Sex

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Literary Fumbles and Queer Awakenings: Is Erotica Enough?

Published July 24, 2012 by ellenheights

I first read about lesbian romance when The Night Watch by Sarah Waters came up on our reading list. It was my first year of university, studying English Literature and Creative Writing (later I switched to full creative writing, knowing that’s where my passion was) and I’d never heard of mizz Waters before. I certainly hadn’t read historical fiction before, either, resolving that life was too short for extended history lessons. How wrong I was!

I was absolutely blown out of my frumpy pink slippers by this novel, and when I wrote my essay all I could think about was how beautiful those characters were. Not just that, but how awesome lesbian romance is, especially in a WWII setting, with the whole “we can do it!” thing.

There were androgynous characters, closet characters, gay guys, heterosexual affairs, the lot – and it was all so…Classy. Poignant. I fell utterly in love with the story, the plot, the people – and the action.

I’d never read lesbian sex scenes before, but Sarah Waters has a real knack for it. IRL, Sarah is a lesbian and a feminist, and she became most popular with her first novel Tipping The Velvet which the BBC later adapted for the screen.

After reading The Night Watch I swiftly moved on to Tipping The Velvet, and guess what? I loved this one even more. BDSM, Drag-queenery, more androgyny, feminism, activism, prostitution…It was all there, and I admired this woman so damn much for making it so accessible. So academic. Such a modern take on historical fiction, and with a cover I could take on the train without going pillar-box red with shame to boot.

Soon, I read all of Sarah’s books, and they’ve got a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. It’s because of Sarah that I first dove into writing erotic romance, with my story Madeline in the anthology Girls Who Bite.

It was such an enjoyable experience that I’ve found myself coming back to romance and erotica, and apparently, I’m still good at it. Honestly, I thank Sarah Waters for this – her poetic love scenes taught me well, and inspired me even…Weller.

However, after writing that purely-erotica/sexual awakening story last night, I wondered whether stories like that are enough for me. I mean sure, they’re fun to write and better to read, but what about the characters? Don’t they lack a little depth if all we’re talking about is exterior stimulation, or is it the stimulation of both body and soul that brings depth to it in the first place? I hope that by writing erotica I’m not tossing away my love of character journeys and soul-searching, whether that involves sex or not.

That’s why I enjoyed Sarah Waters’ novels, after all. It was for the whole package, no pun intended. With short stories, however, I guess it’s different: they’re for play, for quick-fixes, for quick musings and ponderings. Novels, on the other hand, are journeys for the reader as much as the writer – and that goes for body and soul alike. Especially if you read Tipping The Velvet!

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Dabbling in Orgies

Published July 23, 2012 by ellenheights

Tonight, whilst writing an erotica short story, I managed to pull my first orgy out the bag. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t exactly expected, and it certainly wasn’t rehearsed. The story involved sexual discovery, awakening, and bisexual encounters.

Now hopefully the writing isn’t too hideous, or the characters too shallow despite the story’s purpose as, say, more of an exploration of sex and a delightful afternoon Ooo-er! than a wholesome character-driven piece. I will say one thing, though: writing orgies is like playing a very kinky game of chess.

The pieces were there, they had their places. But what about maneuvering? How does the writer eloquently describe the male’s shift from lady-lump duty to carpet cleaning? How does the writer describe ecstasy whilst illuminating the reader about the other character’s positions during? And what about climaxes, do they take it in turns? Does that spoil the mood for the reader?

If so, how to retain realism?

This got me thinking about real orgies, and how they work. In the real world I’m horribly vanilla – it’s just my mind’s in the gutter, that’s all. So it’s no use looking to my own personal experiences because, frankly, I’m running low on that front. But what do orgies actually serve, if not to run as a well-oiled machine? Think about it. Wouldn’t someone engaging in group sex be very, very disappointed if they expected it to run as swiftly, smoothly and above all timely the way it did in erotic stories?

How do orgy-goers in real life manage themselves during these encounters? I’d imagine a lot of patience and self-service is involved, if not a lot of giving. Not to mention very soft furnishings, wipes and a downstairs loo. None of these qualities sound very erotic to me,  I have to say, and after watching a few documentaries: Louis Theroux, Dawn Porter etc, it is clear to me that orgies are a little discomforting for some, possibly for those reasons. Awkwardness.

There must be a certain expectation and frame of mind an individual should be in before participating in these things, I think, if the documentaries are anything to go by. Disappointment and disillusionment led to bad experiences in some cases, hard feelings, embarrassment, the lot. Personally, the difference for me is probably fantasy and reality.

In my case, I’m a fantasist – very open minded when it comes to mental stimulation, but vanilla physically (at least so far). As a writer and avid reader, that makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve always been very stuck in my own mind. I guess that’s why, lately, I’ve been delving more into erotica and romance as a side-line to my usual writing under my real name. Fantasy is exciting for me, and I believe – or hope – I can make it exciting for others, just in the right context. I.E, the written word.

So what’s the appropriate approach to an orgy in the written form, in that case? Should writers stick to reality – chess pieces, patience, and awkwardness- or go for the full fantasy: unrealistic, but rewarding to the mind?

I think the latter is preferable, seeing as reading is for escapism more than anything else. However, I do like to inject realism into my writing wherever I can, so I aimed to include a little of that too. I guess it’s all in the execution.

Still, my written-orgy was an enjoyable experience, and there’s a first time for everything.

Just not in the real world, not for this chick. I was never very good at playing chess.