- I’ve been having an interesting email exchange with an individual who’d like to commission an erotic story. I’ve been forced to explain some of my own practice in writing erotica and thought that other readers and writers might enjoy and have their own ideas and experiences. I haven’t included the correspondent’s comments for privacy. Mine are lightly edited.
On Do’s & Don’t’s
December 2014: I make a general list of do’s and don’ts because that’s simplest. But if it interests you at all, my thoughts are as follows: What kills a story is not whether it’s taboo, but whether it respects the way real people behave (even in my tentacle erotica), and whether the relationship is capable of being portrayed erotically. In other words, no woman, in reality would ever find it erotic to be raped or treated like a sex slave. The job of the story teller is to create the context, the fantasy, in which the reader can erotically enjoy somethinglike sexual slavery and rape. So, if one wants to write about parent-child incest, for example, it can be done but can it be “erotic”? One either has to ignore a world of questions and consequences or, in attempting to answer them realistically, write something other than erotica.
I don’t know that infidelity has never ended well (without real pain being experienced), but I also don’t know that it hasn’t ended well. What I’m getting at is this: Erotica is a genre, in my opinion, that comes with some fairly serious constraints. It’s entertainment. When it becomes serious fiction, then it’s not really erotica (though it can certainly have erotic elements). I don’t know if I could write “erotic” infidelity without veering into serious fiction. All these issues are what makes writing true “taboo erotica” very difficult and why I’ve yet to see any other writers do it well (or succeed).
- October 26th. 2015 Ideas change and evolve. Having written Erotica’s Future I would amend what I wrote. I think that erotica can be more than just entertainment and that it can be serious fiction. What I meant was that the intent of erotica, as a genre, is to arouse. A story that treats rape or incest realistically (which is probably a better word than serious or seriously) isn’t likely to be erotic.
If you were to ask Remittance Girl, she would say the same thing, saying that she can’t write “sex without consequences”. Taboo sex is, by definition, consequential.
On the difference between Rape & Non-Consensual
I’ve always defined it this way:
Non-Consensual: Being forced ‘with’ ones will.
In other words: Force me to do what I want to do. This puts the “victim” in control. To fantasize about “rape” in this sense *can* be to fantasize that ones desirability is so overwhelming that the “rapist” can’t help themselves. This can be a positive fantasy. In an erotic story the distinction can be as subtle as body language—but important nonetheless. Check out the following site:
Dealing with Rape Fantasies as a Survivor of Sexual Violence
You’ll find this:
“More often than not, most people who have rape fantasies imagine a passionate scene with very little force, based around the “victim” being so desirable that the “rapist” cannot control themselves, while the victim generally does not feel the terror, confusion, rage and disgust of an actual rape. These kinds of fantasies are often termed “erotic rape fantasies” (Critelli & Bivona, 1998). The second type of rape fantasy that is generally discussed is an “aversive rape fantasy” – one which more realistically resembles actual rape and has themes of humiliation, violence and pain (Critelli & Bivona, 1998). While this type of rape fantasy is more realistic it is not an indication that the person fantasising wants to be raped. The “wish fulfulment” could very well be that the person desires a passionate sexual encounter, that they want to feel desirable, or have the relief of not having to be in control.“
These are the two scenarios I try to recreate in all my stories. I try to give the readers enough space that they can imagine either of them. Even in my non-consensual stories there’s ideally enough space that the reader can imagine the “victim” enjoying and pursuing her orgasm. Was it really non-consensual?
Rape: Being forced ‘against’ ones will
There is nothing positive in this experience. The signs of a woman being raped, forced against her will, are so obvious as to not really need description. I assiduously avoid these sorts of description. The line between non-consensual and rape as portrayed in erotica can be thin and in my opinion not all writers navigate it. Then again, I suspect that there’s a class of writer who only writes sex for other men. You get a lot of that at SOL and ASSTR. The stories can be full of sexual violence and aggression, the kind that few women could comfortably fantasize about but that men seem less troubled by.
On the Suspension of Belief
The starting point is whether the story is fantasy-based or reality-based. If it’s fantasy-based, then all bets are off. We can immediately suspend the law of consequences since they can be whatever we want them to be. We don’t have to imagine whether someone would in reality want a tentacle up their ass. When written right, the writer and reader enter into an unstated agreement: we’re both going to treat this monster (whatever it is) as a kind of metaphor or archetype. I’m going to give the reader just enough description, but not too much, and they’re going to fill in the rest. That’s our agreement. I have to respect their imagination. Stories about tentacles and were-beasts are erotic cousins to Aesop fables and fairy tales—stuffed full of talking animals and magical beings. We all know, even from a young age, that a talking fox is symbolic of a certain kind of person. The guise of the fox is a signal that we can suspend our beliefs and expectations. We’re permitted to follow the story-teller’s lead. Alice, in Alice in Wonderland, can behave like a convincing little girl even though she enters a world of pure and sometimes terrifying fantasy. Characters in fantasy-erotica are a bit like Alice. The only collusion between author and reader is in agreeing that Alice wouldn’t have immediately curled up into a little terrified ball—and that the site of a real-life tentacle alien wouldn’t do the same.
- At this point my correspondent admits to struggling with how to “formulate” a story in which the characters seem and act real within the constraints of erotica; to which I responded:
Welcome to my world: If I’m writing reality-based erotica (think up your own scenario – rape, incest, bestiality) then one either has to ignore the very real consequences these experiences have (which makes the story one-dimensional sexploitation); or one has to be true to the consequences of these experiences (which is what I meant by “serious” literature — not serious in the sense of artistic merit, but serious as in grave and not trifling). If I write a story where a character is actually raped, she’s going to be devastated. She will suffer emotional trauma. She will be distraught, terrified, angry, depressed, etc… The experience won’t be erotic. The same goes for parent-child incest. There will be feelings of betrayal, fear, distrust, guilt, self-recrimination (because children often blame themselves) and severe emotional distress. These are the consequences and they’re known consequences. A writer either confronts them or one-dimensionally ignores them.
- The correspondent then mentions my Forbidden Trilogy—specifically, the story Bestial.
Yeah, but you know, I played a little trick in that story (as in each story of the Forbidden Trilogy). I’m thinking you may not have caught it (only hinted at in the story). The young woman was, herself, a werewolf, which is why the werewolf was trying to mate with her. Is it still bestiality if it’s two werewolves mating? Is Incestuous really a story about incest?—neither of the women were related. Was Non-Consensual really non-consensual?—being a story within a story?