I’m going to start this with a half-hour video, which you certainly aren’t compelled to watch — but you really should watch it, when you have time if not right this second, because it’s a really, really smart half-hour.
I have absolutely no connection to it other than thinking that it is awesome. Seriously, I know it’s on YouTube, but it’s not “a YouTube video,” as in “hey let’s get together and watch some YouTube videos.” Stick with it and let it get into your brain a little.
You ready? Here goes:
Okay. Now, if you watched that, congratulations! It started out about music theory, but then it got into broader topics of philosophy, geometry, and, most importantly for our purposes here, creativity.
If you didn’t watch it, try to later (it has laser bats!), but for now we’ll just pull out one important point: any piece of writing is, at its heart, just a series of words that one particular creator put into an order that he or she liked.
Our brains as readers are trained to like certain orders and structures of words better than others because they’re like the ones we’ve seen before. Casual readers (like, say, the majority of people whipping through erotica novels) want things to follow a familiar enough pattern that they’re not straining to see the fun parts.
James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov wrote some pretty steamy stuff, but there’s a reason you don’t see them available for $2.99 in Amazon’s “erotica” section, is what I’m saying here.
(The reason is copyright. Ha!)
And that’s okay. Structure and convention are good — they provide a familiar framework, so that readers can pay more attention to the unique craft you’ve put within that framework. If people are pondering the nature of perceived truth as they read, they probably aren’t as focused on the dirty bits as you’d like.
But it does make you wonder — how much of what we think is sexy is actually just stuff we’ve been told is sexy? And how many things that we’ve been told aren’t sexy quite frankly are?
Anyone with a bit of a kink or perversion has probably already had the “wait, that’s hot?” experience. The internet has made it very easy — I can personally think of at least a dozen unique fetishes I never would have fantasized about my own, but which I found described in other people’s fantasies (stories), and which I quickly added to my own stable of perversities.
Those experiences are part of why I try to slip something a little out of the ordinary into many, if not all, of my stories. I don’t necessarily want to challenge the whole experience of reading, or even of reading erotica, but I do want to expose people to things that aren’t the reliable formula.
One example might be the brief appearance of Mellifloria Madilla’s period in The Strange Habits of Desert Centaurs. It’s already a strange book, of course, but the blurb and the cover all promise one specific sort of strange: fantasy sex with centaur characters.
Menstruation is not a part of that formula. It is, however, something that happens, even to ladies who like to have sex, so I threw it in there both as a nod to realism and as a way to jar people at least a little bit out of the predictable rhythms of a lesbian erotica story.
And if, as an added bonus, it opens a few readers up to the possibility that menstruation can be sexy on its own merits, well…so much the better for them. They just learned something.
Of course, it’s possible we’re all just seeking comfort in random patterns, and in another world we’d have evolved to think that standing on your elbows and humming loudly is the hottest thing ever. That’s the trouble with this whole relativism thing.
Laser bats are still cool, though.
Ever encountered something that you never even realized could be sexualized, and then found it surprisingly to your liking? Tell us how you came across it in the comments! It will give us all ideas for salting our own works with tasty suggestions…