I know I don’t need to convince any readers here to read erotica, but, believe it or not, some people need convincing, so I thought I’d share my recent experiences in trying to do just that.
I write and edit mostly lesbian erotica, often with elements of romance, but usually marketed as erotica, and usually for Cleis Press. My publisher’s promotional staff has lately been hooking me up with romance publications, resulting sometimes in rather puzzling interview questions (more on that later,) but I did get one request, for Romantic Times, that genuinely interested me: “Why Read Erotica?” I think they wanted an emphasis on lesbian/gay erotica, but in my experience lesbian readers’ reluctance to read anything labeled erotica is at least as great as that of straight folks. There’s some difference, but not all that much, so I chose to broaden my topic, while including specific benefits from lesbian erotica. Whether my piece will see print is still in question; I was told that they were aiming for an October publication, but I haven’t had any feedback. In any case, you can have a look right now! Here’s what I wrote.
Why Read Erotica, Straight, Lesbian, Gay or Beyond?
Reading erotica is good exercise. Not quite as strenuous as actual sex when it comes to circulation and deep breathing, but with the added benefit of exercising the imagination. An erotic story that sweeps you along, draws you into the emotions and physical sensations of its characters, gives both mind and body a workout. We read for the sensations aroused, for emotional and sensual charges as well as mental ones. Pure romance can provide these, to some extent; the heart seems to swell, the pulse quickens, the face flushes, there might even be a hint of tears. No wonder we call something with emotional appeal “touching”. But taking it to the unabashedly erotic level builds on this physical response, accelerates it, intensifies it, racing toward an ultimate, overwhelming goal.
Broadening your horizons is good exercise, too. A new perspective, as with erotica outside of your own orientation, has the entertainment value of novelty and variety, while revealing the ways in which erotic and romantic desire are universal. There’s an educational component, too. Men reading lesbian erotica can learn more about female eroticism from two (or more) women than from one, and women can widen their understanding of the range of pleasures they can experience—and fantasize about. The same applies, reversed, for gay erotica, and with transgender stories the whole variety benefit is amplified.
You may also discover excellent stories and writers. Erotica has a bad reputation, some of it deserved, but there’s nothing inherent in the genre that prevents good writing. Straight and LGBT erotica can be as well-written and stimulating to both mind and senses as any other branch of writing. Erotic interchanges are essential parts of character development, dealing with heightened emotions and, in some cases, heavily weighted baggage from past experience. Shyness or confidence, impulsiveness or self-control, tenderness, vulnerability, repression, unapologetic sensuality; these are only a few of the traits that can surface in the heat of a sexual encounter. When both characters share the same gender, they can have as wide a range of personalities and characteristics as any other pairing. Women are as multi-faceted, fierce, and passionate, as men, and often better at expressing their emotions; men can be as vulnerable, complex and empathetic with each other as women.
I edit lesbian erotica anthologies, looking for stories about more than sex, but with sex flowing naturally from the story as a whole. I want a variety of voices, fully developed characters, vividly drawn settings, intriguing plots or story arcs, and originality. The complexity inherent in the very nature of life for lesbians (and the whole LGBTQ+ spectrum) adds an edge of potential risk, whether overt or unspoken.
That complexity and risk in lesbian and gay lives makes reading erotica especially important for us. The reflection of our own desires, fantasies and identities is both validation and celebration, even more essential than the physical and emotional charge.
Tastes vary, and the best writing may be hard to find, but explore a bit. Exploration, too, is excellent exercise.
Getting back to the matter of puzzling interview questions, in the context of an editor of lesbian erotica, I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but here’s a link to my recent appearance on Everafter Romance. I did my best to go along with it, and found some parts fun to work with; I did, for instance include Eowyn from Lord of the Rings in my list of “Book Boyfriends.” My publisher blurbed the link on Facebook, calling my answers “surprising and fascinating,” so I guess it worked out well enough. http://www.everafterromance.com/qa/
I do very occasionally write heterosexual erotic romance, under the name Connie Wilkins, which I used for my story “A Falcon in Flight” in Delilah’s fascinating anthology Hot Highlanders and Wild Warriors.
If you’d like a brief taste of the kind of anthology I edit, you could check out the Blog Tour I’m currently running with my writers for my latest anthology, Me and My Boi: Queer Erotica. Details, and some of the writers’ posts, are at www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com. You can even comment on any of the posts to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of the book.
My two most recent anthologies are shown below.