Tuesday, February 21, 2017
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 intense—our 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.