By Ashley Lister
There should be a warning for everyone who is considering writing erotica that, at some point in your writing career, you’re going to be asked this question. “Have you done all those things?”
This question doesn’t get pitched at authors in any other genre of fiction. No one is asking horror authors, “Have you ever haunted a house?” or “Were there a lot of killer clowns living in the sewers where you grew up?” No one is asking romance writers “Did you live happily ever after, after forming a relationship with a man who you didn’t really like when you first met him?” No one asks crime writers “Have you ever killed someone? Or solved a murder? Or been killed?”
And yet, write erotica, and it’s the first question you get asked. “Have you done all those things?”
And how am I supposed to respond? If I say “NO,” it gives the impression that I’m writing from a place of prudish ignorance and inexperience, and no one wants to read books written by the ignorant. If I say “YES,” it sounds like I’m depraved man-slut eager to embroil myself in any carnal relationship available. A resounding “YES” might make me seem like an authority in the subject matter of the genre but it also makes me seem like a person with somewhat questionable morals.
Worse, if I answer honestly and say, “I thoroughly research every aspect of my writing,” that sounds like I’m a prudish man-slut: I have done all those depraved things, but I don’t want anyone to know that I’ve done them. In truth this means, whatever it is I haven’t done, I learn about through videos and conversations with more knowledgeable friends.
But, in response to this question, my favourite answer will always be, “Mind your own f***ing business.”
This answer contains an expletive which shows that I’m not prudish, and yet it also contains an absolute nolle prosequi, allowing me to maintain an air of distance from more deviant practices, whilst still appearing worldly because I know that those encounters exist. I agree it’s not a response that is going to get me mentioned in literary supplements, and it lacks the wit of Oscar Wilde. But it’s a response that serves a purpose and, even if it doesn’t satisfy the person asking the question, it certainly satisfies me.