Her point, and it is one I have seen made often by many erotica writers, is that this sour grapes stuff doesn't become us. That we should be supportive of each other and celebrate successes when they happen. These are nice people. I'm not saying that sneeringly. I mean it. These are kind, empathetic, nurturing people.
And I disagree with them.
First, I want to say that if the success of Fifty Shades of Grey has improved your book sales, I'm sincerely delighted for you. However, let me point out that it has not been good for erotica as a whole. In the wake of its success many of the notable publishers, agents and anthologers who used to offer a publication pathway for non-romance erotic works have either closed or switched their content focus.
If our genre was derided by literary critics and in the mainstream media before, it is doubly so now. And if, at one point, we could say that this derision stemmed from a hegemonic distaste with explicit written examples of female sexual desire, that is much less the case today. Today, when our culture sneers at erotica, they use the first book that comes to hand to support their criticism that erotica can hardly be considered as having any literary merit at all. And that book is FSOG. So, although we cannot hold it wholly to blame for the chronic misrepresentation of the quality of our literary efforts, it's not exactly Caesar's Wife either.
But what about solidarity you ask? Why can't we be a more cohesive community? We are writers together trying to do something good that harms no one, that validates and narrativizes our liberation as agential sexual beings, that adds a little spice to people's lives. And if some of us are hell bent on offering five star Michelin dinners while others aim themselves at the fast food market, so what? The important thing is that we support each other, right?
Here's where - if you ever imagined I was a nice person - I will disabuse you of that notion.
My motivation in writing erotic fiction is to produce excellent work within the constraints of a very particular genre. I don't always succeed, but that is the single reason I do it. I want to contribute to a genre I believe has always offered a unique opportunity to examine the human experience at its most raw, its most vulnerable, its most honest. Erotic writing doesn't just tell the story of our erotic experiences but something far more fundamentally structural: how libidinal desire drives us. How that desire expresses itself explicitly and how it is sublimated and re-purposed in a thousand ways, how its gravitational forces curve and skew the trajectories of our lives.
I believe - perhaps fanatically - that society's disdain for our genre is one of the most obvious symptoms of its own pathological ambivalence towards the very truths we write about. And to me, that underscores and reinforces its importance, its ability to give us a greater knowledge of ourselves.
My motivation isn't to dwell in the good company of nice people. I have all the social friends I need. So if keeping your company means remaining uncritical about what I feel is doing immense damage to the genre I love, then I will eschew it. Because if our genre becomes the literary equivalent of just another line of badly prepared, quickly and superficially consumed fast food meals, then we have nothing to be a community around but the nostalgia of a once important writing movement that we have, for the sake of niceness, betrayed.
When we enumerate the writers in the erotica cannon: Bocaccio, Sade, von Masoch, Bataille, de Maupassant, Lawrence, Hall, Nin, Nabokov, Miller, Mishima, Carter, Reage, Acker, just to name a few... none of those writers would have remanined uncritical of FSOG. Not one of them. And we do them no honour by staying mute.