This blog isn't about sex. It's about great sex! I set it up because you only live twice, once in your dreams.

This blog is a portal to the wonderful world of web-based erotic writing. It also serves as a filter: finding stories for you to enjoy without worrying. Use both the reviews and the labels to help you identify stories which will suit your tastes. If the idea of ‘oral’ makes your stomach churn, click on ‘romance’ in the label cloud. Use the rating system: from 0 for nonsexual to XXX for eyebrow raising. (Just your eyebrows will do, thank you, sheesh!)

And use the biggest sexual organ in your body: that’s your brain, dumbo! Which bit of you do you think processes the little messages from your nerve endings in a kiss and releases the endorphins that make you go Whoopdidoo! As you read the reviews and choose stories, as you follow up other stories from those outside of this site: Think before you Click. Come Home quickly if you’re not sure about what you find. Some stories out there are far out on the wild side because humans are inventive beings –not always in nice ways.

Remember too that these are fantasy erotic stories and so the sex is always sizzling. In another life, just being close to someone you have always liked is usually enough. They won’t need a 10“ wonger or GG breasts to turn you on.

Take care of your sweet self and enjoy your dreams.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

100th post! Apologia pro Opus Meum

From SmashCutCulture,
a cultural studies blog
In this 100th post, I am going to indulge myself and explain why I write reviews of erotica - primarily stories. This will be in the tradition of Sir Philip Sidney's An Apology for Poetry. Apology in this sense doesn't mean saying sorry for being so in-your-face and flirty when I write (<snerk>). It means an explanation, a rhetorical discussion which outlines the rationale for what we do.

In the 'proper' literary world critics are hated and artists simultaneously try to suck up to them while complaining that they just don't understand. Readers tend to think that the job of a critic is to tell them what is good stuff and should be checked out, and what is boring sh!t to be avoided. Well known critics like Mark Kermode have a lot of influence on audiences. I picked Mark Kermode deliberately because he writes and talks not about high falutin' literature but about popular films. He likes and recommends what I call '24 carat crap' movies: films which are great fun and have few pretensions. Kermode doesn't do this in a simplistic: "It's got lots of blood and gore, go for it," way. He talks about why the film works, about what role the editor has in filming, about what it is about a succesful film director's style that is good and bad.

There are few opportunities for the erotica writers of hot hot stories to get a good quote from a critic which can be used to promote a story. More than this, though, the lack of a critical framework in which writing can be encouraged - writers can get feedback and develop our craft, is one of the reasons for the success of the Literotica website. This site encourages reader feedback better than others; good writers highly prize the opportunity to hear from thoughtful readers in order to reflect on and develop our craft. Literotica offers opportunities to ask questions of other writers, to find editing support as well as to have comments on published stories from readers.

I run this blog to provide another part of that critical framework.

For readers, this is a place where you can come to have good stories recommended to you. Plus, like Sidney, I am a humanist and view 'poetry', or in my case erotic writing, as being capable of moving people to ethical behaviour.

That sounds very dull and restrictive. But the art of poetry/erotic writing and of criticism is not so crude as just telling people how to behave properly. One of the premises of my blog reviews is to encourage people - especially young people - to think critically. Think about everything around you. Think about the Disney Princess movies, what influence did they have on you? Think about a story you're reading, what influence is it having on you. Think about adverts which use air-brushed slim female figures with elongated limbs - are they really beautiful? or just posed in a way which makes you take them as a standard for beauty. Think about what people tell you is the right way to behave. Is it normal for men to hassle women for a date, and women to pretend they are above such dirty stuff? Or do women indicate subtly to men that we are interested, then the men have to guess and make a tentative move - hoping all the time that we won't slap them in the face. Or could women just ask men we like out to the cinema, as well as men asking us to go for a meal if we like each other. And, of course, you should always think about using a condom.

Communicazione Sociale
A lot of writers find it irritating that I insist this blog is a safe sex blog. I of course don't mind that people are writing stories in which condoms are airbrushed out in order to make for a more 'natural' brief-less encounter. I enjoy such stories myself and often comment favourably on them when I read them elsewhere. It's just that I see a role for writing in making it normal to talk about safe sex. At the moment it's not 'normal' to ask someone to use a condom before you have penetrative sex. People are too embarrassed to request it, they think it will be odd to discuss this before leaping in the sack. FFS! literally. You are about to get naked - or mostly naked - and put your most intimate and sensitive body parts together. How can it be embarrassing to talk quickly about protecting each other from possible health issues and pregnancy? OMG, he might think I'm saying he has a disease! Yeah, go ahead and take the risk. Don't come to me sniffling and hoping for Kleenex when you get gonorrhea.

Available from Ebay.
Instead of talking like that to readers, I just promote stories in which condom use is normal. Then people don't feel bad about saying: "Oh, and I have these ribbed condoms. I find they increase the pleasure. Tee hee!"

The reason I review erotica goes well beyond it being an opportunity to encourage condom use, though.

From Wikipedia
Sexuality is important to all of us, even to those who dislike sex. Most people think that there are two biological sexes: male and female, and sexuality comes about because they want to get together. This binary sex is even more important to homosexual couples. You can't have same sex sex, unless you have someone who is the same sex to have same sex sex with. (Try saying that quickly to a lecture hall of students!) Postmodern feminists (like Judith Butler) argue that we constitute two sexes: male and female, in order to generate oppositional dynamism and engage in sexuality. We act, talk, walk, dress in ways which emphasise that we belong to the one sex or the other. This is not a trivial performance which can be put on and off like a dress. This is an intensely serious and vital 'performative' at the heart of our identity: so vital, that we will be troubled if we feel that we are a different gender to our body's sex and need to put that right with surgery. 

From Duke Press
Gayle Rubin called it a 'sexual economy'. The exchange between the two sexes, which she identified as a 'traffic in women', is like the economy in that it is what creates sociable dynamism. Perhaps we talk about industry or banking or education; what they all operate in is 'the economy'. In just the same way, we focus on men and women and transgender identities. We all operate and constitute these identities in sexuality.

When we aim for equality, many people think of this as sameness. If only we could all be the same, we would not have sexism. However if we are all the same, if there is no difference between two sexes, there will be no desire. Think about a life in which you never feel desire for someone-else. Dynamism, movement, energy would disappear. There would be no exchange, as there would be nothing to exchange, we would all have the same thing. Equality has to be about diversity as well as equal opportunity, or life will be very boring. 

Let's think about sexuality in a broader sense, not as two (or more) people having a bit of humpy dumpy. Let's think about families and what anthropologists call 'kinship'. Kinship is made up of your blood relations, your marital relations and most importantly, your political relations. Political in this sense is not the party you vote for in the elections, it's those who align on your side in any struggle, whom you can count on to put their power in with your power, who are likely to call on you if they are in need of support. Many of us will say that our friends mean more to us than our blood family - they are our 'true' family. In reality our social networks are made up of an array of people from work, birth/adoptive family, chosen friends, acquaintances we met perhaps on the school run or at a place of religious worship or out in the local pub. We work hard to build and maintain these networks, not just buying a drink for someone but making sure we accept a drink in return when it's proper to do so, sending a card, 'liking' posts on Facebook, getting together for festivities with certain people - often in spite of considerable tension and irritation.

Let's think about this as our 'kinship' network. Many of our friendships are light and casual - we would not dream of having intimate physical relations with these sets of people. Still, sexuality is the driving force which makes this sociable world go round. That doesn't mean 'sex', although a set of sexual relationships will have a powerful effect on who is placed where in our kinship network. A couple with young children are likely to socialise with other similar families, if they separate they are likely to start spending time with other single parents.

Society is made up of 'kinship' and family relationships, a broad interlinked network of networks of friends and allies. These networks are woven with strands from the sexual economy. It's the dynamic of desire which drives us to be human sociable selves. Learning how to manage desire in sexuality with skill and flair is crucial to succeeding as a socially able human being. 

Steampunk edition of
Frankenstein, available very
cheaply for some reason,
at  Hive.
Mary Shelley called her story Frankenstein a 'waking dream'. To me, the most important waking dreams we can read are erotic stories: stories that are about the economy which drives our social human existence. When I open up a story to review, I'm looking for three things
  1. Does it help normalise condom usage? 
  2. What kind of sexual dream is being spun here? Is it a story which makes sex a part of normal, everyday life rather than treat sex as something high octane which happens between amazingly amazing people unlikely to be found in a real world? Is it a story which allows the reader to think and explore not just the story but your own life in a critical way? (Utopian or dystopian high octane fantasy stories can be very good at doing this.)
  3. What does the story tell me about the world we are living in. Why are (rather unrealistic) incest stories so popular? (Not got round to answering that one yet!) Why do 'Burn The Bitch' stories about adultery attract bizarre comments which don't seem to realise that the story has been made up? (Unfortunately the answer to that one seems kinda obvious, but it might not be if we go deeper into it.) 
In writing this blog, I'm looking to encourage us not to sleepwalk through our waking dreams. Sometimes the best way to enjoy a story is to immerse yourself in it and just let yourself be led through its thrilling themes. Sometimes, though, you might also enjoy it if you go back to it and read it in a more consciously critical way. A lightbulb goes off in your head sometimes when you read a story. You think: 'I never realised that about myself/my friend/the world'. When you read an erotic story, lots of unconscious little lights are sparking up in the innermost workings of your being that is formed in sexuality.

Ojibwe dreamcatcher.
It can help to keep a dream diary. If you write down your sleeping dreams when you wake up and think about them, they can give you a perspective on your life which you were too preoccupied to see during your waking hours. This blog is like a waking dream diary, picking out the thrilling themes and asking if they have a deeper resonance for you and in all of our lives. 


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on getting to 100 posts! I have very much enjoyed your essays.
best wishes, yesterdays

JKendall Dane said...

As someone who was very much a part of the wild times of "anything and anyone goes" in the late 1970's to the mid 1980's..and still somehow managed to escape the scourge of HIV and AIDS...I salute you in your mission to "normalize" condom use. Even in erotica. Someday I'll finish and publish the story of my "awakening" in the spring of 1986, to the reality of what was out there and how I learned you may not "love" rubbers, but you best learn to "like" them. Congrats on post #100, and may there be many more to come.

Naoko Smith said...

Thank you guys! It's been such fun thinking through all the reviews. I love reviewing but it wouldn't be worth it without people coming on to engage with the ideas. <3