I met my yearly quota for blog posts that seem like blog posts and not preachy essays, right? Well, whatever. By the time I pump out my next blog post, it’ll be 2018 anyway. I strategically posted Panopticon around the beginning of December so that I could make sure that I’d have another piece ready for January. I’m making sure I’m not getting too ahead of myself though – my goal is simply to put out a piece of writing within January. Either way, last week almost felt out of place, didn’t it? A retelling of my experiences as opposed to an arrogant young adult writer writing about erotica as if he knows what he’s talking about. Plus he barely publishes a piece a month, and, I mean, have you seen the earlier chapters of Being More Social? I don’t get why you people stick around.
Anyway, my PR manager is begging me to stop that, so let’s move on with this week’s topic. I’m going to return to a concept I keep coming back to and branch off in a different direction this week. Let’s start simply: A lot of erotica is made up of power fantasies. Awkward guy gets hot girl. Awkward girl gets hot guy. Flirtatious high schoolers finally admit their feelings for each other and do some crazy underage stuff that would make Roy Moore blush (take a drink, everyone).
We see power fantasies a lot in erotica. Not just in mind control fetishes, though that’s the easiest to point out. Even just an erotic story where people are slaves to their instincts. It’s nice to think our romantic problems could be solved if we just had a bigger dick or bigger boobs, as untrue as that is (refer to my post two weeks ago). Since I have to be aware that incest stories are rife on the free erotica internet, I’ll acknowledge them – most incest stories are power fantasies. The taboo of someone you can’t screw, submitting to their hormones – it too is something of a power fantasy. The second we attempt to depart ‘power fantasy,’ we stop writing porn in words and start writing erotic stories. If there’s no blatant control or wish fulfillment, there’s some kind of conflict or plot. (This is a very important tip for budding erotica writers.)
The trouble with this hurdle is not that so many people have a difficulty writing stories without them just being power fantasies (though that problem exists). The trouble is that once that hurdle is cleared, the balance of ‘where does the plot/conflict come from’ and ‘I need to include sex’ becomes important. Before the exclusion of a power fantasy as the main goal, no one cared about plot, and your work could be excused as a ‘stroke story.’ But now that you’ve committed to a story with pornographic elements, it has to carry the baggage any story carries. Characters, setting, conflict, resolution.
The tricky thing about this is that some writers get very comfortable in a limbo between the two. An interestingly unique problem in erotica is that certain stories will have a paper-thin plot and cardboard characters while getting unreal praise on websites. A cynical narcissist would just dismiss that note as “well, the masses are just simpletons that wouldn’t know a good story if it hit them in the face,” but that’s not quite it, at least in my opinion. I can’t say that my audience, nor any general audience on erotica websites, are stupid. So then what’s the attractive factor about these stories?
I go from theory to theory on this topic from time to time. y current conclusion is ‘escapism.’ The number one way to tell these ‘shallow’ stories from more line-blurring porn-story hybrids is that every character has the same beliefs and personality. I see this all the time with mypenname3000, Burnt Redstone, etc. Readers don’t want to associate their erotica with discomfort, and having characters’ opinions clashing forces the reader to take a side. If it’s a personal belief they hold dear, this becomes all the more dire. I remember back when I first released the chapter of BMS where Adam was forced to take a side in the ‘did Phil sexually assault May or didn’t he’ scenario. A reader emailed me and let me know he couldn’t keep reading my stuff, that he didn’t want to choose and didn’t want to read the story any further because he couldn’t bear to know which side Adam took, no matter which side. At the time I regarded that as a weird email, and if you’re reading this now, sorry for outing your opinion so publicly like that, but it helped me see why some people are so staunchly opposed to porn-story hybrids.
A lot of people read sex stories to get away from their realities. Maybe stuff like the events of BMS (taking sides during an alleged rape accusation, abortion, and a poly character vs a mono character) were too real to some people. Why read a story containing uncomfortable topics if you read erotica to get away from all that stuff in your life? It’s not people ‘not knowing a good story’ like the snobs say, it’s the reason why people will seek out a story. People tend to masturbate more when they’re stressed out. Coincidence?
Does this make ‘shallow’ storytelling less valid? It’s a difficult question, but on a whole I’d say no. They just have different audiences. Even with this realization in mind, I don’t think it will affect my writing. I may want to experiment with more sex-centric stories from time to time, but I like my role as a relatively unpopular writer that writes stories that happen to include sex. I enjoy the varied personalities clashing in my stories, which couldn’t happen in a more ‘shallow’ story, but that doesn’t mean they deserve less respect or take less effort to make. Hell, I know I’ll always be envious of those writers with seemingly endless energy that manage to go through a chapter a week. Either way, it’s always something neat to keep in mind. Next time you’re reading a sex story, think to yourself – are the characters involved the same personality with slight deviations, or are they truly all different from one another?
What do you think? Was I too harsh, or not harsh enough? Am I looking at this all wrong? If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. Otherwise, I still have the same email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). I hope all of you had a wonderful 2017, I’ll definitely be trying to make 2018 a more productive year. I’ll talk to you all in a week.