The Rebuttal: Writing Taboo in Erotica and the State of the Genre

Photo: Lilya Corneli

This week, it’s not a story I offer you, but a discussion on writing about taboo subjects and erotica’s future as a genre.

This podcast is a response to The Good Parts Podcast, Episode 14. The Good Parts is a podcast produced by three excellent erotica writers: Helen E. Madden, Nobilis Reed & Ann Regentin

I encourage you to download and listen to their podcast before you listen to mine, as I respond to points they make in their discussion. You can find this podcast at http://thegoodparts.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=576529

I hope I don’t have to underscore that the opinions in my podcast are mine, and therefore only opinion, and quite probably terminally flawed. You can listen to the podcast here, or download it from remittancegirl.libsyn.com, or subscribe to it through iTunes at itpc://remittancegirl.libsyn.com/rss

Your comments, ideas and discussions are always welcomed.

  18 comments for “The Rebuttal: Writing Taboo in Erotica and the State of the Genre

  1. February 1, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Yes I agree … it turns people on. If I get feedback that I have turned someone on then that makes it worthwhile. It doesn’t matter to me what the subject matter is, whether it be taboo or not. Subjective, yes.

    If it does that then I have achieved what I set out to do. That’s the crux of it. I have a long way to go but it’s an art form I appreciate and enjoy. As you are labeled an erotica writer I’m labelled a sex blogger. It’s a term I often am uncomfortable with but it’s a subjective view that others have assumed. I just want to write.

    The exploration of BDSM for me is all about the power exchange and when I write “erotica” it’s the power exchange which is the driving force for me.

    No more hand holding.

    Wonderful rebuttal! Great thinking points.

  2. February 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I just finished listening to your rebuttal.

    There are so many good points in this podcast that I can’t pull them all out to comment.

    A friend of mine coined a motto that you implied as well: “In Coitus Veritas”. The Latin is flawed, but understandable, I think, and I supposedly believe in it.

    I take this addition to the discussion as something of a cattle prod to the posterior, for not holding true to that statement and not keeping it in mind during the discussion.

    I apologize that my lack of conviction made this necessary.

    Thank you, RG, for an impassioned yet thoughtful contribution to the discussion. I hope others will weigh in as well.

  3. February 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Loved your defense of what you do so well, and what so many others aspire to: writing for the purpose of turning others on….First time I have listened to your podcast. great voice. will tune in again.

  4. February 2, 2010 at 6:35 am

    RG, loved your rebuttal, I won’t go into the podcast that you were speaking about, in fact I thought it rather weak.

    I appreciated your clarity of thought and diction.

    I love your honesty, I agree, for me you are not primarily a writer of erotica.

    IE I’ve just finished Gaijin, it did a number of things to me, I found it disturbing, much of your writing is, you dig deep, but for me Gaijin was not in the least arousing, a more than interesting read but not erotica.

    This is not a criticism, I like writers that make me think, and you certainly do that.

    Thank you for taking the time to explain your point of view.

    Warm hugs,

    Paul.

  5. louise
    February 3, 2010 at 1:02 am

    This is a wonderful podcast.

    This is my first post on your site, though I’ve read many of your stories. I’ve recently started writing and my main goal in my writing was to represent the truth in relationships. I wrote one scene that my beta was so offended by that I had to reel it in. By the time I was finished editing, it didn’t seem anything like sex as I know it, but instead like in a romance novel. In this podcast, you’ve said all of the things that I wanted to say to her. I wish, more than anything, that we could just move past the puritanical and religious BS that keeps us trapped in our unhealthy attitudes about sex.

    As for taboos, isn’t sex still taboo? The fact that there is a separate category for sex writers shows that sex is still a taboo subject in itself without taking the different types of sex in account. Finally, there’s the term erotica. In that term is nothing more than fear of calling a spade a spade. My suggestion is sexual or sex literature. That term brings it back to the realm and quality writing standards of all other literature and puts it on the same playing field as all other lit. After all, there’s classic lit, contemporary/modern lit, historical lit…

    Since there is no comment page for Beautiful Losers, I must tell you here that is by far my favorite work of yours. It explores love in the deepest way and sex as an expression of that love… and it’s hot as hell.

  6. TFP
    February 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    RG,

    I agree that your current readers are of a higher academic level, yet a niche group. These individuals are intelligent and discern the difference between reality & fantasy, the masses are incredibly stupid, these do not and panic easily.

    I’m of the mind erotica in general can and has, in many cases, reach the ‘main stream’ if well written like Gaijin. Yet, if erotica of the nonconsensual is published to the mainstream the writer must bare some responsibility, for writings inspire the mind and once the mind is in gear, actions may soon follow. Freedom of speech is relative. One may have the right to yell “fire”, but in a crowded theater?

    Excellent thoughts, writings, and comments!

    Thank you,

    -TFP

    • February 4, 2010 at 8:32 am

      TFP, you know that usually I agree with you, but not on this one. This is one of those oft-used arguments that has no basis in fact. People who are sociopathic enough to commit rape are likely to use anything as a justification. And, if they were smart, they would choose cannonical texts, like the old testament, in their defense.

      On the other hand, societies where depictions of non-consensual are eroticised and in the mainstream, like Japan, have far lower incidences of rape than US, which censors it. How do you explain that.

      Perhaps it is time to stop blaming fictional mediated interpretations for social problems and deal with the lack if impulse control instead.

      • Seldom
        July 11, 2015 at 7:52 am

        What does the lower incidence in Japan reflect? Less reporting or actually less of it happening? I wonder if writing Taboo as erotica – and I am not sure if you should be calling your writing erotica either because you challenge the reader to think and reflect not just physically respond- normalises it to the point where it will trigger people. You won’t write about certain topics because you are unsettled by them but respect the right of others. But do we come to a point where erotic fiction of say sex with minors beings to normalise this act and make it more palatable to the mainstream? We do need to talk and write about taboo but is there some greater responsibility on the writer to ensure the reader understands the context. I respect that is what you do. So to me the debate is not so much should we write about taboo but how should we write about it?

        • July 11, 2015 at 8:33 am

          Do hundreds of thousands of murder mysteries ‘normalize’ murder? No. Fiction IS fiction.

          I write fiction. I do not write self-help guides, or models of good behaviour. I do not write for children. Are there some adults who will use any excuse to do things that are bad – yes – and they have the bible to ‘excuse’ their evil deeds over and above anything an erotica writer might produce.

          Also, I DO call myself a writer of erotica and I refer you to the canon – D.H. Lawrence, Miller, Nin, Carter, Duras… all writers who challenged readers to think. The fact that we have a whole lot of facile, crappy writing out there calling itself erotica doesn’t preclude me from labeling my work what it is.

          • Seldom
            July 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm

            Yeah I take your point. We often try to find simple solutions to complex problems it’s easy to blame things that make us uncomfortable. Discovering well written erotica such as yours has been a revelation – didn’t mean to offend, was actually trying to imply your writing was better than most stuff that I’ve read to date.
            So I’ve gone from insulting to suck up. Will think more before I type.

            • July 11, 2015 at 8:26 pm

              Hahahahah. Oh, you weren’t insulting at all. But yes, I think we do go for what seems like the easiest solution. It happened with Columbine. “If those kids hadn’t been listening to Marilyn Manson…etc. etc.” They’d just have found another CD for their theme music.

  7. February 4, 2010 at 11:41 am

    RG! What are great set of thoughts, condensed into plain commonsense.

    I will comment on three things you mentioned:

    -IMO, we cannot think of minors having sex coherently, for it ages us. Many of us are still trapped in H.S. dynamics within our heads, as is. When teens are old enough for sex, we go from young (and still sexy) parents to middle aged ( or old people, as teens call anyone over 30). Who wants to not be young, in our culture? We have people creating slogans that make one age ten years younger than it really is.

    In many cultures, they solve the issue of young people being sexual with marriage. Problem solved, so they say. I think a new set of issues occur with that quick snap approach but they did not ask me.

    They are seeking to curb the wild male impulse and crucify any female desire outside of child-rearing.

    We feel like we are gatekeepers of experience, when we tell the youth that they need to wait, to deny they are growing into sexual beings. But often our motives are projection, not protection of their tender hearts and minds from the violent storms that sex brings into life.

    I have heard many parents speak of their children not having babies young. Not as many have spoke of being prepared for what being sexually active does upon the psyche.

    Sex also uses resources, as it leads to the production of new people. We can’t have sexual beings, only those that prove their usefulness via the amount of money they can make.

    -I agree totally with the gain/loss of power via non-consensual sex. Especially in an age where male and female roles are blurred and often transformed entirely. There is some quaint about a man who wields the power given to him by Nature, over a receptive woman who must resist his aggression. He leads her to the explosive orgasms and dazzling pleasure.

    Things she could not have without him. And she is the natural receptacle for his passions.

    I have decided that being violent can result in a gain of things or an increased sense of self. That is why we see it glorified. Whereas that troublesome thingy called sex makes us vulnerable and should be hidden away.

    – How do we handle betrayal of the truth, in our writing? Do we bend to current dictates and eventually change minds? Or do we strike out and weather the storm?

    It comes down to if one wants to be read, or slough along and maybe be read, at some point.

    I wrote of a death erection and a man’s golden shower fetish development. They both violate the rules before us as taboo. Would I change my words? No. But I will readily admit that I edited myself, before I posted it for all to see.

    I was telling a story, not attempting to turn anyone on.

    I do not want to be a hypocrite. I want society to stop pushing me into that form.

    It takes courage to speak what one feels. I am not sure how much I have. Will keep you updated, as I go.

    It sucks but someone will have to be the pariah, every so often. Because writers are not journalists, as you to gracefully explained.

    Now, we have new ways to reach people, so it is easier for more writers to bend the rules.

    Rule bending still bears a cost, however.

    Thanks for your massive contribution to this issue. I think we are entering our erotic literature final frontier.

    • February 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      I think you settle on a very good point. When someone bends or breaks rules, regardless of whether those rules are just or not, there are consequences. And people must agree to be prepared to take them. Speaking freely is a double edged sword.

      1) If you want to write things that contravene rules, you must be prepared to take the pain of doing it. That doesn’t mean that you should not do it. But you have to put up with the consequences. Meanwhile, there is no reason why you should not take sensible steps to protect yourself, or defend yourself for your choices as vociferously as possible. However, you DO get to call yourself an uncompromising writer.

      2) If you decide that those are not consequences you can, or are willing to endure, and you censor yourself to avoid them, you do NOT get to speak of yourself as being at the vanguard of your particular cultural milieu.

      • February 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

        Rg, I do not mind talking with bloody lips, for speaking freely cuts the flesh. I have to embrace the pain or shut up.

        But as a wise man told me a while ago, Life is Pain. It hurts to live at times, as much as it makes me feel good, at others.

        And no matter how much I want to prove him wrong, I cannot.

        I will not ever consider myself part of the vanguard. Just one of the few survivors of the war.

  8. TFP
    February 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

    RG,

    Excellent points, I cannot comment on the rape occurrences of various cultures therefore I will trust your statement about the Japanese. I find it an interesting subject to discuss, is there a balance to be had between a writers responsibility to him/herself vs. the readers that may be influenced.

    I admire your strong uncompromising convictions e.g. not writing simply to be published. Thats just one of a number of reasons why I am a regular visitor & reader, I enjoy your writings tremendously…and coincidently although I am far from an academic, I can usually discern reality from fantasy. *smiles*

    Thank you,

    -TFP

    • February 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

      On reading your comment, my first reaction was to deny that a writer has any responsibility as to how readers are influenced. Because ultimately, the choice to act lies with the person who acts, and to negate that is to deny free will.

      But I guess I do have a line and I’d draw it. Firstly between fiction and non-fiction. I think people who write non-fiction and present it as such DO have a social responsibility. Secondly, at the age of people who read what I write; I don’t think it is appropriate for people under a certain age to read what I write because they DO tend to have a problem distinguishing between fact and fiction – it’s just a developmental reality.

      Furthermore, there are things I won’t write about, even fictionally, because I believe that to depict certain things without, for instance, their logical consequences, is simply bad writing.

      Also, there are things I don’t write about because I find them personally disgusting, and I don’t have the capacity to step back and see them in any kind of objective manner. I don’t, for instance, write about cock and ball torture – although consenting adults might, in reality, submit to it willingly and find it erotic to read about. I just don’t get it and it freaks me out to the point where I can’t see it objectively. I can’t understand, even intellectually, what the eroticism is in it. That doesn’t mean I condemn people who indulge in it, or who get off on reading about it, or writing it. And I’d be very willing to read an intelligently, well written piece that attempted to explain where the eroticism stems from.

      I would also never write about sex with pre-adolescent children. Not because I’d worry that someone would go out and be a pedophile because I wrote it, but because I don’t think I have anything insightful to write about it; I find it personally disgusting and the enormity of the social and psychological implications of those kind of acts are just something I’m not willing to take on as a writer.

      Obviously I am willing to write about immoral acts in my fiction, and I have often done it. But there are places I just don’t want to go as a writer and I believe that is my personal prerogative. But I don’t expect other writers to agree with, or fall in with my personal limitations. That is each writers’ own choice.

  9. April 4, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Thanks for the well thought out and impassioned response to a complex subject.

    You have touched on something here that i have been giving some thought to lately, so i thought i would make a comment.

    I find it very disturbing when art criticism focuses on content rather than quality, or as is often is the case what is currently in vogue. This lack of honesty, on the part of the critics and academics, that is required of the artists seems to me to indicate a lack of understanding all to common these days.

    thanks

    jshawback

  10. April 10, 2010 at 4:58 am

    James Joyce was a favorite literary author who used smutty language to memorable effect. I’ve often wished that Ursula LeGuin, with her grasp of the language and insight into social tensions, had ventured further into erotic territory with some of her stories like The Left Hand of Darkness and Nine Lives.

    I am pleased that you’ve brought up a contrary point of view. Non-consent, mind-control, and similar sub-genres can be very powerful reading. The written word allows both the writer and the reader to explore personally dangerous concepts vicariously. I know men and women both with forced-sex fantasies, and I’ve written a couple of stories myself involving this topic. When I am writing a non-consent story I’m not concerned with handling the subject matter “responsibly” — I’m concerned with authentic expression. Such things often write themselves, as I am sure you know, with little forethought.

    Yes, I’ve gotten feedback from some people that stories covering the non-consent subject make them uncomfortable. And that is ok. I like writing that makes me uncomfortable. It gives me something to examine, contemplate — why, exactly, does this bother me? — and often, to face some inauthenticity in myself.

    Thank you for calling this out, and asking both the writers and readers of erotica to contemplate their discomfort rather than simply responding with the usual disgust and aversion.

    Kay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

20 − 8 =