J.T. Benjamin

Plots and Plotting…

The plot’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the arousal of the king…” (or something to that effect)


I’d like to, every so often, get up on my soapbox and just go off on some random musings about the craft of writing in general and, more specifically, the craft of writing porn. While I admit an enormous amount of smutty writing out there is gawdawful, I also firmly believe that there is a lot of quality porn to be enjoyed, as well. In my humble opinion as a non-professional purveyor and connoisseur of porn of all kinds, one of the differences between the dreck and the good stuff can be found in the consideration the smut-monger puts into the craft itself.

One of the elements of that craft is plot.

It’s a cruel truth that the enormous majority of bad porn out there boils any notion of “plot” down to some version of “insert tab A into slot B, repeat as necessary.” The classic example is the sort of stories found in Penthouse Forum and the like, and which is even more easily found these days on the internet.

I wouldn’t dream of inducing any urge to doze off by dissecting any of the dozens of dictionary meanings of the word, “plot.” For purposes of this discussion, however, this is how I’d like to think of the word.

“Plot” is one of those quirky words that can mean its own opposite. The old English term originally creating a plan or map outlining boundaries of land and then came to refer to the tract of land itself, as well. “I can plot that plot for you” is the same as saying, “I can map that land for you.”

That quirky distinction can also be broadened and kept in mind when crafting a story, as well. From one perspective, the plot is the end result. The goal. The bottom line. The ultimate success or failure of the cunning master plan, either of the storyteller or the story. From the other perspective, the plot is the plan to get to the execution of the end result.

Or, if you want to get all Julia Cameron/Natalie Goldberg about it, plot is the map to get the reader through the writer’s world. The plot ends where the writer chooses to end it. If the writher chooses to continue allowing a tour of his or her world, the plot continues. If not, “The End” and on to the next story.

In any case, it’s a true journey, and not just a random bumper-car ride in an enclosed area.

In my humble opinion, one of the many, many, many things that makes a connoisseur and purveyor of porn such as myself a real snob is the fact that I can get pornographic stories anywhere. Literally, anywhere. And they all have the same “plot,” or rather, “sort of plot,” that comes down to something as simple as, “Insert tab A into Slot B, repeat as necessary,” or some variation thereof.

“Although I love your magazine, I never thought those stories you publish were real until this one time…”


So, if we all want our smut to be a cut above the rest, (and if we are all HERE at THIS website, that’s EXACTLY what we want), let’s consider a few elements of plot.

E.M. Forster said, “The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot.” Put another way, “The king had a lover and the queen had a lover is an erotic story. The king had a lover and the queen had a lover and they happened to be the same person is an erotic plot.” Which sounds like a more interesting way to get aroused?

Okay, J.T., you may be saying. That sounds easy enough. How can you come up with a decent plot for an erotic story?

Good question. Let’s back up a bit. How can one come up with a decent plot for a story in general? Anyone who’s ever spent any time studying the craft of writing can think of several reference books off the top of his or her head that might offer plot ideas. There are even more websites that make the same sorts of offers.

One famous text called, The Thirty-six Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti documents thirty-six, count ‘em, thirty-six distinctive dramatic or plot situations, in astonishing detail with copious references. A brief (very brief) summary of one such situation.

TWENTY-THIRD SITUATION: Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones

(The Hero; the Beloved Victim; the Necessity for the Sacrifice).

The entry goes on to list several examples of literature including Aeschylus, Sophocles, and on and on and on.

Mind-numbing, is it not? Not to be recommended.

Of course, part of the point is that there are certain plots that are more or less universal; that can be found in most, if not in virtually all forms of storytelling, erotic or not.

Getting back to what Mr. Forster said, whether one says there are ten master plots or twenty or thirty-six (!) they all seem to break down to one central idea.

Something Different Happens.

The queen didn’t just die. Everybody dies. The queen died of grief. Something Different Happened.

A randy young kid goes out with his buds like he does every night, getting into the same kind of trouble every night, and then Something Different Happens and he meets the girl of his dreams who just happens to be from the wrong side of the tracks.

A privileged young man gets to judge a beauty contest, but Something Different Happens and the contestants are goddesses and the winner promises him the wife of the King of Sparta as his prize.

A passionate young bride’s wedded bliss with her husband is cut short because of his war injury. She expects to live the rest of her life like any other soldier’s wife and buck up under her frustration but Something Different Happens and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the gamekeeper.

To me, just one more humble purveyor and connoisseur of erotica, the difference between the same old stroke tale and a story worth reading comes down to the sense that something different is happening. Something out of the sexual ordinary.

At this point, the Devil’s Advocate in my head is jumping up and screaming, “But what about Character? You haven’t discussed character!”

Indeed I haven’t, which I plan to address soon. For the time being, I want to just throw out there a few thoughts.

For anyone writing or reading an erotic story, what is something different that would make you want to continue doing so?

What To Read With A Writer’s Eye

Being both a serious connoisseur and a purveyor of the erotic arts does come with its burdens.  All that research, research, research!

Thank you!  Don’t forget to tip your waitress!

However, to be honest, I wouldn’t call it a burden to admit that I’m proud to be something of a smutmonger.  And when I say I’m a “serious” connoisseur, I don’t just mean, “Wow, J.T.  That is a seriously large collection of porn you have.”  I mean that, well, I think seriously about it.  What makes this form of expression of human sexuality clinical and dry and that one steamy, squishy and squelchy?  What separates the good stuff from the bad stuff?  And why?

Being both a reader and a writer of erotica creates a special challenge.  Even when I’m specifically reading something, anything for pleasure, I do it with a writer’s eye.  When I read a conversation on the page, for example, I find I’m not just trying to follow the thread of the plot, but I’m actively critiquing the writer’s craft.  My mind races with thoughts like:

“Ouch!  All those adverbs!”

“That’s a lot of unnecessary exposition.”

“I know who you’re talking to.  You don’t have to keep saying his name over and over.”

Or, the worst,


The writer’s curse.  Of course, we wouldn’t be writers if we weren’t readers first.  We write the types of things we want to read, and we read the types of things we want to write.

And we divide the things we like to read into two groups.

The first group consists of books that, when we finish them, we put them down and say something like, “Wow.  That was very good.  Someday, if I work really hard at my craft and keep at it, and if I’m lucky, I could possibly write that well.”

The second group consists of books that we finish, not by closing the book with a contented sigh, but usually with an “Ugh.  I could write better crap than this.”  Legend has it that James Fenimore Cooper, author of novels like The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer launched his own literary career by launching a novel he wasn’t enjoying into the nearest fireplace.

I confess that for inspiration I often read the classics and poetry, as well as great contemporary novelists as well as yarn-spinners.  The works of Alexandre Dumas, Elmore Leonard, Larry McMurtry, Ranier Maria Wilke and Umberto Eco are all within arm’s reach as I type these words.

What parks me in the seat and gets me working is the fact that E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades cultural phenomenon, has a net worth of $150 million dollars.

I mean, “inner goddess?”  C’mon!

I will admit that I’ve read the Fifty Shades books (okay, I got all the way through the first two, but I just didn’t have the strength for Fifty Shades Freed.)  They do have their merits, which I’ll get to shortly.

But still, if you’re at this website, you’re looking for quality porn, right?  Good resources.  Useful advice.  In my own small way, I’m here to provide.

As I said earlier, part of learning the writer’s craft is reading with a critical eye, often to the point where it becomes a habit.  Reading becomes part of the learning and the training experience.

I want to share some of my own training experiences, now.  I’ve said, and I strongly believe, that there’s a lot to be learned from studying mistakes, both one’s own mistakes, and those of others.

But there’s also a lot to be gained from studying the good stuff too, of course.  I have ten works in my library that I suggest be picked up by anyone with a critical eye, to get an idea not just of appreciating the work itself, but how the work was put together.  This is stuff that is in the first category, in my humble opinion.

Some caveats.  First, this is In My Humble Opinion.  I can be, and am, often wrong.  Just ask my ex.  By the same token, my opinion is mine alone.  It’s also free, so you have an idea of its value.  If you opt to step outside the box, knock yourself out.  If you choose to ignore me, ditto.  If you choose to argue with me, let’s rumble.

Secondly, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, nor is it intended to be a syllabus for “Erotica 101.”  The Marquis De Sade is not on this list because I haven’t read him.  Nabokov’s Lolita isn’t on this list because I haven’t read it, although I should.  Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying isn’t on this list because while I enjoyed it, I could think of ten better examples for my point, and ten seemed like a good number at which to stop.

Thirdly, while the list is sorta chronological, it’s mostly not really.  The ranking is in no way a reflection of my opinion of the works’ quality or preference, it’s just the order that came to me when I started writing them down.

  1. Fanny Hill by John Cleland. It’s just my opinion, but I think erotic stories are best told in the first person.  They just seem more intimate and experiential, especially when the narrator has a strong, entertaining voice.  The sex itself is pretty quaint by today’s standards, but if I wanted to write a period piece, I’d read this one to get a flavor of how a good voice should sound for that era.
  2. A Man With A Maid by Anonymous. This is typical of the Victorian-era BDSM genre, with a typical plot.  A man basically kidnaps a woman, rapes and tortures her, (in a good way, of course), until she succumbs to her own desires and becomes a willing partner.  I have SERIOUS problems with this book on many levels, especially but not limited to the concept of consent, but, frankly, it’s an excellent representative example of the works of this genre of the time.  It’s also easy to find on Amazon, and this particular book is a quick read, which is a quality I admire.
  3. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Of course.  Constance Chatterley is everything Anastasia Steele isn’t.  Constance is strong-willed, vivacious, passionate, determined, and a confident sexual animal.  She’s frustrated as Hell, not just sexually but over post-war life and the tedium of her existence, and she’s damned vocal about it all.  Edmund Wilson’s 1929 review from “The Atlantic” said Lawrence had “written the best descriptions of sexual experience which have yet been done in English.”  Hard to disagree.
  4. Delta of Venus by Anais Nin. Anything of hers, really.  She was born in France and spoke Spanish, French and Catalan before becoming proficient in English.  I think that, like other writers in English who hadn’t learned it first, (James Joyce and Dylan Thomas, for example), having to translate thoughts in their own head into a complex and logic-defying language like English forced Ms. Nin to acquire a precise style like that of a ballet dancer.
  5. Selected Works by Henry Miller. He was a Beat before Jack Kerouac, and Gonzo before Hunter S. Thompson.  The guy might as well have opened a vein and drained blood into the inkwell before he started his daily pages.  Beyond learning how to be raw with every word, I confess reading Miller is something of an endurance test.  Getting all the way through Tropic of Cancer is like being able to say you got all the way through Moby-Dick or  
  6. The Story of O by Pauline Reage. I’m not sure if it’s a characteristic of modern BDSM novels to be bleak, or if it’s a characteristic of French erotic novels to be bleak, but if it’s a characteristic of modern French BDSM erotic novels to be bleak as fuck, this is the perfect example.  I did think the protagonist was more fully rounded than Anastasia Steele, and while the novel is bleak, bleak, bleak, the sex scenes are very bleak and very hot.
  7. Vox by Nicholson Baker.  I recommend this one to be read as an example of thinking way, way, way outside the box.  It’s all dialogue.  The two people are talking over the phone.  When this novel first hit the bookshelves, it was dynamite, and with good reason.  I tried re-reading it a few years ago, and I found a lot of the “groundbreaking” stuff to be not so much the second time around.  Still, I consider this a must-read just for the sake of considering the possibilities.
  8. The Beauty Books by Anne Rice. Pure fantasy, pure porn.  The sex is incredible, and by that I mean, “hard to believe,” the prose is flowery, the dialogue is contorted, and the characters are archetypes bordering on stereotypes.  And the books are rousing fun.  Another way to be inspired to throw caution to the wind.
  9. The Happy Hooker, Xaviera! Her Continuing Adventures, and Xaviera Goes Wild by Xaviera Hollander. After the so-called “Happy Hooker” retired to write her column for Penthouse, she also put out several pseudo-autobiographical books describing her many sexual antics and adventures.  Like with the Beauty books, these are just sheer, silly, fun.
  10. The Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Beverly Gaddis. Literally, a porno-graphic novel.  Alice “In Wonderland” Liddell, Dorothy “Wizard of Oz” Gale and Wendy “Peter Pan” Darling are all grown up, horny as Hell, and happily fingering and fucking and debauching themselves and everyone around them on the eve of the Great War.  Not just another example of pushing the envelope, but absolutely crushing it.
  11. Honorable Mention. A few years ago, I found myself cursed with having to wait in an airport and I’d already finished everything I’d brought to read.  Someone had left a paperback on one of the seats at the terminal and I, naturally, picked it up.  It was a Jackie Collins novel, and I only remember the heroine was named “Lucky.”  And it was terrific.  I skipped over a lot of the mob stuff, but the sex scenes were great, ripping fun, and I was thrilled to have discovered a hidden treasure.
  12. Honorable Mention #2  I said I’d make a more detailed statement about the quality of the works of E.L. James.  She nailed it.  She found a chord and she struck it and she clobbered it.  More power to her.  And by all means, I recommend reading her.  If you can find her secret, bravo.  If not, well….I can vouch for the fact that her books are great for getting the fire going on a cold winter’s night.

There’s the list.  Read it, ignore it, delete it, line the birdcage with it, make your own list.

A special note about Ms. Rice.  She used to say, “Artists are meant to be madmen, to disturb and shock us.”  By that definition, Ms. Rice was an artist of the first order.  I’ve already mentioned her Beauty books, but just about everything else she wrote was in the stratosphere of, “Holy shit!  What happens next?”  I mean, in The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the very first book…Prince Alexi…the punishment…his anus….that statue…the stone phallus…the Stone Phallus!!!

But there’s another reason Anne Rice is a Grand Dame of the Damned, at least in my humble opinion.  Awhile back, I came across a quote by Ms. Rice about economics and standards of living in the United States.  It was intelligent and insightful, and completely unlike anything I’d ever read or heard by or about Ms. Rice.  I’m not saying I thought she was an idiot or incapable of such deep thoughts; just the opposite.  It’s like learning Rachel Maddow is an expert in ancient Greek and is working on her own translation of The Odyssey as a side gig.  I believed it, and of course, anything you find on the internet is 100% reliable, but I got a wild hair.  I reached out to Ms. Rice via social media, took a flying leap, asked if she’d said the quote, and waited to see what would happen.

What happened is, Ms. Rice responded.

It was short and very sweet.  Yes, she’d said the quote.  She thanked me for being a fan and she also thanked me for having the courtesy to reach out and verify what she’d said.  It took maybe a minute out of her day to send that DM, but wow.

Anne Rice was a great writer, a great artist, a great pornographer, and a damned nice lady.

I will miss her.

What’s on your list?


Re-introductions And Musings On Tomorrow

So. What’s new with you?

Once upon a time, back in the pre-historic days of dial-up internet connections, installing AOL from a DVD sent in the mail, and dot-matrix printers that worked only slightly more quickly than hammer and chisel on stone, Yours Truly used to give vent to what got me All Worked Up in a monthly column of that title right here on ERWA. You’re welcome to look through the archives if you’d care to follow my long, slow descent into madness and depravity.

This was back in the first decade of the century, during the moron-o-cratic Dynastic Age of Dubya II, the Dim-witted or, as I look back upon them now, the Good Old Days.
Since then, I’ve mostly stayed on the sidelines; simply observing, making notes, noticing trends, and otherwise just manning my post on the watchtower. However, like an obnoxious relative or an annoying skin rash, sometimes I’ve just gotta flare up again and cause an irritation to stay in practice.

So, what’s got me All Worked Up these days? Nothing less than the idea of sex and the possible end of civilization as we know it. How’s that for a conversation starter?

Being a student of the social sciences, I’m drawn to the study of utopias and dystopias; concepts of perfect or idealized societies and their antitheses; apocalyptic, catastrophic breakdowns of civilizations into chaotic, nightmarish hellscapes. Think “The Jetsons,” where George’s vehicle becomes a suitcase, versus “Mad Max: Glory Road,” where Max’s vehicle is a damned tank.

Not that the end of the world hasn’t been on peoples’ minds lately. Sometimes it feels like we’re all living in a cosplay scenario combining elements of The Stand, V for Vendetta, and Idiocracy. One pictures three ominous-looking Horsemen visible on the horizon, watching..waiting. One turns to the other two and says, “Where the Hell is Pestilence? We’re on a schedule here!”

“He had trouble getting a sitter, War. He’s on his way.”

Global economic crises. A global pandemic. Threats of clashes between the capitalistic exploiters of wealth versus the socialistic terrorists of redistribution. Violent authoritarian movements. Potential new shooting wars, between and within nations and alliances. And, oh yeah, global climate change not only wreaking havoc with the world of today, but also being seen as an omen of what could be one more mass extinction of most of the life on Earth. The frightening rate at which bees are vanishing these days. Bees! The most important living beings on this planet are bees, and they are DYING. If this isn’t apocalyptic, I don’t know what is.

Have I missed anything? If so, please don’t remind me. I’m depressed enough already.

Of course, no picture of the World of The Future would be complete without a snapshot of the World of The Future of Sex. Usually, these pictures are found in the dystopian societies, and sex in these societies is not pretty.

Picture Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, where fertile women are reduced to being baby machines in a Christianity-based theocratic dictatorship. Think of Oceania in Orwell’s 1984, where the protagonist Winston Smith’s ejaculation into his unauthorized girlfriend’s pussy—the very act of sex itself–constituted a “sexcrime” – a literal offense against The State.

The secret to creating a realistic dystopian hellscape is not a matter of inventing a new and unforeseen threat to society. It’s much more effective to simply take a current element of modern society and seeing it through to its logical conclusion.

Getting back to my previous examples, George Orwell wasn’t inventing the world of 1984 out of the whole cloth; he was using as a basis his experiences fighting Fascists in Spain and seeing the inevitable results of life in autocratic societies at that time, such as in Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R. Ms. Atwood has repeatedly said her inspiration for life in Gilead of the future was reading contemporary stories about life and philosophies among the American Religious Right of today.

So, as I myself contemplate the future of society, inevitably my thoughts turn to the future of sex in society, also as seen through today’s lens. And today happens to be a time of potentially monumental change in how we see ourselves and each other; more so, I honestly believe, than at any other time in literally generations. Somebody, somewhere is looking at today’s sexual culture and stepping into the roles of the likes of Margaret Atwood or George Orwell or Thomas More or even Gene Roddenberry. Could an idealized futuristic society be found in the online annals of “Star Trek” erotic fan-fiction?

You might ask, “What do YOU see in YOUR crystal ball, J.T.? What will be the nature of sex and society after this critical juncture in history?”

I’m glad you asked. First, I think the distinction between a sexual utopia and a sexual dystopia is entirely subjective. I might be horrified that Offred, the protagonist in The Handmaid’s Tale is treated as a piece of property; as a broodmare. On the other hand, somebody somewhere might actually see Gilead, an autocratic theocracy with rigid gender roles and strict conformity to societal norms, and say, “Hmmm. Not a bad idea.” On the other other hand, if someone’s image of dystopia is a sexual free-for-all where consenting adults go at it like something out of a Dionysian tapestry as conceived of by Larry Flynt, someone else, (myself included), might say, “Sign me up.”

Secondly, one of the annoying things about monumental turning points in history is that the aftermath of such turning points is always impossible to predict. After V-J Day in 1945, could anyone have imagined the Cold War? The rise and fall of the Soviet Union? Rock and Roll? The Pill? Playboy Magazine? The internet? Nude selfies, revenge porn, HIV-AIDS, and Swingstock? Purveying and consuming porn through little hand-held devices that also tell time, connect us with “social media,” distract us with wordgames and even allow us to make phone calls?

Of course, the future typically means progress. And progress has been made. Not very long ago, the acceptance of homosexuality in open society, let alone same sex marriage, was simply inconceivable. The roles of women, of teenagers, and people of trans-gender and gender-fluid sexualities have greatly expanded, to mention a few examples. However, progress also usually means, “two steps forward, one step back.” Reactionaries fight to control women’s uteruses and cruel, bigoted parents demand laws trying to brand certain schoolchildren as perverts for wanting to use a different school restroom than the one they’re expected to use.

Getting onto my soapbox here, I think it’s safe to say that sex in the future will be very much like sex of today. Some people pursue an expansion of sexual mores and principles, some pursue a retraction, and both sides see their own efforts as the ones making the world better. A thesis is presented, which is responded to by an antithesis, or counter-thesis, and through the blending of the two, a “synthesis” is reached. In theory, anyway.

So, as I gaze into the future, my visions aided by some killer ganja called “Sumo Grande” and some “Mormon Girlz” videos on PornHub, (yes, that’s a thing. I refer to them for….uh…research purposes), what gazes back at me? What do I see in store? What will be the synthesis of the conflicts through which we write, read, and live every day? What will the sex of tomorrow be like?

I have no idea. Not a fucking clue.

What do you see?

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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