Our good friend and fellow erotician, Remittance Girl (yes, I’m totally name dropping), did a quasi-interview of Will and me regarding our planned enthology “Best Men’s Erotica” for Burning Book Press. RG has written about why a “Men’s Erotica” anthology here, but this Q and A gives us the opportunity to share what Will and I think about it, and the kind of stories we’re looking for. Whatever you think about “Men’s Erotica” and “Women’s Erotica” as titles or subjects, I’m willing to wager our tack – and our goal for BME, is a little different. –M
From Remittance Girl:
Will Crimson and Raziel Moore (who both post on the blog Erotic Writer) are the editors for Burning Book Press’ upcoming anthology, Best Men’s Erotica. I invited them to answer some questions on the specific of men’s erotica, and what makes it different from erotica for women.
What do you think distinguishes erotica written for men from erotica written for women?
However, with that disclaimer out of the way (and with a gun held to my head), I would say that erotica written for men will focus more on the physical act of sex rather than the emotional content. A man doesn’t necessarily want to know how the slave girl feels when she’s being fucked. He wants writing that will evoke his pornographic imagination. What position is the slave girl in? What kinds of sounds does she make? What does she do when she orgasms? Does she scream? Cry? Pant? Shake? Stretch? Arch? Madly kiss the man fucking her? Men, I think, are much more visually oriented than women. One can quickly see this by what kinds of erotica are being written and read by men on sites like SOL or ASSTR. There’s little if any interest in the emotional content or consequence of sex. The stories are simply loud and orgiastic descriptions of fucking. The stories are meant to evoke the pornography of sex. The women in these stories are simply the vehicle of the expression of male sexual desire and nothing more.
That said, women are the primary consumers of erotica. In every bookstore, there’s the romance section — a euphemism for “Erotica for Women”. There is definitely explicit erotic sex in these stories, but the emphasis, shallow and simplistic though it may be, is on the emotional content and consequences of sex and desire. Erotica for women is all about context. Where is the sex happening? Who is it happening with? What does he say to her? What does he do to her? How does he do it? *Why* does he do it? What is the meaning of the sex? Women also enjoy physical description and pornographic picture making, but they like those descriptions to have a meaning within the larger narrative – think Romance.
Much, and perhaps most erotica written for men today doesn’t have a great deal of respect for men’s intellect and complexity, and assumes that most men are looking for a good stroke story that twig’s their personal kinks hard and fast. Thinking of that, I started answering this with a listing of what I think most “men’s erotica” lacks in trying to cater to its intended audience. But that’s not as useful as trying to examine what the best of these kinds of stories does, so I’m going to try that, and distinguish, perhaps arbitrarily, erotica vs written porn for the male reader.
Erotica ‘for men’ makes the attempt to engage us beyond simple stimulation. These stories, perspectives, and situations help us understand and experience by proxy the flavors of male desire, appreciation, and conflict in and around sex. Men’s headspace is no less complex than women’s, and the negotiation between a man’s desire and actions are not always easy, or linear, and do not always have predictable results. I think erotica for men, at its best can show the reader (male or female), not “what men want” but what different men _think_ about want; stories that are not so much what men do, but what drives a men to act certain ways. The best of men’s erotica can show how men churn over their thoughts and desires and translate them into words and actions, and how those all impact them and those around them. Erotica for men, even if it’s not written by a man, or from a male POV, centers around the male identity in the erotic state.
Not that that discounts the physical. The male sexual experience is different from the female, and the masculine sensory lexicon and engagement with physicality is different. I think the best writing shows that as well, and can communicate the male experience even too those without the same equipment and different drives.
Could you speak a little about male erotic authors whose work you find engaging?
In all honesty, I have *always* preferred erotica by women (and for all the reasons given above). I like erotica that has context and emotional resonance (even in the shortest of stories). That said, the whole reason The Erotic Writer got started is because of Raziel. No male’s erotic writing consistently engages me the way Raziel’s writing did or does. I enjoy short forms and Raziel is a skilled writer of short-form fiction. He brings a poet’s succinctness to his work. He also gets context in a way that’s imaginative and even fantastical. He gets erotic tension, and can write about the erotic experience that appeals to me reminds me of my own writing and the reasons I enjoy writing erotica. Other than that, I can’t think of a single male erotic writer by name. I used to read erotic paperbacks, on occasion, but I usually found them too generic (probably because of the reluctance of publishers to offend).
I think there are a fair number of excellent male writers out there, who engage me in the ways described above. Mike Kimera is one of those writers who compels, engages, and sometimes disturbs me. His characters and perspectives draw me in and keep hold through intense, arousing, and sometimes very rough rides. Sadly he doesn’t write erotica anymore. Chris Garcia goes deep into the interior spaces of his male characters. These characters whether fanciful, or not, are extremely real. My blog partner Will Crimson dives deeply into some of the primal, so-simple-as-to-be-sophisticated aspects of masculinity, and the feedbacks of male-female desire – there’s a reason we became partners in a writing blog, after all. There are more; The Provocateur, Guy New York, M. Christian, and others. Hopefully we’ll be able to introduce readers to some of them in BME.
Do you think the difference between male oriented and female oriented erotic fiction is a matter of nature or nurture?
Setting aside issues that pertain to talent, education and cultural influences (nurture), I would definitely say that there are real and recognizable differences between male and female writers and readers (nature). Our biological differences are apparent in the different kinds of literary and visual erotica that we pursue. However, there is a sweet spot where our desires intersect and intertwine, and the best writers and videographers, in my opinion, are the ones that have a natural feeling for that sweet spot. That’s erotica at its finest, in my opinion. That sweet spot is a biological necessity. Without it, men and women would never find a common ground. We wouldn’t be sexually attracted to each other. We would have gone extinct a long time ago.
I think it’s a bit of both. The male sexual nature is pneumatically different from female. Our senses are wired similarly, but have crucial, often complimentary differences in nuance. Much (though certainly not all) male sexual physicality is ultimately penetrative, and I think that absolutely informs a fundamental attitude toward erotic acts, and toward how men think and read about them. On the other hand, a huge amount of erotic fiction aimed at men seeks to engage _only_ the physical layer, ignoring layers of nuance and emotion that are more often in greater focus in female oriented erotica. In that way, the contemporary ‘nurture’ environment actually channels and limits male-oriented erotic fiction into a pretty narrow, and ultimately unfulfilling band.
Do you think the easy availability of visual pornography helps or hinders in the number of male erotica readers?
I don’t think it matters. If porn weren’t available, then there would certainly be a broader market for erotica; but “visual erotica” has always been available in one form or another. On a recent Radiolab (NPR), archaeologists were discussing a 10,000 year old trash dump (a mound that was, itself, a site with 10,000 years worth of garbage). Buried in that mound were thousands of sheaves of ancient paper. Some were, predictably, religious: Sayings of Jesus. Interestingly, they also found long lost erotic literature — something, annoyingly, few articles comment on.
However, whatever this piece of erotic fiction was, it was the most popular work of literature in the dump.You can hear about it here:
It’s exactly 17 Minutes into the story. The erotica begins:
“Oh, I’m terribly on fire. Uh oh, it’s thick and big as a roof beam. I’m burning, I’m on fire. I’m terribly on fire. A stream runs over me, do you understand?”
That’s erotica, possibly by a woman, loving the same things that we love today, thousands of years ago — a big, thick cock. Isn’t that cool? Human beings *love* their erotic lives. Hopefully, we’ll get to read more of this erotica from ancient Egypt and Greece.
Back to your question: No. I think that male readers who are interested in erotica, will read it. It’s another kind of fetish, in a way, and those men who like it, will find it. Those who are more visually oriented, will always be so and find a way to express that, whether through sculpture, paintings or otherwise.
I think visual pornography may be a wash. For the viewer that wants only stimulation, a wank, a grin, and job done, visual porn may well short circuit any reading, or suggest a reading list that stops at Penthouse Letters or the like. Some of these viewers may get jaded to the whole genre and not give deeper erotica a chance, but then some of them may be driven to want more after having their fill of the simplistic and plastic. Those who wonder what more there is besides fleshy pistoning and theatrical moans a could be the next wave of readers and writers.
What are you looking for in the Best Men’s Erotica entries in terms of approach?
Not just fuck stories, but self-awareness — awareness of ones own masculinity, how ones masculinity attracts a woman, persuades her to have sex, brings her to orgasm and influences her view of that connection afterward. Alternately, what is it about masculinity that makes a woman want to seduce a man? What is it that she is willing to surrender to or, alternately, what vulnerability (in masculinity) does she savor and want to seduce? What *is* it about the masculine that *works* for women? What do women see in the masculine and what do men enjoy about their own masculinity? How does their masculinity define their understanding of the feminine? Do they see the feminine as something to subdue? Do women see the masculine as something to submit to? What about when those relationships are reversed? What does it mean to be a masculine submissive?
These are all questions which deserve an answer, even if only provisional one. What is masculine sexual energy and how is that used to attract the feminine — and what does the feminine pursue in it and want from it?
For BME, I want to see inside the male characters’ heads – either directly through POV, or through the illumination of action and perceptions from the narrative. Beyond physical sensation, or want, or hunt, or conquest, are the thoughts, desires, and conflicts that drive them. Even the simplest, most vanilla love story is _not_ simple. We don’t call it ‘stepping lightly in love’ for a reason; the man falling has a story, and I want to hear it. And men don’t operate in a vacuum. Their partner(s) or potential partners are ‘other’, but not objects (or, if they are treated as or act as objects, the “why” of that can be a whole additional layer of complexity). How does the male character’s internal circumstance manifest? How does it interact and affect that other? What is the consequence, the feedback, the ultimate change of state over the course of the story – from physical to emotional and more? That’s the kind of story I would love to read.
The call for submissions for 2013 Best Men’s Erotica is open until August 1.