Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wankability Paradox.

There's a fundamental problem with reading or writing sex stories: two separate and almost exclusive standards of quality. There's good writing and then there's wankable writing. One has effective characterization, a creative premise, lush sensual detail, and high technical standards. The other pushes the right buttons in rapid sequence with wild abandon. Good writing is something people can often agree upon; wankable writing depends on your individual buttons. And wankable writing generally can only be identified mid-wank; it turns to sand in your fingers (or incoherent rambling on your screen) at the moment of orgasm.

Printed "erotica" (I don't like that word, it's like they think they're better than plain ol' porn) anthologies tend to be nothing but good writing. Absolutely useless for wank. I'd rather read pages 936-944 of my anatomy textbook.

To be honest I almost never read good sex fiction. When my pants are zipped, I tend to realize that sex just isn't that rich a topic for a short story; there's really only so many variations on the ol' in-and-out, and the writing gets caught in an awkward spot where it's too committed to sex to work as full-fledged fiction. It's like reading about someone eating--I'm not getting bored of eating itself anytime soon, but do I really get much intellectual stimulation out of "once again he lifted the fork to his dripping piehole"?

What's really funny is that the things I enjoy reading about aren't entirely connected to what I enjoy in reality. I love being spanked and giving blowjobs, but they do nothing for me in writing. On the other hand I'm not that into the buttlove in reality, but it's practically a prerequisite for a story to pass the Left Hand Test.

So you can keep your Best American Erotica; I'll be on the Internet looking for the Most Frothingly Analcentric Probably-Not-American-Judging-By-The-Grammar Erotica.


  1. Holly,

    I am going to respectfully disagree with you on this one. Paragraphs 1,2, and 3 anyway. In a qualified sort of way.

    I guess I'd agree that Wankable Writing and Great Literature of the 'Crime and Punishment' or even of the Good Writing 'Cryptonomicon' variety are two different things. BUT I firmly believe that Pornographica (I also deeply loathe the term Erotica; to me it brings to mind the phrases 'blushing pudenda' and 'throbbing manhood' and swooning and soft light through lace curtains... ugh)can be well-written as well as fully wankable.

    Description, creative setting, believable characters, economy of language, tight dialogue, tension, humor; none of these things are incompatible with hot tight slippery butt-fucking sex. In my mind, these elements add to (rather than take away from) the hotness of your basic Dear-Penthouse-Letters type story. It makes the whole experience much more satisfying (for me) if in addition to the hot nasty sex, the writing is freaking readable. And if the characters are real and sympathetic.

    I actually think that writing pornographica is a great writing exercise: you don't have to really worry about plot elements or story arc; that stuff is a given. Instead you can concentrate on that characterization, description, dialogue, the hot sex, and the timing, pace, and er, climax.

    Just because eating food is a mundane topic doesn't mean you can't write a great short story about a meal.

    I'll grant you that well-written hot pornographica is rare. You're more likely to find wankable reading material written at a 6th grade writing level. I try to write the stuff; it is an open question whether or not I am successful in the terms I've described. I'd like to think I write some Hot Stuff Well. Also, Differn't Strokes fer Differn't Folks, Bith. The writing that gives me a raging hard-on and makes me type one-handed may well leave you dry and surfing on over to Caveat Emptor.

    I agree with you (fer the most part) about the Best American Erotica anthologies, but it does have it's (rare) moments. And I also concur that what I like reading about sexually is not at all the same stuff I like to DO sexually. I'm gonna leave the details out though, you're the (talented) sex-blogger.

    Sorry to make this so damn long. Apparently I have strong feelings on the subject. Pardon my dust.

  2. I am going to agree with Lawrence a bit on his disagreement with you. I think it is possible to find something that transcends the line you've drawn, though it is very rare.