4 Skills Erotica Writers Need (That I Totally Don’t Have)

Hey, remember when I told you I was writing sexy fanfiction? Well, I’ve been doing more of it. And it’s making me think a lot about the conventions of the erotica genre: which ones I hate, which ones I love, and which ones I envy and desperately wish I could incorporate better in my own writing.

Here are four erotica-writing skills I totally admire in other writers and want to get better at.

1. Writing erections in a way that isn’t clichéd or porny.

Writers throughout history have come up with zillions of flowery ways to write about female arousal. Glistening petals, hot honeyed centers, engorged pink nubs, blah blah blah. But it seems to me that penises are often described more crassly and minimally, especially hard penises.

The other night I eloquently tweeted “Booooooneeeeerrrrrrs” because I was slightly wine-drunk and didn’t have the brainpower to adequately describe how I felt about this story. CTRL+F your way down to “When the food arrived” and read until Jake gets “very, very hard.” That, to me, is an example of a sweet, almost romantic description of a boner.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know a whole lot about how it actually feels to get a hard-on, and there are very few dudes in my life who I would trust to answer that question for me without things getting awkward in some way. Hmm… (P.S. Dude readers of this blog, please don’t take this as an invitation to send me detailed messages about your wang. Thaaaanks.)

2. Showing, not telling, feelings.

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. It’s my vocation, career, and favorite hobby. I’ve taken more writing classes in my 22 years of life than most people take in their entire lifetimes. And yet, somehow, I still periodically need to yell at myself: “SHOW, DON’T TELL!” This frustratingly ubiquitous writers’ mantra still hasn’t completely sunk in for me.

I find myself writing stuff like “She felt apprehensive” or “She thought she was going to swoon onto the floor” and then I have to go back and fix those phrases to make them more demonstrative. “She bit her lip and wrinkled her nose.” “Her cheeks warmed and reddened.” Whatever.

“Show, don’t tell” should be taped up over every writer’s workspace. Sometimes I think I should get it tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.

3. Creating tension.

I’m not good at building romantic/sexual tension in my stories, because I haven’t experienced a whole lot of it in my actual life.

Why? Because I’m a candid weirdo who doesn’t know how to flirt and usually ends up saying really on-the-nose things like “I think you’re cute” instead of beating around the bush in any way.

This approach has its advantages, obviously. But it also means that I have very little sense of what genuine flirtation actually looks like. So I find it hard to write that stuff.

It’s infuriating, because when I read great flirty dialogue in other people’s stories, it makes me squirm and giggle and clap and say “AWW!” and that feeling is basically the whole reason I read romantic fiction of any kind. Damn, I wish I could make my readers feel that way.

4. Demonstrating consent without being too heavy-handed.

It’s a sad reality that we live in a culture where demonstrated consent can sometimes be the antithesis of sexiness. At least, to some people.

A lot of the kinks I love to write about are power-based: bondage, spanking, “ravishment,” and so on. These are things that obviously require explicit consent and negotiation in real life, but in fiction, sometimes seem hotter and more visceral when there’s minimal discussion beforehand.

Though I understand that porn and erotica are meant to be about fantasy and escapism, ethically it doesn’t sit right with me to write this kind of scene without at least some acknowledgment of consent. But how do you do that without draining the hotness out of it? I struggle with this not only in fiction but also in life.

But I have high hopes that good sex writing can lead the charge in demonstrating how consent conversations can be sexy. I think the onus is on us erotic content creators to think up and disseminate blisteringly hot consent negotiations so that the general public learns how to have those chats without losing their boners in the process.

What skills, techniques, tropes and conventions do you admire in erotic writing?

How to Fulfill Your Fetish Online Without Being an Asshole

I don’t have a fetish, so I don’t know what it’s like to have one. But I imagine that fetishists, especially those whose fetishes are unusual or taboo or both, often have a hard time finding materials or situations that get them off.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so some fetishists begin to behave in ways that could be described as creepy or harassing toward other people, whether or not that was their original intention.

Your sexual desires are (with few exceptions) good and valid, but harassing people to satisfy those desires is never acceptable. This post will suggest some ways that fetishists can cut down on gross behaviors and potentially still get their needs met. (This is not to suggest, at all, that every single fetishist behaves inappropriately. I am targeting this post solely at those who do. I love the rest of you and encourage you to get down with your bad self!)

I have to emphasize that I’m writing this not as a fetishist, but as a person who has been harassed throughout my life by fetishists. I’ve had an online presence in various forms since I was a child, so there are a lot of (non-sexual) pictures of me online in various places – for example, I’ve documented my outfits in photos for years. And of course, as a sex blogger, a lot of people seem to think I’m open to sexual harassment on that front as well. I’m writing this as someone who has been personally hurt and victimized by many disrespectful fetishists and wants those behaviors to stop, both for my own sake and for the sake of others who I know have been targeted in this way.

Be honest and upfront.

I once received a private message on Flickr from a shoe fetishist. He gave a false name, falsely identified himself as a woman to seem less threatening, and explained that he owned a shoe recycling plant and would happily accept any donations of old shoes and boots I wanted to send along.

Having been lied to in similar ways before, I knew right away that this was a shoe fetishist. I called him out and he came clean, admitting he had lied to try to fulfill his fetish.

The thing is, I do have a lot of old and unwanted shoes and boots, and I’m not necessarily averse to the idea of sending them to a fetishist. But I’m certainly not going to cooperate with someone who has outright lied to me and tried to trick me. Someone who does that shit doesn’t deserve my shoes, or my accommodation, or my respect.

If you have a fetishistic request to make of someone, don’t try to trick them and don’t make up elaborate lies to get them to do what you want. Tell them honestly why you want it – i.e. that you have a fetish. Your honesty may scare off a higher percentage of people, yes, but you’ll be a better person, and those who (like me) are on high alert for deceptive fetishists will have more respect for you and may even indulge your request.

Don’t give me the dirty details without my consent.

I don’t want to know that you jerked off to my picture. I don’t want to see a picture of your spent dick to prove that you jerked off to my picture. I don’t want you to send me an unsolicited paragraph of “erotica” detailing how you jerked off to my picture.

If you really want to send me a dick pic or whatever, first send me a vague and friendly message asking if I’d be interested in receiving such a piece of media. If, and only if, I say yes, you may send that piece of media along.

Receiving an unsolicited penis photo (or whatever it may be) is sexual harassment, and it is gross, and you shouldn’t do it.

Humanize yourself.

Be friendly, and not just as a means to reach a sexual end. Show me why I should like you, and why you deserve my attention.

If your only identity in my mind is that of a creepy dude who stalks me online, or someone who silently favorites all the photos of me wearing tights on Flickr, or a guy who tweets winking emoticons at me every time I mention that I masturbated, I’m not going to like you. I’m not going to feel good about you being in my online social sphere. I may even block you.

On the flipside, if you strike me as a friendly, interested human being who just happens to find part of my life sexually exciting – in a respectful and always consensual way – then I’m more likely to respond to you, treat you like a person instead of a scary nebulous internet creep, and I may even send you a photo of me in tights from time to time. Who knows?

Know the limits of your fetish.

Real talk, folks: if your fetish involves non-consent (e.g. rape or secret voyeurism) or it involves sexual situations with those who cannot give consent (e.g. children or animals), you need to straight-up accept that there is no ethical/acceptable way for you to authentically experience that fetishistic act.

Find a trusted partner who is okay with roleplaying those scenarios. If not a long-term romantic partner, then perhaps a one-off fling you find on a fetish discussion board. Have fun roleplaying. Do not attempt to do this shit in real life. If you feel like you want to, you may need to pursue psychological treatment and help.

Read people’s profiles.

Does their profile say they’re under 18? You should probably leave them the fuck alone.

Does their profile say they’re in a monogamous relationship? They’re probably not going to want to send you naked pictures of themselves or engage in sex chats with you.

Does their profile say that they immediately block people who leave them sexualized comments? Maybe you shouldn’t fucking do that, then.

No means no.

I know you may be desperate to get your needs met, but continually going after a person who has already told you “no” is absolutely not the way to do it.

When I get seven messages from the same dude asking for pictures of me naked in knee-high boots, and I already said “no” to him the first time, his subsequent messages make me feel progressively more and more unsafe and victimized. I will block him, I will feel scared, and I will probably hesitate to post pictures of myself after that, for fear of attracting more people of that caliber.

If someone says no, leave them the fuck alone and go ask someone else (respectfully). Rinse and repeat.

Online harassment victims, how do you deal with people who send you inappropriate messages, photos, etc.? Fetishists, how do you use the internet to get your sexual needs met in a respectful and healthy way?

Sharing the Sexy #30

• Everything you ever wanted to know about foot fetishes.

Dating tips for feminist men. There needs to be more resources like this!

• Here is a zine on learning good consent.

• This is also a really great consent resource, including sample scripts for consent-related conversations you might have with your partner(s).

Why does spanking feel so good? (When I saw this, it made me wonder if Lelo is thinking of releasing a paddle… Think it could rival this one?)

• The Red Tent Sisters weigh in on how to ease into using menstrual cups for the first time.

• Lilly drops some truth bombs about sex toys and body size.

Sharing the Sexy #22

• Hey, remember when women were seen as more sex-crazed than men? What the hell happened? Damn you, cultural paradigm…

• This zine about sex with trans women is pretty fantastic. And it taught me a sexual term I’d never heard of before: muffing!

• This teacher taught her high school class about consent. We need more of this in schools, folks.

• Here’s a call for submissions for self-produced artistic renderings of the sexyparts of trans, genderqueer, intersex and gender-fluid people.

• How to teach consent to your kids. See, it’s not that hard – and everyone should be doing it!

• A sex worker weighs in: is it always rape if there’s no enthusiastic consent?

• Carlyle Jansen discusses sexual risktaking in long-term relationships.

• These “Queer Porn Star” harnesses are very limited edition and very sexy.

Hot Tip: Enthusiastic Consent Isn’t That Hard

What with the barrage of rape cases flooding through our media outlets at the moment, a lot of people are talking about what it means to consent to sex.

You may have heard of one of the sex-positive responses to the question “How do I avoid raping someone?” – the idea of enthusiastic consent. In short, it means that no always means no, and only yes means yes.

Many of us have signed on to this agreement. I find it really sexy to imagine a world in which everyone “checks in” before progressing sexually. It’s hot to have sexy things done to me, but it’s even hotter (in my humble opinion) to have someone respect me enough to ask for permission first.

But, predictably, there has been a lot of pushback in the wake of this idea. “What, am I supposed to ask every time I do anything sexual?!” these protesters cry. “What if we’re already in a relationship and I know my partner’s body language well enough that I don’t have to ask?” And my favorite: “But asking for consent is so INCONVENIENT and AWKWARD and HARD!”

I’m not going to tell you how to negotiate consent within your own relationship, because obviously, that’s a personal thing. If your partner is really okay with you never explicitly asking for consent, that’s fine, as long as you still know you have to stop when you’re told to. But let’s get something straight: asking for consent does not have to be awkward or difficult.

You do not have to engineer a wordy question like, “Do you consent to me touching your vulva?” You can literally just say, “Is this okay?” or “Do you want me to stop?” or “Should I keep going?”

Some people have a Dominant/submissive relationship. Most people do not. And if you and your partner are equals in and out of the bedroom, acquiring verbal consent on a case-by-case basis really should not be a big deal. You respect your lover and you want them to feel free to express their feelings, right?

On the flipside, if you want your partner to ask for consent every time, that’s an absolutely fair request to make. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Our culture has a contempt toward consent. If this wasn’t the case, no one would be crying that asking for consent is “too much work.” Respecting your sexual partner’s body and mind is never “too much work,” and if you really feel that it is, you’re not ready to be in a sexual relationship.

Bonus reading:
Shakesville: Today in Rape Culture
Yes Means Yes
Scarleteen discussion: enthusiastic consent
Persephone Magazine: Why Do People Hate the Concept of Enthusiastic Consent?