"We’ve been taught for so long that writing stories to arouse a reader—or reading stories to get ourselves turned on—is “tasteless” and “immoral.” So, stories that get to the erotic friction faster, or portray hot moments in less than 500 words, are surely the heart of sex-positive art and the politics that go with it." - Lana Fox and Angela Tavares
Just yesterday, I was talking with a friend about the periodic waves of corporate censorship that erotica writers face. My friend commented that comedians facing censorship have the magic word "satire" on their side—-and wondered if erotica writers have any similar get-out-of-jail-free card.
I said we actually have a disadvantage a lot of times. Porn is often used as a foil for art. There may be sex in a story, some writers say, but it's not for titillation. It's literary, better than that.
I have often wondered what's so wrong about making art that is for titillation, or why it seems to be a common belief that sexually explicit art is only okay if it's not titillating. This of course falls down if you read something like Anais Nin's Delta of Venus and Little Birds—-collections of stories that Nin wrote to arouse a paying customer (famously being paid per page for the porn she produced), and discover how arousing and literary they are.
But we don't need to turn to Nin. There are plenty of erotica writers who are unashamedly out to arouse, and are also producing vital, necessary literature. I may be turning up the vibrator in the moment, but I've got something to think about, too. See, for example, my review of Alison Tyler's Dark Secret Love.
I want to make a stronger statement, though. How about the times when I'm just so turned on by the words on the page or screen that I can't help myself? The times when I don't even care about literary merit, I just have to come? I'll never forget the raging arousal I felt after reading Giselle Renarde's Wedding Heat: Two in the Bush. Jaded me, who these days often finds descriptions of explicit sex repetitive, had to close my laptop and run to the bedroom to bring myself off as quickly as possible, noisily, desperately, as if I'd just discovered masturbation. There is art in that, pure art. Not every sex scene does that to me. There is art in finding and portraying the real heat of a moment.
I agree with Lana and Angela that honoring that art is a sex-positive and profoundly radical act. Their quote above is from the introduction to Dirty Little Numbers, the newest release from the fantastic Go Deeper Press. I've got a story in it, and I couldn't be happier to be part of this.
Writing or reading a very short erotic story might be a small act, but it's a profound one. I don't want to ever forget the thrill and fear I felt the first time I found such a story, magnified the first time I wrote one. On each and every occasion, I was (and still am) claiming another part of my sexuality for my own.
That's so important, and you'd damn well better believe that it's art.