Sometimes it’s difficult to write and not feel repressed. No, that’s not a typo. I meant “repression,” not “depression.” Despite it being the year 2020, America has still clung to its deeply puritanical values. Mention sex or anything related to sex, and adults gasp and giggle. How and why is this a taboo subject? How do people think they came into existence?
Say “fuck” and people frown. I’m probably getting some side-eye here for just typing it. If you’re furious that I dared type the word “fuck,” please, by all means, don your white bonnet, cover up those scandalous ankles, and sigh dramatically as you fall onto a fainting couch. “Fuck” means to screw, bonk, swive, have sex with. Okay, why is that so terrible? It doesn’t carry racist or misogynistic baggage. It isn’t a word that’s been used to oppress or dehumanize. “Fucking” can also be used as an adjective to mean something one intensely dislikes. Again, why is that bad? “Fucker” means “I’m calling someone a word that means I can’t stand them, or perhaps they’ve just mildly annoyed me.” Soooo scandalous, right? And then there’s “Fuck!” – an exclamation, that can be used to replace “damn” or “shit” or “This is terrible.”
The word is hardly even hurtful, especially when you could easily insult someone by selecting their greatest insecurities. “You fuckwit” is hardly as insulting as “You really are an absolute failure. I don’t know why you thought you could (insert person’s hopes and dreams here). That requires actual work, which you’ve shown you’re incapable of doing. Oh, and it also requires thought processes that make sense.” I certainly don’t faint and cry “Scandalous!” when someone says “fuck” near me. In fact, I use that word a lot when I game or when I’m mildly inconvenienced.
What do people get from all the pearl clutching? Do they get some sort of high from feeling holier-than-thou? I guess they have to get their pleasure from somewhere, because any discussion of sex is oh-so-taboo. How do they even get around to fucking?
My first novel, Siren Slave, has quite a few erotic scenes. There are spankings. There’s bondage. There’s anal. These are things adults can consent to do. So why do adults giggle at the mere mention of erotica?
Erotica seems to have this place of scorn in some literary circles, too. Why? Do people believe women do not experience lust? So why the shame and the labeling of romance and erotica as “mommy porn?” I’d consider quite a bit of erotica more intellectual than the porn I’ve seen. Porn often has little characterization. There’s no attachment to the characters. It’s just…Random Attractive Person # 4,035 banging Random Attractive Person # 8,038. We don’t get access to the characters’ thoughts or reasons, at least not in a meaningful way. Any semblance of relatability is just discarded. And I cannot help but feel that the sneering at romance and erotica comes from a place of puritanical values, in which women ought to be shamed for having desires.
There is also something decidedly misogynistic about the disdain for romance and erotica genres, as if something is of lower quality because it is written for women. The implication is there that women do not recognize quality, and the acceptable thing to do is look down one’s nose at any piece that appeals to women’s desires.
People often avoid telling people outside of their circle of friends and family they write erotica. I once sat with a small group of writers at a local bookstore and made it known I’d had erotica published. (I was never one for keeping this a secret. I used to carry romance novels atop my piles of books in high school. Why should I feel shame for my reading material?) The group snickered, as expected. I waited until the giggling had died down and posed the question of whether or not their reaction was because work designed to appeal to women’s fantasies was worthy of scorn and derision. The group went silent, and one admitted she’d not thought of it that way.