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.

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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.