Exploring taboo fantasies
Erotica editor, author and blogger Rachel Kramer Russell.
“There are so many types of orgasms to experience!” writes sex educator Barbara Carrellas in her introduction to The Big Book of Orgasms (Clies Press), a collection of 69 sexy stories edited by erotica expert Rachel Kramer Bussell. It follows, then, that there are myriad ways to write about sexual pleasure, and Bussell will delve into these at her Erotica 101 Writing Workshop in Portland on December 3 at Nomia. The Phoenix caught up with Bussell, who lives in New York City, via email to talk about this thriving genre, male erotica authors, and — of course — Fifty Shades of Grey.
Your workshop will cover “modern” erotic writing — what has changed about this genre over the years? How has the Internet changed the way people consume erotica? I think the genre has expanded greatly — it’s no longer mainly stories by “Anonymous” or viewed as something déclassé (for the most part). There’s always been erotic writing and erotic bestsellers in waves over the last century, but now there is truly something for everyone. The rise of e-publishing means there’s less of a barrier for authors or readers to find their exact niche; sites like Goodreads help facilitate recommendations for readers with specific interests. I think the Internet has made many of us, myself included, have both a shorter attention span and want to find exactly what we’re looking for immediately. Often we can do so online, though I hope that the success of Fifty Shades of Grey means print bookstores are stocking a wider variety of erotica too.
What makes an erotic story successful? The story needs to have a beginning, middle, and end, and should tell us not just what happened between the characters but who they are and why they’re there and what’s motivating whatever’s happening between them. As a reader, I should be as invested in their sexuality if it’s their first time getting together or their thousandth. A good story grabs you from the first sentence and makes you need to keep reading. Don’t skimp on the sex, but you don’t necessarily have to give an exact play-by-play rundown of every touch or look or moan; tell us what will convey the sexual highlights and what makes the encounter so explosive. Bonus points if it also manages to put a new twist on sexuality or an underrepresented or misunderstood fetish or sexual practice. It can have humor or darkness — I’ve published stories about breakups, funerals, and cancer, to name a few — and could be about anything from politics to sports to sex clubs. If there’s one thing I hope people take away from my erotic writing workshop, it’s that anything can be eroticized!