It’s Hot, It’s Sexy, But Is It Erotica?

Sarah Waters is one of my favorite sex writers.  She’s drippingly hot when she writes erotic scenes.  Take a look at this passage from Tipping the Velvet in which Nan, a Victorian music hall actress, finally kisses the beautiful Kitty, round the back of the theater.  As they lie down, Nan’s fingers find their way beneath Kitty’s clothes, and into her drawers (that’s Victorian for panties, folks):

Here she was wet, and smooth as velvet.  I had never, of course, touched anyone like this before – except, sometimes, myself; but it was as if I touched myself now, for the slippery hand which stroked her seemed to stroke me: I felt my drawers grow damp and warm, my own hips jerk as hers did.  Soon I ceased my gentle strikings and began to rub her, rather hard.  ‘Oh!’ she said very softly; then, as I rubbed faster, she said ‘Oh!’ again.  Then, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’: a volley of ‘Oh!’s, low and fast and breathy.  She bucked, and the bed gave an answering creak: her own hands began to chafe distractedly at the flesh of my shoulders.  There seemed to be no motion, no rhythm, in all the world, but that which I had set up, between her legs, with one wet fingers.

Hot, right?  Hot.  And even hotter when you know the characters.  But would you find this in the “Erotica” section at Barnes & Noble? Or in any other book store?  Rarely.

Well, over breakfast, Angela and I were talking about what erotica is.  Is “erotica” defined by the creator or the consumer?  If reading D. H. Lawrence turns me on, does that make it erotica for me?  Or is it D. H. Lawrence who gets to choose?  Of course, “erotica” is a social construct — it isn’t a natural entity, like a shell or plant, but something we made up…like sexual shame, stilettos, flavored vodka, and those strange little coats people put on their dogs.  The term helps us to know what we’ll find in the pages of a book; it helps us to understand that a story is intended to turn us on.

Sadly, however, our society is often sex-negative, and the term “erotica” can be used as a method of social control.  E.g. “Your work isn’t erotica because it doesn’t contain hot enough sex,” or “Your work is erotica — not fantasy or crime fiction — because it contains hot sex.”  But at Go Deeper, we believe that readers should be able to choose sex-positive books that aren’t all about sex, but will definitely turn you on…and often.  In fact, given the connection you’ll build with the characters in our stories, we think they will arouse you far more.  And we know that many readers want to find such smart, sexy, page-turners.  But would you find Anais Nin’s diaries or Heather Lewis’s Notice when browsing the Erotica section at Barnes & Noble?  Frankly, we doubt it.  That said, dear reader, fear not.  GDP is providing you with a whole store that contains intelligent, page-turning, well-written erotica — writing with bold sexual politics that gives rise to exciting dreams.

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