Friday, January 31, 2014

SM Johnson ~ What IS erotica, anyway? ~

My coffee cup is wishing for springtime
Good morning, Darlings. I am writing this while watching the 2014 Grammy awards via DVR (and Sprite, who had the presence of mind to record the awards in the first place - I'm telling you, the child is brilliant). So. Being that I'm going to be working nights until I DIE (three 12-hour night shifts in a row, yes, feels like dying) I'm writing this a bit early. (Ta-da! And then I never posted it, go me!)

The question that's been kicking around various blogs (How realistic do you like erotica?),  book reviews, and even personal discussion among friends is... What makes erotica erotic?

Let me tell you, the answer to this question, truly, is it's personal.

What rings all the right bells for one reader can easily completely turn off another.

Light spanking, hard BDSM, Gay sex, non-consent, rape fantasy, monogamy, cuckolding, ties, cuffs, blindfolds, beat to fucking hell, imprisoned, interrogated, examined, Penthouse Letters... man, there are so many elements to what can be erotic.

I'll find a blog or a review site with a list of some individual's favorite erotica, and a whole bunch of my favorites will be showcased.... and also a few things I hate. Because that's pretty much how it works. Taste is highly individualized.

Some people prefer absolute real-life portrayal of BDSM players and communities. Me? I like a little more fantasy than that. I can get real life down the street.

When it comes to dark fiction.... seems like the big favorites are Comfort Food (loved), The Beyond series, (a favorite), Captive in the Dark (meh), and The Siren (not for me), and Consequences (hated it).

Why? How can a favorites list contain both loves and hates for me?

I'll break it down.... Comfort Food by Kitty Thomas is a psychological study of... Stockholm Syndrome. Captivity and choices. The captor offered the protagonist choices. It was a non-consensual relationship in which the participants became enmeshed, interdependent, perhaps even lovers in a truer sense. There were psychological elements to the sex scenes that were highly erotic (to me).

Beyond Shame, Beyond Pain, etc... dystopian society with very Dominant males, hot orgies, and a sense of family and safety woven throughout. There is some protocol, there is some ownership, and yeah, the submissives tend to be female and the Dominants male, but the women are STRONG. No doormats here. Just a whole lot of sensual hedonism. Mmmmm. What I love the most about this sexy society Kit Rocha has created is the sense of sisterhood among the women. The series is lacking the catty bitchiness that exists in so many books and that I absolutely detest.

Captive in the Dark, Seduced in the Dark, and Epilogue all by CJ Roberts.... I dunno. Almost everyone I know raves about The Dark Duet series, but I found it to be just okay. The Dominant, Caleb, was pretty ambiguous about what he was doing (a minus in my opinion) and therefore the "erotica" itself was inconsistent. I didn't hate him, but I never found myself loving him, either.

The Siren by Tiffany Reisz is all shocking and stuff because the major Dom in the story is a priest. Meh. The club scene was pretty hot, the potential deflowering of a male virgin had promise... but honestly, when a Dominant's closed fist meets a submissive's open face - the writer loses me. Fist to face screams abuse. Broken noses, black eyes - these things don't arouse me.

Consequences by Aleatha Romig, man, I don't even know how to start explaining how much I hated this. Talk about a book that could have lost about 200 pages. So there was that part - that even though the protagonist is being held against her will and being raped (off screen) all the fucking time, she can still enjoy the clothing and vacations that her wealthy abuser subjects her to (groan). Partly this wasn't erotic to me because it wasn't erotica. The sex happened off screen. "He proceeded to abuse me until one in the morning" - is a sentence, not a sex scene. Just saying. Plus the whole part where she marries him... I don't know. Honestly, I hated pretty much the whole book. Although I'm not discounting that the series as a whole might very well have an element of revenge that I'm missing due to not being willing to read any more of her books.

Am I digressing? Not sure. I think there is a lot of erotica that is written to film industry standards. Porn film industry, that is. Brief encounters, strangers at a cafe do it in the bathroom sex, hooker sex - a lot of writing about the mechanics of sex. The story line is "I called the plumber and he came over and fucked me" sort of thang. None of this is sexy or erotic to me, it's more along the lines of the hetero-male-normative of "put two people in a room, get them naked, and watch them get it on".

I am typically unmoved.

At least the books I listed above (whether they were favorites or not) made a grand attempt to put the story above and beyond the mechanics of sex. They offered drama, angst, a li'l bit of kidnapping, in some cases... some non-consent, some strong characters enjoying sex that is different from the sex I have in real life.

Often the books I find erotic have mixed reviews. Don't... for instance, and Schadenfreude. They have characters I come to know and get very attached to. They have impossible situations sometimes that keep me preoccupied even when I'm not reading.

I guess my definition of erotica is a written scenario with characters and sex written in an intentional way to arouse readers.

Doesn't mean it arouses me, one hundred per cent of the time, but there's my more-or-less definition.

I'm frankly not sure I'll even characterize Jeremiah Quick as erotica, at this point. It's a dark work for me. Part of it could be categorized as erotica, sure, but a good bit of it is just fiction, really.

So anyway.... just wondering - what's YOUR definition of erotica?



  1. What's my definition of erotica? The Dungeon series. When Roman is reading Jeff's writings about a Dom interviewing a couple while his sub is under the table. Good god! I must've read that passage 9 times. Erotica in the finest form.

    1. **blushes** Thank you, Steven, for saying that out loud. I'm flattered!