It is the curious tendency of many readers to assume that writers of certain genres are writing autobiographically. You see that sometimes in literary fiction, and it’s a certain kind of literary criticism to find the author in their works of fiction. There’s some merit to that, since I think authors do put at least a little of themselves into everything they write, some more than others.
Yet I think it’s only writers of steamy romance and erotica who are assumed to have an equally steamy and adventurous sex life. You see it in people who admire the life they think the erotica writer has, and you see it in the disapproval of those who assume erotica writers live a life of sinful decadence that will ultimately lead to their downfall by death, disease, or dilapidation. It’s a curious tendency indeed.
As a writer of supernatural and horror, I have yet to have someone come up to me and ask me how many people I’ve murdered and which part of the brain to flex when trying to use psychokinesis. I don’t need personal experience to imagine what the act of violent murder feels like – I have my imagination and common sense as well as other people’s accounts. I have no desire to murder anyone just to have the real-life experience to make sure my stories are 100 percent authentic. Some people may find my creepy based on the tales I tell, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never have crime scene investigators digging up my backyard or, heaven forbid, a basement (if I ever have one, and since basements are creepy and not available in this area of the country, I will never have one) looking for bodies.
Similarly, while I’d like to believe that I’d have an open mind in my sex life, I can count my sexual encounters on precisely no fingers. I depend exclusively on other people’s accounts, a very adventurous imagination, a working knowledge of anatomy, and – if I may be honest – some self-experimentation (what I like to call celibacy with benefits). Just because I write about sexually manipulative supernatural creatures doesn’t mean I’ve ever bedded one, and just because I’m a big supporter of alternative sexualities and alternative lifestyles such as polyamory doesn’t mean I’ve ever been in a threesome or a triad, although I know several people in that subculture.
I am a member of that strange society of erotica writers who is still technically a virgin, but that doesn’t make me innocent or ignorant, and it doesn’t mean I can’t write hot sex – any more than not being a murderer doesn’t mean I can’t write a very uncomfortable amputation scene. But being an erotica writer also doesn’t mean I’ve sexed my way to hell and heaven and back again, although it doesn’t preclude that I may go there eventually. Just in my own time, my own way, and possibly never. And most of the time, that’s okay. (And other times I could bite through my own arm, but those times don’t last too many days.)
I think what it comes down to is my pet project: emphasizing the difference between fantasy and reality, and making sure other people realize that there’s a chasm between the two. Sometimes authors build bridges, but there’s no reason to assume we all do. I write what I like to read, I write what I enjoy, and I enjoy writing erotica very much. And I seem to do fairly well at it, so good for me, I’m going to continue. Full stop.