Realism in Erotica

The more I overthink things, the more I have doubts.

I’ve been pootling about on the internet a lot reading about sex. This is of course nothing new. What is new, however, is that this time it is for “research”, rather than purely for pleasure. I’ve had a story idea in my mind for the last couple of weeks that doesn’t lend itself to being immediately written. It needs thought, and factual checking, and to be honest I am not sure it’s ever going to get written.

I did a bit of research for Morning Glory, specifically related to the mechanics and sensations of the male orgasm, and at the time I could not help but “cum” across similar pieces about the female orgasm. I was reminded of the fact that, if the internet is to be believed, only around three quarters of women achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. Guess what? I’m one of them. It is also estimated that 10 to 15% of women struggle to reach orgasm at all (thankfully, I’m not one of them!).

Yet it seems standard practice in a lot of erotica that the female protagonist achieves multiple orgasms merely by looking at her partner (yes, E.L. James and her highly orgasmic virgin springs to mind here). I’m probably as guilty as the next person here (although I deliberately avoided this when I wrote Construction – the eagle eyed among you may have noticed that Jo did not orgasm at all).

Then there’s the thorny subject of safe sex. Sometimes the fumble for a condom can make a good literary device, whereas a more fantasy setting might do away with the messy real-life business of contraception.

By doing this, am I just as guilty of perpetuating myths about sex as, for example some might accuse mainstream porn of? Is it obvious enough that fiction is fantasy and should be taken with a pinch of salt?

Finally, how well can I get away with practices I have not experienced myself? At the risk of mentioning “that book” again, E.L. James has come in for a lot of criticism for the nature of the BDSM relationship between Christian Grey and Ana Steele, especially from those who do live in a “true” Dom/Sub relationship. While she has admitted that it is a fantasy of hers, I don’t recall her admitting she had direct experience of a lot of the practices. I don’t have experience of a male/male relationship, for example, but I have an idea floating around in my head that might involve something like that. Does the fact I am unqualified mean I should not bother?

There are two ways of looking at things I suppose; rule number one of writing anything is supposedly “Stick to what you know”. All well and good, but if that were true there would be a lot less historical fiction, crime fiction and certainly no fantasy! A good writer should overcome these obstacles and be able to transport you into a fictional world that either a) seems realistic or b) makes you suspend disbelief enough to just go with the story.

I should probably stop thinking and just get on with writing though, shouldn’t I…?


2 thoughts on “Realism in Erotica

  1. I always wonder about this issue as well. I feel nervous writing about things that I’ve never experienced in real life. I do a lot of research too and I think in a way writing about sex at all gives some people the impression that I am something that I’m not. It does not really matter but seems dishonest to me at times. C’est la vie!


  2. One of the things that I learned while attending Eroticon2012, was that there was a large number of authors writing about BDSM, and have never experienced it themselves nor have watched it. Some, still manage to write it very well, most likely because they go out of their way to do some research. The interesting thing is, during the closing of Eroticon, there was a demonstration between a Dom and his submissive. The Dom was London Fairie. They did a demonstration in which she was laying on a table, face down and he went through an entire session of spanking, flogging, etc. What surprised those watching it, was how absolutely intimate the entire encounter was. I think previously, those erotica writers were in the habit of writing about submissives tied up in a basement and just being flogged. They had no idea of the emotional intimacy behind it all. I think it opened a lot of their eyes.

    Do I think people can write about that which they have not experienced, sure I do. But not all of them will do it well. I say, just because you aren’t a man, can’t mean you can’t try to write about male/male experiences or lesbian experiences if you are not lesbian. I’ve not truly made love to a woman, but I like to believe I was not terrible at writing about it.

    in case you wanted to check it out, here is London Fairie’s site. He actually specializes in giving people intimate BDSM experiences.

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