Talking About Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World

Perusing reddit, I came across a post from a father wanting to know how to address the issue of pornography with his daughter. It’s an interesting question, in a world where the sexualization of women is big, big money, and most of that sexualization comes from a male perspective.

First, he must be commended, given that sexual content is nearly unavoidable these days, teenagers tend to be resourceful, and the web is vast. It’s great that he’s not pretending it doesn’t exist.

It’s delicate, because you don’t want to stifle growth, or give her life-long hang-ups about sex, but given the stuff that is out there, you wouldn’t want to give her the impression that the surface, the superficiality, is all there is to sex.

It’s weird seeing that question, as a person who writes explicitly about sex. What sets my writing apart from what this father sees as so concerning? Is my contribution part of the problem?

Or could it be part of the solution?

The answer probably lies in the idea of being sex positive, of having an open attitude toward sex and the many possibilities it embodies. In many ways, what shapes erotica is the sense of the characters as fully-formed actors, rather than objects that insert or receive. There is a focus on sensation over action, on satisfaction over showmanship.

And maybe that’s what he needs to tell her: the big wide world of sex out there is about someone else. Your sexuality is about you and only you.


Free Erotica Book! And a Bargain to Boot!

Seizing It: Heather and Zanethe second in the steaming hot Paley Office Park Romance Novella series, is FREE through Monday, September 30. To keep it company, Saying It, the first in the series, will be $0.99 for the next few days.  What’s better for the weekend than a little sizzling sex?

Hope you enjoy.

Five Things Erotica Taught Me About Writing

Erotica may (mostly) be about sex, but, like any storytelling, it’s about the writing, as well. When I sat down to try my hand at the art of the steamy sex scene and hot story, I approached it completely differently than any other writing I’ve done. To my surprise, writing erotica led to techniques that help with any writing, regardless of genre. Here are five.

1. Get to the good stuff

Though we often feel, as writers, that we must start at the beginning and end at the end, there are no stone engravings requiring it. I wrote a sex scene first, just to see if I could, and found that inspired the rest of the story. Only the finished product needs to be in order.

2. Follow the heat

Once you allow yourself the freedom to write in the order in which you’re inspired, it only makes sense to keep following the heat. If one sizzling romp inspires another, write it. If you’re working on a thriller and you can’t get the fight scene out of your head, don’t freak out about how they get to the spire on the top of the Chrysler Building or who’s flying the helicopter. Get it down (both the scene and the helicopter).

3. Don’t worry about the perfect words

Rough drafts are called “rough” for a reason. Though it’s often said, it’s difficult to spew imperfection and let it lie there. But since you’re not necessarily writing the story in the final order, you’re going to have to Frankenstein it together, anyway, so let it go.

4. Go with the flow

You may have something planned, but it’s really your characters’ scene, not yours. What you had in mind often isn’t what your characters want to do. If you feel like you have to force it, then don’t. Let your characters lead, because then the destination gets interesting.

5. Cut and paste is the best thing ever. Besides chocolate. Still a close second.

When you have all of your inspired scenes done, you’ll likely have a good idea of the shape of the story. I like to start writing the framework in a new document and then plug in the scenes as I go, rewriting and editing as necessary, smoothing along the way. For a non-planner like me, it’s almost like the most filled-in form of outlining possible.

Don’t Settle for the Illusion of Sexuality

There is the illusion of sexuality, and then there is sexuality itself. By illusion, I mean things like pole-dancing for “exercise,” or the endless sea of what I tend to call “stripper shoes,” shoes you are supposed to wear in a boardroom that look like they belong on an exotic dancer bending for tips.

Of course there is nothing wrong with pole dancercise or those shoes if those are things that make you more in touch with the sensual side of yourself, but they rarely are really for that purpose. Instead they’re an outward sexuality, the appearance of sexuality. They are not really about sensation, as few things are more uncomfortable than the modern-day binding of feet. There aren’t many women who are naturally graceful or inherently strong enough to artfully swing from a pole.

They’re external cues of sexuality, ways of saying “look at me, judge me to be sexy,” but they’re not owning your sexuality. They’re about handing it off, not internalizing it.

Take professional exotic dancers. Their livelihood depends upon providing a believable sense of sexuality to the patrons, but do you really think they’re aroused by what they do? I imagine most are thinking about the dishes they’ll have when they get home, about how long until their next break. The sexuality they exude is not for them, it’s for the customers who pay them specifically for the illusion.

Genuine sexuality, though, is entirely personal, and is completely internal. It’s not about postures or props, it’s about understanding who you are, what you like, what you’re willing to try and what is not for you. It’s not the pole-dancing class; it’s the reason behind why you’re taking that class in the first place. Is it for you? Or is it to convey a certain idea of you?




Erotica Isn’t Simply Smut

I jokingly refer to working on erotica as “writing my smut.” I think the word “smut,” itself, is a funny word, evoking an image of a granny in an afghan and glasses on a chain waggling her finger with disapproval.

We’ve been conditioned to think of sex as a taboo subject, and it often makes us uncomfortable. When something is given that kind of label, it seems to slide into the realm of “good” and “bad,” of “virtuous” and not so.

Like “smut” and “romance.” Is it the arousing nature of erotica that divides it from straight romance? Is it the language? When you think about it, romance takes you to the same place, it just doesn’t give you all the steamy details.

Like any romance, or most fiction, really, erotica is about connection. It reveals a facet of a character’s life, one that is usually hidden, while taking the reader on a vicarious, sensual adventure. It’s not only sex for sex’s sake – though there’s not a thing wrong with that – but sex as it’s experienced by the characters, through the characters.

We are all curious about what happens behind closed doors, and erotica opens them, offering the opportunity to see that human desire takes many forms and is expressed many ways. Despite my amusement with the word “smut,” it implies a kind of dirtiness in simply thinking about sex, and sex does not have to be dirty.

Unless you want it  to be.

Does Erotica Author Gender Matter?

Maybe you’ve picked up a naughty new book, and you’re reading along only to run into a line that stops you dead. Sometimes it’s the improbability, like a man barely touching a woman who immediately erupts into orgasm; sometimes it’s a situation that feels, well, uncomfortable rather than sensual.

It’s in those moments that you realize, no matter what the name says on the cover, the book wasn’t written by a woman. Should it matter? Does it matter?

As a reader, I think it does. The moment I hit something that makes me take a step back, it takes me out of the story. Particularly when it seems like an issue of force or non-consent.

The experience of women and men during sex is fundamentally different, as are the personal histories we bring to the bedroom. Even an imaginative writer cannot have the tactile experience of the opposite sex, and, at best, can only guess at the emotions and sensations the other feels.

I’m not saying that erotica written by men isn’t hot, or isn’t enjoyable, but it may not completely or accurately describe the female sexual experience. Similarly, while writing my male characters’ perspectives, I can only do the best that I can with an outside point of view.

As a culture, we’ve come to accept the male perspective of what is sexy as the baseline of sexy, while women are often seen as reluctant participants who need to be coaxed. As a woman, I know that’s not actually true. Women love sex. Women love dirty sex, kinky sex, sweet sex and passionate sex, and yet acknowledging it publicly carries a stigma.

We can read about sex, and we can write about sex from the unique perspective of understanding our anatomy, understanding what appeals and what feels unsafe. Romantic erotica should spark our own sense of satisfaction, rather than triggering a need to please with easy orgasms or accepting the conventional wisdom of what turns us, as women, on.

In a way, women writing erotica is a means of defining our own sexuality, reclaiming our own sexuality, figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t, and maybe even discovering a side of yourself you want to take to the real world.