kissing tenderly, as our husbands watch,
their passions temporarily placid, bodies weary,
cocks shiny and flaccid, our mouths tasting of their cum, and of scotch, fingers tenderly explore moistened crotch, head moving down, as yours hands gently urge, till my delving tongue, makes arousal surge, finding your hard clit, jutting from its notch, once limp […]
In text of zeroes and ones,
He professes desire to me,
Across a screen brighter,
Than the fires of hell,
He plots to tempt me,
Because he saw my face by chance,
After months of radio silence,
And his heart, for a second, skipped a beat,
Across a thousand wires and wavelengths,
Lust in the modern age,
Like the fruits that burst red and juicy,
On Persephone’s tongue,
“Lure me” or perhaps she said,
“Lure me?” or perhaps she said,
“Lure me!” but we’ll never quite know.
Perhaps she doesn’t quite know,
But it Flows.
But it Follows.
But does it Grow?
But across some far off distance,
Or closer than I hoped,
I became an object of desire,
He plots, leaving the door open,
Lure me or lure me or lure me.
Across clicks and churns and,
Chuggings of hard drive,
By chance he saw me, and I?
There’s nothing worse than reading a romance book and coming across some idea or notion in the text that makes you roll your eyes and disassociate from a character. The nature of romance and erotica is deeply tied to projecting and emotionally relating to the characters in a book. There’s just something about that fact that can make coming across certain views or elements in a story become an instant turn off. The other night I was reading an erotic romance where the female lead is a bartender and basically every few pages near the beginning she brings up the fact that she’d never date a man who’d order a cocktail or anything except beer. Call me a whiny liberal if you want, but that snuffed my interest in her or him. I’m reading the book purely for research purposes now. It was such a good and thorough turn off to me that I never realized how much stuff like that affected me. For the author it was a simple fact of the character and supposed to make the handsome protagonist a down to Earth “man’s man”. To me it was traditional propaganda at best and a sign of utter weakness in the male main character at worst.
Well, to me a man who is comfortable in his masculinity is more attractive than anything else. We’re supposed to accept the female MC’s view and see him from that angle. His ordering a beer puts him outside the realm of other “hipster” men, and yes the author uses that description. For the author this detail was important, and important for the main character for excellent reasons. She’s a bartender. Makes sense. In this book his earthy masculinity is represented by beer. It killed my interest and my libido because while I fully admit certain feminine traits turn me off when they’re very present in men…my notion of a “real man” orders whatever the fuck he wants. Further I don’t backdoor insult men who don’t fit that notion whether they wear nail polish (which is a major personal turn off ) or work on trucks and think of appletinis as girly drinks. I physically cringed as I read because of this one thing, which came up a few times early on.
In a book designed to tease, titillate, and entertain this one element altered my ability to enjoy it. The male lead and female lead became emblematic of what I rebel against. A lot of people have told me “Oh just shut up and read and enjoy”, but why would I if there is an element and an attitude in the work that I don’t enjoy. The male protag ordering a beer is the main thing that solidifies the female protag sleeping with him. That’s the crutch, and for a woman who sees masculinity as being about comfort, and being attracted to more traditionally masculine men as in no way needing to undermine other expressions of masculin this makes a difference. This makes me say “Wow this chick seems like a douche bag and this guy isn’t as attractive as he was.” . And as, to paraphrase a quote from Downton Abbey, as my world comes closer and the notions of “real men buy beer” slip away this will be a more common reaction. Hell plenty of women prefer hipsters who do craft beer than to the corona lovers of the world. A confident man who can order a cocktail and not give a shit about what anyone thinks tops a man who thinks cocktails are girly.
It’s a silly thing to harp on, but it seriously had an affect. It pulled me away from these characters, made me like them a bit less, and most importantly turned me off. And maybe this is coming from me because my 60 something year old, ex-cop, private security, former bouncer father who carries a gun everywhere has never hesitated to order a cosmo. Maybe it is because I’m a progressive liberal who has friends across the gender expression spectrum. Ultimately it doesn’t matter because you bet your sweet hiney that I’m not a rare case. Because even those who keep reading and think it distasteful have pulled away a little. It isn’t about political correctness or forcing conformity. It’s about the fact that this writer made one of the most important choices in the mainstream straight romance genre, which is how you construct the male romantic protagonist. She not only included this, but centered these beliefs about masculinity at the core of his appeal. And while that’s her choice the fact is it didn’t work for me, and I suspect it turned off others because it wasn’t just the female protag saying “I like a traditional guy who drinks beer over cocktails”. It was holding up the romantic lead by that fact juxtaposed with the inferiority of men who have ordered her cocktails.The ever changing social norms and standards affect what people are attracted to and as writers when we put something like real men drink beer on the page we’re committing an idea and saying “We’re willing to turn off those people who disagree” and I’m certain the author didn’t even think about that. For her this made her male romantic lead strong. For me it made him week. It made the female lead pedantic and hypocritical…honestly a little sexist. And undermine the think I find most attractive in men (but can never seem to land in a partner myself, sorry, but love ya beau!)…confidence.
Her entire notion of masculinity and the romance leads romantic appeal had the exact opposite affect that she intended and as our society evolves it will be interesting to see because I’m not alone. I’m not a minority. And when an author makes choices like this they have to be aware…you might just dry a reader up like an old Virginia ham. You’re not going to forget that metaphor any time soon.
Churning emotions bubble forth,
Too much silence in the noise,
Colorful only because of yearning,
Pulses pounding turns to pressure building,
Thudding, laughing, with the beat of blood,
And the heat that pierces through much and mud,
Leaving him and I and us together,
Breaths speeding in unison,
Bright red, yellow like wheat, and black like ravens,
With that subtle sort of blue that highlights the dark,
As scream through our hearts,
As the crowd listens.
As the sweat stains sheets and clothes and sofas,
As they laugh.
As they die.
Everything stark in perfect clarity,
Super heightened superficiality,
Fuck it and enjoy it.
Means everything, but ignore it when
The Light Comes Up And
The city is full of empty noise,
But for a moment there is an excited silence between,
The spaces between the pulses.
The spaces between the buildings.
The silence between the screams.
So What Is The Difference between Love and Hate?
At this point in my career I have been building an audience for my novels and blog, and I am so lucky and thankful that all of you bother to read my work. But one thing you’ll know if you’ve been a reader since the start is that I never pretend my passion isn’t also a business. I love to write. I love naughty bits. So I write about people’s naughty bits meeting and doing naughty things. It seemed rather sensible since I’ve written erotica from the time I understood the sex act. Erotica is a genre that can be lucrative and disappointing without any rhyme or reason. You can find hundreds of articles and books on writing ebooks in the genre with conflicting and contrasting experiences. The variables of success are endless, but for 2017(wow that feels weird) we can prepare ourselves for the best approaches to consistently publish erotica and make some money from erotica. So let me help you by discussing my observations and experiences thus far.
Most people who get into writing in any genre make it a black and white issue as to whether you’re in it for business or in it for passion. Well, why not both? Money ins’t the end all be all and passion doesn’t put food on the table. In my view a healthy about of pragmatic thinking is the difference between well known authors and authors with regular sales versus unknown authors and authors with low sales. I missed the big erotica booms of 2012 and 2013, but I will say you can make sales if you’re crafty, smart, and figure out your strength.
Now first let me cover a few things you need to know before thinking about writing erotica…
Don’t Think This Is Easy Money. It Is NOT.
One of the biggest complaints from people is that so many authors pop up and out after two months. People read these insane articles about authors who quit their jobs and made 20k and more in a few months off one or two books, so they assume it is easy work to make even a fraction of that. They hear the bare bones and decide to become an erotica author to make some cash because it doesn’t seem hard. Partially this is because they assume erotica isn’t “real writing”. But all writing is writing. I personally find article and essay writing (with research included) to be so much easier than erotica. I’ve done both for money and it is night and day with how easy article writing is in comparison to figuring out what is and is not a sexy description. This isn’t an easy or simple field to jump into anymore, if it ever really was. Free sites are your competition, name brand authors are your competition, and putting out consistent stories is what keeps you afloat financially.
Further hundreds of other people probably read those same articles at the exact same time , and got the same idea. The market is fucking flooded and it really is a shame because your books might get buried beneath a thousand stories. Buried beneath a thousand throbbing rods with not escape, so to speak. From my research and conversations, roughly 70% of users tapered off after a month and a half of low sales on the erotica forums. This is constant. A bunch of people come. A bunch of people don’t see that it is work, and they bury those that do, but then vanish. Writing erotica becomes a funny story for buzzfeed or slate, or coffee after dinner. When books don’t sell all those forums, facebook groups, and reddits end up full of inactive users. Amazon, smashwords, nook, and others end up flooded with generally sub-par stories. Meanwhile the authors have tossed up their hands because they didn’t make a thousand dollars in the first month. These are the writers who don’t enjoy the genre, but even those of us who love it can get bruised.
I nearly became one of those fly-by-night authors because I burnt myself out, got discouraged, and then sat on my stories for a few weeks. I expected to make $10 in the first two weeks. It took two months. The sales have no pattern other than they sell about the same rate. So how did I get back into it if I was selling so slowly and so little? I realized the stories you hear about are the exceptional ones, and that if I kept going I could make some nice pocket change for myself. The only people who really fail are the ones who got in over their head and assumed they could bulldoze through the erotica market. The people who stick with it, and built an audience of bother fellow writers and readers are the ones who have long term success. Whether they sell a few hundred books or several thousand they kept writing, kept improving their writing, and they acknowledge writing sexual material takes a ton of hard work. Even those who have failed have said to me “This shit is harder than I thought” once they realized they didn’t enjoy it after page one. You can’t do this half assed. You can’t do this for quick cash. Writing is one of the most difficult professions to be in because it is harder than it looks and it is hard because you can’t just write and be assured success. It ain’t easy.
However, if you reorient your approach and intent writing in this genre becomes easier. You have to approach this as a business and all business takes an extraordinary amount of work. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, but even someone who works in a sex shop has to take inventory, be familiar with most of the product, and be able to get people what they need when they come to the store. If you acknowledge this when you begin planning you stories, your persona, and your specialty then you will have a much easier go of it when things are rough.
You have to work at what you’re writing even if it is sex. Chuck Tingle isn’t famous on just laziness. Tingle’s works are parody built on word play, innuendo, and absurdity. Not to mention he is as famous as he is because he was shocking and caught the right attention, but even with that his writing takes work. Crafting the story, building the characters, and molding them in ways that make people turn to the next page (Especially if your book is available on Kindle Unlimited) is key.
And The Sad Truth Is You Will Most Likely Burn Out.
You will run out of words. You will run out of desire. You will want to take a break especially if you make this a full time job. I can turn out four short stories with basic editing in two weeks. If I push myself I could probably do six or eight stories, but that would require 8 hours of writing a day. Writing would not just be a career, but a job of taxing emotional and mental work. Marketing would be another eight hour job of more emotionally and mentally taxing work. I could do it, but the notion that you can easily do it without any stress, and then be guaranteed to make money is sorta flawed. I will tell you what a writer told me when I first got started, “Most authors I know don’t make consistent money until they have upwards of 30 books and stories on amazon”.
That’s a shit ton of writing for months or years on end. Some people really can turn out a dozen books in six months and a dozen short stories to boot. They are a lucky bunch. But you have to have a plan if you burn out. I took a break and focused on romantic stories instead alongside shorter more scene based works like Suffer Too Good and Dirty Honey.
Why? These stories are fun for me, but I’ll get back to this in a second.
Don’t Have Crazy Expectations.
I don’t expect to rent my first apartment with the money I make from my sales, but I do expect my sales to supplement my income enough where I do have an extra $30+ in my account. Not because I’m aiming low, but because I’m just starting out and while I have a ton of novels started I don’t have an editor and have to take time to edit myself. Further I’m just a realist. Some weeks I get sale after sale, my blog facilitates that. Some weeks that other authors say are hot look like chicken turds on my amazon report. Overall you have to realize that you may not be the next big thing, but you may have nice money to pocket regardless. I don’t know about you, but any money is good money.
So how do you get reasonable expectations?
Figure out what your books are worth. People, especially the fly by nighters, think if they just push a bunch of .99 cent stories of $2.99 stories they have guaranteed sales. Here’s the bloody truth, most people will think you’re writing is poop unless you’re doing short stories. What do you think of a book available for .99 cents without any special considerations? It isn’t a promotional event or presented like a freebie out of a larger collection of works. It just is .99 cents because it is. Most people want their money’s worth and a lot of erotica buyers are regular buyers, so while they want a good deal they want signs of quality. Look at the best sellers in your sub-genre and list the three most common prices for short stories, novellas, and novels. If you’re a new writer I’d suggest setting those common prices for a week or two then dropping price by a few cents or a dollar. That way you’re works are technically “on sale” which usually gets attention on distribute sites. I never sell anything over 5k words for below $3 because I put my heart and joy into my pieces no matter what genre they are.
You tell the world what you are worth, and you do it realistically. Don’t be arrogant and don’t try to be Walmart by underselling everyone else because then two things will happen: Other writers will get pissed off and you will have fewer allies(writers also read btw) and you will look bad to consumers. When you price accordingly you can form realistic expectations about how much you’ll make. I have several pen names for different genres of writing and I know exactly what I want to make with every book that is under every pen name.
Do you want to know what the base income I want is? $30 for every two books. Two times seven is 14. 14 books times $30 is $420 dollars. That is an extra $420 a year that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Now, I have high hopes, but let me bring back what my author friend said about authors needing 30 books to break the bank because it matters here. Chances are you have less than 10 buys per book, unless someone randomly picks it up and loves it enough to recommend. Unfortunately even if your book is good the saturated market may bury it. So your book is set at $4.30 with 70% royalty on Amazon which means you get $3.01 from every sale. You have to convince 10 people to buy your books every month. The biggest asset to getting those people is having reviews. Most people will not leave reviews on amazon. Some books do have 1k reviews, but I have searched through 89 pages of erotica and only found a handful. Of course, the more taboo you get the more likely you are to sell but the smaller your chance of reviews gets. It sounds easy but out of thousands of books it is hard. Some of your books won’t find an audience. Some won’t be to go on Amazon or may get taken down for being too “taboo”(because they arbitrarily decide what is, hence why people say the weekend team is a bunch of prudes). You have to have a game plan. A marketing strat. and a strength within that. I blog because I like it and because I realized all the BS about SEO and social media only works now if you have an audience previously. It’s true.
After all this…what makes selling erotica work?
Two things change the game for every writer and chime in via the comments if you have opinions on this:
- The authors of successful stories have the ability to, if not enjoy, appreciate the sexuality and sensuality of both their characters and what the audience likes.
- The author interacts with other authors and books.
Before I say another word let me preface by saying a lot of people assume erotica authors have the same kinks as their characters or experiences….Stop. That’s just not the case. Plenty of “female authors” are men or gender queer people who know female names sell more. Plenty of vanilla women write the kinkiest of bdsm erotica about things they’d never try or talk about in real life except if it is about their books.
I told you I’d get back to this eventually, didn’t I? Here is a brutal truth…you have to have a positive understanding of your writing. I spoke on this previously and have a longer post about this in the works, but here’s the shorter version: Most people don’t make money on their erotica and burn out because they don’t have any positive feeling or understanding about what the hell they’re writing. They start writing about masochism, but can’t comprehend why their character likes it. They start writing about the sensuality of demonic lovers, but find the concept laughable. They make their lead fall for a billionaire, but find the whole idea contemptuous. While you don’t have to love everything you write, you are best served by trying to grasp it. If you don’t there is a very high likelihood the sort of fun or emotional nuisance your story’s sexuality will require will be non-existent.
The second one sounds like two no brainers, right? Most authors are readers and if you read more you get better. Common sense says seek out other authors. But let me tell you that so many people write, but then admit they never read. I’m not talking about the college students who temporarily lose a taste due to having to always read or people who take a bit of a break. These are people who will say to your face that “I’m a good writer, but I hate reading”. They want to master a craft without seeing anyone else work with it. They’re swordsmen who never watch people use a sword. They think they’re excellent writers and don’t need to read, but don’t see how they are missing a valuable resource into what readers like, potential inspiration, and what sells.
Not to mention they go onto those facebook pages, post a bunch of ads, and then think they’re going to get something from people.The only people that visit those pages are other authors selling shit, so the best you can do is also buy books. If you are an author or a blogger who doesn’t interact with other authors or bloggers then you’re not using your resources to the best of your abilities. Other authors will review, beta-read, edit, and promote other authors they’ve established a relationship with. If you never interact with people then you’ve limited you resources and your audience. Seek out writing communities, make a point to be active daily, make a point to offer to help out other writers, and don’t just ask for things in return. Give a little bit and you just might be surprised.
Being involved in communities is part of marketing and writing. Most people don’t do it meaningfully unless something is wrong. I like the website scribophile(thus far) because it requires you to interact by critiquing and reading others works. It forces me to so something I may not otherwise do outside of physical workshops. It exposes me to a wider range of individuals, or writers and books. If you seek out other people you broaden the people who may become your audience. In essence you can give yourself value and learn the value of others, which is all platform building is.
Hundreds of authors will sit there and tell you a thousand seemingly detailed, but ultimately vague notions about how they make a ton of money on selling erotic ebooks and how it is the easiest low involvement job in the world. But I’d rather be brutally honest and detailed so you get solid information and experience from someone who has done the research and is doing her damnedest to sell even when she’s terrible at marketing. Everything you heard about this being easy is wrong. Every story about an author breaking banks with their cash is an anomaly.
My word of warning is that if you think you will be able to pop up with a pen name throw together a story and then forget then you are sorely mistaken. Further don’t bother. I’m sorry to be cruel, and I admit this is even a touch self-serving, but there are a thousand dedicated authors who legitimately should be making more than they are who are buried because some rando thought they ‘d make hundreds in a month without having to do anything but put words on a page and press “publish”. If you are really serious about making a profit then you have to put in the work. If you want to get out a story a month, set a word length goal and write when you can. Have your partner watch the kids, stop playing your favorite video game every day after work, make a meal that lasts a few days for easy leftovers, and make time to write. This isn’t some get rich quick scheme and it is frustrating to see people act like my pursuit isn’t “real writing”, to see awesome authors vanish beneath a tidal wave of one time authors because a bunch of people read Suzy B. Buttholes account of making 30k at the end of 2016.
BUT you can bring in a relatively stable auxiliary income that can be the difference in the long term. If you write with an open mind to kinks you may not share, write with an open mind to the genre at large, recognize that all writing is hard, recognize that it will be difficult, and accept that it will demand a lot of you creativity then you are ready to start making extra income. It will take months or possibly even years, but it can happen.
Do this because you want to do it and your willing to figure out how this works. Don’t expect everyone to just go and buy it because you post ads. Don’t expect it to be easy. Don’t expect to make more than a few bucks a month until you have a catalog. Be sincere. Be honest. Be smart. Be friendly. Make money. The trick to making your erotica sell is knowing your strengths and playing to them alongside being willing to connect with people as more than a sales person. If you keep all this in mind as you pursue this weird world of words and sex then you’ll not only do fine, but you’ll do excellent. Just give it time.
“Leather Bound Babes?”
He reads the title and laughs like a mad man, utterly unable to ignore the contorted figure on the cover. She just chuckles and pulls another book from the book store’s battered gunmetal grey shelves.
In that quiet back corner of the book store they were surrounded by bodice rippers and rippling bare chested cowboys. Titles with subtly obscene and obnoxious names surrounded them, and reminded them how many innuendos included the words “come” and the phrase “Doing the”. For all the joking and the laughing, they shared a mutual love of the romance section. Their gentle jabs and riffs arose from a place of pure affection, not petty scorn for a genre. Her life had been where the book had been her one constant companion in the face of scorn, and of course she read those silly titles to feel a love once deemed impossible for her to find. His love of the genre came from sneaking in his mother’s stack of books from the library or thrift store after he blew through his own. He read page after page not caring about it being “kissy kissy stuff”, as he told her.
“Sometimes I wonder if these male models have faces or anything else besides chests.”
She laughed. “What more do they need…well-” she whispered, “besides fourteen inch dicks?” They both chuckled and glanced around to make sure no wandering youngsters could hear them. “Apparently that’s all women want.”
“Is it true?” He teased.
“Oh god no, but it is a nice thought. Just…” she motioned towards the field of covers surrounding them from the front and flank. “very ultra common.”
“Well, it sort of suits the genre, no?” he said.
“The books aren’t bad. The covers often are, but that makes them more fun.” She picked a bright purple cover with a couple leaning against a ranch fence from the shelf. As she scimmed the pages she saw, from the corner of her eye, him watching her closely. “What’s on your mind?” As she spoke her eyes fell on the phrase ‘engorged rod’. For some reason that one always tripped her up and made her laugh. Something about it seemed so retro and so visceral and yet so not descriptive. She just found it…oddly hilarious.
“It’s cool that you’re cool with this,” he said.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“A lot of people would give me shit if they knew a big burly guy like me liked this stuff.” Sadly, she agreed that people would be so stupid.
“People are shitty, but you are perfect.” She leaned up on her tip toes and placed a soft kiss against his full and soft lips, which curled into a smile as they pulled away. She lived to see that smile.
Her boyfriend looked like a friendly neighborhood lumberjack with the beard and broadness to match. For the New Year, he’d begun working out regularly, pushing himself to the limit and then farther. The result was his natural broadness gained tone and got a bit broader, a bit harder, and he really looked like one of those men of the mountain. But he didn’t play any B.S games about what he should do as a man. He could fix a truck and then drive it to craft store, would be the first to suggest salad for dinner, and ,dare she say, he cried at the same points in movies she did. The night before they had watched Beaches. It was a mess and they ran out of kleenex. Actually, that was why they’d gone out and they decided on the way to get more books.
Like they didn’t have enough books.
“I’m not perfect,” he said as he turned to the covers. Dozens of chiseled bare chests stared back at him and his face knotted a little. She wrapped an arm around his own, a small comfort in the face of his own insecurities. He never wanted to be jacked, but she’d sense he’d been somewhat unhappy with his build. He didn’t lose a shit ton of weight, and replace it with lean muscle Chris Evans Captain America like muscle. He gained muscle and it just layered under his chubby bits. He wasn’t as fat as he thought he was. He had a bit of tummy, a nice butt(which she grabbed often), and the sort of meatiness she found comforting. Why didn’t he see it that way? His eyes absorbed those cover images with half covetous jealousy, and she pulled him closer. Through their winter pea coats she felt his warmth surround her and she nuzzled against him.
“Do you know what I like about you?” she asked.
“My charming wit and lackluster personality?”
She shook her head, then beamed up at him with all the love in her heart.
“You’re very real. You aren’t a ken doll. You have meat, and substance, and a unique feeling. I like you in my arms, and on my body and…in my body.” She watched his cheeks beam firetruck red, a better sign of how effective her words were than anything he could say. “Truthfully very few of these guys do it for me, but you…you’re real to me, for me, and your flaws are perfect.”
He couldn’t think of anything to say, and so he kissed her again, sealing his mouth to hers. In seconds a deep meaningful kiss descended into raw meaningful passion. They were consumed by each other, breathing in a moment in time that would never be exactly repeated. A quiet couple solidifying one part of their love surrounded by books that often subverted the cozier notions of love like reading together, shopping together, or simply not being those perfect people.
“Ahem?” A voice startled them.
The couple instantly parted, both flustered and feeling a tad exposed as a store clerk rounded the corner. As she struggled to say the socially appropriate thing he cleared his throat then said “Sorry, this seemed the best section for romance.”
“Well,” the clerk chuckled, “Romance is the section not lust.”
“Judging by the look of it, ” she said glancing around them. “Not exactly.”
The first time I wrote a story with a sex scene I was 14. It was a Full Metal Alchemist fan fiction. The first time I wrote an original piece worth a damn was at age 15. The story concerned a young unnamed woman who encounters a shape shifting wolf(original I know). The wolf isn’t some bad boy though. He’s a teenager like her, but full of cheer and hope for a better world. One moonlit night the unnamed girl kissed him and shy fumbling led to more. Now as I begin my journey as an erotica writer I’ve been forced to ask a question: is it wrong or uncomfortable for my readers if I revisit those ideas and give them a more evolved form? Is it wrong to plumb my brain for dirty fantasies I drooled over as a minor? Is it wrong to take old stories from my books and USBs and rewrite them as something new? It may seem like a stupid question, but as young people gain access to more technology and we engage in discussions over technology, sex, consent, and inevitably morality we have to begin figuring out these often arbitrary lines of legality and morality.
My natural instinct with creative works is that they are fictional and though they do impact our society we can’t and should not treat thoughts as crimes. So long as no one is hurt then regardless of our disgust no one should be penalized legally for fictional content creation…though they can be penalized socially. My litmus test has always been “Is anyone being hurt by this?” and I mean that both directly and indirectly. And take notes here because that question is going to become particularly important as we advance virtual reality and robotic technology (we often talk about robots used for sex, but a debate will be around animal like or childlike robots made for that purpose. This will soon be our reality.). Access to stories, platforms like amazon, and access to the materials necessary to create stories/comics/games/movies/etc. are already complicating our reality. Back in 2014 I remember reading a story about a man returning from Japan who was arrested on child pornography charges because of comics specifically manga as well as this. The characters were written as being the age of majority, but they said it didn’t matter because they saw what they saw on the page/screen. And I get why people reacted this way because they saw what they saw. I have no doubts that some characters are written younger despite their given ages which can be gross and uncomfortable to say the least. I have no clue what sort of manga or comics that the people prosecuted had, and I don’t know how young or realistic the characters drawn were, so it may have really been a case of “I know it when I see it” and even though that’d make me more comfortable part of me hesitates because it’d still be fiction. But I’d still be more comfortable.
But the weird part is basically the choice to prosecute these individuals penalizes artists for their style but more than that it brings up a whole lot of questions. To me this asserts if a person has a young face, or more dramatically has a youthful body and you date them you could be subject to being called a pedo. A lot of people say it is a matter of using common sense to decide what is and is not ok, but it isn’t. I wish it was that simple to separate the wheat from the grosso chaff but it isn’t.
Despite all the fan service I loved the animes pictured above…now let me tell you a secret. They are both animated versions of The Dirty Pair. One is the original show from the 1980s and the one on the right is from the fan service laden ugly 1990s reboot. The exact same characters are depicted, but the artists had very different interpretations, styles, and quite frankly most people probably wouldn’t think they were the same characters or the same ages(mid twenties). The reboot had them less mature and more cartoonish in personality, so is that enough to penalize it? I’d guess not, but still it might be. Whether right or wrong it can lead to sticky situations. But plenty of people risk arrest for creating characters who are drawn or written in a certain style. It’s arbitrary decision making based on some random person(s) comfort level, and in the case of fiction…depending on the style of the artist the only difference between a child and an adult is height and eye size…and that’s not always the case.
I point out the difficulty of this scenario because it is something we’re dealing with now that affects creators both in business and in figuring out how people see their work. The comics/manga examples are far more clean cut than me revisiting stories from my teenage years, and yet they are fraught with ethical, moral, and social questions. Do we assume that any character in a particular style is a child. In the picture about Hiei, the short black haired guy on the left, is the oldest of the core four characters if I remember correctly. He’s just short. Do we assume any character written a specific way is meant to be a kid? I think there’s a reasonable argument for that, but even then I have to admit it becomes “I’ll know it when I see it”. All of these issues of morality, technology, and creation come to the forefront of your mind as a writer, especially when you begin engaging with pieces, thoughts, and characters that have experiences with sexuality. As I said, I wrote sex as 14 year old, and though it wasn’t good…it was there depicting characters who were young and on adventures. And while their or my age was never fetishized…I cannot stop someone from sexualizing it. I can’t thought police people to not find it arousing that I was a young pervert even if I find it gross, but can people be penalized for reading those revamped old stories, fantasies, and thoughts?
But that’s complicated…and this next part is often something we don’t like to discuss but it is true.
Quite frankly, we can’t 100% know what exactly excites someone or what role they are taking in their fantasies. Research finds time and again that some fantasy aren’t of the one traditionally considered the victimizer. Not every sexual thought is going to be safe, sane, consensual, or even possible but people have them…and there is no way to stop people from sharing them. Further why shouldn’t people profit off of fiction so long as it doesn’t give people a step by step guide to illegality? There are arguments to be made, but even still we don’t know what other people think. It isn’t my place to assume your darkest taboo fantasies place you in the role of the victimizer/power-holder/etc. because there is literally no way to know that unless you told me, and even if I did know what does that have to do with you in the real world? If its just a fantasy, a fun story to read, a fun story to write…than who is anyone to decide that makes me immortal?
Yet I can’t ignore that a large part of society disagrees. What I consider “Playing thought police” is what others call setting standards, and while I disagree with many of those standards I can’t say it is wholesale wrong. Now, this isn’t a matter of people being able to critique and turn their noses up in disgust. It is a matter of wondering what is inappropriate, not in risk of being seen as illegal, and generally pragmatic. So long as a piece isn’t harming anyone then it is generally seen as fine. The problem is deciding when something “promotes” something negative. Hundreds of thousands of people would see my BDSM erotica ,like Suffer too Good or my latest Dirty Honey, and decide I’m promoting anything from insanity to sexism. And I was once told by a room fool of people that sexual submission is an extension of sexism, so this isn’t me over reacting to nothing. Take that and add to the fact that I do have stories I wrote years ago that I find hot, erotic, and would love to rewrite, and we have some difficult questions. I’m pulling stuff from myself, but from my teenage self. Is it wrong because I should ignore who I was or ignore young people having sexuality and only write new stuff? I was a teen, a kid, and I had some of the dirtiest fucking thoughts you can imagine (pun intended), so I wrote some intensely erotic smut that would work for my business now. To some people that can be a problem.
Do young people have a right to write erotica or smut? Is there an inherent problem with anyone, especially adults, reading and enjoying it? Is there something wrong with me writing old sex stories from my teenage years into something else? These seemingly ridiculous questions have to be asked at some point and people don’t because they think the answer is obvious or the subjects make them uncomfortable. But we have to be braver. We have to be honest.
Every writer I know has at least one story or article that they’re written and put aside. I have thousands of notebooks filled with unfinished stories with some great ideas, but they were written at a point in time when I could not do them justice or give them the time they needed. Full disclosure…The Original Story that Dirty Honey was based on was a story I began at some point between the ages of 16-19. Does that make you uncomfortable? If yes…why? Because now you know I had very aggressive sexual fantasies at a younger age? If I liked the story then and I liked the story now, so what does it matter? Does the story take on added dimension with that revelation? Perhaps yes, but does that make the story disgusting in some way? So far as I can see no. The fact is I am a sexual and romantic being. I’ve always been fascinated by sex, romance, and falling in love. What is the difference between me coming up with the story now or then? Nothing practical or logical justifies a reaction.
The aversion some may feel comes from this belief that young people shouldn’t be sexual even though we know they are, and that feeling isn’t logical…but conditioned and arbitrary. I debated over using old material,but ultimately I realized it’d be more criminal to not do so and pretend something drastic happened at 18 and I realized I had girl parts that could be fun and imagine these filthy things. But no one took the adult filter off my brain like all of a sudden the kids have left home and the adult channels no longer need an adult filter. Nah. I’ve been sexual for a long time and there is no reason I should act ashamed of that or not use valuable material because someone might be uncomfortable with realizing I’ve always been me. Life is too short and I am too poor to not look to the things I like and use them in profitable ways. Bottom line: that’s their hang up not mine.
But I want to throw a wrench in here…what about teenage writers?
Fanfiction.net, live journal, Gaiaonline, myspace, Xenga, IMVU, and ,hell, even Neopets were spaces where I found sexual young people who were writing flat out smut if not erotic romances. Anyone of any age could read them. Once upon a time I was one of those teens, and writing was so much happier than my reality. Writing those sexy, romantic, and angst filled stories helped me develop as a person. Getting feedback helped me develop as a writer. Some people would look at those places and see corruption. I have no doubt there are predators on those sites because there are predators everywhere, but that isn’t what this article is about. This article is about navigating artistic boundaries, and what I’m asking is does age negate the right to certain types of art, to profit from that art, and/or affect those creating it?
There’s a difference between sexualization and writing sex, which I believe in. However I acknowledge that it is difficult to navigate. I know a woman who published her first book at 17 to rave reviews, she sold the rights while maintaining royalties, and generally could stand to make millions from that still popular book. As I began writing Dirty Honey, I found myself thinking what if that author had written a sex scene in her book? What if there is a book written by a brilliant 16 year old who is able to write with the sort of maturity and care that most adults can’t even do, but they’re story has been hurt by sex?
While plenty of YA books contain elements of groping or “fades to black” or references to candles burning all night…what happens when 15 year old Rosie D. writes sex that is inherently different from 20 something year old Rosie D. ? Content wise I’m a better writer and I write better stories. There is no moral imperative here. Nothing changes, and yet so often we use age to determine what is appropriate not because it works, but because why not. We have to do something to protect those who aren’t mentally matured enough for the sexual world, but even the more tangible aspects of sex and age and consent still have muddied waters. A number of gay kids have been charged with statutory rape because they turned 18 and their current or former girlfriend or boyfriend was a pinch younger with parents who blamed the now-18 year old for “making their kid” gay and forcing them to acknowledge their kids as sexual/romantic beings. It is an unfortunate reality that the laws just can’t cope with, and I don’t know if they ever will be. So how do authors especially young authors navigate this moral mind field?
If a 15 year old was revealed to be a top selling erotica author how would the world react? Probably with calling the kid’s parents perverts, suggestions of child protective services, investigations of abuse, laughter, derision, suddenly rave reviews are redone to point out “childish” aspects of the writing they once praised. It has a sense, but it isn’t logical or reasonable. Yet people would feel dirty, but if that 15 year old held back that book and then published it five years later? Their reputation would be un-compromised and the readers would feel less upset and bothered. That 15 year old might be harassed as well, and perhaps sexually harassed by not only old perverts but classmates and others. But I don’t know how we would handle that. I don’t know how we would make peace with the fact that a 15 year old wrote a mature, sensual, erotic, and emotional sex scene that excited adults, teens, and anyone who got their hands on a copy. I do believe we’d struggle. So often we pretend young people are sexual or capable of sexual thought with any weight to them.
But if that kid waited five years…what would we do? Praise them, share their works, whisper about them in coffee shops, and then see them on Oprah’s Book Club. And then what would happen if that now-20 writer went on TV said “I wrote the story when I was 15. I fully edited it by the time I was 16, but didn’t get the courage to send it out until I was 19”? Once again people wouldn’t know what to think. They wouldn’t know what to say, or how to feel about reading sex by the author’s younger self, but I’d imagine they might excuse in five seconds if the author was charismatic enough. I hope that’s what will happen with my writing.
For me…I have lived a life as a teenage wasteland of sex, and now as a young adult obsessed with sex and candy and whips and things I find the best policy is to look at the piece as what it is before doing anything else before moving to where the piece came from and who wrote it. In erotica the best way to examine our works and to enjoy them is to just accept them and the creativity that birthed them then we can evaluate what they are, how they work, and if they really do promote dangerous ideas for someone to follow through on to hurt people/creatures.