I have to apologize. Through most of my life as Lisabet Sarai (which began in 1999 when I published the first edition of Raw Silk), I’ve been something of an elitist snob. Despite having written a great many extremely filthy sex scenes, I’ve always considered myself as an author of “literary erotica”. If you’d asked me what I meant by that label, I’d have launched into a spirited explanation of how my work focused on “the experience of desire” and the “emotional and spiritual aspects of sexuality”, not just on the physical acts involved. I would also have talked about how much I hate the stereotypes of porn, and how hard I’ve tried to use original premises, perspectives and characters in my erotica. Finally, I’d mention (maybe a bit shyly) the fact that I view style and craft to be at least as important in erotica as sexual heat.
All of this is true. Nevertheless, if you listened closely, you might have detected a bit of defensiveness in my exposition. My work is not porn, reads the subtext. It’s not obscene. It has redeeming artistic value. Sure, Amazon might be ready to throw me into the adult dungeon along with the authors of Gang-bang at the OK Corral and Taking Daddy’s Big Cock Up My Ass, but my stories are different—more thoughtful, nuanced and complex, less exploitative and nasty. Better... or at least more socially acceptable.
Nearly twenty years after coming out as an erotic writer, I’m starting to realize that as far as the world is concerned, I’m just as guilty of writing dirty stories as the author of Lezzie Virgins Violated by Extraterrestrial Octopi or Stealing My Sister’s Smelly Panties. The richness of my descriptions, the depth of my characterization, the vividness with which I evoke my settings—none of this changes the fact that, at the end of the day, I write what most people would call smut. Furthermore, my most dedicated fans read my stuff at least partly for the arousal, not because of its literary merit.
In addition, I’ve come to understand that my fears of being viewed as nothing more than a stroke author have held me back. There have been times, especially when I was aiming at a romance market, when I’ve censored myself, turning down the heat or at least mitigating the rawness in my tales for fear of alienating my readers. My fear and my snobbishness combined to make my work less than genuine.
A few years ago, I started to deliberately write stroke fiction. Now I have a 600-page plus boxed set of five books (Vegas Babes) that are basically wall-to-wall, no-holds-barred, every-combination-and-position sex. While these books do have a plot and what I hope are appealing characters, my main goals are to entertain my readers and to get them hot and horny. I have no deeper message, aside from the general position that sex is tremendous fun and everyone should get as much as they want.
I’m working now on the first book of a new stroke series, The Pornographer’s Apprentice. It’s both easier and harder than writing so-called literary erotica. On the one hand, I don’t have to censor myself (much – I’m so tempted to introduce taboo elements like sister-sister incest into the current book, but I do want to avoid the dungeon if I can). On the other hand, it’s sometimes a struggle to turn off my inner critic and just let my fantasies out onto the page. I really have to stop over-thinking things like narrative structure, balanced POV and the Aristotelian unities, because that just slows me down.
Aside from the volume of the sex and the eager horniness of my characters, these porn books are actually less transgressive than some of my more literary work. There’s some mild BDSM, but none of the edgy power exchange action that shows up in my earlier books. I don’t know whether that will change as I continue to explore this corner of my imagination. Having opened this can of worms, I’ll be interested to see what crawls out.
One thing I’d like to try is writing some futa fiction. I’m also personally turned on by some incest scenarios, despite the official prohibition. There are other forbidden but titillating topics that call out to me.
I don’t know if I’m brave enough to respond to those calls. I’m afraid my existing fans would drop me in disgust. Obviously I could create a new pen name for the taboo stories, but I already find managing one pseudonymous identity takes more time and effort than I have available.
Anyway, I’ll have to see where my Muse leads me. She has a very dirty mind.
Meanwhile I’m forced to acknowledge that the boundary between erotica and porn is sufficiently subjective and fluid that it might not exist at all.