Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Orthodox Erotica

By Oxartes (Guest Blogger)

 
I joined ERWA in September 2006 and began writing erotica, as a hobby, about a year before that. Nothing that would justify me being this month's guest blogger, right? Well, what is out of the ordinary and what might justify my being this month's guest blogger is that I'm an orthodox Jew.

You'll have never read anything I've written, except on the ERWA site (with one exception, check out Jewrotica), for one very simple reason, other than I consider myself a rank amateur, especially in comparison to the excellent, excellent writers here at ERWA. I'm afraid, I'm very afraid. I certainly don't see a contradiction between my writing erotica (that ranges from PG-13 to XXX) and my being an orthodox (as opposed to ultra-orthodox) Jew; if I did I wouldn't be here. But I live in an entirely orthodox area here in Israel (moved here 27+ years ago) and I don't think that my friends and neighbors would be so generous. On the contrary, they would probably consider what I right to be rank pornography. The fact that I've written several stories based on accounts in the Bible would only make it worse, much worse. I might be judging my friends and neighbors too harshly but I don't care to ever find out. So, I have a mania about staying as deeply anonymous and underground as possible. I won't risk my family being ostracized. So why do I write?

I started erotic and/or paranormal fiction, as an escape, a sanctuary from the darkling plain (I love that poem) outside my door. (I do live in the Middle East.) The shadows that I create sure beat the insanity outside. Lots of people here live, eat, breathe and sleep "the situation" (as we call the Arab-Israeli conflict). They read books about it, talk about it on Shabbat and are totally preoccupied with it. It defines them. I can't and won't live like that. I live it and will never be away from it. But I won't become consumed by it, I won't let it define me. In order to keep my sanity, I need some respite and sanctuary from it. This is where writing fits in. It's where I can forget the reality outside my window and help keep the wolves at bay. It's where I can relax, unwind and have fun. I write purely as a (secret) hobby, as R&R and as a kind of therapy (to let off emotional/psychic steam). That I can immerse myself in fictional realities helps me deal with "real" reality. This is what writing does for me. I've never really had a hobby before; it's very relaxing. Why specifically erotica? I really don't know but it's a lot of fun and I'm enjoying the hell out of myself.

Verse #45 of Omar Khayyam's "The Rubaiyat" says:

"But leave the Wise to wrangle,
and with me The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,
Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee."

Writing is the corner in which I leave the Wise to wrangle, let the Quarrel of the Universe be and in which I couch and make Game of the lot! Writing has become such a part of me that I really can't see not writing.

Erica Jong writes:

"Never does she feel more truly 'successful' as a writer than when she sees what passions her works arouse in people. One writes alone in blissful, or paranoid, solitude...So, to see actual fellow humans being moved to laughter, tears, and argument by one's work -- that is vindication. One is a good social being after all."

I've created a series of stories about succubi and incubi. I've written several stories based on people/accounts from the Bible. Being an orthodox Jew, I've created an orthodox Jewish couple and written about them.

If I cause my readers to laugh (or just smile; I'm not greedy), cry, puke, argue or be entertained or moved in any way, then I figure I must be doing something right.

Do I have moral qualms about writing erotica?

There are certain things, especially in regard to Bible-based stories that I won't do. Someone suggested that I write about David and Jonathan. I'll pass. (Personally, I find the idea that they were gay wholly unsupported by the text. But I have written gay/lesbian stories.) On the other hand, I had no qualms whatsoever about writing how Delilah sexually tortured Samson into telling her the secret of his strength (our sages comment on Judges 16:16 and say that's exactly what she did) or about King Solomon sleeping with the Queen of Sheba (our sages say he did) or about creating wholly fictional accounts about who the woman from Thebez was who dropped a millstone on Abimelech's head (Judges 9:53-55), or how evil Queen Athaliah could've actually gone into the Temple at the precise moment when High Priest Jehoiada was launching his coup d'etat against her. (II Kings 11:13-16). I started a story about David and Bath-Sheba from Bath-Sheba's point-of-view but didn't like the way it was going; I've shelved it for now.

On Yom Kippur, whatever qualms I still have about writing erotica give way to thoughts about my temper and judging others, about being a better husband/father/son, etc. Am I shortchanging God thereby? I don't mean to and I sure hope that He doesn't see it that way. I see myself as kind of like God's court jester. His Majesty keeps me around and lets me say outrageous stuff (within limits) because He knows that I love Him and am His most loyal subject, flawed as I am.

I love to read history. My pen name, "Oxartes", is a hybrid of "Oxus" and "Jaxartes". These Asian rivers were, to the ancient Greeks and Romans, the barely known end/edge of the civilized world. They were mysterious in and of themselves and marked the border between the known and the vast unknown. I find writing a way to explore the unknown in my psyche.

I adore Bram Stoker's Dracula. I have a little Bantam paperback edition (very dog-eared by now) that I reread every year or so. It has an introduction by someone named George Stade who writes:

"(...)

Bram Stoker's Dracula, in short, is an apparition of what we repress, particularly eros. To be bitten by Dracula is to become slave to a kind of lust, abandoned to unlawful hungers, a projection of the beholder's desire and dread...

Dracula is the symptom of a wish, largely sexual, that we wish we did not have. The effect of repression is to turn a hunger into a horror; the image of a repressed longing as it appears in a dream or a fiction is a sinister shape that threatens with what it promises, that insinuates the desire beneath the fear...

For Dracula is a classic, a book that tells us not what happened but shows us something of what happens wherever there are humans. The fear of death and the fear of the dead and the dream of immortality; the psychological and sexual dialectic within us of mastery and submission, of sadism and masochism, of the desire to hurt those we love and be hurt by them for our desires, the conflict within us between knowledge turned into civilizing power and the power of unknowable and uncivil urges, the alternating control over us of the moonlit energies of the night, when fantasies rise from our sleeping heads to enact our darkest desires, and the waking renunciations of the day, and define manhood and womanhood -- these have always been with us. In Dracula, for all its occasional clumsiness and systematic naivete, Stoker transformed what was merely personal or only of his time into images of something more -- of something at once monstrous and definitively human."

For me, much of the erotica that I write is where I give voice to those repressed hungers and uncivil urges and enact my (darkest?) desires, and not only let them frolic in the moonlit energies of the night but get naked and frolic right there with them (as it were).

I suppose some/much of what I write is personal fantasy and repressed wish fulfillment. It's fun, and I suppose, therapeutic to be able to give voice to my fantasies and repressed wishes.

As fun as writing the occasional raunchy stroke piece (i.e. sex for sex's sake) can be, the story is very important to me. I like writing stories with varied, often historical, backgrounds. I've always liked doing research and try to make my historical settings as accurate as possible. Among the earlier things that I wrote is a series of ten stories about succubi and incubi. In the order in which I wrote them, they take place in modern-day New York, 1302 Ghent, modern-day New York again, 9th-century west Africa, modern-day Buffalo, 1880's London (involving Jack the Ripper), a Jewish community in 1702 Pinsk, Atlantis and then Carthage on the eve of its fall to Rome (this is the "origin" story), Tibet during the Cultural Revolution and 10th-century Mesoamerica. I would like to go back to the series one day, rewrite some of the earlier stories (I think my writing has improved since then) and write some new ones. I have ideas for stories in modern-day Honduras, ancient India (with a guest appearance by the Buddha, no less!) and late 19th century Samoa.

I've written a trilogy of short stories set in ancient China, a few Norse mythology tales, two (unrelated) stories set against the background of the US Civil War and several Israeli (as opposed to Jewish) stories. I've given an erotic makeover to several classic fairy tales, written about voracious snake- and spider-women and tried some fan fiction (if Darth Vader was motivated by anger, guess what motivated Darth Maia??).

One of the things I love about the creative process is how ideas take root and develop. Once in a while an idea will spring fully-formed, Athena-like, from my head and I will just have to flesh it out. What has become my magnum opus, what I'm working on now and which I would eventually like to try and publish, has been the exact opposite.

In November 2007, I wrote a 4,000-word story "The Vow" (in the ERWA Treasure Chest) about Alex, an orthodox Jewish private investigator, a former cop and a widower, in New York who stumbles across a ghost, a beautiful Jewish woman who died in 1931, and with whom he must have sex in order to release her from a terrible vow. When I wrote it I had no idea for a sequel.

But an idea took root and just wouldn't let go. Building on the characters and setting of "Vow" (which I did not rewrite), in May 2010, "Fiend in Need" was born. (It is just under 20,000 words and is also in the ERWA Treasure Chest.). As opposed to "Vow" (which is an almost sweet story of self-discovery), the issues in "Fiend" are larger and considerably darker. Here's a spoiler: "Fiend" and the as-yet nameless sequel (almost 37,000 words so far) are my version of the Lilith legend. Lilith stars in "Fiend", as does my other new main character, Devorah, whom Lilith possesses and whom Alex eventually marries. "Vow" and "Fiend" are told in the first person, by Alex. As-yet-nameless sequel (in which the issues are larger and darker still) is being told in the first person, by Devorah. Writing in a female voice is proving to be quite a challenge, and a lot of fun.

Creating Lilith is a challenge in and of herself. She is the villain but I want her to be understandable, tragic, even sympathetic to a degree. I do not want her to be some monochrome figure who is more caricature than character. As-yet-nameless sequel really revolves around the struggle between two strong-willed women, Lilith and Devorah, with Alex playing more of a supporting role.

I have a general idea for the plot for "sequel" but I'm finding that I'm changing things as I go along. Often an idea that I have in my head just doesn't come out right on my monitor. Often, as I'm writing, an idea will take shape and run more or less on its own and it fits and I like it. The creative process can be such a hoot.

I guess this is me.

Questions?

L'chaim!

Oxartes

Oxartes is 50, married for 25+ years, the proud the father of two teenage sons and the proud owner of two dogs (who, unlike the teenage sons, actually listen). He moved to Israel from the US 27+ years ago.

4 comments:

  1. Your Alex stories are among the best things I've read in fourteen years at ERWA. Honestly. I do hope you'll put them together and publish them at some point, so that a larger audience can enjoy your creativity.

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  2. Thanks for sharing. Have you tried anything for the Blasphemy Anthology?
    I think many of us get the anonymity thing. It's funny (sad) how judgment works. The three great monotheistic religions are responsible for unending horrors beyond counting but would kick you out of the camp for your harmless fantasies.
    I'll join the legions who encourage you to try to publish. In my demented thinking, if you have a story in your heart, chances are it will resonate with dozens, hundreds and maybe even millions of people. Sometimes you can even sneak in a little message about love, kindness and your fellow man.

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  3. Oxartes, this peak into your motivations and sources is fascinating. I agree that your writing deserves to be published.

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  4. Yes, what a wonderful post! I would love to read more of your work.

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