Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Let’s Get Real



By Lisabet Sarai

A few days ago, I received the welcome news that a short story of mine had been provisionally accepted into an anthology. The editor wrote:

I love your story, but it will need a little bit of amending: we cannot have any mention of anyone under the age of 18 having sexual thoughts or masturbating. (I know this is absolutely silly but we are not in a position to risk it.)”

Let me make it clear that this story (which would probably be categorized as literary erotica) does not feature underage sex. The main character has an unusual and rather dangerous fetish, which first appeared after an experience in his mid-teens. The story includes a flashback in which the protagonist describes those early events and how they shaped his current, adult sexuality. Like most teens, his reaction to arousal was to masturbate.

I’m not going to fight with this editor, first of all because I really would like to be part of the anthology and secondly because she recognizes the ridiculous nature of the prohibition. However, this state of affairs still makes me fume. I mean, let’s get real. Nobody masturbates more often than teenage boys! And sexual thoughts? As I recall my high school years, it was pretty difficult to focus on anything else!

It’s hard for me to understand the logic behind this rule. We’re not talking about pedophilia here. We’re discussing private sexual stimulation. Who is being hurt? Why should this be a forbidden topic?

The first time I remember masturbating, I was four. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, but I knew it felt good. I had erotic fantasies in grade school (about being kidnapped at the beach by a classmate who wanted to pull off my bathing suit). It’s an accepted scientific fact that children have sexual urges, and that in the years right after puberty, hormones run rampant. What purpose does it serve to pretend otherwise?

Does anyone still cling to the myth of childhood purity and innocence?

In fact, fetishes often have their roots in childhood experiences. Changing my story probably won’t do great violence to its main points, but it does reduce the authenticity of the tale.

People write, and read, erotica for many reasons. As for me, I’m simply fascinated by sex. My personal motivation in writing is to explore the way sexuality complicates, illumines and transforms human existence. I want to realistically portray the experience of desire and to show its varied impacts on the lives of my characters. If I can arouse my readers in the process, I’m pleased, but that’s a side effect rather than my primary goal.

It become quite difficult to achieve this goal when I’m forced to deny power and importance of teenage sex. Confusing, scary, wondrous, indescribably intenseour earliest encounters with sex strongly influence our adult fantasies and needs.

Anyone who says otherwise is either a liar, or out of touch with reality.


10 comments:

  1. Very ridiculous! Did you ever watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" There was one episode where Zander, her male friend, was temporarily turned into a super-soldier, for whatever paranormal reason. She was asking him if it turned him on to hold huge, powerful weapons. He grimaced and said, "I'm a 17-year old boy. Looking at linoleum turns me on!"

    Like you, I can remember being very young and yet being extremely sexual, albeit alone. Some people are still trying to deny reality...but then we're living now in a time of "alternative facts," so I guess we can inhabit alternative realities also, where no children ever have sexual thoughts, everyone, male and female, is virginal until marriage, and no one ever cheats on their spouses. Now can we all hug and since "Kumbays" around the campfire? Bleah.

    Give me the reality of sexuality anytime. With all of its concomitant messiness, fluids, and heartache...but with all of the ecstasy that's possible. Sorry you had to change your story, but as you say, sometimes you gotta do it, to get published.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Fiona. Love the Buffy quote!

      As far as I know, there's no legal basis for prohibiting the depiction of underage masturbation. And actually, the story has been previously published.

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  2. If you aren't graphically describing minors being sexual (i.e., how they stroke themselves), it shouldn't be an issue. I agree that censorship on these grounds is ridiculous.

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    1. Indeed, even if my description IS graphic, I don't see the legal basis for banning it.

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  3. I feel for the editor and the publisher as well as you, Lisabet. No one wants the strong arm of the law to come down on them, so everyone plays it as safe as possible. I agree that this is ridiculous. IMO, the concept of "childhood" has been stretched as far as it can possibly go in the modern industrial world, and some folks are even nostalgic for a time when adulthood supposedly didn't start until age 21.

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    1. Erotica authors and editors have become craven cowards, imho. Nobody is going to peruse this volume looking for legal gotchas. Even if they did, as far as I know, there's no law against portraying masturbation.

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  4. This is the price we're paying for allowing erotica for adults to be published openly. Sex is so dangerous, if you give in one place, you have to rein it in elsewhere. Remember "Risky Business" where young teenagers are cashing in their savings bonds to enjoy the Tom Cruise character's suburban brothel? They would never allow that today! I've also been told the same thing be editors, hence all of my stories have the heroine thinking her first sexual thought on her eighteenth birthday. I hope everyone gets the joke.

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    1. It's no joke.

      I wish I had the resources to fight this silliness.

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  5. Oh yes, Risky Business! Not to mention the French-flavoured musical of the 1950s, Gigi (in which the girl, played by Audrey Hepburn, is groomed to become a much older man's plaything). Adolescence ain't what it used to be. :)

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    1. I think adolescence has become even more of a minefield than it used to be. I'm grateful I grew up in a simpler and perhaps more honest time.

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