The Romance of Lust

by | October 21, 2022 | General | 2 comments

Image by Alexander Belyaev from Pixabay

I said take me to the dance
Do you want to dance?
I love to dance
And I told him They don’t take chances
They seem so removed from romance

“In France They Kiss on Main Street”

Joni Mitchell, the Canadian poetess/songwriter, was a big influence on me growing up. Lately, I’ve been revisiting her work, marveling anew at her ability to capture emotions in song – especially the emotions of love and lust. They’re not the same thing, and she knows it. Perhaps the clearest indication of this is in her song “Coyote”:

There’s no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get
And still feel so alone
And still feel related
Like stations in some relay

When you’re young, though – especially when you’re young, though I guess not exclusively – it’s pretty hard to sort out the difference. I vividly remember the hormone-augmented desire of my teens and twenties; I fell in love with everyone I had the hots for. Yes, I went through a lot of lovers, including not a few one night stands, but somehow I believed I loved them all. I dreamed about them. I wrote them poems. The physical was the beginning, but not the ending.

Other people might have called me promiscuous. I considered myself a romantic.

“In France They Kiss on Main Street” beautifully captures this confusion. It describes teenage wildness but labels it as “amour, not cheap display”, and crows about “kissing in the back seat, thrilling to the Brando-like things that he said”.

I’m an erotic author because I’m perennially interested in lust, love, and all the gradations that lie between. And to be honest, I find it much more interesting to mix a bit of romance in with raw desire. I’m hopeless at writing conventional find-your-soul-mate, forsaking-all-others, happily-ever-after romance. But I also get bored pretty quickly writing pure smut that chronicles physical sex with no emotional connection at all.

So a lot of my books and stories straddle the line between lust and love, breaking the rules of both monogamy and pornography. For instance, my current WIP, the third book in my steam punk Toymakers Guild series, has lots of outrageous and crazy sex scenes involving a multitude of male, female and intermediate characters. Nevertheless, it seems to be spiraling into a polyamorous love story.

Oh well. I guess I haven’t completely grown up after all.

On a side note, I remembered after I’d chosen a title for this post that there’s a Victorian erotica novel with the same name.

The Wikipedia article is pretty dismissive of the book. I haven’t read it, though at this point I pretty much have to download it from Gutenberg, just to check it out. However, aside from the comments about “emotional deprivation” from Steven Marcus (whose treatise I’ve read and whose opinions I generally disagree with), this novel sounds like something I might write.

Why am I not surprised?

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. Dr Girlfriend

    It’s Wikipedia, I wouldn’t sweat it.

  2. Author Stew

    I write much the same way, with some romance or meaning but not straight romance HEA, soul mates type stuff. It gets boring to write straight smut or not for me.

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