ve been countless of books and essays written on the connection between sexuality and creativity, and I’ve experienced it myself. When it’s right, when I’m in the zone, the rush, the high, the incredible buzz of getting characters and plot to move together in just the right tango of conflict and passion and drive, the experience from a writer’s point of view is extremely sexual, and yet somehow better than sex. It’s sex on steroids, it’s free-falling, it’s roller coaster riding, it’s fast cars, mountain tops and touching the tiger all rolled into one. And it all happens in some nebulous part of our brains that only a neurosurgeon might be able to pin-point for us. And who cares? Who cares as long as it gets us there!

Those moments don’t happen often, but it doesn’t matter. They happen often enough to push us forward, to keep us going and writing and longing and digging deep for the next wild brain-gasm. I just came off of one of those experiences while racing to finish the draft of The Exhibition. It was a late-night write, a dark, dangerous sex scene in which the characters staged a coup and completely took control of the action. I came away staggering, looking down at my hands, wondering how the hell I wrote that. I was too hyped to sleep, too creeped out to think about who might be waiting for me in my dreams after what I’d just written. And yet … And yet I felt stretched, expanded, like for a second I’d seen sex at the core where the dark and light meet and swallow each other up. And what’s left is a wild, crazy pull to translate what just happened into some kind of written account that will convey that feeling, that sense of being beyond myself, yet deeper into the dark recess of myself than I felt really comfortable going. And as any writer would, longing to drag my reader right in there with me, into the dark, into the fire.

It was a long time before I could sleep. It was a long time before I felt quite like myself again. And that’s what got me thinking about my big brain, which at times, seems so much bigger than just the space in my head. And I guess maybe I do have to experience something in order to write about it. But the big brain creates that experience in the privacy of my own head. That being the case, how could I not keep going back for more? How could I not want desperately to write what my big brain allows me to experience? How could I not want to bring it out and flaunt it for the reader’s full participation?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Writers Group - A Feeling Of Belonging

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats.

I went to my first meeting with a local writers group recently. The last time I was in a writers group was at least thirty years ago. I must have driven past the place hundreds of times, but I never noticed it. It's a little hideaway tucked into a corner. I like to take the scenic route home occasionally, driving past the rocky beaches next to the ocean. This writers group is along that route. My husband and I were going for a drive, when he noticed the sign on the building. I must have tunnel vision or something, since I have never noticed it before.

I would love to join a writers group, especially a local one. I live over an hour from most writers groups in this area, and I simply didn't want to do all that driving. This one is ten minutes away. I couldn't resist.

One major disadvantage in my mind in being a writer is that it is so isolating. I have my writer friends on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet, but I wanted to be around real, live, breathing people. Make eye contact. Smell cologne and perfume. Speak in real time. Mingle in meat space. I craved companionship. I can't speak for all writers, of course, but I wanted to belong to a group of people with similar interests. I also wanted to belong to a group of people who could help me in my writing career.

Now... my main worry was what would the members think of erotica writers? I had already visited the web site, and I saw lots of notices about readings for poetry and literary fiction. Would I fit in? I also write horror, dark fiction, and fantasy. Would dismembered bodies go over better than erect penises? I had no idea, but I was willing to risk it. I'm not ashamed of what I write, but I do want to be accepted and I want approval. I want praise for a job well done, and I want people to show interest in my work.

I worried about disapproval, but I sucked it up and went to a poetry reading I saw listed on the calendar.

I had a blast.

There were about twenty people present. I was one of several new people, and I was welcomed with open arms. Most members were over sixty. I didn't talk much about myself except to say I was a writer, I lived in town, and I have been looking for a writers group for some time. I mostly asked everyone else about themselves. When I told one woman I wrote human sexuality articles for a sex toys company in London as well as erotica, she gave me "the look" (most erotica writers probably know what I'm talking about), but once I explained a bit further, she had shown interest. Several others reacted in a similar fashion. At the very least, I piqued their curiosity.

Despite my fears, I fit in. I felt welcome. That meant a great deal to me. A man read some of his poetry, and I enjoyed myself. It felt good being in a group of pleasant people. I shared wine and conversation out in the back yard after dark in a very relaxed atmosphere. Not only did I feel welcome, I welcomed them into my world.

I wonder how many erotica writers are slightly embarrassed over what they write? I've heard plenty of horror stories from my Facebook writer friends of family who disapprove of their sexy stories. Some have chosen pseudonyms to protect their jobs, especially if they teach young children. These writers don't get much support from their friends and family, which may make the isolation some writers experience more distressing.

The next event I'll attend is an open reading for anyone who wants to read aloud - an open mike night. I'm not quite ready to read yet. I'd rather get to know everyone better first before I drop my smut on them, but I'll bring a little something along in case I feel brave and decide to read anyway. My stage fright isn't only about reading erotica. It's about reading any of my works aloud. How many writers feel a lack of confidence over what they write? I chose the perfect story to read if I decide to do it. It's sensual and even poetic. I have a feeling it will be praised, and I like basking in friendship. Groucho might have said he'd never be a part of any club that would have him as a member, but that's not for me. Even though I'm a loner at heart, it feels good to belong.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Old Poison in New Bottles

By Jean Roberta

I was lucky enough to be young when the “Sexual Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s was happening, and it coincided with the birth of “Second Wave” feminism, so called because it looked like a revival of “First Wave” feminism, which gathered strength from about 1850 to the First World War, when adult women gained the right to vote in Britain, the U.S. and Canada.

The guys I dated in high school and afterward all wanted me to know that sex was a wonderful thing, and that I had no logical reason to say no, since we were living in a time of sexual freedom and Women’s Lib. I even heard rumors about exotic experiments in “group marriage” or communal living in cultural meccas such as San Francisco. I really hoped that the old sexual double standard was dying out all over the world.

As an erotic writer, I would love to write realistic stories about relationships based on pleasure for everyone involved, as well as general good will. I only have to turn on my TV to realize that a culture that would support such generosity is still nowhere in sight.

To write about women who are sexually exuberant, creative, as horny as animals in heat, yet also intelligent, practical and powerful, I need to write fantasy. I can’t see any alternative. A world in which women are not horribly stigmatized for enjoying sex outside the bonds of monogamous marriage (or for openly enjoying sex at all) is not the world we live in. Even now.

Consider the latest news in the media. I understand that the birth of an heir to the British throne is newsworthy, but realistically, neither the little princeling nor anyone else in his family is in a position to govern an empire. Not anymore. The arrival of little Prince George was really not a political issue, yet a horde of reporters has been endlessly commenting on the miracle of an ordinary birth, the new mother's wardrobe, the princeling’s pedigree, and the reactions of everyone on the scene. Why has this event pushed every war off the front page of every English-language newspaper? Could it be a hysterical celebration of traditional marriage and childbearing? Could it be that Princess Kate is being held up as a model for all women in contrast to the waywardness of her deceased mother-in-law, Princess Diana?

Well, maybe I’m being a grinch about all this. The princeling looks cute (as far as I can tell) and his parents look happy. I wish them all well.

However, there’s more. Anthony Weiner, currently running for Mayor of New York City, was caught “sexting” yet again. He has apologized to his wife and the voting public for making inappropriate comments to someone in cyberspace, and for displaying his, um, weiner. He has apologized and asked for public support.

Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York state, another married man who was caught in an indiscretion, is now running for Comptroller of New York. He also hopes the public can forgive him, and he has supporters.

While we’re focusing on New York, let’s consider Melissa Petro, who is not currently featured in the news. She is a gorgeous young woman who sold sex via Craigslist for 11 months while she was a graduate student. In due course, she earned her degree and a job as an elementary school teacher in the Bronx. By all accounts, she was loved by her students and respected by her colleagues. In September 2010, she protested the closing of the “adult services” section of Craigslist by writing about her experience under her real name.

See her piece, “Thoughts from a Former Craigslist Sex Worker” here:

The administration of her school discovered this admirably clear, brief, straightforward article and fired Melissa. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg himself, said that she should be removed from the classroom. Since then, she has not been able to find another teaching job. It looks as if her teaching career has ended because she is known as a Fallen Woman. So much for human rights in the workplace.

Maybe Canada is a more humane country for young women to live in. After all, Canadian women got equal status with men (on paper) in 1982, when the Charter of Equality Rights was signed. In 1983, our laws against rape (as it used to be called) were thoroughly overhauled, it was renamed sexual assault, and no longer has anything to do with the victim’s reputation, in theory. In 2005, we got same-sex marriage, which implies that all spouses (including the heterosexual majority) have equal status under the law.
Surely any girl who is growing up in Canada now is even better-off than I was. But no.

In September 2012, 15-year-old Amanda Todd, who lived near Vancouver, British Columbia (on the west coast) posted a heartbreaking 9-minute video about how she had been hounded since she sent an image of her naked breasts via webcam to a man she met in cyberspace. This event eventually caused her to change schools twice in a fruitless effort to escape being persecuted as a “bad girl.” After two unsuccessful suicide attempts which were met with ridicule, she succeeded in October 2012.

This was not an isolated case. A 17-year-old on the opposite coast (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) hanged herself in April 2013. Rehtaeh Parsons had been persecuted for two years, since four boys had sex with her at a drunken teenage bash, someone photographed the scene with a cellphone, and these pictures went viral. Rehtaeh’s mother has defined the event as gang-rape and has criticized local police for not taking action sooner. A national reporter on court cases, Christie Blatchford, has claimed there was not enough evidence in this case to prosecute anyone for sexual assault.

Rehtaeh’s stepfather responded to Christie Blatchford by pointing out that Rehtaeh’s state of intoxication (as shown in the cellphone images) indicated that she could not have given meaningful consent.

Any resemblance to another recent case involving a drunken teenage bash in Steubenville, New York, is painfully obvious.

I am not interested in arguing whether Rehtaeh Parsons was sexually assaulted or not, or whether Amanda Todd, as a “child,” responded to a dare by exposing herself to a stranger because she didn’t know any better. Re Melissa Petro, she was a grown woman who clearly arranged to meet men for the purpose of exchanging sexual services for money.

None of these events seems to me to be an adequate reason for the orgy of harassment, ostracism and life-threatening abuse that followed. As far as I can see, none of this is about “bullying in school” or the ages of the victims or the use of modern technology (evil computers). This is about the persistent, irrational hatred of young women who are perceived to be sexual beings.

This is Biblical, like the stoning of the woman taken in adultery—except that, in that case, Christ was her advocate.

When reading and hearing about these cases, I find it hard to stay calm and focus on writing fiction. Whatever happens to male politicians who cheat on their wives, in person or in cyberspace, they are not subjected to the lynch-mob persecution of any woman who is even suspected of being less than “pure.”

So far, the media loves Princess Kate, with her breezy, “modern” fashion sense and her apparent immersion in an ancient feminine role. As long as she never steps out of line, she might not be attacked.

We all need to imagine and create a better culture. We need it now, before another case hits the headlines.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We Will Thwart You, and Then We Will Mock You

By Kathleen Bradean

Please read Remittance Girl’s excellent write-up on all things censorship in the UK. Then don’t get too cozy, my US friends, seeing as we’re living in a pre-fascist society hurtling toward doom of our own making if things don’t turn around fast. And Canadians, gosh, I hate to say it, seeing as you’re usually the sensible neighbor compared to our ‘drunken frat boy passed out on the lawn, ‘ but you’ve got some weird-assed reactionary crap going on under your own roof lately too.
It seems the churches have about given up on controlling us. I mean, they do try, but even the choir is sneaking out during the sermon to play hide the communion wafer with each other. So here come our governments stepping into the power void. Seems humans can’t survive without someone wagging a finger in our faces. They learned from the churches that the best way to control people is to thwart natural sexuality, but the government doesn’t want to be obvious about it, so they’re trying to shut down the ability of UK citizens to search for erotica and adult content.

Hmm. Amazon just won a HUGE contract to host government stuff on their server farms. Perhaps the whole ‘hide the literary salami’ game where they disappeared all erotica (except big seller FSOG from a big publisher got a magical pass) was just a sales demonstration of their might with index-obliteration. Hmmm.   Oh wait, that sounds like a conspiracy theory. They probably just did it because… reasons.   “Oh, we’re Amazon, and we’ve decided money is gross! Get away, evil sales.”  Yeah. I can totes see that.

This week, Tumblr sent multiple fandoms into vaporlock by hiding all their slashy fanfic memes, as well as the sites that played by the rules and admitted they had adult content or were NSFW. (and got shamed into sort of bringing them back)

And then there’s that whole thing with Blogger turning uptight maiden auntie on anyone with links to ickle adult sites on their blogs.

This affects all of us, no matter where we are. Writers and artists, our blogs and Tumblrs and books have been banished to limbo without last rites. Not deleted, because oh no, that would be “bad” government censorship. Just made invisible. Disappeared. It’s Turn of the Screwed.

In the UK, Cameron can order Google to hide information on breast cancer. Oh, that’s not what his censorship is supposed to do, but that’s effectively what happens. We have seen it many times before. Cameron can also try to make it so consenting adults can’t read perfectly legal stories -- again collateral damage of poor policy. Or make it nearly impossible for rape victims to find  support anonymously online. And be sure that girls can never find information on their own bodies because there’s something so terrible about female genitalia that no woman must ever be allowed to see it. Do you think you can really protect people by denying them access to information, Mr Cameron?  I don't feel comfortable calling you a cynical, lying bastard without knowing for a fact that you are, so I'm going to assume that you’re so technologically illiterate that you shouldn’t ever be allowed near a piece of legislation involving the Internet, computers, surveillance, telecommunications, or any technology. Even if you are, you should know this won’t work. Ask countries that tried to block off the entire internet during revolutions and outright slaughter of their citizens. If they couldn’t stop the Tweets from finding a way past electronic borders, what chance do you think you have?

By the way, do you know which one of the examples above will find a way to reach its audience no matter what you do?  Erotica. 

You, Amazon, Tumblr, Google-- You're  just the latest wrinkle in a war that’s been raging since the first time someone picked up a stick to draw a cock in the sand and someone else kicked dirt over it. 

And we’ve always won this fight. From well-fondled copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to bawdy tales around the campfire with Chaucer, we endure.  We laugh at you, with your silly belief that you can kill an idea and control people. Pandora’s Box, baby.  It’s open, and if you try to put a lid on it, we will find another way. To reach our readers, if we must, we will sell our novels and anthologies under the genre title Romance (Let’s see you cut off 50% of your sales, Amazon). Or Westerns. Or Mysteries. Or  Literature.  Or all the genres.  To hide in plain sight, we will use euphemisms so obscure that readers will leave an Urban Dictionary tab open to figure out what’s going on. Or we will go Shakespearean on their asses. We will change faster than your filters can keep up.  We will be agile. We will be goddamn Kaiser Soze—poof, and we’re gone, as far as you know. But not really. We will always be here. Because we are writers. Because words are our fucking tools, and we know how to use them.


Here's a petition you can sign (UK citizens, one supposes), but personally, I think respectful phone calls work much better. Also, VOTING.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Series Writing

By Lucy Felthouse

Writing a series is something I put off for a while, because the idea scared me. I've been known to lose consistency in a short story, never mind a series of stories! But I knew I couldn't put it off forever, and now I'm writing two!

My first dabble at series writing started with my series of short stories based around two young men on their gap year before starting University. They were going to have lots of adventures and tumble into bed (or wherever!) with various different women. So I had a challenge on my hands, remember their likes and dislikes, personality quirks, as well as what they did with who and where. And so began my insane list. It's full of the above, and there's a list for each of my characters and the names of what women they slept with and where. It sounds pretty clinical, and I suppose it is, but it was the only way I could be sure that Ryan, the main character, didn't end up having sex with four Janes, two Emilys, three Roses, and so on. I've just finished the third book in the series and it's working for me so far, so fingers crossed it will continue to do so!

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I co-authored a novel with Lily Harlem, which was great fun. We very much just wrote and waited to see how it went. There was no planning, we literally just wrote and let the storyline and characters develop themselves. As a result, there are no notes or anything on that book. Which would have been okay... had we not decided it would be fab to write a series. We'd very much like to write about more characters from the same "world" as the first book, and so I'm currently in the process of reading through the first book and making lots of notes about the characters we're featuring in book two. Again, this is to make sure there are no inconsistencies, and so on. Also, the starting point for book two will actually be in a scene in book one, if that makes sense. Told from the new characters' perspectives, and so it's vital that any happenings and dialogue are exactly the same. It's proving fun, and I'm reacquainting myself with book one at the same time. Which is just as well, as we're hoping to see it released by the end of summer. Watch this space.

So I kind of muddled along when it came to series writing to begin with, but now I know what works for me I can continue doing it. Lots of lists and copious notes - my characters will not change hair colour in book three, honest! ;0)


Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over seventy publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best Bondage Erotica 2012 and 2013, and Best Women's Erotica 2013. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies. She owns Erotica For All, and is book editor for Cliterati. Find out more at Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Community of Spirit

By Lisabet Sarai

I discovered the Erotica Readers & Writers Association in the year 2000. Google was barely a gleam in the eyes of venture capitalists. Social networking meant going to the local singles bar. The word “blog” had not yet been coined. I was living in rural New England and accessing the Internet via a 36 kilobaud dial-up line.

I wasn't looking for a critique forum. Although I enjoyed reading erotica, I wasn't seeking a source for sexy stories or reviews of the same. No, I was searching in clueless newbie fashion for ways to get the word out about my first novel, Raw Silk, which Black Lace had published a few months earlier. Somehow I happened on a page of erotica-related links on the ERWA website (which at that point had been around for about four years, and was known as the “Erotica Readers Association”). So I emailed the webmistress and asked if she'd be willing to include a link to my brand new venture,

Adrienne sent me a kind reply in which she explained that ERWA wasn't really about advertising. However, they did have email lists for authors and others interested in sexy stories, including a list for discussing craft (Writers), a list for sharing stories and critiques (Storytime) and a list for chitchat, often about sexual topics (Parlor). Isolated in my remote, somewhat conservative town of 1500 people, half a world away from my British publisher, I eagerly accepted her invitation to join all three lists.

I canceled my subscription to Parlor in a matter of days, after being swamped with posts about returning versus not returning your supermarket cart to the designated areas. (What was sexy about that?) However, Storytime provide new thrills. I read more, and more varied, erotic stories in the first month or two on Storytime than in my whole previous existence – and found some of them both wildly imaginative and truly arousing. Furthermore, I was able to apply my excessive education to the useful task of writing crits and providing comments to some of the authors – though I read many more stories that I could critique. Participating in Storytime turned out to be a highly intimate experience, as writers tended to share pieces that revealed their own desires and fantasies.

Storytime inspired me. I wrote and posted my first flashers (only 100 words back then), painfully cutting out words to get below the limit. Targeting a short story contest announced on ERA, I wrote my first erotic short story, “Glass House” and received both warm praise (what we authors all live for) and useful suggestions for improvement. A few of my stories were selected for the Gallery. I began to read and respond to the calls for submissions on the Author Resources page. I wrote the first three chapters of my second novel, Incognito, and sent a proposal to Black Lace, only to have it roundly rejected (with the comment that Miranda wasn't the sort “kick-ass heroine” they preferred). I might have given up writing at that point if it had not been for the support of folks on the Writers list. Instead, I girded my loins and started looking for a new publisher.

Over time, I became more and more involved with ERA (which added “Writers” to become ERWA at some point, as the management recognized how important authors were to its well-being). I wrote reviews for the Smutter's Lounge, plus an occasional article for Authors Resources. In 2004 (God, has it really been that long?), Adrienne convinced me to take on the role of writing the monthly Erotic Lure newsletter. In 2006 I edited and arranged the publication of Cream: The Best of The Erotica Readersand Writers Association, which is still (in my humble opinion) one of the most satisfying and diverse erotic anthologies around (and which incidentally includes a great forward by Adrienne, covering the early history of ERWA). Last year I produced a year-long series of articles (“Naughty Bits”) covering various technology topics relevant to authors. Controlling and bossy as I am (yes, I know that's kind of odd for a submissive), I also agreed to serve as ERWA blog coordinator. 

Looking back now, after thirteen years, I'm astonished at how much this place means to me. I've come to know individuals here whom I'd place in the circle of my dearest friends – even though in some cases, we've never met in person. When I have had the chance for face-to-face time with folks I first encountered at ERWA, it often feels as though we've known one another forever. In the real world, there are very few people to whom I can reveal my identity as an author of erotica. At ERWA I'm free to be myself.

For me, ERWA is a community of spirit. Someone who just learned about the place might think that the biggest draw was the ability to speak and write frankly about sexual matters, in an environment where such topics are welcome rather than taboo. Sure, that's a great feature, but today there are many adult-oriented on-line communities. ERWA is special because of its literary focus. The people who end up on the Writers list, at least, are passionate about reading and writing – and not just in the erotica genre. They care deeply about words. They recognize that storytelling is a definitively human activity. And many have a profound understanding of both the mystery and the craft involved in spinning an effective tale.

We tend to whine about how hard it is to succeed as an author these days. In fact, I've watched many of my colleagues here move from amateurs to professionals with dozens of books to their credit. Pick up any recently published erotica anthology and you'll see familiar names from the Gallery and Writers. Search Amazon and our members come up as editors of award-winning collections. Several members have even gone on to establish their own independent publishing ventures. As far as I know E.L. James has never been a member of ERWA, but considering the difficulties involved in getting anyone to take erotica seriously, I'd say we're doing pretty well.

And of course, ERWA has been instrumental in my own career, such as it is. I'm an old-timer now, but when I first joined, I knew nothing about publishing or marketing. I barely knew that the genre of erotica existed, and I'd never read an erotic romance. I had lots of arousing fantasies, but my dialogue was wooden and my convoluted sentence structure like something from the nineteenth century. Now I have a back list that's pages long – I've stopped counting since it's hard to know exactly what criteria to apply, but certainly nobody could claim I was a one-book wonder.

I suspect that without ERWA, I'd never have gotten this far. Without the support (moral and immoral) of my fellow authors, I might not have wanted to.

If you've been around this community for anywhere near as long as I have, I think you know what I am talking about. If you're new – if you've been trying to get your erotic visions out of your head and into a manuscript, if you feel ostracized because of your fascination with things sexual, if you've always loved to read and write but haven't dared to think about publication - all I can say is welcome. You probably belong here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Sexiest Movie You’ve Ever Seen

by Donna George Storey

I happened to be leafing through a rather thick folder in my filing cabinet labeled “Ideas for Writing,” when I found an article I’d clipped from the November 28, 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly: “50 Sexiest Movies Ever” (and this predating the elevation of the number fifty to erotic heights by several years). The authors guaranteed it was a list of “the hottest films you’ll ever see.”

I’m sure I kept the article more as a study of what mainstream America considers sexy rather than a source of ideas for future stories—not that there’s anything wrong with theft if you give the story your unique imprint. As I did the first time I read the article, I skimmed the list for movies I’d seen, comparing my reaction to the official score of the squad of journalists. For each movie, they’d also chosen a “sexiest moment,” which invited another opportunity for comparison.

I can’t say there was all that much agreement on either score, although a few movies did bring a nod of approval. In the Mood for Love, a Hong Kong film set in 1962, with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as cuckolded spouses who slowly develop their own achingly unconsummated passion, did indeed show that “what doesn’t happen is just thrilling as what does.” sex, lies and videotape is another personal favorite, especially those interview scenes, and The Year of Living Dangerously and A Streetcar Named Desire both had a smoldering, but doomed quality that only sharpened the erotic edge.

I had not yet seen Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, the number one choice of the journalists, so, as a matter of professional duty, I rented it. Most of the movie was routine thriller, but to my surprise, the climactic erotic scene—the flirtatious conversation in the hotel lounge at night—was one of the sexiest bits of celluloid I’d ever seen, porn included. And it was all talk and innuendo. Words, words, words. I guess I am cut out to be an erotic writer after all.

Many of the other movies didn’t work so well for me. Little Children, a less-restrained story of adulterous love between Kate Winslett and Patrick Wilson, gave us intercourse on the washing machine (pretty ridiculous, actually), but made sure to lay on the anti-sex message by throwing in a disgusting sex-addict husband, a pedophile predator as villain and (spoiler alert) just punishment for adultery with a freak skateboarding accident. And I never really got the excitement about the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct, where Sharon Stone flashes her pantyless crotch at a line of drooling cops who somehow decided a standard room with a table wasn’t a good idea for this particular suspect. Are men really that sex-crazed that they would let a woman get away with murder because she isn’t wearing underwear?

Possibly, but I sure hope my local detectives are a little more conscientious.

Whatever the lack of agreement, I do believe our favorite erotic scenes in film are clues to our erotic imaginations, just as favorite erotic stories offer clues to what makes our libido tick. Clearly for me, the exploration of erotic desire through words and suggestive images are more powerful than the often disappointing realization of sex on camera. But was I so different from the rest of America in finding no more than few of these “sexiest movies” (let’s add my check mark for Don’t Look Now, Body Heat, Maurice, and The English Patient) at all sexy?

Then, in that lazy way summer leads to fortuitous connections, I remembered a chapter in one of my favorite, but alas out-of-print, sex guides, Are We Having Fun Yet?: The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Sex by Marcia and Lisa Douglass. In their “Pop Porn” chapter, they describe a fictional couple watching a typical Hollywood sex scene. The focus is on the impossibly gorgeous woman’s body and her reactions while the male body is shrouded by shadows and clever positioning--camera as desiring male gaze. Thus “foreplay” is essentially the display of the female’s body. Intercourse itself takes less than a minute and involves the man thrusting and giving a long final groan of release, while the woman arches her neck and closes her eyes and doesn’t do anything to suggest an orgasm happens, but seems satisfied all the same. After the show, the fictional boyfriend exclaims that the sex was hot, while his date knows she’s supposed to agree, but is annoyed by the lack of consideration for what she finds sexy.

He gets his fantasies fed along with his movie snack, she has to make do with “pop porn.”

Douglass and Douglass define pop porn as “the pervasive panorama of female flesh—the high-heeled foot, breasts spilling out of a low-cut gown, the pouting red lips, the sultry stare from under a thick mane—that is the everyday stuff of popular media.” Although many of us think we can avoid porn by staying away from the X-rating, we’re still getting eroticized visual entertainment aimed chiefly at straight men everywhere we turn. Most of us are so used to the bias, we barely notice it, but on an unconscious level, we’re getting the message that is what Sex Is.

The good news is that erotica today does offer more for female readers. Fifty Shades of Grey, whatever one’s opinion of the writing, clearly satisfied female desire on a wildly popular scale. It remains to be seen what the Hollywood version will do with this female fantasy cinematically. I’m not expecting a revolution of camera work, but will certainly read the reviews to see whom they satisfy, if nothing else. I’d be even happier if some of the work by ERWA writers was translated to the big screen. Perhaps that day will come and Entertainment Weekly will have some real gems to review?

In the meantime, I’m curious if you, dear reader, have any movies you’d recommend for subtle, simmering or even believably desperate and passionate sex scenes? Many long, hot days and nights of summer still lie before us. I myself would add The Lover, Raise the Red Lantern, and the “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?” scene in To Have and Have Not.

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at or