Monthly Archives: November 2017
As a writer of erotic romance, I’m always trying to analyze the ways in which sex strengthens story. I’ve been very vocal in my belief that a story without sex is like a story without eating or breathing. Sex is a major driving force in our lives on many levels that I’ve dealt with in many blog posts. Because it is a major driving force in our lives it must also be a major driving force in story. Sex is a powerful way to create conflict and chaos in fiction. It’s a way of allowing our characters to interact on an intimate level. And it’s one of the very best ways to cut through our characters’ facades and get an honest look at who they are when their guard is down and they’re at their most vulnerable. With that in mind, I’ve decided to share a few points that I always find helpful when I write sex scenes. For me, going back to the basics is always a great way to sharpen my skills. And I love to share the things that work for me.
I would like to add that many of these points I have learned as much from reading bad sex scenes or gratuitous sex scenes as I have from my own efforts. But then every writer hones her craft through being an avid reader.
Three occasions not to write sex
1. While writing children’s books
2. While writing the definitive work on antique saltcellars.
3. When you’re not a writer, you’re a bricklayer. Even then …
Three important reasons to incorporate sex in your writing
1. Sex adds tension.
2. Sex adds depth and dimension to a story, and gives it more humanity.
3. Sex adds intimacy and transparency to the story and helps the reader better know the characters.
Three big no-nos in writing sex
1. Sex should never be gratuitous. If it doesn’t further the story, don’t put it in.
2. Sex shouldn’t be a trip to the gyno office. Technical is NOT sexy.
3. Sex should never be clichéd or OTT. (unless it suits the story)
Four suggestions for writing better sex scenes
1. Write sex unselfconsciously. No one is going to believe you’re writing about yourself any more than they believe Thomas Harris is a cannibal.
2. Sex scenes should always be pacey. Too much detail is worse than not enough. Sex should neither slow nor speed up the pace of the novel. It shouldn’t be used like an interval in a play. It should not serve as filler to bolster word count. It should always keep pace with the story being told.
3. Approach sex in your writing voyeuristically by watching and learning from your characters. Their personalities, emotional baggage and behavior traits will dictate how they have sex and how you write it.
4. You should always be able to feel a good sex scene in your gut. I’m not talking about wank material, I’m talking about The Clench. It’s a different animal. The Clench below the navel is for the sex scene what the tightness in the chest and
shoulders is for the suspense scene. Ya need to feel it.
The power of good sex can drive a story in ways that almost nothing else can. Good sex can be the pay-off for a hundred pages of sexual chemistry and tension, but the pay-off is even better if it’s also the cause of more chaos, sling-shotting the reader breathlessly on to the next hundred pages and the next.
Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.
Her m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by Cleis Press. You will also find her new novel No Restraint at Amazon. Enjoy a good, sexy read today.
Thursday, Nov. 23 was Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s a holiday dedicated to when the Native Americans and American colonists broke bread together. It’s a day of remembering what you are thankful for.
It’s also a day of massive, bloat-worthy Triptophan turkey dinners, insane political talk from Crazy Uncle Joe at the dinner table, greedy shopping binges, and kids flushing their underwear down the toilet so that you have to pay the exorbitant Holiday fee to have a plumber unclog it. It’s all about family get-togethers and good cheer in between two much pumpkin pie and copious amounts of cheap wine that loosens tongues.
I was hanging out on FARK, my favorite not-news social media aggregator, when I saw a post about “what are you thankful for today?” The comments included the usual snark like:
A couple hours ago my cat walked right up to my feet and immediately puked. I thanked her for missing my feet. But not the socks I left under my desk last night. Did make clean up easy.
My cat came up to me in bed and expressed displeasure of hosting 2 dogs by projectile vomiting on me. Intimacy, I am thankful for.
Health, familial stability, kindness and understanding. And all you assholes, I’m thankful y’all’re here too.
I have weed.
I woke up again today. That was good.
Living in a country where I can buy one of those enormous containers of Utz cheese balls.
Most comments were sincere though, and they reminded me of what I am thankful for.
I am thankful that I don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re not American, have you ever seen a Thanksgiving dinner? There’s a picture of it next to the word “gluttony” in the dictionary.
I also have weed.
I have good health and a husband who loves me very much.
I know better than to talk about religion and especially politics at the dinner table today or any other day for that matter.
My son is doing well. He has a job he loves but he needs to find his own place. He’s working on that.
My husband is doing well. He’s retiring in about two years. He’s my soulmate. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
My two blind cats. They love snuggles and petting and they keep me entertained.
I have the ability to write freely. I wish I were paid better but I have writing freedom lots of people don’t have. I also get support for my writing from my family which I understand lots of writers don’t have.
So on this Thanksgiving 2017, I wanted to write about what I was thankful for. I know I’m very fortunate, and I will not look a gift horse in the mouth. So now that the holiday season has started whether you live in or outside the U. S., get those lights lit and that tree up. Wrap those gifts. Enjoy the endless streams of Christmas music (or gouge your ears out with an ice pick, whichever applies). Seasonal affective disorder doesn’t start for me until January so I’m going to enjoy this good mood while I can. Happy holidays, everyone!
by Jean Roberta
For most of my adult life, men have told me they are confused about what women want. This question was famously asked long before I was born.
As a result of the recent avalanche of “me too” stories about a spectrum of sexual harassment and abuse, heterosexual men have been asking wistfully whether “flirting” is now considered unacceptable.
I haven’t heard anyone in the “me too” crowd suggest that being casually groped in public is as damaging as gang rape that leaves visible and invisible scars, nor the long-term effects of being murdered. There have been numerous references to a spectrum of abuse ranging from relatively mild to almost unbelievable, yet women who object to actions that feel abusive are accused of lacking a sense of proportion.
None of this is new. The claim that too many women are humorless prudes who want to outlaw all erotic interaction between males and females was made many times when Second Wave Feminism got rolling in the early 1970s.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “flirt” is an intransitive verb which means:
1. To move erratically, e.g. butterflies flirting among the flowers,
2. To behave amorously without serious intent, e.g. a man flirting with every attractive woman he sees,
3. To show superficial or casual interest or liking, e.g. flirting with a idea,
4. To experiment with something new, e.g. a novelist flirting with poetry,
5. To come close to experiencing something, e.g. flirting with disaster.
One essential quality of “flirting,” according to these definitions, is a lack of commitment or serious intent. A man or a woman who flirts is not promising anything beyond the pleasure of the moment. If flirting is generally accepted as a flattering exchange of interest between two (or more) people, then:
-no one who flirts should be accused of “asking for trouble” by appearing to offer sexual service to everyone who sees them. “Flirting” is not a promise.
– no one who flirts is entitled to blame the object of attention for responding positively.
In my experience, the biggest opponents of flirting are heterosexual men. Before I started high school, my father warned me that women “get themselves raped” by flirting with men, especially in bars, and accepting free drinks. I was too young to get into a bar, and it hadn’t occurred to me to venture into one in search of free drinks. However, my father seemed to think I should be warned early. On other occasions, he claimed that “real rape” was impossible to commit.
After I passed through puberty, I began having alarming encounters with guys of various ages. These experiences started out (in my perception) as harmless flirting, a fun conversation. A guy would see me walking past and make a cheerful comment about the weather. (In Canada, this could be “Nice day, eh?” or “Aren’t you glad the temperature warmed up?” meaning it had gone from 40 degrees below zero to minus 20.)
I should probably mention here that I love conversation, and I’m not bored by “small talk” because it is often interesting in itself, and it can lead to longer-term relationships. In my youth, I didn’t consider an offer of conversation to be as dangerous as the offer of a free drink. I’ve usually responded to people who speak to me, regardless of who they are.
This has often turned out to be a mistake on my part. The guy would ask where I lived, then show annoyance when I wouldn’t tell him. He would invite me to his place, and assume I wasn’t serious when I tried to reject the invitation politely. Once when I was coming home from work on a city bus, a guy persistently told me (didn’t ask) that I was going out with him for a drink, although I repeatedly told him I was going home to my husband. After dashing off the bus, I thought it prudent to take a long, indirect route home to avoid bringing trouble to my door.
A word of advice to the confused: grabbing the ass of a person you do not know (and who might not be interested in sexual interaction with a stranger) is not “harmless flirting.” If flirting is defined as harmless by definition, then ass-grabbing is not flirtatious. It is abusive. And to those who think ass-grabbing shouldn’t even be mentioned as part of the spectrum of abuse because it is less harmful than other forms of assault, consider how quickly assault can escalate. Many women know this from experience.
If a woman whose ass you grabbed takes offense, pushes you away, or tells you off, do you feel entitled to retaliate? If a woman whose ass you grabbed doesn’t seem offended enough, do you interpret her passivity as a sign that she wants sex with you as soon as possible? Do you think women who don’t reject your “flirting” fast enough, or firmly enough, are sluts who want you to try harder? Do you think women who don’t want to be touched by men they don’t know are frigid killjoys?
None of these reactions fall into the definition of “flirting.” And if you think flirting should make a glorious comeback, it would be wise of you not to complain that: 1) it’s hard to respect women when so many of them are sluts without shame, and 2) it’s hard to respect women when so many are self-righteous about “boundaries.”
As an example of sexually-explicit but non-abusive flirting, I offer you the following anecdote from my distant past. I was crossing the street to my apartment, where my belongings were half-packed. I was planning to move myself and my daughter into a bigger apartment across town with my first woman lover. This was a milestone event in my life, and I had reached the milestone age of thirty.
A fresh-faced young man who looked like a teenage skater dude approached me, said I looked like a fun person to know, and asked if I would like to come to his place to fool around for awhile. His intentions were clear. I felt flattered, and I couldn’t help wondering if Fate were offering me a chance to change my mind.
I was dressed for moving (old jeans, faded T-shirt), not for seduction. I can only assume that my hope for my future was giving me a visible glow that attracted an unlikely suitor. I thought about trains that pass in the night, or the day.
Accepting Young Dude’s offer would have complicated my life more than I wanted. I told him no, I was involved with someone.
To my relief, Young Dude smiled, let me know he was disappointed, but wished me a nice day. He didn’t demand any information from me, nor did he offer an insult, a warning, or a threat.
Now there was a man who knew how to flirt, as young and inexperienced as he looked. I hope he has had a good life, including lots of good sex.
I never knew the stranger’s name, but I wish more men would follow his example.
I probably shouldn’t publish this post. I’m likely to get all sorts of flak. However, I’ve been bothered by this for weeks, and it seems that ERWA is the only public forum to which I belong where people are mature enough to actually read this post, instead of automatically condemning it.
Like many members of Western culture, I was simultaneously unsurprised and astonished by the Harvey Weinstein revelations, and the consequent cultural fallout. Tales of women forced into sex on the casting couch are so common as to be cliché. Weinstein, it seems, was a particularly egregious example, but power differentials between male bosses and (mostly) female underlings that lead to sexual abuse are hardly new. The more remarkable and disturbing aspect of the case was the flood of other accusations and confessions it triggered.
All at once, people were talking about issues previously swept under the rug. I approve. Too often in Western society, stories about rape and abuse leap into the headlines for a few days, then fade away. The stories are dismissed as isolated, extreme cases. Now, finally, we can all see the patterns embedded in our culture and in our legal system that encourage sexual harassment and assault.
Still, I was not prepared for avalanche of anger that met me when I logged on to Facebook. “#MeToo” screamed my friends, my relatives, my female acquaintances. I was attacked too, they wrote. I was harassed. I was raped. I could not believe how many of them identified themselves as victims. I’d say sixty to seventy percent of my female contacts in the US and Canada posted the #MeToo hash tag.
I felt strange. Weird. Almost left out. Because in my more than six decades of life, I’ve never been forced into sex. I’ve never been assaulted or been the target of an attempted rape. Aside from the ubiquitous wolf whistles and cat calls, nobody has ever sexually harassed me.
Am I just lucky?
I haven’t led a particularly sheltered life. I spent a good while in academia, an environment not known for its equitable treatment of women, then moved to the tech world, which is notorious for its sexist attitudes. I lived in major cities, in not particularly upscale neighborhoods. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I loved to dress provocatively, going without a bra, wearing short skirts and plunging necklines. I wasn’t trying to attract attention. I just liked feeling sexy.
It’s true I have enjoyed a wealth of sexual experiences, probably more than the average woman (whoever she is). However, it was all consensual. I’ve occasionally had sex even when I wasn’t aroused by my partner, but I’ve always known I could say no. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed all my lovers (and hope that is mutual).
Some might question my memory. Maybe I’ve suppressed some experiences. Maybe I’m in denial. I’ve been combing my recollections for weeks, looking for any hint that I’ve been through anything like what my peers report. Nothing. If it’s buried, it’s buried deep.
Or is it all a question of labels? Would some other woman have called some of my encounters “assault”? I really don’t think so, but of course I can’t know. I gave away my virginity at sixteen to a man six years older. That would be considered statutory rape, I guess, but I knew exactly what I was doing and what I wanted.
Perhaps I’m simply oblivious. I don’t see the discrimination, or feel the power differentials. Perhaps I’ve been passed over for promotions because I’m female, without realizing what was going on. Perhaps “the guys” joked about my tits behind my back, or talked about how they’d love to gang bang me, and I just never noticed.
Maybe I’m just the exception that proves the rule.
Maybe. In any case, I find myself concerned about what I see as an overreaction to the Weinstein saga. Any sort of sexual attention to a subordinate, no matter how far in the past, will put a person under scrutiny. Celebrities offer tearful apologies for what I would view as minor transgressions. Sure, a man who pats a woman’s behind is being sexist and rude, but there’s a huge gap between groping and rape. I’d argue that they aren’t even necessarily part of the same continuum.
But women are angry—rightly so—and they want to punish anyone who demonstrates, in any form, the arrogance and sense of entitlement that can be the precursors of sexual abuse. The problem I see is that anger is not an effective strategy for creating positive social change. Anger polarizes. Anger overgeneralizes and oversimplifies, lumping an inappropriate innuendo at work in with a rape at knife point. Our anger triggers answering anger in men, some of whom—perhaps many of whom—are innocent of the crimes committed by the Weinsteins of the world. These men feel threatened, wrongfully accused. Meanwhile, those who are not innocent feel even more justified in attacking the “crazy, frigid bitches” who deny them what they want.
This is not a recipe for sexual equality, or sexual harmony. What we need is, first, rational analysis and discussion to identify the true issues and to tease apart the different cultural factors that lead to sexual violence. Then we need to specifically target these factors with action – legal changes, educational programs aimed at both girls and boys, public relations efforts that use the power of celebrity to encourage and inspire rather than to shame.
Finally, we need to recognize that in today’s hyper-connected world, both traditional and social media amplify emotion at the expense of civil discourse. Tweeting #MeToo gives you a satisfying sense of solidarity. It may feel like striking a blow against sexism and rape. However, it does nothing if not followed up with concrete, constructive activities to solve what is a real, but not a simple, problem.
Why didn’t she come forward with these allegations when they happened?
This is a common counter-accusation to women who speak out about long-ago sexual assault. The question implies that the victim is lying and presumes a justice system or human resources department that takes such complaints seriously.
Women know neither institution is rarely on their side. Their violation is likely to be compounded by speaking out. In the course of my research, I discovered some heartbreaking reasons why this has long been the case.
As I discussed in last month’s column, by 1920, determined female reformers were victorious in their effort to raise the age of consent in the United States from a prepubescent ten or twelve to sixteen or eighteen years of age with the help of a (relatively) sexually frank novel. As a result, teenage girls throughout the land were no longer assaulted by older men. The sexual double standard was destroyed forever with a silver stake through its heart.
Well, actually, that’s not how the story ends at all.
The new laws may have seemed like a way to protect young women from sexual harm. However, men had complete control of the justice system, and it fell to them to interpret and enforce the laws. Perhaps predictably given the culture’s patriarchal values, these powerful men took a law intended to protect girls and used it to protect their own interests instead.
What follows is a summary of who was actually punished for extra-marital sex in early-twentieth-century America. Spoiler alert: it was never, ever wealthy mill owners like Mr. Mansfield, the Sunday school teacher who raped a fifteen-year-old working-class girl, in Helen Hamilton Gardener’s Is This Your Son, My Lord? Laws or no, Mansfield and his kind continued to indulge their desires without legal consequence.
In Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920, Mary Odem studied the records of numerous statutory rape court cases in Alameda and Los Angeles Counties in California in the early 1900s to determine the effectiveness of the higher age-of-consent laws. Her findings are illuminating for our current grappling with sexual assault issues today.
Indeed in all of the cases Odem examined, those hauled into court were not wealthy men, but socially vulnerable ones. The accused male partner had a working class job—teamster, shop assistant, manual laborer—and was a teenager himself. In both California counties, over 70% of the relationships were consensual. Often the girl had run away from an abusive family and sought refuge with a boyfriend she planned to marry. In many cases, parents angry with the new freedoms of the time turned their wayward daughter in to the police. Given the subsequent treatment they received from the justice system, I doubt any of these girls would thank Mrs. Gardener for her efforts on their behalf.
Girls who were being “protected” by the age-of-consent laws were subject to a humiliating pelvic exam by matron who looked for evidence of sexual activity and further grilled the girls on their sexual experiences, including “self-abuse.” The matron wrote up a report for the judge including these intimate details. The victim then faced cross-examination by the prosecutor because if the girl consented in any way, even by not protesting enough in the men’s opinion, she was of bad character and the defendant would receive a lighter sentence. Male defendants were not required to testify. Odem provides a disturbing excerpt from an interrogation for Alameda case #5540 which took place in 1913. Clearly this particular case did not involve consensual relations:
“Prosecutor: And he got on top of you?
A: Yes, sir.
Prosecutor: How were your legs when he had this act of sexual intercourse with you, were they close together or apart?
A: They were apart.
Prosecutor: And how did they get apart, you put them apart yourself, didn’t you?
A: No sir.
Prosecutor: Sure about that?
A: Yes sir.
Prosecutor: Who put them apart?
A: He did.
Prosecutor: What were you doing when he put them apart?
Prosecutor: Where were your hands when he put them apart?
A: Down at the side.
Prosecutor: What did you say during the time he was putting your limbs, your legs, apart?
A: Didn’t say anything.” (Odem, p. 66)
Is it just me, or is the prosecutor, the man who is supposed to be protecting the young girl in society’s name, attempting instead with every question to bully her into self-incrimination and portray her as a willing harlot?
It quickly becomes clear that judges and attorneys were more interested in reinforcing male privilege than dismantling it. Odem concludes that court official interpreted the age-of-consent laws not as a way to protect women from sexual harm, but to “protect the interests of fathers, future husbands, and the state.” Men were sentenced not for harming a girl, but for depriving her father of a chaste daughter. The horrible treatment of the girl suddenly makes sense if the real task was to determine if she was a hazard to society.
“Judge Mortimer Smith explained that the ‘philosophy’ behind the law was ‘that the country depends upon its women to produce good citizens, and a woman who is debauched, that has its effect upon the mind of every child that is born to her and therefore, a sound public policy demands that no man shall have intercourse with a woman under the age of 18 unless he is married to her, and if he does so, that he interferes with the well-being of the community.’” (Odem, p. 71)
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is what Mrs. Gardener had in mind.
A friend recently observed that in a rape trial, even today, judges and juries favor the party who is more like them. Odem’s records show that more often than not, the lawyers and judge found the man to be the true “victim” of the teenage girl’s sexual wiles. The majority of the male defendants in these cases were given probation on the grounds that any normal man would find it hard to resist temptation, even if it was a forcible assault on her. There was one exception: African American men. All of the African American defendants in Odem’s study received significant jail time, although all were also consensual relationships. One man was told to plead guilty by his attorney because the plea in a case of consensuality usually led to probation under that particular judge. Instead, the man received ten years in San Quentin to serve as example for his race. (Odem, p. 80)
Does any of this sound familiar to today?
Of the 28% of cases that were identified as forcible rapes in Alameda County, 43% of the accused were fathers, stepfathers, uncles and brothers, 27% were neighbors or family friends, and 17% were employers of girls who were domestic servants. (Odem, p. 58) The treatment of these victims was even more horrifying.
“’The court scolded one thirteen-year-old who had been sexually abused by her twenty-seven-year-old brother: “Why did you let him do this, [Pearl], you knew it was naughty, didn’t you? Did you know that he hadn’t any right to do it to you?… Why did you let him?” Pearl tried to explain that the acts were committed against her will: “I couldn’t do anything against him. We were the only ones home.’ In cases like these, the victims of forcible rape were made to feel that they had done something wrong and immoral and had somehow invited the attack.” (Odem, p. 69)
A doctor called an adult housekeeper who helped a young girl bring charges against her known assailant “a dirty liar.” The court believed his evaluation over the testimony of the females.
If the justice system was in place to protect the patriarchal family as a pillar of social order, then any suggestion that this ideal was flawed was clearly too much for a poor judge to fathom. “Rather than deal with the problem, it was easier to deny it, to assume that the young women and girls who accused their fathers and other male relatives of sexual abuse were lying.” (Odem, p. 62)
This has been a very painful column for me to write—there are many more heart-wrenching examples I will spare you–but I think it’s important for those of us who write about sexuality in our culture to know that possibly until October 5, 2017 when the Harvey Weinstein story broke (and the jury is out on whether this will lead to lasting change), women and girls were long accused of lying about and ultimately being responsible for their own sexual assault in the courts and in public opinion. Any show of female sexual curiosity or desire was seen as evidence of a woman’s crimes not just against a particular man but against society. The hapless male was merely a victim of her temptation no matter what the circumstance. The drawing at the beginning of this column is supposed to be of a “white slave,” an innocent young woman who was drugged or tricked into prostitution. After reading Delinquent Daughters, I see it as more suitably symbolic of our justice system’s treatment of female sexuality. Contain it, punish it, and always put men’s needs first.
I must end on a more cheerful note. Even back in the 1910s, women did what they could. Lady reformers were often aware that their intentions were not carried out by the male-dominated criminal justice system. They would sometimes attend the trials to support the victims; the atmosphere in the courtroom changed under their watchful eye. (Women could vote in California in 1911, but could not serve on juries until 1917). They lobbied to have female social workers involved in the interviews and courtroom proceedings with some success later in the century. In 1913, women activists were successful in their campaign to recall Judge Charles Weller who had a record of dismissing rape cases even when there was good evidence. (Odem, p. 73)
In 2016, Judge Aaron Persky, a Stanford graduate and former athlete, gave an extremely light sentence to Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Persky is facing a recall for this decision, as well as other less famous judgments favoring college athletes accused of sexual or domestic assault. Determined female activists, led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, lead the recall effort.
The past is still with us. Attempting to make sense of how and why is an important step toward positive change for women and men.
We have the power to decide how the ending of this story. What shall it be?
The image of the “white slave” is reprinted from the cover of Ernest A. Bell, Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls, or the War on the White Slave Trade (1910) via Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920 by Mary E. Odem (1995)
Amid a tumble of weeks in which it seemed every man on the planet, except me, was being accused of or had confessed to sexual offenses against women, ranging from a pat on the behind to outright rape, the passing of Nancy Friday was little noted.
Friday wrote the groundbreaker, “My Secret Garden,” in which she recorded women’s sexual fantasies, and I’ve always thought she should be given credit for launching so-called women’s erotica. Women were stunned and elated to know they weren’t alone, much less freakish, for enjoying a panoply of erotic adventures produced just for them in the theater of their minds. And I’m sure it encouraged many women to not only spin fantasies for themselves, but set them to stories. Before long the Herotica series of erotic anthologies made its appearance.
One would think the Feminist Establishment would welcome an opportunity for women to claim and embrace their sexuality. Instead, the leading feminists proscribed the book and Ms. Magazine smirked, “This woman is no feminist.”
It was one more crack in the schism that separates feminists to this day.
Friday’s interviewees related a rich trove of fantasies, some lurid and transgressive ‑ rape fantasies. One faction of feminism couldn’t stand the idea that women might daydream about being violated, used, controlled. But as some of Friday’s subjects explained, it was safe if it happened inside one’s head. And the idea of having control taken away allowed them to enjoy the fantasy while maintaining they were still a nice girl/proper woman. It wasn’t her fault, he made her do it. It’s a trope that made the bodice-ripper romance so popular.
The feminist faction that had begun to regard sexuality as a means to an end, and that end the subjugation of women, pretty much regarded Friday as a pornographer.
But she had freed women from shackles that bound their imaginations. And she did a favor for men too. I can only speak for myself, but it was somewhat liberating for me too, to know that women could be as nasty-minded as me.
The anti-porn (include erotica) faction of feminism regarded sexuality as toxic and the more extreme seemed to regard all men as potential rapists. With this current monsoon of accusations of sexual harassment and violations, you might even believe they’re on to something.
It leaves me wondering about how these guys got away with it. It must be a very heady feeling to know you have power over another individual, either as an employer or mentor or just about anyone who can by his position make another’s life a triumph or a living hell.
Look at Harvey Weinstein. If he had been Harvey Weinstein the guy who drove the beer truck for a living, he wouldn’t have had that sway over other people’s lives. I doubt he could have gotten a date.
But he was a powerful movie mogul who could launch careers. As for him and the others accused, it makes you wonder if they did it because they craved the sex, or they did it solely because … they could.
It also makes me wonder if anyone with that sort of power over someone else might not be tempted to exploit it. Is sexual exploitation the sole purview of men, or are women susceptible to the dark side too? I think they are because they’re human. I think the reason you don’t hear about women in authority sexually exploiting others is because there still aren’t a lot of women in authority. But the numbers are rising.
Perhaps some women fantasize about exploiting an employee, or student or someone else under their authority. Hey, that’s fine. It’s just a fantasy.
So let’s see if I can connect another dot, which is what we do as writers of erotica. We put fantasies to words, we tell the stories. There’s much ado about consent and non-consent in stories. Some editors and publishers insist consent must be explicit. I think it waters down the fantasy, and therefore the fiction.
Nancy Friday showed us all that we are human, that is, complex creatures capable of weaving a myriad of stories in which we are our own protagonists. She gave us credit for knowing the difference between reality and fantasy … and fiction. There shouldn’t be any fetters on anyone’s imagination.
by Daddy X
One of the most valuable reference books on food is the perennial Joy of Cooking. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you use their recipes, which are far more complicated than a cookbook should be. (They’ll have you sifting brown sugar.) Rather, I’m talking about the section: “Know Your Ingredients”.
Knowing the ingredients of a dish, and, depending on the ways these ingredients are prepared, combined, cooked and how they compliment one another in the finished product, is 95 percent of the cooking battle.
We can extrapolate this theory to our writing. To write effectively, we must first know the ingredients—parts of speech, phraseology, a good vocabulary and how punctuation separates words into categories so they make sense. Style guides, and other dedicated works on various aspects of writing, come in handy for this.
I have purposely not named the authors in several of the guides due to the fact that they are standardized works begun over 100 years ago, then adapted and revised by other authors over decades. Others have been compiled by numerous contributors, such as the literary department at the University of Chicago. If I acknowledged them all, this post would be a lot longer. :>)
You likely have your own trusted teaching guides. We encourage you to comment and put us hip to them. For instance, I’ve not read Stephen King’s On Writing, which comes with its own proponents. I would encourage somebody familiar with it to give an assessment
A few personal favorites to consider:
Elements of Style
The old saw. There have always been challenges to Strunk’s opinionated delivery. It’s not the last word on all aspects of modern writing by any measure. But it just may be the first writing guide a fledgling writer should become familiar with.
Without a working knowledge of the basic information you’ll find in this slim volume, you’ll likely not get far as a writer. You won’t play like Coltrane unless you can first play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. Backwards. Perfectly. Instinctively, without the benefit of written music.
Same with writing. We crawl before we walk. Or run the mile. Or jump hurdles. Just as John Coltrane broke rules, we first need to know the rules inside out, upside down and backwards before we break out on our own.
There is a new edition, which takes into consideration modern conventions, but a copy found in a used bookstore will likely serve as well.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Shows by example how punctuation determines what the words in a sentence actually mean. A fun, clever, deceptively competent work that establishes an easily understood system regarding the nature, logic and nuance of punctuation. Indispensable.
I’ll simply repeat the author’s little yarn that serves to illustrate the concept of this book:
A panda walks into a café, orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes toward the door.
The panda produces a poorly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. “Look it up.”
The waiter turns to the relevant page, and, sure enough finds an explanation:
“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal. Native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
So it really does matter what little marks we put between our words. Like Count Basie said about music: “Notes are simply notes. Music is what happens between the notes.”
The Essential Writer’s Companion
This and the following work would be the most likely to keep near at hand while pounding the keys. (Useless for pounding one’s pud.) Both feature a quick reference guide on the first few pages, allowing you to find an easy answer to your question as to why a red line appears under your work. Basic and easy to use, but not very nuanced.
Barron’s Essentials of English
See above. If you have one, you’ll probably not need the other. Both address aspects of writing essays, papers, letters, aesthetics of the finished product and illustrate common misuses of parts of speech. Both use examples to illustrate these lessons.
Self-editing for Fiction Writers Brown/King
This is the book I recommend most often on ERWA Storytime. While the above works provide general information on the English language, Self-editing focuses on the craft of fiction writing in depth. POV, tense, dialog dynamics, tags and beats, active v passive, show v tell, internal monologue, general sophistication of voice, it’s all covered.
Probably the one style guide a fiction writer should read cover-to-cover once a year. Also includes either-or lessons, examples of misuses and exercises to drive home points. (I simply looooove driving home my point.)
The Chicago Manual of Style
If Elements of Style is the first word on the subject, Chicago just may be the last. Most fiction writers will probably never need all the information contained in this massive tome, considering the broad scope of the business writing areas. Having said that, Chicago is the go-to choice for most editors and publishing houses. If a writer could possibly read (and retain) all the information in this book, they would have everything they need to know about most aspects of general writing, journalism, publishing and book production.
I’m still working with the 15th edition, (published 2003) but I see they’ve progressed to the 17th, likely incorporating more advanced aspects of the ever-changing world of modern writing and on-line publishing.
How to Write a Dirty Story by Susie Bright
Though the books mentioned above contain all you need to write effectively in the English language, those that bring up sex at all will advise to keep it behind closed doors. This, obviously, is antithetical for those of us who write erotica.
Ms. Bright has gone out of her way to show us how erotica writing differs from general fiction writing. From conception to submission of the finished product, we’re exposed to her vast first-hand experience. No pun.
Beyond delving into the literary elements that make for effective erotica, unlike the other books noted, Susie includes process and how it relates to the craft. For instance, she offers advice in avoiding libido burnout when, for hours on end, day after day, we’re writing about sex. She admonishes writers of all stripes to make sure to eat well, to exercise regularly, even get up and take walks outside every few hours, both to get other perspectives and to get the blood (and other juices) flowing. You’ll be surprised how many new ideas come to the fore while walking outdoors.
Reading for your own pleasure
You’ll notice that many of the above guides and reference works include before/after examples to illustrate their respective lessons. There’s no reason to limit the concept of learning by example to reference works.
Of primary importance in my antiques business is recognition. Recognizing the good from the bad, genuine from fake, is essential. Same with writing.
Read the best writing, fiction or not. The weekly NYT Book Review is a good start. Pulitzer and Nobel prizes in both fiction and non-fiction are announced every year. Pick and choose from whatever your interests may be; the possibilities extend back for years. Reading the best stuff, whether fiction or not, allows us to recognize and appreciate the best. And to perceive at a gut level how and why the best differs from the lesser.
Take for example T. C. Boyle, who has received as many literary acknowledgements of any living writer. Whether novel or short story, Boyle’s the kind of writer whose range of subject matter encompasses something for just about everyone. In my opinion, his prolific masterpieces are the very pinnacle of literary arts. I don’t think he structures any two sentences alike. His command of longer sentences is enviable— structured, complex, yet easy to read. Unless you are already a literary scholar, Boyle will add to your vocabulary every sitting.
Donna Tartt is another. The Goldfinch won a Pulitzer a couple of years back and may be the most perfectly constructed novel I’ve ever read. Norman Mailer made Harlot’s Ghost, his 1400 page fictional (?) treatise on the CIA read like a breeze. It was quite easy to go through 40-50 pages in a sitting, not because it wasn’t sophisticated or complex, far from it, but because of the fact that Mailer’s prose flows effortlessly.
I’m sure you have your favorites. Please comment on them below. Let’s hear about your go-to authors and your take on why they write so well.
If we become accustomed to reading the best in every type of writing, we’ll not be satisfied with anything less in our own work.
We can use these wonderful books as further examples to improve our work, just as we would the examples in the style guides. How our favorite authors successfully compile their work. How they vary (or not) the length and construction of sentences. How their paragraphs and themes weave together. How they approach and allow for vocabulary, POV, modifiers, characterization, atmosphere, time and tense. How and when to use our knowledge and finesse to break the rules, because, after all, isn’t breaking rules what the best writers do?
As a chef in the restaurant business, I was expected to go out and dine in competing restaurants, basically researching other chefs’ ways to make food taste good. Luckily, when I first started in a professional capacity, I worked under a chef who would make me taste a dish then tell him not only what the ingredients were, but how they were prepared, what type and level of heat was employed and whatever presentation would offer the best appearance on the plate. It’s not like the finished product I created from these sojourns was stealing an actual recipe (which literary parallel would be plagiarism) but rather some version that comes of one’s individual take on the corpus of information previously absorbed.
Now, when I have a main ingredient, whether vegetable or meat, fish or fowl, I’ll consult several cookbooks and see what recipes they offer featuring that ingredient. Then, knowing what I already know about a myriad of ingredients, I’ll close up all the cookbooks and do my take on what I’ve absorbed.
See? Writing is a lot like cooking. Joyful—as long as you know your way around the ingredients.
By Ashley Lister
I’d never say anything graphic
And I don’t want to be pornographic
But does your bum only do one way traffic?
As I’ve mentioned before, poetic triplets excite me. The idea of putting three rhymed lines of poetry together always strikes me as innovative. Couplets are good for a rhyme scheme. They provide a solid structure. But, to my mind, triplets increase the speed and allow for a bigger build to the conclusion of a stanza.
See I’d love to get into your drawers
And I’m sharing this honestly because
I like entering through exit doors.
Technically, I know, ‘drawers’, ‘because’ and ‘doors’ don’t rhyme. There are subtle variations in the vowel sounds and, although I can perform this one and make ‘drawers’ and ‘because’ sound like exact rhymes, this is only because I force the pronunciation.
I’m not so vulgar that I’ll mention pooh
I’m a gentleman, as I’m sure you knew
So, please let me push a stool in for you.
Your reputation will not be besmudged
Cos I’m sure you’re not going to begrudge
Me – the chance, to help you pack some fudge.
As always, I look forward to seeing your poems in the comments box below.