Perhaps I was spoiled by fandom, but I expected that when I entered the world of original erotic content, I would met with a world that embraced taboo and pushed boundaries. Not for the sake of the taboo, but as an exploration of a facet of the human experience that is endlessly fascinating and full of variety. What I find, sometimes, is quite different. I suspect it’s not so much a problem with publishers as it is with pressure from external sources, but even so, does anyone find it frustrating that there are things a person can write in mainstream fiction that they cannot write in erotica?
I have a story. It’s about 11,000 words long, and it’s erotic horror, which is my favorite kind of erotica. I don’t consider erotic horror the same as torture porn or snuff, although some of the content may be similar in nature. My first story, “In Circles,” was also erotic horror. It was heavily inspired by slasher films, as most of my erotic horror is, but that didn’t make it torture porn (in fact, most big budget movies called torture porn aren’t even torture porn) or snuff. It dealt with very serious issues in a very bloody and uncomfortable way.
My newest long story has rape in it. But I am very frustrated by the fact that that one word can immediately have my story dismissed out of hand as trash, as something people do not want to touch, as bad – before they even read it. Never mind that a majority of the story is about a boy in mental anguish, tortured from many sides. Sometimes you have to ask yourself what makes a monster, and more importantly, who creates that monster. Because monsters do exist. That was part of the purpose of the story.
Criminal Minds asks that question all the time, and they’re on network television. But because I write explicit sex that is intended to arouse at the same time it makes you very uncomfortable, somehow this story will probably never see the light of day. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best thing I’ve written, and it might be. It doesn’t matter if the story is pure and honest. It doesn’t matter if the story has literary merit or not.
It has rape for the purpose of titillation. And so it is bad. One day, it may end up in a mainstream anthology, because it certainly won’t be accepted in the world of erotica. How twisted is that?
I see it over and over again. I see people create these arbitrary lines between what is acceptable and what isn’t (not what is legal and what isn’t, but what is deemed acceptable and safe), based on their personal likes and dislikes and triggers and buttons, based on what they can handle. But they lose all sight of context. They judge a story by its tags rather than its narrative, by what they fear rather than what it means. They decide what is “obscene” or “pornographic,” when life is obscene and pornographic, by the very definitions, sans media. It’s not just in erotica – most banned books are banned because of mentions of things rather than a whole bookful of things. But I guess I just thought erotica would be different, that erotica would be more accepting. But they can’t, because they’re not the ones making the rules. At least, not if you value your work and want to be compensated for it.