The search for erotic media that actually turns you on is always a crapshoot. Some porn aligns with all your kinks but is poorly lit or sloppily shot. Some erotica is beautifully written but just doesn’t turn your crank, subject matter-wise. All too often, I settle for stuff that almost meets my needs, but falls short in one area or another. It’s a state of affairs to which I’ve become accustomed.
Of course, my pickiness makes it all the more exciting when I discover a piece of media that ticks all my boxes. And one such example is Kasuchi’s fanfiction. Like, all of it. Everything she writes.
The character development is on point. The prose is skilled and emotive. The voices are true to the shows she writes for. The sexy scenes are hott (yes, with two T’s). Y’all know I have high standards for fanfic, and Kasuchi is nonetheless my fave writer in the whole medium.
I bugged her for an interview, because I wanted to pick her brain about how she does what she does, and how she feels about fic as a whole. She was sweet enough to answer my fawning-fangirl questions, and what ensued was a super interesting chat about fiction, fandom, fucking, and consent (hell yeah!). I hope you like reading this as much as I like reading Kasuchi’s stories…
GJ: What, for you, is the appeal of writing fanfic? What do you get out of it?
Kasuchi: I LOVE writing fic. I’ve been doing it since I was 14, give or take? But I think what I started writing fic for was me wanting to see more of the thing I loved. I wanted more about what Hermione and Ron were doing with their lives. I wanted more about Mulder and Scully and all the moments we didn’t see on screen. I wanted more about what happened between episodes of The Office.
Nowadays, I think I write fic because I love the characters and want to expand and push and build them, see what happens under duress, see what happens (and feels natural, given what we know about who and how they are) when they’re put in non-comedic situations. I won’t also pretend some of it isn’t wish fulfillment; I want those two characters (any two characters, let’s be honest) to kiss, and to kiss passionately, right now, almost always.
GJ: What qualities/criteria do you consider important in good fanfic?
Kasuchi: Ah, that’s such a subjective question! Because I think everyone comes to media and their material with their own biases and prejudices and experiences, and those things color what we think of as being “good,” you know?
For me, I look for primarily three things:
(1) Dialogue — I need, NEED, the dialogue to be good, to be realistic, to be true to the characters. It doesn’t have to be exactly what the character would say in any given situation, because that’s not our job as fic writers. But, I have to believe that character would say that, meaning you (the author) have to do a lot of work to get me to that. If a generally goofy character is serious and responding with real gravitas, show me how and why that is before we get to that moment. Or, do that moment and then show me how we got there emotionally. Basically: is the dialogue naturalistic and natural to the character? If no, I click away.
(2) Narration has to flow — does the narration of the story match the tone? If we’ve got a story that’s about a character, like a vignette about their emotional growth, then the narration is everything, because it’s our (the readers’) glimpse into their inner monologue. If we’ve got a missing scene/moment kind of fic, then maybe the narration needs to get out of the way so that the dialogue can shine. For example, I’ve been writing characters who are detectives or generally observant; the narration tends to include notes about body language or expression changes, things I believe a good detective would notice and file away.
(3) Verisimilitude — Does this feel like real life? Since I’m not involved in many fantasy fandoms, this is really important. I love authors doing research on the setting of a show and including location details. Hell, I live in New York and write in details about Brooklyn into my fics about Brooklyn Nine-Nine all the time. I love that; it gives stories a sense of place and a better sense of how the fic itself fits into the larger world it resides in.
GJ: What qualities/criteria in a TV show (or other piece of media) make you want to write fanfic about it?
Kasuchi: Frankly: a lack of emotional resolution on some front. Shipping is the easiest one of these, but I wrote a lot of NCIS fic because the show was so rude to my fave character (Tony, and Tim to a lesser extent — and this was true of Psych, too) by always making him the butt of the joke or giving him the most depressing outcome and playing it for laughs. So I wrote fic to compensate for that, to make him more heroic or romantic or capable in a way that the show seemed determined to not do. That’s usually what gets me writing.
GJ: Do you have any tips for writing good sex scenes, in fanfic or fiction more generally?
Kasuchi: I’ve actually got a huge essay about this that I’ve been writing since, uh, last May (oops) but I think my best tip is: don’t do it before you’re ready. I was 16 when I read my first explicit sex scene, and I wrote my first one when I was 17. I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was 19! I wrote a lot of fade-to-black and sensual stuff before I felt more comfortable talking the mechanics of sex in fiction.
Now, from a more “authorly” perspective, I’d say: read romance novels. Read them voraciously. Read as many as you can. And not the category stuff (the Harlequins and Mills & Boon books), though adding some of those into your reading diet is good, too. Rather, read the single-issue stuff, the 250-page behemoths that usually have 3 scenes that are 20 pages of sex. Read those. Read erotica, the published stuff — Allison Tyler and Jaci Burton and Cathryn Fox and Lacey Alexander and Maya Banks and so many other women who have written — have BEEN writing — erotica for over a decade. Their work is there, and fanfiction is as much about the learning as it is the product. Go read the masters, go recreate their work. We all learn that way. I won’t pretend some of my early (unpublished? I honestly can’t remember) fic is me literally rewriting treatments of Mulder/Scully and Inuyasha/Kagome erotic fanfiction. Unless you’re having a lot of sex as research (which, hey, no shame in that game), the reading of novels/short stories is much easier.
The most important thing: do not use pornography as a template. Porn tends to be soulless and empty, with at least one of the parties mentally disengaged. Some pornography isn’t like this, but those studios are few and far between and often cater to queer markets. That’s fine, but if you want to show intimacy in your erotic scenes, I would urge reading written material and using pornography (or gifs of pornography) as inspiration rather than a guide.
GJ: Do you consciously choose to integrate enthusiastic consent into the sexy parts of your stories? (One of my favorite examples is that moment in “I’ll Know My Name As It’s Called Again” when Jake pulls at Amy’s pants and says “Yeah?” and she says “Yeah.” So perfect!) Do you think erotica writers have an obligation to include this element, or can erotica be “escapism” that doesn’t conform to real-life sexual rules?
Kasuchi: Oooh, this is a really big question. I think I’ll try to answer it by going backwards.
I don’t think that erotica has an obligation to include these moments of consent. But: I’d also differentiate between “types” of erotica.
I think published work and erotic fanfiction should include these moments. Here’s why: for the published stuff, art tends to serve as a bellweather and a measure of social acceptance and change. We can see this most obviously with drunk driving; thanks to television, the idea of driving home drunk is pretty anathema to most of the “millennial” set. In the same vein, what we consume (i.e. erotica, which when published is essentially “curated”) should serve as a way of normalizing consent. I know many people come to read erotica for different reasons, but no one is going to prevent young, curious teens from checking those books out from the library or sneaking them out of their parents’ rooms or buying them along with YA stuff from the bookstore. Hell, with the e-readers, it doesn’t even matter!
So in that sense, erotica becomes for women (and I use women here only because I think women are socialized to seek out reading material rather than audio-visual material, and because these books target women in turn) — most especially young women — a gateway to getting questions answered. To that end, yes, erotica needs to include consent. And, for similar reasons, we need to have those moments of enthusiastic consent written into our fanfiction. Fandom as an audience tends to skew young, I think; I’m 25 and I feel like the Old Lady in the Room, sometimes. So, knowing this, I think fic has a responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world. I know I learned a lot about the world, about relationships, about women and friendships and families from fanfiction and other writings. Knowing that, I tend to do a huge amount of research for stories because I want to pass on that gift of learning from fic onto the next “generation” of fandom.
I do think there’s a space for escapist erotica, though. Kinkmemes are explicitly that: wish-fulfillment. Same for Literotica; despite its classy title, it’s sorted by kink, and that’s important, because going in, you know what you’re getting yourself into. I won’t pretend there aren’t erotic stories that I go back to that I fully know are escapism. The delineating factor there is knowing what purpose that work serves. It titillates and it touches on taboo subjects and it is me going into the story aware of its hows and whys. That’s not the same as me reading a fic that pretends to be about my two faves having a romantic weekend away together, but then there being elements of non- and dub-con. Warnings exist for this reason. Kinkmemes exist for this reason. Consent should and must be a natural, normal part of sex, just like condom/prophylactic use is de rigeur in most pornographic films and even in published erotica and contemporary (and even some historical!) romances.
Do I consciously choose to integrate it into my stories? At first, no. But at this point, not doing so doesn’t feel like Jake Peralta (in this specific instance) — but I feel I’ll keep writing that into my more erotic work. I like it because it gives the reader a moment to take a breath before the rest of the story goes, and it gives the characters a moment to check in with each other, something that I think is hard to “choreography” into a love scene naturally as it progresses.
For the scene you reference specifically, Jake tugs at her waistband but doesn’t pull them off of Amy until she says yes. Consent is freely, enthusiastically, continuously given. And, I love the idea of one character giving the other an “out” because I think that’s just fair. Plus, it’s such a great character moment; the one giving the out is doing so out of affection and insecurity; in doing so, they’re saying, “It’s okay, we don’t have to go further than this.” And the other, in reaffirming their consent, is saying to the other, “You’re the one that I want.” In what universe is that anything but simultaneously hot and moving? Consent is 100% sexy.