I love writing erotic fiction. I sometimes enjoy reading it.
I do not like erotic fiction that blurs lines of consent or is disrespectful – to women, to men, to the community it is writing about, etc. Sometimes when I voice this, people will say “but it is only fantasy.”
And this is wrong.
There is a difference between fantasy and fiction, and I am going to explain that.
I think it is something that many erotica authors either miss or ignore, and our genre and its sub-genres hurt for it. Erotica can be erotic and it can still be respectful. It can sexualize respect and consent and be an incredibly erotic story. You just have to understand what a fantasy is, what drives that fantasy, and how to turn it into erotica.
Some time ago I was given a commission. It was a hard core fantasy, one that really blurred some lines. As a fantasy, I was fine writing it. It was a very erotic fantasy, no doubt. When I looked at publishing it, however, I ran into a conundrum.
I could not publish it.
While the R-word never took place (not even close – I do not allow it in my stories, fantasy or not), the story blurred the lines of consent in other ways (even though I did not see it as I wrote the story). While one character quite happily offered submission, the other did not. The dominant was forcing their dominance upon the other person, making them accept their submissive nature. The fantasy was from the point of view of that character, the one being made to accept his submissiveness. The attraction of that fantasy, of that point of view, was very plain to see. I have submitted before. Feeling that power taken and used is a powerful thing. When I came to understand how the main character’s submission was taken and not given up, I understood why I could not publish it.
The fantasy of someone “seeing” your submissiveness and opening that up in you is an attractive and erotic fantasy.
That person forcing submission from you, however, is not a good way to live. Both in mainstream media and in real life, submission is forced on people. Typically, that is done through socialization, where girls are taught they must be demure, that it is better to be quiet than to be seen as “bossy.” As they grow into teens and adults, they are taught to submit to their husbands, to be passive when it comes to sex and sexual enjoyment. A expectation is set upon women, whether they want it or not. Because it starts at such a young age, it comes ingrained, and it leads to problems. Combined with the way we socialize boys into men, it creates an environment where very bad aspects of our society flourish.
Fantasy is a release. It is a way for us to experience things that we cannot attain or that we consider to be dark. Women enjoy the ravishment and forced submission fantasies not because they actually want a stranger to take advantage of them, violently or not. They do not want to actually be disrespected. They enjoy the fantasy because it allows them a guilt-free way to indulge in thoughts of things they are not supposed to enjoy. A “good woman” is not supposed to enjoy things like giving blow jobs, anal sex, or multiple men. She is not supposed to like the idea of being tied down and made to watch her partner pleasuring another woman. By indulging in these fantasies in her mind, however, she allows herself to explore and enjoy those things without having to wonder what is wrong with herself for seeking them out. After all, in her fantasy, she is being made to experience them.
It is okay to experience these things as the recipient in a fantasy because it is just a fantasy. That fantasy allows you to explore yourself. Combined with introspection and a willingness to shed social conventions like the Purity Myth, those fantasies can allow you to come to accept those desires. You can go from the fantasy of being forced to enjoy them, to the fantasy of seeking them out, to openly discussing those desires with your partner. This is what fantasy can do for us, and why a vibrant fantasy life can enrich your sexual and intimate life.
When we are writing a story, however, we are doing more than writing a fantasy. We are creating a world where that fantasy comes to life. In doing so, we have to be careful how we present the story and the fantasy. We create a world of normalcy for the things that take place in the stories that we create. If we publish stories that blur the lines of consent, or that disrespect people and lifestyles, and use that as the erotic content, with no consequence for it happening – if those people who in the real world would be predators and abusers become our heroes or anti-heroes – then we normalize that behavior in the world we write in.
I wrestled with this story and how to publish it. I liked the dark aspects of the story because the character still came through with a realization about himself. When I fully realized what was wrong with the story, the forced submission, I understood how to change the story so that it could be told, so that the character could have this realization and transformation, but not create a world of normalcy for behavior that was contrary to what BDSM is.
I had to make the activity stop – that is the point-of-view character had to make the activity stop. I also had to provide consequence for the characters who made the bad choices. I had to remove from the world of the story any normalcy of their bad behavior. Once I was able to do that, I think that I had a story that while dark, still respected the lifestyle. It also showed more respect to the point-of-view character, who had a legitimate kink.
He just needed a safe and sane way to explore it.