Why I can't Write Erotica

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How does one write about the 'congress of the antelope' in an original and interesting way? Discuss.

Submitted: January 12, 2012

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Submitted: January 12, 2012

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Why I Can’t Write Erotica

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude or anything, and I have no objection to erotic writing per se; not that I actually read it. My spiritual adviser has warned me against it anyway. The exact words were:

“A starving man should not peruse recipe books,” which seemed quite sensible advice at the time. And I suppose avoid watching cooking shows as well. It certainly precludes formulating one’s own recipes, if you see what I mean.

It’s just something that I don’t think I could do well. For a start, what is the character’s motivation in an erotic story? Probably sexual gratification, or so I assume. But what else? I seem to have driven straight into a narrative cul-de-sac, and I have no idea how to reverse out of it. It’s the same with the horror genre. One psychotic killer and a bunch of teenagers. Now let’s see, what scope and possibilities would I have as a writer with that set up? I know! How about the murderous villain kills all the kids. Brilliant, and not at all predictable.

But I digress; back to the erotic storyline. I have established the protagonist’s motivation, sexual gratification, with the object of his or her desire. So it’s a case of, “I saw. I conquered. I came.” Well, putting it bluntly, but how do I expand upon that premise in order to create a work of sensuous beauty? It’s not easy, and I am not the first person to stumble at the journey’s beginning, nor probably the last. Noah Taylor’s character in the film He Died with a Felafel in his Hand begins his attempt at erotic writing with the phrase, “Enter me, enter me”, she gasped. I don’t know about you, but it sounds more like a talking elevator or high tech door than a woman desirous of penetration. And that is another major problem. How does one write about sex in a subtle and nuanced way? You can either be too explicit and sound like a bad letter to Penthouse, or too euphemistic and produce Mills and Boon style romantic pap, and how can you sound original about something that occurs millions of times daily on this planet. This is only an assumption, but as there are at least seven billion people on the earth it suggests to me that someone somewhere is engaging in the sexual act as I write this.

Which brings me to another point: how can one write about one’s sexual experiences without in some way compromising the intimacy of the act? How would you feel if your sexual partner broadcast to the world every intimate detail of your bedroom antics? That would seem an ultimate betrayal to some. Or is it rather the case that more often than not erotic writing is a reflection of the writers inner most fantasies? This seems equally problematic, for now you inner most desires are there for all to read, including no doubt you current sexual partner. I can imagine their reaction, “So you want to___ with the ___ so you can___ in my ___!” You’ll have to fill in the gaps yourself, as I am unable and unwilling to reveal any of my private thoughts on this subject.

There is no denying that a considerable ammount of erotic material has been produced throughout the ages, beginning in classical Greece and Rome with great poets like Sappho and Catullus, and Ovid who gave us Ars Amatoria, the art of love. Even the Old Testament contains sensual verses in Solomon’s Song of Songs. This is followed in the erotic canon by Boccacio’s Decameron, John Cleland’s Fanny Hill, 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, and Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher Masoch, the last of these giving us the words sadism and masochism. I’m not sure how erotic flagellation really is, but I didn’t go to an English Public school and thus do not require the services of a dominatrix.

Last century saw a prolific output of works, including Lady Chatterly’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and my personal favourite Delta of Venus by Anais Nin, if only because of her restrained and subtle sensuous style. Good erotica shouldn’t go ‘straight for the clit’, as the saying goes. There has been a veritable avalanche of so called erotica produced since the second half of the 20th century, which has continued until now. There is such a glut of the stuff that no one person can claim to have read it all, and if they could it would certainly do their head in.

While there will always be massive quantities of the stuff produced, and I am in no way advocating any form of restriction upon it, my point is, hasn’t it all been said already, and is there anything more to say on the topic. Been there. Done that. Bought the T Shirt. And it says in big bold letters: I SAW. I CONQUERED. I CAME.

I rest my case.


© Copyright 2017 Craig Davison. All rights reserved.

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