Back at Eroticon Live in May I was one of the readers for the closing erotica slam on the Sunday. When I took the microphone I explained to the audience that, despite urgings of several friends, I wasn’t going to read the explicit bits of a story (one that, incidentally will appear later this year in an anthology edited by the adorable Leonora Soloman).
This raised one comment that suggested it was ironic that I was hesitant to read mere words when the previous evening I’d happily had my buttocks on display and received a spanking in front of a room full of writers. It was a comment that baffled me for two reasons.
Firstly, I didn’t see any contradiction. My body simply is and, whilst I’m actually for the most part pretty happy with it, I don’t feel that anyone judging it is really a judgment on me. I’m not ashamed of the meatbag that is Charlie Forrest. Whereas my words, that’s something different. The words I trick myself into pouring onto the page, the honesty, bluntness, sheer unadulterated lust and greed and desire I express. That’s me, and that’s me in a way that I’m far more scared of being judged on, because then it means something, then it’s based on a real tangible aspect of me as a person.
The other thing that baffled me was that, despite not reading the explicit sex bits at the end, I did something that, even by my own logic, was a lot more daunting; I read the really hot bit. You see, this particular story is focused on the idea of humiliation and, in that regard, the absolute peak of it, the realisation of the narrator that they are in a very very bad place, comes right at the beginning.
So I guess I can stand in front of a room full of people and do the scary dangerous stuff; it just might not be what you expect.
Note: this is based upon an advance review copy of the book. The final version may have changes… like page numbers… and a cover… There’s also exciting book launch stuff over at GOTN’s website 🙂 Enjoy.
To say I’ve been anticipating this book would be an understatement; as in I literally, upon meeting the author at Eroticon last year, asked her about when she was going to do a sequel to “My Not-So Shameful Sex Secrets“. The answer was about nine months and the result of which is a rather different beast to the first book.
That’s kind of to be expected seeing as book 1 (as I shall call it) covers everything from childhood to somewhere in the twenties, it’s kind of inevitable that book 2 will have rather different material to work with. I would be tempted to say it feels like it lacks direction on occasion, but that doesn’t do justice to the excellent job it does of painting a picture of a life, a relationship and a partner that is so well drawn through the pages of this book I feel like I know him without ever having met him.
One thing that book 2 does is focus less on sex, but what it loses in sexy fin times it makes up for in a gut-wrenching depiction of life in a modern anxiety-fuelled career. It is powerful stuff and contains moments that took me back to a very unhappy phase in my life and left me I had to take a moment before carrying on. But sweaty palms and trembling fingers aside, its heart-wrenching stuff and, even in the dark places, GOTN’s characteristic humour shines through.
Overall it was funny, heart-warming, gut wrenching, borderline traumatising but in the best possible way. It’s not the lightest of reads, but it doesn’t get lost in the darkness either.
Alternative titles for this post included “It’s About Class Stupid!” “Head of The Class,” “Perhaps you’d like to share that with the class?” and “Bend over and touch your toes I’m going to thrash that little bottom of yours raw!”
There are none more class-conscious than the British and none more so thant the British middle classes. So it should probably come as no surprise that I am achingly aware of class in virtually every aspect of my life. This is not to say that I panic over it, or necessarily judge other people harshly for it, it’s just, in the background, like a flavour.
There are studies that show that high and low income people are both equally likely to lie, but that the circumstances are radically different. High income folks have a greater tendency to lie in situations that will benefit them personally, wheras people on lower incomes are more likely to lie in situations that will benefit others (and because I’m a good chap here’s my references: here and here).
I don’t want to suggest that I equate class with income. Any suggestion of wealth being a representation of how good ro bad a person is or how ‘classy’ they are fell away sometime in the twentiefth century. But that was certainly the perception prior to that. So Victorian society, for example, is a rich hunting ground for writers wishing to subvert the ideals of the time. Unspeakable cads, debauched puritans and a rampant hypocrisy.
All good stuff, but that’s only half the picture. That’s part of why, in a recent story submitted to the ever enthusiastic and lovely Leonora Soloman, I deliberately turned my attention to the other end of the scale, the bottom of the heap, downtrodden workforce slaving away at uncaring machines. And what came out was something much more human, a sort of commeraderie in the face of brutal industry. We will look out fo reach other because we need to.
There are several genres of erotica that I basically refuse to write in. Anything with vampires and/or werewolves is right out. I mean, not unless you’re going to do something really cool and interesting with them. Much the same goes for anything too vanilla or straight-laced. Don’t get me wrong I have a soft spot in my heart for a classic romance story, but it’s not enough to capture my imagination so far as writing goes. Dinosaur porn can just shit right off.
Another thing that doesn’t sit very happily with my writing is the genre of “dubious consent”. This, along with “pseudo incest” is a sort of fig leaf to make something more acceptable. A common example of this in action is in translations of some Mangas and Animes where difference in publishing law means the prefix “step-” slips into descriptions of family members, making the ensuing abuse of a position of trust more palatable? I guess? Maybe?!?!????? Or not really at all.
Dubious consent is typically written from the perspective of the person who is not initiating the encounter. The reason for this is that the writer can then paint a very clear picture that the protagonist actually is enjoying what is happening and does want it to happen, even if explicit verbal consent isn’t sought or obtained. I find such writing generally clunky and uncomfortable, not necessarily just because of what it is, but of what it’s trying so desperately hard not to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel that rape is something that shouldn’t be discussed in fiction, but I very much feel that all things should be given their appropriate weight. Although this of course this also depends on context. For example a murder is a horrible thing… unless you’re writing a darkly humorous tale in which case it can be dealt with flippantly. But rape does not sit happily with me in an erotic context. That’s why I will, at least in my contemporary fiction, always put an emphasis on ongoing enthusiastic consent.
Except it’s not so simple as that.
Stepping down off the soap box there’s a very real problem with my stance on consent in fiction; the problem being human nature. There have been numerous times in my life where I’ve been torn apart inside between wanting and not wanting things. Parties where I wanted to talk to people and at the same time leap out of a window and run for the horizon, theme parks where I wanted to go on the big scary ride, whilst wondering if the swan boat ride was more my kind of pace. You see one of the fun ideas that can be explored when writing about BDSM is the idea of power exchange. The idea of giving control to somebody else. Taking away the stress of queueing for the big scary ride because it’s not a choice anymore. It’s a fascinating dynamic and one that sits pretty close to the heart of my erotic imagination.
But my goodness doesn’t that sound similar to “dub-con”?