For those of you not interested in sex, my sympathies. For the rest of you, come on down!
So to speak.
If you think writing about sex is easy, well, think again. Writing about sex is hard.
For example, you have to watch out for inadvertent double meanings when you use words like "hard."
But it's even more difficult than that, and not just because every now and then you get distracted and have to "take a break" or, as we call it in the trade, "sharpen the old pencil," even though most of use computers now. No, writing about sex is difficult because sex, for all its basic simplicity, is incredibly complicated. Things happen in sex, and they sometimes happen for deep psychological reasons, and they sometimes happen to people and in places and in ways that are unexpected.
Nonetheless, people without passing verbal (or nounal) skills continue to write about sex, particularly on the Worldwide Web, where a recent study showed the 92% of all content is either about sex or was created by people who would rather be having sex than creating content that's not about sex.
Sex is a wonderful subject because it opens so many possibilities. Consider this excerpt from a website whose URL I no longer remember:
I’ll never forget the indescribable turn-on it was to get caught by my now ex mother-in-law in a pair of the wife’s lacy thong panties stroking myself.
I want to interrupt here for a second to call attention to the byzantine complexity of this one simple sentence. Look at everything that's happening here: The protagonist is masturbating. The protagonist is wearing his wife's lacy panties. The panties are thong-style. He's caught by his mother-in-law, while he's masturbating in his wife's lacy thong-style panties. In a spectacular revelation of character, he's not embarrassed by being caught; he's turned on by it. And then, he foreshadows the end of the story by alluding to a point in the future where his wife becomes his ex-wife.
I don't know about you, but I'm hooked. I'm reading more. I can't put it down! (The story, I mean.) I'm signing up for further episodes and becoming a regular subscriber. I want to -- no, I have to find out what it is that's going to cause the breakup of his marriage after he gets turned on by being caught by his mother-in-law masturbating in his wife's lacy thong-style panties. Maybe money problems. Marriages often fail because of money problems.
The tale continues:
I had no idea how long she’d been watching me and there was no hiding what I was doing. I jerked the panties up as quick as I could but first of all, there’s was no explaining me having them on to start with and secondly, have you ever tried to hide your throbbing hard cock in a pair of lace thong panties?
Well, yes, as a matter of fact I have, with the critical difference that I wasn't wearing the panties at the time, someone else was, and she liked me and was cooperating as best she could considering we were in a restaurant. But that's another story.
What we have here, in this little excerpt, is depth and complexity. In three sentences the stage has been set for any number of evocative plot developments. For example: The mother-in-law could be traumatized into catatonia, and the remainder of the story could involve the protagonist's mixed emotions as the familiy tries to find a way to bring her out of it. Or, the mother-in-law could be blind and, seeing nothing of her son-in-law's predicament, simply announce that she has become the Prime Minister of Latvia and must set out immediately to assume her duties. That would take the plot a whole different direction. There are so many possibilities.
Unfortunately, being an inexperienced writer of erotica, the author of this particular piece takes his story in a far-fetched and thus disappointing direction: The mother-in-law, without further character development, drops to her knees and gives the fellow what the highly sophisticated and no-doubt-sexually-mature author describes as "a mind-blowing Hoovering."
Which is why, despite it's promising opening, I suggest that this excerpt proves that most sex writing on the web sucks, and not in a mind-blowing way. What Truman Capote once said about Jack Kerouac certainly applies here: That's not writing, it's typing. And, in the above and many other cases, it's typing with mittens on.
Smut writers take themselves seriously, as you can tell by the controversy that currently embroils the smut-writing community. I'll let erotic author SloKiss frame the discussion:
I've seen a lot of stories here over the last couple of months and have noticed the use of numerous references for the delight of orgasm. In particular I've seen and have used the word "cum" or "cumming" reference this wondrous moment in time. I've seen at least a dozen other references to it as well, but the sound of "cum" or "come" has the sound of something urgent. Hmmm, maybe not urgent but has that ring of something lustful to it. I was hoping there would be somebody on the list who could set the record straight. I personally hope "cum" is OK, actually I think it is wonderful and addicting, but I mean OK to use it in prose and poetry.
What SloKiss is getting at, in her own cryptic way, is whether "cum" or "come" is the correct spelling of, well, "come" or "cum." It is an issue that divides the smut-writing world, and if you doubt it is confusing, take a gander at this from the same website:
"Cum" has two very special meanings. One is a verb, and one is a noun. The verb is "to ejaculate," "to experience the sensation of orgasm, etc." The noun is synonymous with semen. The word has its place in erotic literature because it has an impact greater than the words whose place it takes. Purists of the language would disagree I'm sure.
Maybe, though I think an awful lot of "purists of the language" wouldn't get as far as engaging in the argument because they'd be flogging the writer over his punctuation issues.
Which is, really, neither here nor there given the purely utilitarian function of pornography. No one every failed to achieve orgasm because of a misplaced comma, and even a grammar fussypant would likely come down on the side of: Who cares, as long as it gets me off?
Adrienne, herself a "Come" partisan, nonetheless takes the broad view of things, acknowledging, while apparently dropping a critical pair of quotation marks, that "there is a place for cum in erotica."
It does make a distinct difference in how the scene feels, so I don't think the word cum should be trashed altogether in erotic writing, but I think it needs to be used specifically and carefully. It's a great atmospheric word, and can change the whole feel of a story simply by choosing whether to use it or not to use it.
Exactly. Whether you use "cum" or not in a story can make a huge difference. Consider this passage from the 28th Edition of The Directory of Executive Recruiters:
Our advice is to ask explicitely the nature of the assignment before giving your permission to any recruiter to distribute your resume.
Now look at the same section had the author "specifically and carefully" used the word "cum" in the passage:
Our advice is to ask explicitely the nature of the assignment before giving your permission to any recruiter to distribute your cum.
Note how the use of the word "cum" does, indeed, alter the atmospherics of the writing. As a good smut writer, you should keep this in mind.
The British can go either way, according to Amatory Ink. Synonyms for orgasm include, according the list, both "cum" and "come," along with the Australian phrase "Lake Wendouree," which is a real lake in Victoria known for its fishing and, apparently, a certain amount of trolling as well. Leave to a nation that turned "swamp" into "billabong" to use "Lake Wendouree" when what they mean is "come."
Another thing you have to understand if you're going to write dirty is that men and women are different. Now, you would think that aspiring smut writers would understand this on an instinctive level. But no. Here's and excerpt from another smut site I'm never going back to:
"I'm so wet," he said. "You're making me so wet."
This is either a simple typographical error or a horrible misunderstanding of basic anatomy. Either way, it confused me enough that I had to stop reading and go watch sports on television until I regained my equalibrium.
You don't want to make this kind of mistake. Not around me, anyway.
Have a great Derby.