Monday, August 8, 2011

Censoring Myself

I have a confession to make. I like rough sex. Well, I like to write about it, anyway. My sex scenes often tend toward the ferocious. Thrusts hard enough that they hurt, fast enough that you can barely catch your breath. Fingernails clawing flesh, even drawing blood. Relentless fucking that overwhelms the character on the receiving end. That's the sort of sex that turns me on, and that's the sort of sex I often write.

This preference is undoubtedly linked to my interest in dominance and submission. I find the notion of a lover "taking" me - taking me over, using me for his own pleasure as well as my own - to be highly erotic.

The sexual encounters in my M/M fiction, particularly, trend in this direction. My men are of course sometimes tender with one another, but at other times they're raging hulks of testosterone. This matches what I've seen in much of the gay erotica I've read - not erotic romance, but stories composed by gay men about their own sexuality. Men seem to enjoy more - shall we say, "forceful" - sex, even when they're with a lover as opposed to a casual contact.

So yesterday I was working on my M/M science fiction novel, Quarantine, and found myself writing one of those rough scenes I enjoy so much. Suddenly I froze. Was this too much? Was I going to turn off my target readers? Most readers of M/M erotic romance are women. Was my writing going to be too "raw" for them? Should I tone things down?

The thought pretty much halted any progress I'd been making. The scene in question involves virtual sex, basically futuristic porn. It's pretty brief, but necessary for the plot and for revealing character. I wondered whether I should ditch it anyway and find some other approach.

I started to worry about scenes between my two protagonists as well. Should I make them more gentle with one another? Was their hard loving going to lose me readers?

Then I realized then that I was censoring myself - and I know from experience that's generally not a good idea. If I were to scale back the intensity and ferocity of my sex scenes, I'd be faking it. Readers can tell when the emotion in a scene is genuine and when it's not. And long experience has taught me that scenes I find personally arousing are the ones that grab my readers, too.

Ultimately, I decided to leave the scene in. We'll see what the intended publisher thinks. If they want me to remove it, though, I just might submit the book elsewhere.

I'm curious about how my fellow authors feel about this issue. Do you censor yourself in order to get published? Do you think I should?


Sessha Batto said...

I did not . . . but it took me a VERY long time to find a publisher willing to take it on ;) As to whether or not you should . . . I would never tell anyone to do anything other than write from the heart!

Remittance Girl said...

Well, my non-con novel which includes graphic and eroticized rape scenes outsells my other books 5 to 1.

And I can't imagine that it's men buying them, so I think you should keep right on doing what you're doing girl.

There is a time for slow, loving sex in stories. And when it comes, you'll know it and you'll write it. But as far as I'm concerned, my characters tell me what kind of sex they have. What kind of stuff they like, and I listen to them.

Adriana said...

I agree with your final litmus test - if the scene turns you on when you write it and edit it, it will ring true and turn others on. If it doesn't, it's time to go back to the drawing boards. And if your publisher doesn't like it, stick to your guns!

Giselle Renarde said...

I'm sure my work would sell much BETTER if I wrote what you do. Despite market demand, I just can't write the men who take. My men tend to be insecure geeks or hipsters or modern, progressive egalitarians. I prefer dominant women.

Recently, a publisher I love working with asked if they could commission me to write some erotic romance featuring "strong alpha male heroes" and I had to say sorry, but it's just not within my scope. Writing "the man with the chest" stuff would have been MY version of self-censorship.

I figure if I prefer my guys geeky and sensitive--or even secure enough NOT to impose their will on women--there must be other readers out there who will appreciate those characters, too.

Giselle Renarde
Canada just got hotter!

Anonymous said...

I am not an author. I am a reader and I would say that if it fits the story and isn't just gratuatous then I think you should write it.

I am one of those people who reads the blurbs and such. If I make a choice to read an author's work, I want to read a book that the author has written because they have wanted to write not to read something that someone thinks I want to read.

That is why I enjoy coming to read new authors.

And if it helps, I have read and enjoyed your stories and from what you have said about Quarantine I would have no problems reading it.

Lawna Mackie said...

Good for you for being able to share that with readers. I agree with the others, if you can write that from the heart and are passionate about it, I say go for it. It will grab others like it grabs you.

I give you credit for writing it. I know how hard it can be. Often I write something and wonder how I'm going to possibly be able to share that with everyone. In the end I think it's better to share it :-)

Great post!!!

Jan Irving said...

I applaud you for being so quick to recognize you shouldn't do that. It is true, after you've done this for a while, you learn you are who you are, and it's best to stick to what moves you.

I wrote a story recently called "The Wizard's Boy" which will be out from TEB in November. I thought it was too intense and sexy and offbeat so I originally stopped writing it and left it for a while. It has some very unusual love scenes. Anyway, then I just decided to go for it after leaving it for four months and finished it and sent it in. I had no problem. I think it was a favorite of my editor, which just goes to show that you never know and it's best to be yourself. With the book I did after that, I did not censor some scenes, even when a beta worried they might be too spicy. I probably would have worried more about that in my early writing days. I decided if it was a problem, they'd let me know. I never heard a word about it. So I think I'd rather write what I want to write now and let the chips fall where they may.

Unknown said...

I for one, am tired of having to write inside the little box that has become the norm. I applaud you for having the nerve to be yourself and write about what you like and enjoy instead of trying to please faceless masses that exist just because a publisher dictates what's right or wrong. Evidently, judging by your popularity and following, you're doing just fine. Don't stop. Besides, your post turned me on. *lol*


Anonymous said...

I write D/s undertones but like Giselle, I write Dominant women because that's what turns me on. My domination style is sensual control with service oriented subs, so I tend to write males that give rather than take, be it to each other or to the heroine.

I've had editors turn away my work because my women were "too masculine" and "agressive" and my men too submissive and not alpha males. I could change it, but I won't compromise my stories.

The gender expression and sexual preferences of my characters are as valid as anything else. There's an audience for my work, I know that, so there's no reason to write it differently. I think that goes for all of us!


Ayla Ruse said...

I love the honesty in your blogs, Lisabet, especially this one. Yes, there may be readers out there who do not like a particular scene, but that is on them, not you. Keep writing true; it's what we as readers expect, respect, and love.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Wow! Thanks for all the support, everyone. It's very reassuring.

I don't write "rough sex". As RG says, my characters tell me the kind of sex they want. But often it seems to be that kind of all-consuming, burn-the-house-down, never-mind-how-sore-you-are-in-the-morning, stuff.

Giselle, my heroes generally aren't typical alphas either. For me, intelligence and insight are the two sexiest things on the planet.

Ginger, you're living in a dream world. ;^) ME, popular? I wish!

Ayla, thank you. I'm really glad some readers showed up to comment too - I didn't announce this too widely. To be frank, I wondered whether the blog itself revealed too much about me and my insecurities (as well as my pervy mind). Ultimately I decided that it's MY blog. I guess if some readers find it offensive or uncomfortable, they shouldn't be reading my work.

Hugs all around!

Anonymous said...

I say trust your instincts - if it's what your characters want, then like as not it meshes with the rest of your story, and if a reader doesn't like it, then they might not even read up to the sex in the first place!


Imp said...

What Giselle & RG said. *nods* Self-pubbing is wonderfully liberating in that I can see, first hand, what's working (from plot to promo) -- usually in real time.

I just finished my first YA short story in a new urban fantasy world. We shall see where THAT takes me. :)

Raz said...

I started writing _in order_ not to Censor myself. The very definition of writing erotica for me is to let 'it' out in a form as pure as I can make it as close to how I feel it- whether it be something experimental, tender, or utterly brutal.

In writing, more than any other place, 'If you want it, do it' can be your guiding philosophy. I can't say that it will guarantee publishing by anyone (though self-pub is a demonstrably viable option), or give you great sales. Perhaps that one story _is_ too hard for most of your readers. But if it's what comes off your fingers, out of your head, then it's what should be on the page. And, what you might lose in one audience, you'll gain in another. I'll agree with RG experience-wise - my hardest, most nc-ridden book of shorts continues to outsell all other books I have out combined.

M. Millswan said...

As a professional, I find myself writing to suit a broad spectrum of tastes. I try to create an erotic scenario which will offer something for every taste, even if that paticular taste may not be my personal, "Cup of Tea." Speaking of cups of tea, a few times I've added in a little spanking, because I know many readers in the UK are fond of the activity. It's a shame, but I've been so brutalized by so many heavy-handed editors, I don't write for me anymore. Though, I wrote my my opus (so far) "Snap Shot" before I learned to sit up and roll over for the editors. I've had hundreds and hundreds of readers write me, saying "Snap Shot" has moved them like no other story they have ever read. I use "Snap Shot" as a marketing tool to attract new readers, and have it posted in the Exhibitionist and Voyeur section of This is a site which caters to the broadest spectrum of erotic tastes, and, amazingly, I've had every type of reader respond, saying despite their personal fetishes they loved "Snap Shot." "Snap Shot" has been number one in its category for five years, with more than 850,000 readers. It just goes to show what a writer can accomplish, if he/she writes from the heart rather than for the pocketbook.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Amy - thanks for your encouragement! I think you're right. Maybe I'm being a coward.

Alessia - I'd love to read a YA by you. I think you'd do a fabulous job, given you're so close to your own kids.

Raz - I love this: "The very definition of writing erotica for me is to let 'it' out in a form as pure as I can make it as close to how I feel it" I am, however, talking about romance, not erotica, a bit of a different beast from what I can see. I have no doubt I can sell this book to someone - but I've been criticized by some reviewers as being too "hard" in my M/M before. I guess I just have to swallow and bear it.

Mike - I do not want to "sit up and roll over" for editors. It's not worth it. I do consider myself a professional. I take my writing seriously, and that includes listening to editor suggestions, but ultimately I agree, it has to come from the heart.

Shashauna P. Thomas said...

I completely get what you're saying. Mainly because I also like my erotica more on the rough side. Both what I read for enjoyment from other authors and what I create myself. I do find myself checking how raw I make certain sex scenes. Especially when I write short stories that I submit to open calls. Just because I try to remember that in the end my story has to flow well with the other stories chosen. But when it comes to my own books I go for broke. It is my book, and my characters take over. I couldn't sensor them if I wanted to. :-)

Anonymous said...

This makes me feel a little better. In fiction fantasy, I'm so completely turned on by dubious consent to non-con. It isn't the roughness of sex that I worry about - it's just that so many calls for erotic fiction explicitly reject nonconsent, so one just leaves oneself wondering, "Is it okay that I write this?" In romance novels, ravishment seems all right as long as the man in question "does right" by her later and dissolves into sweet love.

There are several things about my writing and the subject matter that I second-guess, but this post and the subsequent comments encourage me to just write what feels right for the story. Fortunately, the nature of the novel I was worried about lent itself to avoiding consent issues, but my next one doesn't avoid it at all.

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