Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

All You Sexy Beasts

by Kathleen Bradean

As many of you know, I write a fantasy thriller series under another name. A character in the third book in the series suffers from arthritis so severe that he can barely use his hands. He's an elderly gent, recently retired, and still has an eye for the ladies. I got a very sweet thank you note about that.

While I wrote him as elderly, I knew a guy in high school with this problem. His fingers were permanently curled into fists even though he had several operations to cut the tendons in the hopes that his fingers could straighten out. And they would, for about six months, before slowly clenching again. A teenager stuck with the hands of an old man. Everyone past a certain age knows what it's like to feel like you're twenty or thirty until a mirror cruelly reminds you that no, you're not. Inside, you're a very different person than you are on the outside.

We don't see enough people like this erotica. We don't see them in real life and definitely not in our stories. In real life, we can't seem to bear the idea of anyone with physical problems being a sexual person. It seems a real taboo.

I'm not fond of fatal disease porn, those romantic stories about angelic people teaching important life lessons before dying from cancer. Mawkish sentimentality I think is the usual critique, but I think it's worse than that. It makes being ill and bearing it bravely all a person is. It makes illness seem like a key to higher insight about the human condition. It takes away a person's right to be furious that their body is betraying them just when things are getting good. And it might make a normal person who might have a real reason to complain about their plight from time to time feel as if they're somehow experiencing their life wrong.

So while I don't advocate that approach to characters, I think we need to push boundaries this way. We need to examine why the thought of a differently abled person having sex makes us so uncomfortable, and why sexy is the hardest attribute to accept for them.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Inexplicable Desire


By Lisabet Sarai

I recently read and reviewed M.Christian’s sci-fi erotica story Bionic Lover. This tale follows the disturbing and intense relationship between a shy, struggling female artist and a butch woman of the streets who, when the story opens, has a magnificently crafted artificial eye. Thinking about the book after I wrote the review, I realized one reason it moved me so deeply: the author never really explains anything. We see the near-irresistible attraction between Pell (the artist) and Arc (the increasingly bionic butch). We watch as Arc replaces one body part after another with prosthetics, as Pell falls ever more deeply under her spell, as Arc vanishes then returns to the arms of the woman who somehow makes her whole–but though the emotions feel genuine and true, we never know why anyone does anything. Unmediated by reasons, we experience the desire, the longing, the loneliness, directly. The tale remains hauntingly ambiguous as well as overwhelmingly erotic.

In contrast, much of the erotic fiction I read focuses considerable attention on explaining the source of the attraction between the protagonists. Sometimes it’s something as superficial as big breasts or washboard abs. In other cases, the characters clearly complement each other, in terms of personality or history or mutual fantasies or kinks. In all too many stories, the erotic connection is pretty much a foregone conclusion, because the author has made the reasons for that connection painfully obvious.

Desire isn’t necessarily like that, though. Attraction often cannot be explained—except by amorphous concepts like “chemistry”, which is no explanation at all.

I remember one of my lovers, from my sex goddess period, when I blossomed from a self-conscious nerd into a flaming nymphomaniac. I met him at a mutual friend’s wedding, and wanted him from the very first instant. This wasn’t due to his physical appearance. He was cute, but no movie star. It certainly wasn’t because of his personality. He turned out to be arrogant as well as somewhat dishonest. None of that mattered. I wanted him. He wanted me. We had sex within four hours of meeting. Over the next few weeks, we shared some wild times, pushing the envelope (as they say), until I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really like him that much.

Call it chemistry if you like, the inexplicable force binding two souls, two bodies, who by rights shouldn’t be together at all. Whatever it is, it cannot be predicted, or explained.

Another wonderful literary example of this phenomenon is Willsin Rowe’s searing novella The Last Three Days. If you’ve ever thought lust was trivial compared to love, read this book. Rowe’s protagonists are in some sense addicted to one another. Insatiable need draws them together again and again. The pleasure of their encounters tempers their mutual antipathy. The emotions become so tangled that neither the characters nor the reader can sort them out—but they feel incredibly real.

There’s a clever little acronym frequently cited in author circles: RUE, which stands for Resist the Urge to Explain. Usually, when someone invokes the RUE principle in a critique, she’s commenting on a back story dump or an excess of description that slows down the pace of the narrative. Meditating on these two exemplary stories, I see that the RUE particularly applies to the erotic attraction between one’s characters. The more surprising, unexpected, complex and inexplicable that is, the more compelling the tale.

Desire cannot be summoned at will, nor can it be reasoned away. Desire simply is. And we erotic authors are but its chroniclers.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sexy Snippets for May


It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May... 
That gorgeous month when everyone goes blissfully astray.
 
Celebrate the lusty month of May (which also happens to be National Masturbation Month) by sharing a sexy snippet!
 
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.

On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link.

Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!

Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!

Of course I expect you to follow the rules. One snippet per author, please. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I'll say no more!

After you've posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.

Enjoy!

~ Lisabet

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Peeping at Women in Their Underwear: John Sloan’s Windows into the Erotic Spirit of the Past

by Donna George Storey

The goal of the writer of historical fiction is to bring the past vividly to life with as much authenticity as possible. The materials we can draw from are varied: diaries, novels, oral histories, contemporary articles and advertisements, historical studies of political and social life, photographs and paintings. For those of us seeking a sense of the erotic, we often must read between the lines due to the conventions of respectability. But occasionally, as with the erotic letters of James Joyce, the past does hand us an illuminating gift.

This month, I’d like to share another favorite sexy treasure I discovered—the “peeping-at-undressed-ladies” drawings of John Sloan. Now on first consideration, you might think photographs would provide the most “realistic” visual inspiration to recreate life in New York City of one hundred years ago. And indeed, the photographs of that time are helpful in terms of setting the scene. However, when it comes to a sense of what it was like to be in the city, to encounter its vitality and variety by both day and night, the work of the Ashcan School—artists including John Sloan who strove to portray the truth of modern life in the city—provides the most satisfying glimpse into the libidinous desire of the early 1900s.

Take, for example, the drawing above, Turning Out the Light (1905). From reading Sloan’s diary, John Sloan's New York Scene, 1906-1913, I know that the artist drew material from intimate scenes he spied through New York's windows. As evening fell, a lighted room in a neighboring apartment could indeed provide a provocative show. Generally speaking, detailed accounts of what went on in bedrooms in the early 1900s are quite rare, but Sloan’s drawing is worth more than a thousand words. Women in those times were officially passive in bed, but the voluptuous woman in this drawing is clearly in control. It is she who takes the initiative to begin the amorous encounter by turning off the light while her lover waits in anticipation. The glance between them leaves no doubt at the pleasure to come. The petticoat over the chair, the stocking over the headboard, the fact she must hold up her shift, which had probably already been pulled from her shoulders during foreplay suggests that some of the preliminaries have already been observed by the artist. This glimpse of the moment before offers delicious food for the imagination.


 Roofs, Summer Night (1906) treats a city custom of the less affluent—seeking relief from the heat on a sultry summer night. Apparently the whole tenement building camped out on mattresses on the rooftop, the women stripping to their shifts (a long slip worn next to the skin). Here instead of being the sole voyeur, as we were in Turning Out the Light, we also observe another's voyeurism. Note the clear fascination of the man with the mustache at the right of the picture with a voluptuous woman who is not his wife (presuming the woman beside sleeping him is his spouse). The man’s desire imbues the scene with an extra kick of sexual tension that would not be present in a scene of only sleeping figures.


Sloan dials the voyeurism up even higher in Night Windows (1910). A dark male figure spies on a woman at her evening toilette, illuminated in her window as if she is on a stage, yet presumably innocent of the illicit pleasure she provides. Again it is hard not to connect the lurking male figure with the scantily clad woman taking down the laundry from the clothesline right below him, although of course the connection is less definite than the couple in the previously discussed community sleep out. But look a little closer and you'll see another man inside that apartment, appreciating his wife's shift-clad behind. Yes, life in the city is a feast of endless temptations for admiring eyes.

Of course, my favorite of these three is Turning Out the Light for its frank portrayal of female desire, pleasure and agency, but the erotic yearnings of the men in the early 1900s are just as pleasurably exposed through John Sloan’s windows into the male sensibility. Although I work in prose, I’m very grateful to him for sharing with the viewers of 2016 these visions of nights of long ago.

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Considering Group Sex and Conflict

Folks often talk about non monogamy as more advanced sex, or more advanced relationships. As if its extra work, takes more from you, is harder to do. It has that reputation in all its permutations, from group sex to open relationships to closed triads to non-hierarchical polyamory. I think this is because the risks are perceived to be higher, and because folks are conceiving of a monogamous couple as the norm. Many people assume that if you are doing menage or group sex, that you start with a previously monogamous couple, and add on from there. And for some people, that is how it works. But that’s not all that exists in the world.

Not everyone starts as a couple, and opens up their monogamous relationship. I have done many different kinds of non-monogamy in my life, and have never done it that way. A monogamous couple doesn’t need to be the center of group sex, or an open relationship, or menage, or a polyamorous network, or a triad. That is not the beginning from which all of these things spring.

So, why am I talking about this on an erotica-focused website?

Because these assumptions are often built into our erotica in ways that we may not even be aware. Let’s hone in on a particular form of non-monogamy that’s quite common in erotica: group sex. (For my purposes here, let’s loosely define group sex as three or more people involved in fucking and/or BDSM together. No, this is not an official definition, just the one we are trying on for the moment.)

A couple focused story is often framed by some kind of interpersonal conflict that either needs to be managed or is fueling the situation: jealousy, cuckholding, competition, perception of the other players or the group sex itself as threat or potential threat to the coupledom that needs to be neutralized. Common ways such a threat is neutralized in these stories include: temporariness or casualness of the encounter, a deep trust with the other parties, certain acts or body parts being off the table outside the couple, only doing it with other couples, or a facilitated experience that one partner creates for the other, as a gift, a lesson, a punishment, or a way to cement a D/s dynamic.  Do these sound familiar? I sure have read a ton of stories that use these things as the framework for group sex. In fact, the majority of the group sex I’ve read in erotica and erotic romance involves scenarios like this.

Let’s unpack this for a moment. This kind of framework assumes that if a couple engages in sex with other people, there will automatically be interpersonal conflict of some sort. For cuckolding stories, this conflict is the main driver for the sex in the first place, the thing that turns some (or all) of the parties on. For other stories, this conflict is assumed to be inevitable, as if everyone would naturally feel jealous, or competitive. As if having sex or BDSM play with others would obviously of course be a potential threat to the couple.

In this sort of story, tension and action is created by external conflict, between the people involved. This is based on a framework that having sex with other people takes something away from the couple,  is emotionally painful for some of the people involved, or sets people up to compete against each other for a limited amount of love, sex, security or attention. This foundation of pain, scarcity, and threat is what drives the action of the story, the thing that needs to be resolved in the story, usually by some action that cements or reinforces the couple.

It can be difficult to break out of this framework, to imagine other things, partly because it is so very common and societally reinforced. In polyamory communities, folks are often still struggling to think outside of this box, to come up with language for describing our lives that does not operate from this framework of competition, threat and jealousy. One concept I find particularly useful is compersion. Compersion is often conceived of as the idea that you might feel happy that your partner is happy with their other partner, basically that their joy is catching. It’s related to empathy, the idea that you might feel joy with your partner, the same way you might get excited when a friend is excited about something they achieved, or feel sad for a loved one who experiences loss. This is basically an extension of that kind of shared emotion, applied to non-monogamy, in a neutral way. It doesn’t assume that jealousy and competition are a natural result of your partner having other partners. It holds space for folks who feel joy and other positive emotions with other people, including their partner’s happiness with other partners.

So that’s compersion, as a big concept, with regards to relationships. Erotic compersion is the idea that you might get turned on by hearing about or imagining or witnessing your partner have sex with another person. Erotic compersion makes room for folks who experience erotic compassion, folks who get off on the sex their partners have with other people. This isn’t a cuckolding scenario, where the idea is that someone might feel shame, pain, humiliation, failure, or feel threatened at the sex their partner has with others, alongside maybe also getting off on it. This is the erotic charge and pleasure without the assumption of competition, threat, pain or jealousy. A different animal, one that isn’t built on conflict.

I really think it’s worth exploring group sex stories that don’t have this built-in assumption of competition, jealousy, threat, and interpersonal conflict. When I read stories that are rooted in these things, they frequently feel boring, depressing, stuck, and flat. I am not rooting for the couple or finding the group sex hot, I’m mostly just sad for everyone involved. I vastly prefer stories that center openness, abundance of possibilities, collaboration, exploration of internal struggle. I experience those stories as full of hope and possibility, and infinitely hotter. I encourage you to consider possibilities outside this box that our genre is so often in, even just as an experiment in pushing your own thinking and practice as an erotica writer.

What could that look like? I’m going to discuss a few examples from my own work to give you a feel for what I mean.

As someone who primarily experiences compersion, both emotional and erotic, I got very excited at having this new language, and wrote a story about it, that I titled “Compersion”. The story is told from the point of view of a dominant queer man who watches his boy bottom to two tops. It hones in on the erotic experience of compersion, and attempts to make it concrete for the reader, to show what it’s like to get turned on when your boy is “showing off for Daddy”.

(As a heads up, the excerpt below includes descriptions of service oriented sex.)

“He is so hot when his cock is being used. It brings him into himself, straightens his shoulders, stirs his pride. He knows he is skilled at this. 

My boy is focused. It’s not about his pleasure—it’s about you—and he is so focused on you that you feel larger, immense, like you fill the entire room. Abe only wants to give you what you need, to create the kinds of sensations you most enjoy, and he pays such close attention. His gaze and focus are mighty things, and as I watched him turn them to Marcus, watched him serve in this particular way, I filled with pride that he was mine. It made my dick throb. Watching him steadily piston Marcus was intensely hot, but it also lit me up to watch him take such pride in his service. That’s my boy, I kept thinking. That’s my boy.”

In this story, the tension doesn’t come from the characters competing with each other or being jealous of each other or any other sort of external conflict. Instead, the conflict is all internal. The tension builds as Abe pushes himself as a submissive, and his Daddy witnesses that internal struggle, riding it along with him, using what he knows about his boy to connect deeply with him and his experience of internal conflict.

When you embrace the possibility that there doesn’t need to be external conflict between characters, that characters can collaborate or be connected or have compersion or dance together through pleasure, it opens up other areas of exploration in your story. You can imagine a community where a bunch of friends and leather family might hold space for an intense scene, and be part of how two people push edges together safely. You can imagine a queer trans guy learning how to do anal fisting with a group of gay cis men coaching him along, especially a very active power bottom. You can imagine a dominant offering his former mentor and lover a menage scene with his new submissive as a way to explore getting back together, perhaps as a threesome this time. You can imagine a group sexual initiation into a werewolf pack or rugby team or queer leather family. You can imagine someone scheming to find enough fisting tops to give his best friend the scene she always wished for. You can imagine three friends finally falling in bed together after years of sexual tension. You can imagine a kink community where birthday parties regularly culminate in group birthday spankings. You can imagine someone being hot to serve a dominant couple.

Once you let go of basing the tension in your group sex story on interpersonal conflict between the characters, you can explore other sources of tension. Not all tension and build in a story must be based on conflict. That is a deeply Western conceptualization of storytelling. That said, if you are a fan of writing conflict and find it to be a needed element in your story, I suggest considering internal conflict. Most of my erotica stories center at least one POV character who is grappling with some sort of internal conflict, often alongside characters that are collaborating in some way.

For example, my story, The Tender Sweet Young Thing, is told from the point of view of three trans characters. Dax, who has fantasized about a gender play scene based on a hir favorite childhood story, Dax’s boyfriend Mikey, who has been searching for a bottom to make such a scene happen for Dax, and Téo, who gets excited when hearing about the story and wants to be the bottom in the scene. Dax gathers a group of friends to be tops in the scene, and the bulk of the story depicts the scene itself. There are several elements of tension in the scene for different characters, but the central tension is the internal conflict of the bottom in the scene, who finds it more difficult to claim the gender he wanted than he thought it would be. 

(As a heads up, the following excerpt includes descriptions of gender play, blade play, and role play.)

“Téo knew his line. He’d been waiting for it, to claim this gender that fit so right, in front of queers who actually got it. He swallowed around the fear rising in his throat. “I am a tender…,” he whispered, then stopped. It turned out it was harder to say than he’d thought. 

Mikey met his gaze, gripped his face in her paw, and said, “What was that? Old tigers like me need it a bit louder.” 

Dax took the opportunity to spread his thighs with hir claws, and Lee bit down on his stomach. Damn. Rebecca came over to hold his hand. That helped. Jericho came over to their boy and laid their hand on his shoulder. Rusty still hadn’t let go of his curls, but that felt grounding now.

“Looks tender,” said Xóchi, who had pulled up on the other side of his stomach with her knife out, and was tracing it along his collarbone, up toward his face. 

Fuck, okay, he said to himself. You can’t talk when you aren’t breathing. You can do this. Let it out. It came out in a whimper, which only made Xóchi grin and press the knife deeper into his skin. Lee was nuzzling his stomach again, and Mikey held him captive in her gaze. Why couldn’t he look away? Why was it so damn hard to say? 

Mikey’s eyes were warm and firm all at the same time. Her gaze said, Take your time. We are here. We know it’s hard. We’ve got you.”

There is no conflict between the characters; instead, the story highlights the ways they work together to shape the scene. Although there is a couple, the story doesn’t center the couple or assume that their coupledom is under threat because they are doing sex and kink with a group of friends and lovers. Instead, the couple work together to create the scene, along with other friends and lovers of both theirs and Téo’s. The tension comes from Téo’s internal struggle, from the ways that BDSM can reach inside and create opportunities to be brave and honest about who you are.


I urge you to question the framework you are using to imagine your group sex stories. It may open you up to story possibilities that take you somewhere very new. And isn’t that part of the joy of writing, to push ourselves to go to new places and imagine possibilities?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to recycle irritating people





By Sam Thorne, Storytime Editor-in-Chief

In everyone’s life, there is that special someone who makes you want to wring them warmly by the neck. In a good way, of course.

Of course, you can’t really throttle this person, drown them or have them forcefully emigrated. The legal system tends to frown on these things. That minor detail aside, you might be related to this person, or ‘owe them’ in some way. You might work for them. Or perhaps you’re under contract to share living space with them for the next six months. You can’t do much but survive these people, but you can put them to good use.

Your key characters (both protagonist and antagonist) need adversaries. I don’t mean villains; they’re in a class of their own. By adversaries, I mean secondary or minor characters who exist to:

  • frustrate your main characters’ (MCs) aims
  • show what’s important to your MCs by creating inner conflict

For example, our heroine—let’s call her Clare—has an anxiety about being late because she works in the dispatch office for the emergency services. To avoid the cliché of Clare having a jerk boss who will rip two strips off her if she’s late, let’s step sideways. We can create tension adding someone to Clare’s life who has this strange talent for making her late. I’m going to be mean, and give Clare a housemate called Lisa, who is a professional problem-haver:

Clare checked her texts for traffic updates and found one from Mark, sent just a couple of minutes ago.

Geoff’s off sick. Any chance you can get in early for hand-over?

She flicked a glance at the time—07:15—and bit her lip. So long as she got out now, and the A316 was clear, she’d have a few minutes alone with him before shift started. To hand over, of course. She thumbed back On my way and shoved her mobile into her back pocket.

Clare didn’t hear any movement from Lisa’s bedroom, but picked her way towards the front door nonetheless, treading only on the non-creaking floorboards. She passed the hall table, sliding her keys into her palm. She had her hand on the latch when she heard a sniff. Her heart fell.

Don’t look round.

Clare?’ Lisa’s voice had that tell-tale waver. ‘Have you got a minute?’

Damn it!

It’s just…I heard from Joe last night. He’s not doing well.’

Clare longed to be able to say ‘sorry to hear that’ and make a run for it, but Joe had been ill. And if it were her brother going in and out of hospital, she’d need a bit of support.

Suppressing the sigh, she turned and gave Lisa a hug.

This kind of sequence serves several purposes. Firstly, to show Clare letting her empathy get the better of her. To begin with, she’s a bit of a people pleaser. By the end of the story, she may find that she knows the difference between distress and emotional blackmail (in any context), and have a better handle on how to deal with it. Adversaries are good ‘showing’ tools. And they can be cathartic, too. Mix up the details of your irritating character enough, and you create a whole new person.

There are all kinds of adversaries. Your MC’s best friend could turn out to be an adversary, thanks to her pushy (but well-meant) lectures about following the head, not the heart. A brother could be over-protective. Perhaps there’s a colleague who’s unreasonably cheerful every morning, making the MC feel (and appear) irritable by comparison. Or maybe there’s a Dom who is only masterful in the bedroom, and hopeless everywhere else.

The extent and depth of the role these people have really depends upon the length of your story. But if there’s something getting in the way of your character getting what they want, perhaps let that ‘something’ be a person. There’s more opposition, that way.

So, how do you create these adversarial characters (ACs) without fear of being accused of writing someone specific into your story? Well, there are a few methods:

1) Next time you’re up at two in the morning, replaying an argument in your head and gnashing your teeth, get up and write down some of the things you wish you’d said. If nothing else, it might help you sleep better. Anger-induced insomnia is usually a sign of repressed resentment. Tap into that resentment more closely and you’ll find a golden stockpile of material for internal conflict.


2) Make a list of love-to-hate characters in movies and TV. What makes them so infuriating? Can you transplant that behaviour/trait to a different context?


3) Read books on coping with idiots at the office. They feature long lists of aggravating behaviours which you can apply to just about any situation. Some good guides are:

Dealing with Difficult People (Drs Rick Brinkman & Rick Kirschner)
The Way of the Rat: A Survival Guide to Office Politics (by Joep P.M. Schrijvers)

4) Finally, watch and listen to stand-up comedians. They usually have some kind of routine that kicks off with some variation of: ‘I can’t stand it when…’ If they make you laugh, jot their point down. If you can identify with it, so will many, many others.

But we don’t want to read about two-dimensional ‘impossible’ people. You can dial them back a little by making them supportive of your MC at unexpected moments, or by giving them frustrations that most people can sympathise with. For example, a cliché AC might embark on a political/totally selfish rant; your AC might get unduly enraged about continually finding tiny cars hidden behind huge ones when trying to find a space in the car park.

Now, take a deep breath, summon your imagination, and write a character who’s going to irritate the living daylights out of your readers. In a good way, of course.