Saturday, 11 June 2011

Establishing the Connection

I wrote this post a while back, and I was slightly disappointed I didn't get any responses, as I'm genuinely interested in finding out what people think about what makes a good sex scene.

As I read more published erotica, I am finding that as often as not, I do not find the writing sexy or arousing - characters that I cannot identify with, settings which are quite frankly unbelievable, descriptions which are brilliantly written but do little to tickle my imagination. I understand that erotica is all about delving into fantasy and finding heat in people and places that do not necessarily exist, but there has to be an element of realism or I simply do not connect - I am an outsider, looking in but left out of the action. In this respect, erotica is no different to any other kind of fiction.

As a writer my aim is always to turn myself on when I read the piece back - if I cannot turn myself on then how do I expect someone else to feel what I want them to? Without wishing to overly blow my own trumpet I know I'm doing okay at this, as several people have commented positively on stuff that I've shown them. The only person I fail at impressing is my husband, but he doesn't like erotica and doesn't read it for the same reason. I'm hoping that it is a fair assumption that people who read erotica do so because they want to be stimulated by it. Otherwise they would simply go elsewhere.

My question then is this - can a great piece of erotica touch everyone, or will it always appeal only to a certain demographic? I know that certain kinks don't appeal to everyone, but can the passion and intensity of an emotional connection permeate through circumstances to a universal audience?


I think that a response to erotica is intensely personal. We look for different things just as we look for different things in sexual relationships. There are things which can increase the likelihood of a story connecting with a wide audience. Some of these things are the same principles of good story-telling that work with any kind of story :

1. Don't get bogged down in description.

2. Include dialogue.

3. Don't tell your readers too much too soon. Tease them with bits of information about what might be about to happen or the nature of the characters and have them wanting to know more and thus drag them into the story.

4. Place the characters in emotional situations with which the reader might relate, give them strong hopes or fears.

But there are also unique tastes which are not just to do with sexual kinks. For instance realism is not that important to me. My own stories tend to be erotic cartoons like Bugs Bunny with boners. There is little connection with external reality, but I find that sort of thing sexy. I say external reality because our erotic fantasies, however outlandish, are an expression of a very real internal erotic landscape if you will. For me, my male characters are an expression of my masculine side and my female characters are an expression of my feminine side so, for myself, their relationships, no matter how cartoonish, have deep resonance for me. I once felt deeply ashamed of my sexual feelings and felt that women would find those sexual feelings disgusting. I was very uninformed about women's attitudes to sex. This was long before the internet. But the subtext to much of my erotic writing has been that of finding acceptance of my own sexual feelings through writing stories about sexually uninhibited females.

And I think that how we respond to erotic writing is affected by our views about sex and our emotional needs regarding sex. I think sometimes we may want to do things but be afraid to and therefore a story about a dominant figure who forces us to do what we wanted to do to begin with may have appeal. Likewise sex is something which can be used as a healing force and I think that using it in this way is emotionally rewarding for some women, and thus they are likely to relate to stories of sexual relationships involving dark, troubled men or women.

What is most important to me in my own stories and what I find most erotic in the stories of others is playful sexuality. In my non-sexual life as well, I'm happiest when at play, joking around, laughing and gently teasing. This is a reflexion of my optimistic view of human nature. To me, all of the dark, bitter, painful, aggressive aspects of the human experience are symptoms of our superficial insecurities. Underneath all of that, I believe that our basic nature is of cuddly little fuck monkeys like the bonobos who are our closest genetic relatives.

As for universality, I don't think it is the passion and intensity that the writer puts into the work which leads to a universal response, but rather whether to story taps into the experiences of the readers in some way. Myths are stories which have become incredibly important down through history because they have something to communicate to a near universal audience. This tends to be because they deal in a symbolic form with patterns of human experience rather than specific situations. Some stories are very specific in their appeal in that they mean something to someone who has had exactly the same kind of experience, but maybe don't strike a chord with a wider family of experiences. Thus a book about being a rap singer might have a strong appeal to people who are interested in that whole culture, but not to others - unless the story is told in a way which makes it strike a chord with the whole experience of striving for success in any business - but a love story or a coming of age story might reach a wider audience because most of us have experienced love or troubled adolescence and can thus connect emotionally with such a story. How this relates to erotic stories, I'm not sure. I suppose, in theory, if I am right and our deepest nature is one of bonobo-style sexuality then my stories should have a universal appeal, but I don't think it quite works like that. :oP

Thank you very much. That's a fascinating insight. You've given me lots to think about. (Hurrah!)

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