I’m not at home today. I’m at Sarah’s, throwing sand at the other children. And she’s here to entertain you, with clever jokes and HobNobs and footnotes (!) at the end.
Take it away, Sarah. . .
The last couple of days a few people have asked me why I’ve been bumping into walls while staring at my eReader.
Each time, I’ve looked up, blinked a couple times and said, “Dystopian paranormal gay erotic western horror novel.”
And each of them blinked a couple times and said, “Oh. Why?”
Well, for one thing, it’s an extremely well-written dystopian paranormal gay erotic western horror novel, but that’s not really what they’re asking.
They didn’t care much about the dystopian paranormal western horror thing, and at least two of them couldn’t have cared less about the gay element. No, I could tell by the way their noses did that little wrinkle—you know the one—that they had immediately zeroed in on that other word.
I had confirmation when one of them said “Erotica?” in a way that almost made it rhyme with “porn.”
This frosted me just a bit.
So when Averil offered the opportunity for me to rant a bit here* about my personal definition of what erotica is and isn’t and what personally turns me on about it,** pun totally intended, I couldn’t pass it up.
So here goes.
The old joke aside, the real difference between erotica and porn, at least for me, has nothing to do with feathers versus whole chickens or even good writing versus Wat’s spelchek?
It has to do with emotions and intimacy.
Without emotional involvement—love, hate, rage, joy, despair, compassion, affection, pain, or better yet, a mix—and without some kind of intimate connection between the characters—however tenuous, however misplaced, however evil— beyond the physical, sex is nothing more than mechanics and nerve endings.
I’m not knocking nerve endings,*** which have undeniable and demonstrable entertainment value. But there’s only so much of Tab A into Slot B—or C, or D, or even G—that the average reader will tolerate before the “good bits” of a story become the descriptions of the main character’s weekly trip to the grocery to stock up on Gatorade, Trojans, and Crisco.
This is the reason why the recent movie Shame didn’t turn a lot of people on and why it wasn’t supposed to.
Oh, sure—you can grab me with a little somethin’-somethin’ on the first couple pages—hell, I’m easy. Throw in some dystopian cowboys, and I’ll read a little bit more.
But if you want me in it for the long haul, if you want me right there as your characters tie it up and nail it down, I’m gonna need more than a graphic description of where the Crisco goes.
Let me give you some examples.
One of the most unforgettably erotic stories I’ve read in the past year is one of Averil’s. The emotional setting was a very dark place shared by a couple whose feelings for each other were so overpowering that they expressed them in a sort of sexual combat that spiraled out of all control as they defied and challenged and hurt one another on so many levels with the intensity of it all, unable to win or concede, unable to let go or walk away.
This story wasn’t just about hard hot sex like whoa—it was about the helplessness and the rage and the love and the center not holding.
In contrast, a few months ago, another friend sent me a couple chapters of a BDSM story he’s been working on. He and his partner openly live the lifestyle, so I’m assuming everything is more than Hollywood accurate—and I can’t tell you how happy I am that safe words are real. But although there’s pain involved, there’s also such trust developing between the two characters and the beginning of such affectionate caring that it makes their on-page encounters—which seemed pretty hardcore to me—even more intense.
Again, not just about the metal-tipped leather and an interesting fetish or two—this one is about that tentative hope and the joy of discovery at the start of any relationship.
As for that dystopian paranormal gay erotic western horror novel . . . I’ll let you know. But there’s are certain levels of obsession, love, and despair in here that bode well for this reader, if not for the characters.
So to sum up:
Sex is easy. Intimacy is difficult—but so worth the work.
If the characters, by which I mean the writer, won’t bother, then why should I?
*It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I’m about to say, but Averil and I run different kinds of blogs. She’s midnight dark chocolate with cayenne and pop rocks and I’m more of a HobNob with spiritual leanings toward Whizzo Crunchy Frog.
**Your results may vary. What floats my boat may sink your battleship and vice versa.
***Or not while I was writing this, anyway—and can I get a Hey-O for a fairly decent inadvertent euphemism? Thank you.
Do you read erotica? Porn? Or do you only come here for the pictures?