In the last few weeks I've been puzzling out a defence for the latest thing I've written. It's not bad writing. But it's BAD writing. For erotica writers, there are rules within rules for what you aren't supposed to write, what you shouldn't eroticize, subjects that you shouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Non-erotic writers always get surprised by this, but take my word for it, the practice of self-censorship is alive and well within the erotica writers community.
No under-age sex. This means that everyone has to discover their sexuality at the age of 18 or 21, unless they are in the UK, where it is slightly closer to reality.
No incest. The days when Anais Nin could write about bonking her father are long gone.
No sex with animals, unless they are werewolves. And only then IF the werewolf is in its human for at the time. There goes all the doggy style fun.
No snuff, unless it's vampires. And then, of course, one can always 'turn' the victim before the final breath is drawn.
No non-consensual sex. No rape, no force, no blackmail. Well, you can write about rape, but it can't be erotic from anyone's point of view.
Of course, there are writers for whom none of the above holds any interest. But there are others who don't touch on any of these subjects for fear they will be accused of advocating or legitimizing them in reality. And it goes without mentioning that there is no hope of getting them published.
And in practicing this self-censorship, we are acting as parents to our readers - keeping them away from things that might damage them. Why? Because inducing arousal in the midst of ugliness is a cardinal sin.
I often wonder at murder mystery writers. Aren't we, as readers, getting a vicarious thrill from the murder, even as we have the gorgeous feeling of having justice served in the end? And yet no one asks if mystery writers advocate murder.
And I remember my ex-husband, who used to devour Sven Hassel books with a glassy-eyed relish, hypnotised by the graphic descriptions of carnage on the Eastern Front. Many protest that underlying the thousands of lines of hideous violence is an anti-war message. But I have to tell you, I've got to wonder. It seemed to me it was more concerned with a vicarious sense of masculine camaraderie while you had blood and shit dripping off your tattered uniform.
And then there is all the exquisite Schadenfreude induced by limpid tragedies and most supermarket checkout tabloids.
Why do we fear the circumstances under which we induce sexual arousal in fiction when we happily induce so many other types of arousal with impunity?
Causes Remittance Girl Supports
Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women The Pleasure Project: A sex-positive organization working in the HIV prevention field.