Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Olfactory Voyeurism

My husband’s making toast. The smell catapults me back to childhood days when my mother made me tea and toast for breakfast before sending me off to school, and I can’t keep from salivating. Toast is one of those scents that makes me want some even when I’m not hungry – like popcorn and bread baking. Yesterday evening when I went out to water the garden, I could smell the neighbors’ dinner cooking. I could pick up the scent of something frying in fresh oil, probably chips. The ocean under-smell of fish, told me that it was most likely fish and chips from the chippie picked up on the way home for a quick dinner after a hard day’s work.

I’ve been very aware of scents these past few weeks. My WIP is the story of a woman with a very gifted sense of smell. I’ve always been intrigued by scents and the emotions and the memories they elicit and by the little sneak peeks they offer us into the lives of those around us. That’s why I decided to see what would happen if the story I chose to tell was the story of sex and love and passion and all the emotions that are a part of the package experienced chiefly through the sense of smell.  What does curiosity smell like? What does anger smell like? How about fear?

Of course all of those things would be different for everyone who smelled them. Fish and chips are easy, but a perfume that smells gorgeous on someone else might smell like bug spray on me. The smell of an unwashed human might smell like wet garbage to one person while that same unwashed human may smell like sex on wheels to someone else. How does the scent of two aroused individuals change when those two have sex? And does arousal smell different from foreplay, intercourse, orgasm and the snuggle and snooze that follows?

Since I was a child, I’ve never liked to share a sleeping space with anyone. I still don’t want anyone but my husband in my sleeping space and I’ve never wanted to invade anyone else’s – even when no one is sleeping there. I find the smell of sleep both off-putting and arousing, and most definitely intriguing. The scent of sleep is the scent of people with their defenses down, the scent of people vulnerable, the scent of people entering their unconscious, their dream space. That’s way too intimate to share with strangers.

I’ve never made any bones about being a voyeur at heart, and I’m happy to sneak a peek whenever I can. But writing from an olfactory point of view is no less a voyeuristic experience, and in so many ways much more evocative. Scent is much more intimate than sight. What I can see with my eyes, I don’t have to actually take into myself. There’s a certain distance, a certain sterility about a room with a view that just isn’t there when the sense of smell is engaged.

Olfactory voyeurism is as intimate as the breath we breathe. It’s literally in our face – inside our face, and beyond that it even enters our lungs with the in and out of oxygen that keeps us alive. There’s nothing sterile or sanitary about it. It can be a fresh-baked bread and honey seduction or it can be a stale piss and garbage assault, but it can never be something that happens through a telescope or behind glass.

I read once we humans actually have an excellent sense of smell that we’ve simply forgotten how to
use. We’re mammals. Mammals experience the world through their sense of smell. Granted we humans have had lots of the lovely smells that would intrigue other mammals bathed, sanitized and deodorized away from us. I think we do that because the assault of scent is just so damned personal and intimate. No one wants to ‘smell.’ Maybe that’s because the way we smell unwashed, just up from the bed, just after a sweaty fuck, says too much about who we are in a world where secrets are much harder to keep and masks are much more important.

I’m certainly not advocating a moratorium on bathing or perfume, but I can’t keep from wondering what else we might experience if we made the effort to exercise our sense of smell a little more and build up our olfactory muscles. Could we smell fear, curiosity, arousal, anger, contentment? How much more information about the world around us could we pick up if we were a little more attuned to our sense of smell? But then again, how would we cope with the extra level of intimacy actually ‘smelling’ each other would give us and with the level of vulnerability that would bring?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Erotic Fairy Tales

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. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


I'm putting together a book of erotic fairy tales. I've already written several, including erotic retellings of the usual suspects like Red Riding Hood, The Pied Piper, and Cinderella. I'm often asked to tackle specific ones, and popular suggestions are The Three Pigs and Beauty and the Beast.

I grew up with Disney's versions of classic fairy tales, but I have also read many of them, and I'm very much aware of how dark and sinister most fairy tales are. I prefer the stories in their original forms. Snow White was not only felled by a poisoned apple. The wicked queen began her assault with a poisoned comb and then a too-tight corset. The wicked queen also did not die in a fall off a cliff per the Disney version. Granted, Disney's version was pretty grim (pardon the pun), but in the original tale she was tortured by being forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she keeled over dead.

A friend of mine had taken her daughter to see "The Little Mermaid" and she wanted to buy the book of fairy tales so her daughter could read her favorite one. I warned her The Little Mermaid does not get the prince in the end. I also told her about how when The Little Mermaid walked she felt as if her feet were being cut by sharp knives. Each step was excruciatingly painful. Neither fact was in the Disney version.

Fairy tales are chock full of symbolism that lends itself easily to an erotic retelling. Many of these tales are about protecting the innocence of girlhood. Others were about sexual awakening. Cinderella is one of the latter. Cinderella's glass slippers and feet were small, hinting at her virginity and her intact hymen. Rapunzel is clearly about a girl reaching womanhood, especially since she becomes pregnant in the original tale. The tale dances around her pregnancy, though. The witch, unaware of the prince's visits, asks why her dress has become so tight. Then later, Rapunzel is shown with two children. She had sex with the prince! Oh, horrors! LOL Red Rdiing Hood was originally ravished by the wolf. In French slang, a girl who loses her virginity is referred to as "elle avoit vû le loup" – she had seen the wolf. The connotation is clear.

While it's easy to eroticize fairy tales, it's also easy to fall into stereotypical traps. Cinderella's prince has a foot fetish. Snow White has a ménage with seven men. Red Riding Hood is accosted by a rake. Rapunzel's pubic hair grows out. It can be a bit tough to take these tales in a non-stereotypical direction.

In addition to the more common fairy tales, one friend suggested I eroticize The Dancing Princesses, which is one I don't hear very much about. That got me to thinking about obscure fairy tales. Why not tackle one or two of those?

My favorite fairy tale is very obscure. It's Scandinavian, and it's entitled "The Enchanted Wreath". This one is about preserving girlish purity in my opinion. Have you ever noticed it's always the youngest and most innocent of the daughters who attracts the magic? Here's the synopsis: (from Wikipedia)

A man had a wife, and both of them had a daughter from an earlier marriage. One day, the man took his daughter to cut wood and found when he returned that he had left his ax. He told his wife to send her daughter for it, so it would not grow rusty. The stepmother said that his daughter was already wet and, besides, was a strong girl who could take a little wet and cold.

The girl found three doves perched on the axe, looking miserable. She told them to fly back home, where it would be warmer, but first gave them crumbs from her bread. She took the axe and left. Eating the crumbs made the birds feel much better, and they gave her an unfading wreath of roses, with tiny birds singing in it. The stepmother pulled it off, and the birds flew off and the roses withered.

The next day, the father went alone and left his axe again. The stepmother was delighted and sent her own daughter. She found the doves and ordered them off as "dirty creatures." They cursed her to never be able to say anything except "dirty creatures."

The stepmother beat her stepdaughter, and was all the angrier when the doves restored the wreath to its condition and the girl's head. One day, a king's son saw her and took her off to marry her. The news of them made the stepmother and her daughter quite ill, but they recovered when the stepmother made a plan. She had a witch make a mask of her stepdaughter's face. Then she visited her, threw her into the water, and put her daughter in her place, before setting out to see if the same witch could give her something to cure the doves' curse on her daughter.

Her husband was distraught by the change in her, but thought it stemmed an illness. He thought he saw his bride in the water, but she vanished. After twice more seeing her, he was able to catch her. She turned into various animals, a hare, a fish, a bird, and a snake, but he cut off the snake's head, and the bride became a human again.

The stepmother returned with an ointment that would work only if the true bride had really been drowned; she put it on her daughter's tongue and found it did not work. The prince found them and said they deserved to die, but the stepdaughter had persuaded him to merely abandon them on a desert island.

Another obscure fairy tale that made my radar is Hans Christian Anderson's "The Shadow". This one could be turned into a tale of dark and light mistaken identity. Here's the synopsis (from Wikipedia):

Once a learned man from the northern regions of Europe went on a voyage south. One night, he sat on his terrace, while the fire behind him cast his shadow on the opposite balcony. As he was sitting there, resting, the man was amused to observe how the shadow followed his every movement, as if he really did sit upon the opposing balcony. When he finally grew tired and went to sleep, he imagined the shadow would likewise retire in the house across the street. The next morning however, the man found to his surprise that he in fact had lost his shadow overnight. As a new shadow slowly grew back from the tip of his toes, the man did not give the incident another thought, returned to northern Europe, and took up writing again. Several years passed by until one night there was a knock at his door. To his surprise, it was his shadow, the one he lost years before in Africa, and now stood upon his doorstep, almost completely human in appearance. Astonished by his sudden reappearance, the learned man invited him into his house, and soon the two sat by the fireplace, as the shadow related how he had come to be man.

The learned man was calm and gentle by nature. His main object of interest lay with the good, the beautiful and the true, a subject of which he wrote often but was of no interest to anyone else. The shadow said his master did not understand the world, that he had seen it as truly was, and how evil some men really were.

The shadow then grew richer and fatter over the years, while the writer grew poorer and paler. Finally he had become so ill that his former shadow proposed a trip to a health resort offering to foot the bill as well, but on condition that he could act as the master now, and the writer would pretend to be his shadow. As absurd as this suggestion sounded, the learned man eventually agreed and together they took the trip, the shadow now as his master. At the resort, the shadow met with a beautiful princess, and as they danced and talked with each other each night, the princess fell in love with him.

When they were about to be married, the shadow offered his former master a luxurious position at the palace, on condition that he now became his own shadow permanently. The writer immediately refused and threatened to tell the princess everything, but the shadow had him arrested. Feigning his distraught, the shadow met with the princess and told her:

"I have gone through the most terrible affair that could possibly happen; only imagine, my shadow has gone mad; I suppose such a poor, shallow brain, could not bear much; he fancies that he has become a real man, and that I am his shadow."
"How very terrible,” cried the princess; "is he locked up?"
"Oh yes, certainly; for I fear he will never recover."
"Poor shadow!" said the princess; "it is very unfortunate for him; it would really be a good deed to free him from his frail existence; and, indeed, when I think how often people take the part of the lower class against the higher, in these days, it would be policy to put him out of the way quietly."

When the shadow wed the princess later that night, the learned man was already executed.

Here's another unusual one I'd heard of from years ago. It borders on bestiality. It's called "The She-Bear", and here's the synopsis:

After his wife dies, a King decides that the only woman in the world who matches his dead wife’s beauty is his own daughter Preziosa – therefore, Preziosa must now marry her deranged father. He tells her that if she will not marry him that very evening then ‘’when I am finished with you there will be nothing left but your ears’’.

An old woman then gives the terrified girl an enchanted bit of wood that will turn her into a bear when she puts it in her mouth. Preziosa – now a bear—flees into the forest and resolves never again to reveal her true form lest her father learns of her whereabouts. A prince discovers the wonderfully friendly she-bear in the woods and takes her home to be his pet.

One day when she believes she is alone, Preziosa takes the bit of wood out of her mouth to brush her hair. The prince looks out his window, spies a gorgeous maiden in his garden and rushes out to find her, but she hears him coming and quickly puts the wood back into her mouth. The prince searches throughout the garden but he cannot find the maiden anywhere—in her place is only his pet she-bear.

The prince becomes sick with lust for the bear-girl and begins to waste away. On request from her son, the prince’s mother sends for the she-bear who is now to reside in the princes bedroom, cook his meals and make his bed for him. The prince becomes overcome with lust for the bear, and begs his mother to let him kiss the animal.

While the mother watches and encourages them enthusiastically, man and bear lock lips. They are kissing so passionately that the bit of wood slips from Preziosa’s mouth and the prince finds that he now holds a stunningly beautiful maiden in his arms. Rejoicing, they get married, and presumably everybody lives happily ever after.

I may tackle these for my upcoming new fairy tale anthology. There are others, too, many of them Asian, that interest me. Look for my new book "Wicked Fairy Tales" coming out in the fall.

Here's information and buy links for my two current erotic fairy tales:

CLIMBING HER TOWER (Erotic Rapunzel)

Blurb: This isn't your mother's Rapunzel.
This erotic version of Rapunzel, "Climbing Her Tower" depicts Rapunzel as a voracious woman who discovers the joys of kinky sex with a sexy prince with a few unusual kinks of his own. This story includes BDSM, M/F, M/F/F, virgin fantasy, and erotic shaving. You'll get so hot you'll want to let your hair down as well! Let Rapunzel and her prince take you on the sexual ride of a lifetime. Absolutely only for 18 years and over.
""Climbing Her Tower" is an erotic twist to the fairy tale Rapunzel. I sure love a good fairy tale and this hot and steamy tale doesn't disappoint." -- Beverly at Sizzling Hot Book Reviews
"Climbing Her Tower has all that and more. It is the story of Rapunzel told with a bit of a BDSM twist." -- Hitherandthee from Night Owl Reviews
WARNING: Rapunzel isn't sweet and innocent. In this fairy tale erotica, she tires of being a virgin and craves the touch of Prince Richard's hands all over her body. Although she begins naive, she blossoms with sexual excitement under the watchful eye of her prince, who introduces her to BDSM, erotic shaving, and deep penetration. He leaves her wanting more, and you will want more too!


Blurb: This isn't your mother's Puss In Boots.
This erotic version of Puss In Boots, "Trouble In Thigh High Boots" is a story packed with hot, sexy, body humping adult fairy tale erotica.
"Trouble in Thigh High Boots is a delightfully creative retelling of the Puss in Boots tale. It is a tale that has been told myriad times, but never in such a wonderfully imaginative way. The characters are enchanting, and the story flows beautifully. The love scenes are sizzling." -- Hitherandthee of Night Owl Reviews
WARNING: Tita isn't your run of the mill Puss In Boots. She's a cat shapeshifter who turns into a mouth-wateringly sexy human woman with a sex drive to match. This story includes M/F, F/F, M/F/M/F, light bondage, and lactation. This erotic fairy tale will get you hot in all the right places. Definitely for only 18 years and over.

Here's where to find me on the web:

Elizabeth Black - Facebook

Elizabeth Black - Twitter

Elizabeth Black - Amazon Author Page

Saturday, July 26, 2014


by Jean Roberta

Back in the 1980s, when I was first hired to teach a class in creative writing, I was thrilled. I skimmed through my library of books to find one with useful information and some catchy phrases about the art of writing. I chose a paperback, Black Women Writers at Work, edited by Claudia Tate.*

It’s a series of interviews with a dozen or so of the best-known African-American women writers of the time. (Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange and Alice Walker are a few.) I loved that book, and still do. I also reread The Complete Works of W.E.B. Dubois (an African-American who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in the early twentieth century, against the odds) and found it surprisingly undated and inspiring.

Note that I did not go out of my way to find non-fiction by black folk (to use Dubois’ term) or by “marginalized,” “minority,” or “grass-roots” writers so that I could claim to be Politically Correct. (I look white and I sound like an English teacher.) Reading and discussing these books was not like eating spinach for the good of my health. It was more like discovering a perfectly-spiced dish I didn’t know I would love until I tried it.

I brought up these books for a reason. Please bear with me.

Recently, I’ve reread my files of old articles from feminist journals and the mainstream press about some major conflicts of the 1980s, the era of the Feminist Sex Wars. (Several battles could have been called the Feminist Race Wars.) I did this for a reason: the director of the local university press has asked me to write about conflicts over censorship in the 1980s, with a focus on my personal involvement. He wants me to write a book. I’ve written an outline, but it’s too objective. Director wants my personal slant. This is hard to write, partly because I was a witness to several loud, damaging conflicts among people (mostly women) who once claimed to be united against injustice in all forms.

In my experience, it started with opposition to “porn.” When other young women in small feminist groups complained about the way men generally wrote about sex, I agreed with them. I had run across some sex fantasies by male writers who identified themselves as “sex radicals,” who defined “sexual freedom” as the God-given right of all heterosexual men to get laid on their own terms. They were tired of women who said no. They were especially tired of women who tried Lysistrata’s strategy of withholding sex until the men agreed to stop waging war of various kinds. Some “radical” men (such as my boyfriend in high school) used “tits and ass” as a synonym for any female person.

If “porn” was the expression of sexualized woman-hatred (as writer Andrea Dworkin and lawyer Catherine McKinnon proclaimed), then surely it was as harmful as any addictive substance. Since much dope was illegal because of its harmfulness, porn should be illegal for the same reason. This was the argument, and it seemed logical right up to the point at which model anti-porn ordinances were passed in the cities of Minneapolis and Indianapolis. The ordinances were eventually found to be unconstitutional and hard (or impossible) to enforce. What, exactly, is “porn,” and how can the harm it supposedly causes be measured? Where are the addicts who have overdosed on “porn?”

Eventually, I found a strict anti-porn position to be impossible to maintain on a personal level. I sometimes felt horny, and even attracted to particular men. Apparently there was no healthy way for a woman to express authentic lust, because lust was related to “porn,” which was bad. Even lesbian lust was untrustworthy because it involved “objectifying” women as sex objects.

I came to realize that the anti-porn, pro-censorship position was a strictly negative reaction to material that supported what is now called “rape culture.” Being anti-porn, like being celibate, was a negative state. Neither of these conditions, in itself, led to joy or to enlightenment. Being anti-porn wouldn’t resolve anything, and if all the sexual imagery in the world suddenly disappeared, its absence wouldn’t make the world a better place.

Then there was the bitter conflict over “appropriation of culture,” or as some phrased it, “appropriation of voice.” When this issue was first identified within the Women’s Press collective in Toronto, it referred to the practice of white women writers writing first-person fiction from the viewpoint of “people of colour.” As the accusations increased in scope and volume, “appropriation” came to mean any white woman writing about anyone or anything outside her own ethnicity (e.g. references to pizza or spaghetti might be considered insensitive if the author did not have at least one Italian grandmother). Of course, a white woman writer who never mentioned any “people of colour” could be accused of killing off whole communities in her imagination by leaving them out of her fictional universe.

White women righteously confronted other white women. A few “women of colour” publicly demanded that white women writers “move over” to give them space. It was never clear to me what this actually meant. Women writers had gained an amazing amount of “space” (published books) since 1970 by launching their own small presses and publishing books by women. As far as I could see, male writers and publishers had never “moved over” for women. When the men who ran traditional presses noticed that books by women were actually selling, they made a business decision to publish more of them. Women’s bookstores sprang up to sell women’s books, and a few gay/lesbian bookstores sprang up to sell books and other merchandise to an emerging gay/lesbian community. No one silenced themselves to enable this to happen.

I knew about some very impressive writing by “people of colour” (mostly written in standard English, or clearly enough that I, who had never lived in “the ghetto,” could understand it) which sometimes went out of print. If racial discrimination in literature or in the book biz was really the issue, why not start publishing good work by writers “of colour” which had been rejected by the publishing mainstream on grounds that no one wanted to read it? A few small “women of colour” presses seemed like a step in the right direction, but they didn’t seem to be the focus of flaming arguments about how best to be “anti-racist.”

In 1988, the Women’s Press issued extensive guidelines on how white women writers were supposed to write about “people of colour” – and how they should search their souls before doing any such thing. As far as I know, these guidelines didn’t increase the number of books that featured “people of colour” as central characters, and they certainly didn’t make life easier for women “of colour” who would have liked to earn a living as writers, editors, publishers, journalists, or academics.

Telling white women to shut up or face consequences (mostly from other white women) was a non-solution for a real problem. As far as I could see, this tactic produced nothing but hostility. Thus was wasted a golden (or rainbow-hued) opportunity to increase the visibility of many under-exposed writers in a time before the invention of ebooks.

A few weeks ago, I ran across an on-line article by feminist educator Melissa A. Fabello. In “Why Grammar Snobbery Has No Place in the Movement,” she makes the sensible point that on-line acronyms and shortened words (such as “thru” and “LOL”) are not a big problem in emails, as long as the message is clear. She then makes the big leap to a claim that “grammar snobbery” (an insistence on grammatical “correctness”) is a sign of patriarchal white privilege. She points out that every language is evolving, and this is why most English-speaking people no longer understand Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon, spoken before about 1100 AD). Therefore, presumably, there is no such thing as “correct” grammar.

I’ve often heard variations of this argument, usually from concerned bystanders who don’t think I have the right to fail any student, or pan any book, for any reason, even though evaluating other people’s writing is part of my job as a teacher and a reviewer. My usual response is that if I need to stop being a “grammar snob,” I need a new set of criteria by which to evaluate what I read. If “working-class English” is perfectly valid, how can it be identified, and who wrote the handbook for it? If everyone can easily understand what everyone else has to say in English, why haven’t we already achieved world peace?

Self-proclaimed peasant warriors against “grammar snobbery” are clear about what they oppose. They’re not clear about what they want to install in its place. Of course, the rules of grammar (like most laws) were established by educated white men in a time when they were almost exclusively in charge of everything. This doesn’t necessarily mean that men invented language by themselves. If there were a women’s dialect in English (as there is in some other languages), I wouldn’t blame women for using it. If “people of colour” always wrote in their own dialects of English (as distinct from other languages, as many do), I would probably want to find some useful vocabulary lists, or dictionaries. (I don’t think using the occasional word in another language turns English speech into a “dialect” per se. Nu?)

Actually, when W.E.B. Dubois was earning his Ph.D., “Negro dialect poetry,” mostly written by white writers such as Joel Chandler Harris (author of the “Uncle Remus” stories, set in the time of slavery) was fashionable in the U.S. Reading this stuff and then reading Dubois is startling. The “dialect” preserved in the “poetry” probably isn’t spoken at all any more (remember Abello’s argument about changing language?), but Dubois’ version of standard English has stood the test of time.

Today someone posted this joke on Facebook:

“I take for granite people’s poor grammar. More pacifically, how there always thinking ‘for all intensive purposes’ is supposedly correct.”

This example of grammatical incorrectness illustrates why I am not willing to stop being a “grammar snob” – to become what? To bring this rant full-circle to the issue of sex-writing, I think it’s especially important to describe desire, attraction, and sexual activity as accurately as possible with the words available to us. Hot, creative descriptions of sex between or among complex human beings did more than anything else to convince me that trying to ban “porn” was a bad strategy. I’m no longer willing to jump on an “anti” bandwagon unless I can see a better alternative.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Waving The White Flag

By Kathleen Bradean

Over the past decade, I’ve discussed, argued, and mused over erotica as a genre. Last night, while reading a piece of erotica, I decided that my arguments are invalid.

Oh, on an esoteric ‘awake at three in the morning with another writer who is like my fricking soulmate as we share profound insights into The Everything of Everythingness’ level, the ideas I fought for and against do matter. To someone. Probably an academic. And me, but I’m weird that way. But to everyone else, they don’t, because everyone else properly goes to bed at a sensible hour, doesn’t drink absinthe at cons, and likes the erotica genre because that’s what they reach for when they want to turn on their brain.

Rather than fight against the label of erotica, I’ve decided to embrace it because it’s damn useful to a writer.  Think about it. A person who picks up a romance expects a story about a relationship. No one picks up a romance then half way through asks with a suspicious glint in their eye, “Wait. Is this a kissing book?”

A writer can only put so much on the page. The reader has to bring something to the party, and the most important hostess gift-- so to speak-- is the expectation of arousal. If you’ve been thinking of sex since lunch at work, through the commute home, and during dinner, you’re going to be more primed for sex than someone who only just now thought about it as they’re climbing into bed. It makes the writers work so much easier if the reader is already willing to be turned on.

The problem with not having the erotica label on my work is far worse than having it. I imagine the wrinkled nose of a reader as they look down at their tingling groin and mutter, “Wait. Is this a fucking book?” And imagine the chirping crickets awkwardness of someone reading through a sex scene they weren’t mentally prepared for and being bored by it. They might do something to retaliate, like quote part of the scene out of context and publicly ridicule it in a contest designed to shame writers for attempting to write sex scenes in books that are not officially designated dirty, filthy smut.


Not that I find that sort of thing annoying as all get out or anything.

While I’ve been writing erotica for years, I’ve often been at odds with the label, but now I’ve decided to make my peace with it.  I know you’ve been waiting breathlessly for this moment.  ;)