When I write, I’m always asking myself, what’s the value of this work. To entertain, sure, but beyond that. There’s a lot out there that entertains and it doesn’t require deeper meaning. Hey, I love the Sookie Stackhouse books as much as the next girl, I’m not knocking entertainment. But as Peter Parker’s Uncle said, with great power comes great responsibility and if I have the opportunity to shine a light on a social issue while still providing entertainment and loin tingling content, I’m going to do it.
Sometimes the value is veiled. A lot of erotica does this with subtle commentary on the gendered social system we live in. Power, sexuality and gender assumptions are almost always at the forefront of erotica. And with the more transgressive titles our assumptions about ourselves and values may be tested. But erotica is also one of the venues which can be used to make a commentary on a social issue.
Sex is inherently tied to power, and one of the most effective ways to battle a gendered society is for the non-dominate gender to take control of their sexuality. Why do you think women were diagnosed as “suffering” from things like hysteria? A woman in full control of her sexuality had no place in a society where there was a set assumption about her role. Hence the days of ice bath treatments, forced hysterectomies and other medical atrocities. There was a time when a woman could be committed to an asylum, potentially for life, for sexual deviancy, be it homosexuality or an over active drive. Even the term “frigid” is an attack on a woman’s role based on her interest in sex.
One of my favorite books dealing with this issue actually isn’t erotica at all. It’s The Final Confession of Mabel Stark: A Novel by Robert Hough. It outlines the life of a woman who isn’t confined by the restrictive American sexuality of her time. Interestingly, she’s first victimized for refusing to comply with her husband’s sexual request and sent to an asylum, only to go on and discover her own healthy interest in sex.
As writers of erotica, we are contributing the to body of work that asks these questions, we don’t even have to utter them for our rebellion to be active. But in erotica, there’s also room to discuss these things directly and bring in questions beyond those right in front of us. In my upcoming novel Protecting Portia, I discuss interracial relationships, sex trafficking, addiction and PTSD on a vet who served in Afghanistan. I do all that and if I do way so myself it’s pretty damn hot. I have the opportunity to discuss these things in the guise of entertainment, without becoming a dark and depressing novel. And the reason I can do this is because erotica holds to no restrictions of genre, topic or morality.