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.