A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Acting Like An Erotica Writer. That post got some very insightful feedback, not the least of which came from the fantastic novelist, Zak Jane Keir. Ever the opportunist, I asked Jane if she would write a post for A Hopeful Romantic based on her insights, and fortunately for all of us, she said yes. Welcome, Zak!
Let’s be clear, it’s not about who you, particularly, are. It’s not about what you, particularly, write. As writers, we all do our stuff as best we can, and enjoy it as much as we can, and if we’re asked to explain it or talk about doing it, we manage that as best we can, as well.
That I am sick to death of this fucking trope, and that I think it’s actually harmful to women, to feminism, and to the individual writers who’ve been fed to it (I doubt that many of the writers portrayed in this way are deliberately emphasizing their own ‘harmlessness’ to this extent), is not an attack on either any individual writer nor on the fact that some people ARE heteromonogamous, shy, ‘respectable’, gentle, parents, suburban or anything else like that. It’s fine to be who you are. It’s fine to write what you write.
There is a conflicting, confused desire for ‘authenticity’ from fiction writers; the old ‘write what you know’ advice which is often misinterpreted as ‘write about your own experiences’. That’s, obviously, a bit silly: if you think JK Rowling really has a wand to cast spells with, you’re probably a bit too dim to be let out of the house. Same goes if you think that Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell or Sara Paretsky have really murdered people in order to ‘know how it feels’. This doesn’t make it OK to make honking factual errors just because you’re writing fiction: the editors at Mills and Boon allegedly still giggle about the proposal submitted to them which featured an Australian sheep farm menaced by tigers. (Perhaps the author should have tried to insist that his/her novel was set in an alternate reality?)
Just about every feature published (on or offline) about women who write explicit fiction hammers home the same message: the contrast between the writer and the writing. Mothers! Mumsy! Grandmas! They KNIT! They GO TO CHURCH! They wear cardigans and love their hubbies! They offer the hardbitten male journo a nice cup of tea and a home-baked cake! The trouble with the mainstream media’s absolutely frantic casting of female erotic writers as either sweet old dears or nervous virgins is that it perpetuates the idea that women don’t really like real sex. Because, actually, the idea of women liking sex, seeking sex, having sexual autonomy, is really scary and threatening to the status quo. Any media which is set up to cater to the idea of women’s autonomous sexuality gets stifled, compromised, belittled, mocked, and shut down. I speak from a degree of authentic personal experience: there comes a point, in creating, distributing and selling media, where you are confronted with The MAN who doesn’t get it. ‘Well, my wife wouldn’t like it, so it won’t sell.’ ‘’Yeah but you’re not a NORMAL woman, are you?’ ‘Yeah OK but you need to get advertising from companies that sell make up and clothes, so you can’t run that feature telling women that they’re sexy without doing any shopping.’
The fact that what a lot of women like, in terms of sexually-gratifying media, is not just dominant billionaire bastards proposing marriage to vacuous bimbos who are, invariably, much prettier than they really think is either left out of this mainstream portrayal of ‘Mummy Porn’ or noisily mocked as some sort of teeny-weeny subdivision of Peculiar Women. Because women are supposed to Respect the Cock, they’re not capable of regarding men as objects of desire or tools for their pleasure.
The writers who get featured in articles along the lines of ‘Nice Married Straight Suburban Mouse Who Knows Her Place Writes Silly Naughty Books’ are rarely asked about what they *actually* write. Because they might well say that their stories feature homoerotic shenanigans for the entertainment of women, or golden showers, or a female goddess accepting erotic sacrifice from a whole horde of powerful men, and that’s never going to be mentioned.
But if a female erotic writer lets it be known that she actually DOES some of this stuff, then, well, the world might end. Because women don’t do that. Really, they don’t, they can’t, it’s not possible. Not only would the sky fall in but men might have to consider women human.
Zak has been writing about sex and sexuality for over 20 years. She spent some time as a fetish/swingers club reviewer for Forum, and was involved in the founding of the now-defunct Guild Of Erotic Writers. She has been published in Swingmag, For Women, Desire, Forum and Penthouse in the past.
Links: Zak’s novel Black Heart is available in all ebook formats, check it out here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Heart-Zak-Jane-Keir-ebook/dp/B00EALIOAI
Her stories have also appeared in a variety of places, including the Nexus anthology Spanked http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spanked-Peter-Birch-ebook/dp/B00DOL0J58/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391647749&sr=1-1&keywords=spanked+peter+birch