Sunday, 28 April 2013

Porn and erotica - which is it?

 There was a debate last week by an organisation called Intelligence Squared at the Royal Institution last Tuesday 23rd April where the motion was 'pornography is good for us: without it we would be a far more repressed society.' I didn't attend the debate itself, but apparently at the outset 60% of the audience supported this motion, and by the end this had only reduced to 50%. Germaine Greer opposed it, arguing that pornography doesn't rescue us from repression, it actually feeds off it, because without some form of repression there would be no pornography. Either way, it looks as if we – or at least the intelligentsia sitting in a debating chamber - are still pretty equally divided in our opinions. I wonder how such a debate would go if it was enacted by parents, teachers, therapists, criminologists...?

We live in a society where we are lucky to have access to whatever literature or images we choose, but as an adult I choose to avoid going anywhere near the troubling modern day porn in all its dead-eyed blatant, fleshy, garishly-lit, visual crudity. It's starting to make Emmanuelle look like Mary Poppins and is scaring the lifet out of most parents. So had I been debating this issue I would have gone further and suggested that even the word 'repression' is surely outmoded in this day and age in which case so should porn be, that is, why do we apparently still 'need' it? Far from liberating us or taking us away into fantasies, it merely takes sex, something that is beautiful, if basic, and turns it something ugly, brutish or even violent at best, and at worst is starting to damage and frighten the young, evolving minds that watch it.

Some might say this is rich coming from a writer of erotica, but the two prime words I have just used are 'watch' and 'writer'. One of the many tags that irritated me about the 50 Shades phenomenon was its description as 'mummy porn', which, without getting too heavy, seemed to link two opposing words in an extremely unpleasant way. The writer of it happened to be a mother, and the readers were often mothers, but the only mother in the narrative is an abusive, drug-taking prostitute in the hero's back story. Similarly the 'porn' involved in the story relates to the use of domination, punishment and sex toys, but then the book is also described as erotica. So, which is it? Erotica, or porn? In my view, it can't be both.

I am not a natural debater – I tend to get heated, emotional and as you can see from this piece, opinionated – but if I am challenged on the basis that I've written some pretty experimental sexual practices in some of my earlier work, I prefer to simplify matters for myself and for my audience by making a stark distinction. To me, porn is immediate, unimaginative, visual, and predominantly male-orientated. Erotica seeks to arouse through the written word and imagination, and is primarily by women, for women. It's the difference between brutality and sensuality. Insult and compliment. Relationship and encounter. Consent and imposition. Porn seeks to lower, erotica to elevate. Porn is imposed, violent, debasing. Erotica celebrates sex within an adult, and with the genre of 'erotica romance' catching on, increasingly intense, romantic relationships.

An unlikely champion of this viewpoint was D H Lawrence. Recently, preparing for my erotica workshop, I re-read parts of Lady Chatterley's Lover and realised that the 'obscenity' in it relates more to the context, the language used, and the times in which it was written, rather than the explicit yet tender descriptions of the sex itself.

I suppose in conclusion that if I was going to put my money where my mouth was, I'd have to imagine my teenage son's reaction if he read one of my books. Mostly he'd snap the book shut as soon as he realised what was going on, but if he did read it more closely he would see that everything happening was part of an intense, loving journey between consenting adults. The worst that could happen is that he'd be deeply embarrassed, not deeply damaged.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Look Primula

Apart from making me apopleptic every time I hear its name, the 'novel' that has taken the world by storm this 2012 has been a kick up the arse for us erotica writers. For years we've written far stronger, far better, far sexier stuff, for less and less money, only to be trumped all the way to the bank by a total upstart. What galls is not only the awful language and lack of proper editing of 50 Shades, but the supposedly sexual content, which fails dismally to deliver anything really erotic, merely serving up unreal conversations and experiences, then neatly swerving the explicit or strong by mentioning it rather than showing it. Thereby breaking the main rule of story telling which is show, not tell.
  However, it has changed the face of erotica and maybe it's not a bad thing. I was urged back in the Black Lace days to get into stronger scenarios for their Nexus imprint, and felt v uncomfortable with some of the more twisted ones. Not to mention the fact that endless BDSM scenes meant little or no story or characterisation to link them. Not that we ever pretended it was literature as such, or even a real exploration of relationships. One by one the magazines and imprints started to close down.
   What 50 Shades has done is make editors sit up and take notice, and wonder how they can cash in. So we are now being asked to emulate it with intense relationships, sexual language toned right down, aspiring locations, Alpha Males, feisty but inexperienced heroines.. in fact, Mills and Boon have tried to jump on the band wagon, but let's face it - we know how to do it far better than them.
   So I have nearly finished my new look Primula Bond novel, which has allowed me to let rip with language and setting. I won't tell you the name until it's formally accepted. Fingers and toes crossed, everyone!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Hello again

What happened to all that enthusiasm and energy? One minute I'm writing a virtual essay about how I originally started writing erotic short stories. Then a year and a half goes by and - zip. There are two reasons for this. One was that back then I was eagerly awaiting the royalties for my first solo collection of short stories ('Random Acts of Lust', published by Accent Press). This was great fun, a collection of stories I was proud of, where I was able to let rip with my own themes, ideas and style, move away from the really dark stuff I was writing for the now defunct imprint Nexus at Virgin and return to the more intelligent, sensuous, romantic, mysterious erotica that comes more naturally. With tits and bums in abundance, obv. And dominated by a cougar based very loosely on, well, MOI. Anyhoo, the royalty cheque when it arrived was disappointing, to say the least. £450 odd. Now, that may seem like money for jam, but it's not much for a year's worth of sales, including e-book sales which are where the hopes of all erotic writers now lie. So the work that I was most proud of had earned less than a quarter of the advances I'd received for my first three novels, despite my publicising it in The Mail on Sunday and The Lady, no less. That was one reason I decided to abandon erotica and therefore my poor blog. And the second reason? Well, see my next post. Because I promise I'm going to keep this up!

Monday, 15 March 2010

First words

The inspiration came from frustration, a dire need for money. And my lodger. Simples. You'd think it would come from an amazing romance, a relationship, a mind-blowing fuck with a loved one or stranger. Or memories of being a dancer, or actress, or stripper, or travel rep. Some really obviously sexy situations. In a way it was all of those, yet much more mundane. Just an ordinary red blooded girl who had had plenty of sex, some dodgy, some overwhelmingly romantic, mostly with unsuitable men but one or two who were real lovers, but who right now was getting none at all. She was on her own, living inside her imagination because there was no man, just then, to occupy her.
She was in her thirties, a single mother, an Oxford graduate once dubbed the college beauty, tall, auburn haired, Catholic upbringing, had lived in Italy and Cairo. A good life, an interesting one, but everything had slowed down, jobs gone wrong, men leaving her, thrilled with her gorgeous baby but motherhood was holding her back, until she was faintly depressed and almost broke. Why wouldn't you want to lift yourself out of it via fiction? So here goes.

Primula sat by the window, four floors up, staring out at the rain. Seemed like everyone had somewhere to go, it was Saturday in Earl's Court for God's sake, they were all hurrying along the pavement in high heels towards the tube and the bright lights, laughing and pushing, all except her. Her reflection was pale and sombre, watched by one orange street lamp. Her baby was asleep in his cot, angelic. That was why she couldn't go out. Babysitter let her down. Friends busy. His father was on the other side of the world, oblivious to his existence.
She ran her hand over her hot face, down her throat. It was boiling up in this attic flat. Maybe she would just scoop J out of his cot, into his buggy, go walkabout down by the Thames. Don't be daft. It's nearly ten at night. She was fidgety, frustrated, bored, lonely, angry with herself. And what had made it worse was the DVD she'd found under the bed when cleaning her lodger's room. She put it in the machine, groaned impatiently when the badly edited film started with no intro, halfway through an incomprehensible scene, was about to eject it thinking she'd stumbled on some embarrassing home movie, when she saw all this floating white muslin, lilies in vases, and sunshine in wide stripes across a wooden floor, panning slow across the room like a French film noir, almost laboriously, and then the moaning sounds off camera started to make sense, and it turned out to be porn. Soft porn. She'd watched this before, with some ex boyfriend, squirming with embarrasment because it wasn't just him and her, for some reason it was her and a room full of his mates, all sniggering, trying to show they weren't turned on, what was she thinking of, sitting there trying not to fidget as her pussy twitched, making jokes, taking the piss, wishing she was anywhere but here but being seventeen had no balls just to stand up and walk out.
Soft porn, girls in soft focus and flimsy dresses breathing heavily, Emmanuelle style but not the hideous cravats and moustachios of the 70's, just tanned limbs, pale limbs tumbling over each other, a curved bottom then closer into soft breasts hanging like fruit, a nipple pushing between the pouting lips of an open red mouth and more sighing as glossy hair rippled over arched spines.
Primula watched, perched stiffly on the edge of the sofa, stiff with suppressed excitement. She tore her gaze away from the screen and saw her room arranged awkwardly around her, the furniture, pictures, books, plants, a toy telephone, toast crumbs on a plate. Her body was crawling with frustration but this was stupid. She was on her own in her scruffy pad in London, all that moaning and sex and wet pussies miles away, in a studio miles away in another country, those girls were actresses, and she was just pathetic.
She switched it off and went to stand, shaking, by the window, which is where we found her. Her body was pulsing, her mind full of those images. She touched herself at last, knowing that once she stopped she wouldn't be able to stop, it had been years since she'd frisked herself, but she lay on the bed, pulled her jeans down, trailed her fingers over her stomach, down between her legs, tossed her head back on the pillow, let those girls with their red lips and long hair crawl over her, sighing and moaning... and then the doorbell rang.
She had to answer it. It would wake the baby. She staggered upright, to the entryphone. Who the hell wanted her at this time of night?
'Hi, it's me, Colin.'
The ex lodger.
'I left something behind.'