Saturday, January 30, 2016
Thursday, January 28, 2016
I've been seeing this girl for about three months now, and I've finally figured out the right combination of sensitivity and alcohol to coerce her into relieving me of that mighty, mighty albatross: virginity. So, we're back at my room in the frat house. We start making out a little and I need to go to the bathroom because I'm wicked blitzed, and I haven't taken a leak all night. So she asks, "while you're gone, do you mind if I download some mood music off of Napster"? Since I only have Limp Bizkit CDs, I have no "sensitive, love-making music," so I say, "Sure, get some Smashing Pumpkins or shit like that Baby." Am I good or what?
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
by Jean Roberta
On Saturday, January 23, I attended an annual event in the university where I teach: the Creative Writing Open House. In theory, everyone on earth is welcome to show up, free of charge (and sample the free tea, coffee and muffins), to hear half-hour talks on aspects of writing by faculty members who teach this subject at various levels. Questions are not only allowed, they are encouraged. In reality, this event is attended by a sprinkling of undergraduates who are thinking of taking a class in creative writing and want to know what they could expect. So far, no one has discussed grading standards, but I suspect this would be of great interest to most of the audience.
I gave my usual talk about “niche publishing.” As usual, I found this topic so inspiring that, at some point, I ignored my notes and spun off into the various niches that an aspiring writer can find, and I raised the question of whether literary erotica has been completely swallowed by erotic romance because of a constantly-changing, profit-driven publishing biz that tries to ride the crest of every wave, even though trends are hard to predict and dangerous to follow because they start to recede even while they’re peaking.
I had just been introduced by the current head of the Creative Writing Committee as probably the most-published person in the room. OMG! I’m far from being an expert on what works, and in fact, several of my colleagues have won more awards than I have (or probably ever will) for writing relatively “mainstream” fiction and poetry. (Dramatists seem scarce in these parts, although one of them was formerly head of the English Department here.)
One of the niches I discussed was non-fiction, loosely speaking: blog posts and reviews. It’s something we’re all encouraged to write for the purpose of promoting our “real” writing (erotica, romance, spec-fic, whatever), but when/if we write more words of on-line non-fiction than anything else, we’re either letting the cart pull the horse, or we’ve discovered a delightful new niche in which to express ourselves. (I prefer the latter theory.)
Re literary erotica, I said I would not rehash a tired debate about how this differs from “porn,” but I would attempt a definition: literary erotica is simply literature (fiction, poetry, even drama) that includes explicit sex scenes. One of my male colleagues seemed so impressed by this concept that he said he didn’t see why any reader would object to this type of writing, or why any writer would avoid writing it. I explained the project of British publisher Totally Bound to publish new versions of classic novels (Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights) with sex explicitly included. I also mentioned James Lear’s novels, which come close to being parodies of well-known novels of the past (Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped) as m/m erotic mysteries. My colleague seemed so delighted to hear that sex can appear on the page outside the context of “porn,” strictly speaking (films and magazines marketed as masturbation fantasies) that I could imagine him hard at work on an erotic poem or story.
This colleague is primarily a poet. For the sake of politeness, I avoided suggesting that Canadian poetry is a niche in itself, far from the kind of writing that appears on bestseller lists. (The poet showed the audience his latest royalty cheque, for $4 Canadian.)
The focus of the whole event definitely seemed to be on writing as self-expression and as communication with other writers rather than as a way of making money. Nonetheless, I pointed out that both literary erotica and writers who write about gay men or lesbians (Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson) seem to get more mainstream acceptance in Britain than in North America. The reasons for this are subject to speculation. Could the Puritan roots of North American culture still be keeping sex in general, and especially non-heterosexual, non-monogamous sex, in the margins?
A traditional relationship between the literary margins and the mainstream seems to me to be represented by the odd but moving friendship of John Preston and Anne Rice in San Francisco in the 1970s, before she became famous for bringing new life to vampire fiction. Preston was never even close to being mainstream: he proudly identified himself as a writer of gay-male BDSM “porn” before explicit sex, kink of any kind, or male-on-male lust could be mentioned outside of certain ghettoes, and he was a social/political organizer because he needed to help create the kind of community he wanted to live in. Like many pioneers, he died before he could see his efforts bearing much fruit.
Anne Rice has always admitted how much inspiration she got from John Preston’s writing as well as from his more personal conversations with her. However, I’m often reminded that most of the readers who love the gothic lushness of her novels about vaguely homoerotic vampires (who all have a kinky blood fetish by definition) have never heard of John Preston and probably wouldn’t think of him as her Muse even if they knew who he was. The margins nourish the mainstream, but this process usually seems invisible to everyone who hasn’t deliberately researched it.
If I continue to talk about “niche publishing” next year, and the year after that, I suspect my examples of what is “niche” will have to change with the times. I would love to see Canadian poetry outgrow the half-shelf it occupies (at most) in the brick-and-mortar bookstores that still exist. I would also love to see literary erotica marketed simply as “literature.” I'm not holding my breath until a miracle occurs. The one thing I know about “mainstream” culture in general is that the stream is always moving.
[The cover of an upcoming anthology of steampunk erotica (a niche within a niche?) in which I have a story]
Sunday, January 24, 2016
by Kathleen Bradean
The first few years I wrote erotica, I didn't think much about the reader, but a conversation with another erotica writer changed that. I casually referred to my writing as Wank Fiction. She giggled and said, "No one would masturbate to your stories. They're interesting, but not porny enough."
I'm still not sure if that was an insult, or if it was a spot on description possibly meant as an insult. Or maybe she thought it was praise. I don't think she meant it maliciously.
Since then, I've wondered what readers want from erotica. It seems obvious, but I'm not sure that it is. So much visual porn is available now that reading a whole story seems like the long way around to self-pleasure, although I've always suspected that women (especially those with kids) have long used romance novels, and now erotic romance, as a way to carve out some much needed personal time in a day crammed full of doing for others. Those long soaks in the bathtub weren't because they needed to scrub away layers of dirt, but rather to get a little dirty.
But I also wonder if here in the US, if people don't use erotica as sexual education. Our society simply can't bring itself to give anyone good information. We don't want to hear it, and we certainly don't want our kids to know. Ignorance, we've decided, is the best defense.
That leaves us in a terrible quandary when we're adults in sexual relationships though. What is normal? What's healthy? What's the difference between enthusiastic consent for a D/s relationship versus lifestyle abuse? When I used to go to writer's conventions, I always got shunned for writing erotica. People would actually get up and go to another table when I told them. But later on, people would corner me and whisper about the most intimate parts of their lives, then look at me with a mixture of hope and worry as they almost always concluded with the question, "Is that okay?"
I never set out to be a sex therapist. I'm no expert in human sexuality. What's more, just because I write about sex does not mean that I consented to hear about their sexual practices. However, if someone can't bear to ask their doctor, or a real expert in human sexuality, or a therapist, if I'm the only person they will ever dare talk to, what does it hurt to comfort them by saying, "So many people ask me that same question, so you're not the only one. As long as everyone involved is an adult, everyone happily consents, and you're all treating each other with respect and practicing good safer sex, then you're probably just a normal person and you're good to go."
Maybe that's what readers want to hear from us. Not as direct of a comment as that, but through our stories.
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 11:28 AM
Thursday, January 21, 2016
By Lisabet Sarai
My ninth novel comes out next week. I am, of course, excited. Publishing a new book is a bit like giving birth, without as much pain. I’m eager to find out what the world thinks about my new baby. My beta readers and my editor have been unabashedly enthusiastic. I can only hope the general reading public—okay, the few hundred of them that I manage to reach via my hit-or-miss marketing!—feel the same.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
New year, new inspirations! Time to share your latest erotic visions with the world. That's right, it's Sexy Snippet Day!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.
Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!
Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!
Monday, January 18, 2016
By Lisabet Sarai
Dear Lascivious Literati,
I just finished Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!: Of Playboys, Pigs and Penthouse Paupers, An American Tale of Sex and Wonder by Mike Edison (Soft Skull Press, 2011). It was a quick read and a nice change of tone from my usual research for my historical erotic novel these days. The book is about the history of sexually explicit magazines for men; the tone is funny, fearless and conversational, which you don’t usually get in studies of the apartment house in New York in the early 1900s. The familiar, cozy tone is no doubt due to the fact that over the years, Edison worked at Hustler, Screw and Penthouse, so he knows most of his stuff from the inside (and which may be why Hugh Hefner is presented with less affection than the other publishers).
I bought my first Playboy in a bookstore in downtown Washington, D.C. while on lunch break from my summer secretarial job at the IRS between high school and college. Yes, I was self-conscious as I stood in line to pay, although I wasn’t worried I’d be carded or anything. Eighteen wasn’t the hard cut-off it’s become in this day. The middle-aged guy behind me seemed bemused, but hey, it was the “Women of the Ivy League” issue, and I was headed to Princeton. Granted my later purchases have been a few vintage issues from the 1950s, and my enduring interest is in the mass presentation of erotic fantasy and the sensibilities of the men who made fortunes feeding on the sexual desires of men in our fairly repressed society. But frankly, I was thrilled to have my work published and generously compensated for by the Playboy Cyber Club and the print version of Penthouse under its new owners in the 2000’s. I wish I could tell that guy behind me in the bookstore what my brave purchase would lead to....
So, maybe I am unusual compared to the average woman, but I would argue that even though these magazines were not aimed at women as consumers, we, too, were profoundly affected by the new availability of erotic images and especially the manner of their presentation. Playboy, Penthouse and others defined what was sexy in a woman in our culture. It taught us what red-blooded straight men “really wanted.” Over the years I’ve had talks with men about their responses to these magazines, and it’s certainly more complicated than mere slavish acceptance of what Hefner or Guccione liked. However, we must acknowledge that these nationally distributed magazines helps shaped the erotic imaginations of millions, whether we like it or not.
There’s a lot I could say about Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! It rightly points out our debt to the men’s magazine honchos for battling for our First Amendment Rights with their sweat and treasure, for example. But I’ll mention two things that I'm sure I'll remember, the takeaways from my reading. First, I got a new insight into the role of Hugh Hefner in the grand story of moving the heterosexual erotic impulse from the closet into the public sphere in the twentieth century. I’d always felt Hefner was a good example of how money and power make you weirder than you might ordinarily be, and it’s not just the round-the-clock pajamas. Edison spared no report of Hefner’s weirdness. He even had an epiphany while watching an episode of Playboy After Dark—which aired way back in 1969-1970--and that is: Hefner “hates women.”
Which of course is ironic because someone who celebrates the female form and has slept with thousands of women might be assumed to “love” women. Edison’s epiphany made a small light bulb go on in my head as well. I get where he’s coming from but the word “hates” is a blunt instrument. “Fears” is closer. Hefner created a world where real women are kept at a distance, controlled, their beauty airbrushed into a safe, predictable, tasteful form. By packaging these smooth, clean, unthreatening girls-next-door with decent journalism and “the best” of contemporary literature (every one of the “great” authors Edison mentioned as appearing in Playboy are men), Hefner allowed America to dip its toes in the shallow end of the pool. Hustler and even Penthouse were too raw, low-class and possibly honest about the fantasies of the Average American Male. History shows us that middle-class self-indulgence always seem less threatening to society. We know that proper upper-class men can handle mistresses, French postcards or a glimpse of Pompeii’s brothel art without going mad and raping every woman in sight, unlike their working class brothers whom we must keep carefully in line. So that’s what Hugh did for us: he eased the door open for the millions with a generous greasing of “good taste.”
Bravo Mike Edison for giving me a new look at Playboy. But I have a beef with him as well. When describing the many business mistakes made by Penthouse publisher and chief Pet photographer, Bob Guccione, Edison pointed a big fat finger at Viva magazine, co-edited by the Gooch’s wife, Kathy Keeton. He described Viva as “a porn magazine for women (always a bad idea).” He hinted that the main readership of Viva was gay men, as is often claimed of Playgirl as well, and this is why it failed.
Sorry, Mike, I think you and society at large may be guilty of the very same failing you attribute to Hefner—that he never listened to real women or cared what they really wanted. We hear it over and over again. Women don’t like pornography. Women don’t respond to erotic images. Don’t waste your time trying to make tons of money from women’s sexual fantasies. It’s a mistake.
I loved Viva as a teenager. Maybe gay men were buying it, but so was my older sister, who made no effort to keep her issues from my curious hands. I didn’t question the magazine was meant for women to read. I figured young, worldly women were interested in the content: sexual fantasies and sexuality itself and feminist politics and sophisticated articles about the waning glory of England’s Royal Family and other provocative discussions of the early 1970s. I spent some very enjoyable summer afternoons perusing the articles, the “analyzed” sexual fantasies, and the pictorials. I learned a lot about myself and my desires.
Now I will agree the photographs of nude men didn’t do it for me the way Playmates and Pets apparently seared into the libidos of my male peers. But one very important reason may be that all the penises were flaccid. Even in my state of inexperience, it struck a false note. Looking back through the issues now, I get anxious when I see these beautiful young nude men and women embracing (including Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson as very young lovers) and the guy’s dick is soft. Something is wrong here and it’s hard, so to speak, to get drawn into a lustful fantasy when the man clearly is not aroused.
On the other hand, I have to admit if Mike Edison means the type of pornography produced for men is unlikely to be profitable if the exact same thing is slapped with a label "for women" without deeper inquiry, then I agree with him. But “women don’t like pornography” suggests we don’t enjoy erotic images at all. That is not true for me. Is it true for you?
So instead of saying all women don’t like pornography, how about this? Maybe women don’t “like” or buy what has been on offer, because it’s a spin-off of the recipe for males and we respond to a different sensibility? Women don’t buy jock straps or mustache combs because they aren’t made for our needs. Has there ever been mass-distributed pornography that has “listened” to women’s wants and desires without fear? Who and what in our society are threatened by the idea that women might genuinely get turned on by erotic images?
Instead we get Fifty Shades of Grey. It certainly made plenty of money and caused nearly as much to-do as Playboy and Penthouse in their day. The heroine of the Fifty Shades is the special one-and-only rather than the endlessly replaceable pet of the month. The woman’s experience is important and she gets lots of orgasms, perhaps not won honestly for a virgin who never masturbated, but still. Oh, right, and those muscled torsos on erotic romance covers, which seem rather too literal of a riff on the Playboy centerfold, all unnatural bulges and oiled tan skin. Perhaps we need our own female version of Hugh Hefner to get that revolution going, with or without the twenty-four-seven pajama look?
I guess what I really take away from Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! is that the public acknowledgement of our culture’s sexual desires is still in its infancy. We have so much more to learn about female and male desire, if we can resist the temptation to retreat to worn formulas and truisms—women all like this and don’t like that, men want this and never want that. Each story we write or cover we choose can take that exploration further. In some sense, that discovery is what’s kept me writing for almost twenty years now.
Let’s keep making history!
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor