Thursday, February 23, 2012

How I became a dirty writer and why I have the right to continue...

I was about thirty-two when I fell ass backwards into writing erotica. I was researching for a mystery and found, by accident, (for real!) an erotica site. I'm nosy. I read the story. And I thought. I wonder if...The rest is history. So that means next month I will have been an erotica writer for 8 years. For five of those years a prolific one who earned enough to help my family financially.

There was a building up time. Lots of diligent writing for very low pay. Until I got my name out there. I paid my dues. But above all, I love what I do, so I worked hard. Damned hard.

I won't get into the line between pornography and erotica. I believe if you are a smart person who's paying attention and reading the right things, *you* know the difference. I don't have to give you a bulleted list between fly-by-night, bang-it-out-to-see-what-I-can-earn works and the ones that some very well respected authors (established and newbies alike) put an enormous amount of effort and self into.

Yes, I said self. I put myself into my work. I put my own personal kinks into what I write. My own emotions. My own humor. And my own special brand of damaged fuckedupedness. Yes, I know that last one is not a real word, but I am a writer and it's a word I have used for my own amusement for a very long time.

I have received emails from couples whose sex lives have taken off because of my writing (so they report), or thanks to the collection of works I've been lucky enough to appear in with other great writers. My own sex life went from already awesome to please wear goggles and a helmet for your safety when I started writing.

I have been lucky enough to hear from readers and writers over my most emotional work (probably MY ENDING in my opinion) to my dirtiest, kinkiest ([yet still emotional, ironically] LEARNING TO DROWN).

I cherish every reader letter, every review, every compliment I have been given from the likes of Violet Blue and Alison Tyler to Mary from Idaho and John from Kansas. And I mean that.

Beyond the honor I feel at putting out healthy, fun and sex positive works--and getting to rub elbows with others who write that way--is the love of what I do. Laying words down on paper, building worlds, letting my characters speak to me about what gets them off, what crushes their spirits and what makes them feel alive. I. Fucking. Love. It.

It is not all real...and it is not all fiction. What it is is my job and my passion and yes, friends and neighbors, my right. I have the right to pen my smut. I have the right to publish it. I have the right to wax poetic about spanking and lust and even the dreaded 'psuedo incest' should I choose to. "Pseudo incest" is not illegal. In fact, if you have ever watched a soap opera..raise your hand.

If memory serves from my high school years, many a soap opera has involved taboo and illicit love that have carried plots for weeks, months...*years*. Illicit as in someone falling in love with their step father, brother-in-law, adopted brother (known or otherwise), or some other someone who was supposed to be off limits, blah blah, blah. I recall a few of these taboo love stories from my youth. I also recall all the women in the neighborhoods (grandmothers, aunts, and lord even the men) having spirited, shocked but yes, giddy conversations about how that tramp so and so was trying to woo her mother's husband.

How about Flowers in the Attic (and the sequels, mind you)? Have you read it? Hell, not only did every girl in my sophomore year of (Catholic Girls') high school read it, we had the pages dog eared and pen marks to help folks find the good parts.

Because it was fun and WRONG and titillating and shocking and...good. It was also not (and yes, we realized it!) real. It was fiction. And that book, in case you missed the memo, contains brother and sister incest. Real. Not pseudo. I bet you could find that book anywhere you wanted to right now. Right this moment. I betcha.

Now Paypal is saying no to things that are not illegal. And the trickle down is wending its way through all the small ebook retailers and who knows...might get to the big guns too. Bookstrand has taken a hit and rolled with it. ARe is in the process of reorganizing. One of my own publishers has been put on alert.

I can see the incest thing. I can see that, and I can honor it. Incest in many states (it used to be most but I'm not so sure now) is illegal. Pseudo incest is not. It is two non-blood relations having sex. That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

BDSM is also on some of the hit lists I have seen. BDSM when practiced safely is a perfectly healthy expression of sexuality. It is, in fact, in many cases a wonderful symbiosis and a gorgeous thing if the people involved care for one another and build their sexual world in conjunction with each other.

Non-consensual anything is wrong. Fine. Great. Cut it. So that's two points on which I concur: real incest and non-consent. However...that's not where the line was drawn. It was just "BDSM".

It's staggering to me that they'd possibly come after BDSM between consenting adults. For some people a spanking is as effective as candlelight and wine is to another. It's all how you're wired. And I'm allowed to be wired how I'm wired. And yes, you are allowed to be wired how you are. If you want candlelight and cuddles, I will applaud your choice and wish you well (and I will mean it). But please don't tell me or my characters that they can't be tied up or spanked because it offends you.

So there will be people who will say, "But you are a kinky person. A dirty girl. You like *that stuff*."

Um. Not really. Not *always*. I'll tell you a secret. I have written detailed stories about fetishes that do zero for me. I don't, personally, *get* them. In fact, writing about them as if I embrace them for myself is how I try to *get* them. It's my way of understanding things I don't understand. So to answer that age old question "have you done everything you've written about?" AND blow that argument out of the water right now: No. I have not done it all. I do not understand it all. But I do believe in your right to have whatever gets you off. As long as it's not hurting anyone.

What's going on right now in our little erotic sphere is people saying: I don't like that. And because I don't like that, I am cutting you off at the knees. I am severing my service because I don't appreciate your sexual preferences.

Which to me sounds very much like discrimination. I said to the man, rather tongue in cheek, but it's not far off base at this point, it's like a financial service company (we'll call it that to be all clinical and shit): "We're Christian you may not use our services to purchase that statue of Buddha. "


My long and rambling and trying-to-stay-calm point is this. Erotica, in the right hands, is amazing literature that can make you feel a range of emotions. Not just horny. It can amplify your sex life or even give it the paddles if it's suffered an untimely death.

But beyond all that flowerly fluff, it is legal. And we are now entering into terrain where people are trying to severely limit and hobble things that are not against the law, just...'unseemly' to some. So what's next? No bodice rippers? No sex in regular fiction? Ever read Lisey's Story by Stephen King? If I am remembering correctly, there is some kinky ass not always nice sex in there. How about the gruesome murders and torture various other nauseating and horrifying things that happen in other genres of that not unseemly to some? So when are they coming for that stuff?

See, you might be saying "Bah! Erotica! I don't read it. Or write it. So what?"

Well, when they're done with erotica, what's going to come next? That's the real question. There's always a next if something is successful. Because when you don't stand up from the get-go the message is: it's okay.

So is it? Is it okay?

Author's Note (later that same day...)

"You don't have pseudo incest titles." I've heard that several times since posting. And if my failing memory serves, there are no psuedo incest titles for Sommer Marsden, you are right. But there are BDSM titles. And to me it's all one big fat ball of wax. It's all important. It's just the PI titles are getting more heat, so I focused on them and BDSM. I don't have to write certain things for this to impact me. It all impacts me.


  1. Testify, Sister!

    And no, it is not okay. Your kink is okay, my kink is okay, Mary from Idaho's and John from Kansas' kinks are okay, but censorship is definitely not okay.

  2. Flowers in the Attic is actually marketed to 12-15 year old girls in Coles/Chapters here.

    So apparently 12 year olds can handle rape and incest in their fiction better than adults?

    It doesn't matter that things are legal or illegal in the real world. It's fiction. It's fantasy. It should all be available. I shouldn't have to feel like a criminal because I have dark fantasies that I wouldn't (and couldn't!) enact in real life.

  3. I agree, CJ. And it's not always easy. I get that. But once we start cutting things due to personal preference, we're screwed.

    And thanks for speaking up, Anjasa. I think you are simply one of many who feels that way. Outlets for fantasies, no matter how light or dark, are important. It's when we remove outlets and leave no options that we are in trouble. Reading or writing fantasies is a healthy form of expression.

    It's just a bit sticky mess, ain't it. :/


  4. Thank you for posting this. Agree all the way!

  5. There is a lot to why they don't allow BDSM I think. The chargebacks are one thing, but also because it is in the dark underbelly of the vices. I know that 90% of my writing will never be accepted for any credit card, but that is because I do write about nasty, icky things.

    But, I also write about the sweeter stuff which is legal. I just finished a pseduo-incest for an anthology. It would suck if I couldn't market that, simply because it is considered taboo (though everything is legal). And it does spice up people' sex lives, specially mine. After I had Fluffy read my PI story, now she whispers those things back to me while we are having fun. :) And that makes it even more fun.

    I just haven't found a good, non-moralistic money system. I'm trying, but I haven't found it yet.

  6. thx, Scarlett. :)

    I agree with you on a level, t'Sade but most of what you are finding under the label of erotica/erotic romance is not what you're describing as far as BDSM. Not the
    'big bad monster' they are going after. Some-maybe, most--not. The BDSM you are finding in *most* of the works right now is how to say...homogenized? Sort a good word. Fictionwise handles what you are describing I believe under the heading "Taboo". So maybe that is an option. A Taboo or Extreme section.

    I don't know. Like I said, it's a sticky mess. I wish it could just be here is what it is and here are the warnings and that's that. I know my one publisher, Excessica, who is under the gun right now has less than a 1% chargeback. Below industry average.

  7. I will agree completely. Most BDSM that shows up on these sites isn't something that I call "fluffy". And that is great. I also don't think it is worthy of being attacked. I also think that writers should be able to use the most common forms of commercial transaction on the Internet (e.g., Paypal). The problem is... someone decided that it was too disturbing, sickening.

    Part of it (fairly strongly in my area) is that there are people who think that all forms of sex are bad. And those people have enough Behind the Throne Power to enforce that opinion on the Internet.

    (Kind of like someone deciding if birth control is appropriate for an entire country...)

    The problem is: Visa is a private company and not the government. They have the right to decide if they want to deal with you. Paypal is also a company. Both of them have the right to refuse business to erotic writers and they don't have to explain it.

    A petition, as much as it seems like you are doing something, probably won't have an impact. They make millions dealing with every day business. They don't care if they lost the 0.001% business that represents erotic writers (just like Best Buy "fired" 3% of their customers).

    The only way to change it is to hit them in the only place they seem to care: their pocket. Of course, that is hard when Paypal/Visa/MC pretty much have a stranglehold on their respective markets. And I'm not just saying don't use P/V/MC for erotic writing, I think they need to see a 2-3% hit before they start noticing and a 20% hit before they back off.

    That is a pretty large order. :)

    *sigh* I wish I had the answers. I'm trying to find alternatives right now, mainly because I want to know, and it is something I'm apparently passionate about.

  8. Thanks for writing this Sommer. I've only been published in anthologies at the moment, but I would hate to think that when my project is finished, that I wouldn't be able to publish it after all the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice I put into it, just because some moralistic assh*t decided that he/she doesn't like the words I used, or the image on my cover.

    If there's no outlet for fantasies or desires, we're just a world waiting to explode all over ourselves. I'm going to post on FB - a lot more people need to read this.

    1. "If there's no outlet for fantasies or desires, we're just a world waiting to explode all over ourselves."

      Beautifully spoken and damn right!

  9. As a writer, censorship just plain pisses me off. As a reader, it scares the hell out of me.


What sayest thou?