Writer Jane Wenham-Jones insists that most erotica writers she’s met look more like librarians. Most of us would happily admit to writing in our sweat suits or jeans or jammies. I don’t even own a corset and my feet are most often bare or in fuzzy slippers. Most of my erotica writing friends simply smile at the thought of writing in a basque and stilettos, and when we’re making a public appearance, I suppose we do look more like librarians than sex goddesses.
Most of us don’t mind so much when people say we don’t look like erotica writers. I confess the mental picture of me stretched out on a chez lounge with a feather boa and nose bleed heels scribbling away in a velvet notebook with quill is amusing, and it doesn’t bother me that I might look like a librarian when I’m out in public. I think librarians are hot. What does bother me, however and, what bothers most of my colleagues, is when people just assumed that we have DONE all the things we write about. Even that I could live with in a wink and a nudge sort of way, if it weren’t for the fact that sexual experience – especially for a woman – is sadly still stigmatized as something only ‘bad people’ have.
No one assumes Thomas Harris is a cannibalistic serial killer. No one assumes Anne Rice drinks blood and sleeps in a coffin. No one assumes Tom Clancy spent time being a terrorist. And yet, there are those who assume erotica writers have done everything we write about. For people who make that assumption, I have just one question; what part of ‘FICTION’ don’t they get?
Fiction writers don’t have to experience what they write in order to write about it. In fact, that’s why it’s fiction. IT DIDN’T HAPPEN — at least not outside the fertile mind of the writer. Erotic fiction is no different.
Fiction allows the reader, and the writer, to safely experience situations and worlds that, in reality, would not be safe or even be possible. In a world where safe sex has become a battle cry, as well as its own form of bondage, that has never been more true than it is with erotica. The erotica writer allows the reader to participate safely in an experience that can be both very wonderful and very dangerous. It’s no more necessary for erotica writers to have an orgy in order to write about one than it was for Thomas Harris to kill and eat a few folk before he could create Hannibal Lector.
Though it may add another layer to the psycho-sexual fantasy for the reader to imagine the erotica writer experiening first hand her orgy, bondage, or sex in a bus before she writes about, though that fantasy may be very sexy. It’s just that, a fantasy. In reality, what the writer has created it still fiction.
All that being said, I’m here to say that I do, indeed ACT like an erotica writer. In fact, I’m going to be even more general and say that I simply act like a writer. I see a world in my imagination and I recreate it on the written page. Some of what I write on that page involves sex, but not all of it. In fact most of what I write on that page is a story with an intriguing plot in which sex happens, in which sex helps drive the story. THAT is how an erotica writer acts!
Like all other fiction writers, the world of an erotica writer is about plot, characters and setting. Unlike most other fiction writers, we allow human sexuality to be a powerful driving force in our stories, and we don’t shy away from the explicit when it serves our purpose. That erotic fiction is set apart from the rest of fiction simply because of its free and explicit use of sex saddens me deeply, as the stories being told by erotica writers are as relevant and as powerful as the stories told in any other genre.
Ultimately, if an erotica writer writes a good story with an intriguing plot, interesting characters and strong setting, then yes, she or he is acting like an erotica writer, behaving in character with all good fiction writers, using the same tools that writers in all other genre use – imagination, research and dedication to the craft. Erotica writers are just willing to give our readers a little extra heat — even if we do it in our jammies.