Saturday, May 24, 2014

Erotica, Porn, and Literature

When discussing erotica, one of the big questions that always comes up is: is it literature or is it porn? I don't deny that porn lit exists, but I think it's hasty to brand anything classified as erotica as pornographic. For the sake of giving this discussion a foundation, I am going to say that "porn" is anything that is exclusively intended to be sexually arousing and serves no other purpose. That's a fairly good definition, and I think most people will agree with me when I suggest that there's little other value to a money shot on a guy's face in a Gaytube clip. Does this mean that any movie that features sexual acts is porn? No, no, no. Shortbus and The Idiots depict actual sex, but they are far from porn. They're art. And why is that? I would argue that it's because they aren't exclusively intended to arouse the audience (though a conservative mind might argue otherwise). I'm not suggesting that, at times, the scenes aren't intended to do that. However, they are clearly making larger commentary on sexuality than just that it's lovely and fun.

I brand my novel Clipped as erotica for the sake of giving it a category, but if you read the book, it won't take you long to realize that the prose isn't just designed to arouse the reader. It's designed to make the reader think about sexuality. What is an arousing act? What is a grotesque act? There are tons of sexual acts in the book--spanking, penetration, bjs, asphyxiation, etc. Some of these acts are eagerly welcomed by characters. Other times, they are forced on them.

I'm sure this bothers some readers, who would rather just get their money shot and move on to the next one. So why not just make the acts exclusively arousing? Because it's important to remember that sex, fun as it can be, has a dark and twisted side that we can never really ignore. We can try to, but it's always going to rear it's ugly head. It's beautiful, but dangerous. It's fun, but perverse. I wanted to write a book that showed both sides. In real life, sex is never all fun and games. It's "Did the condom break? Am I going to get HIV? Am I going to get pregnant? Is this herpes?" Anyone who would say something like, "Oh, well, I just have sex for fun and never am worried about it," is either a liar or wildly irresponsible.

This duality of trying to enjoy something that has such twisted dangers to it is something that I wanted to incorporate into Clipped, and it's largely one of the reasons that I don't think that it's going to appeal to everyone. I knew that when I wrote it, but I wouldn't change it to be more erotic because that would be a lie. I'm not just trying to satisfy the reader's desire for pleasure. I want the reader to think while they're reading the sex scenes. In some cases, I want them to be thinking, "This is arousing, but why? It really shouldn't be." Sometimes, I want them thinking, "This isn't arousing. Why would someone want that?"

Some people don't want to think about these things when they read erotica. They want their fantasy of a world where sex is harmless and care-free, and I understand that. But I don't see what's appealing about that lie. Half of what's arousing about sex is the fact that it is dangerous. Certainly, there is a place for porn, and people should enjoy it the way I enjoy jerking off to a mediocre looking actor in a DV porn. But, unfortunately, there are too many people out there who think in such black and white terms about literature and erotica. They think that the erotic has to be minimized in order to be literature. That's just sad, and it doesn't leave us room to explore some very complex questions about the nature of sexuality. And isn't that what literature is about? Getting people to ask questions? Getting them to think about things? And isn't sex something worth pondering?