Feb 072015
 
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By Nobilis Reed

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. It’s a nonfiction analysis of the science of how human sexuality evolved. Mainly, it takes aim at the evolutionary psychologists that have presented us with a competitive model of monogamy and cheating, where men evolved to try to impregnate as many women as possible without commitment, and women evolved to select only those mates who could be coerced into committing. They point, instead, to a tribal culture where sex was free and open, used not for a “pair bond” but rather as a bond for the entire tribal band. Competition, in their view, takes place at fertilization (i.e. whose sperm will fertilize the egg) rather than by restricted matings.

It’s a fascinating book, and so chock full of useful information I won’t bother to summarize all of it here. Instead, you should read it. Or listen to it, as I did. I think you’ll find it quite convincing.

The important takeaways for me as an erotica author are manifold. Among many other things, this book explains why more women read erotica than men. It explains why MFM menage is more popular than FMF.

Sperm competition is one of the most important ideas in this book. The basic idea is that a woman’s body is designed to make fertilization difficult, so that only the fittest sperm make it to the egg. Biochemistry, the woman’s immune system, even the shape of her cervix are all designed to weed out all but a tiny fraction of sperm. This means that in evolutionary terms, it is advantageous for her to have sex with as many men as possible, in order to make that competition as fierce as possible. That explains why a woman (generally) still wants sex after she’s had an orgasm, more than a typical man would. This would seem to me, to explain why MFM menage is so popular; it synchs up well with that fundamental drive.

Sperm competition also explains why women can stay aroused for long periods of time, in spite of orgasm. To me, this is related to the greater demand for longer erotic work like novellas and novels among women. For a long time I had thought that this was simply sexism, a greater tolerance for such interests in women than in men, but I can see now that view was flawed. The difference isn’t cultural, it’s biological. Or at least, it could be.

Another book that’s been on my mind is Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering. This one talks about the nature of sexual paraphilias and how they come about; it appears that your average male’s sexual preferences are set during early adolescence and persist strongly for the rest of his life, whereas your average female’s are more malleable. This is referred to briefly in Sex at Dawn, as well. Again, there’s a lot more going on in this book than I can summarize here; I recommend it to anyone interested in writing books that hook deep into the reader’s psyche.

To my mind, this causes the interests of male readers to become tightly focused; they want particular body types, activities, or themes presented, the same ones over and over. They discover an author or website that focuses on what they want, and they stick with it, as long as it keeps feeding their particular interests. Women, on the other hand, being more flexible, can find lots of things sexy; this explains why more women write erotica, and why there’s more variety in erotica marketed to them.

These influences may have been presenting some obstacles to my career, or at least my ignorance of these influences hasn’t been helping me any. I’ll be keeping this new information in mind as I go forward.

***

Stories that don’t stop at the bedroom door—or the castle gate—or the airlock.
http://www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Oct 232014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

In no genre does the admonition Write what you know apply more powerfully than in writing about sex. The average reader of a police procedural will never be involved in a murder investigation, and thus their image of the process is likely to be formed by their books, as well as other media: movies, TV shows, newspaper and internet accounts of investigations. With the help of Google, a fluent writer may be able to fake a way through and produce a story this average reader finds plausible, but the work is likely to echo every cliché of the genre.

By contrast, almost everyone has some kind of sex, and people who practice specific kinks know the difference between fantasy and reality. When Anne Rice admitted she had written the Beauty series (originally published under the name A. N. Roquelaure), she claimed she didn’t actually practice BDSM herself. Every kinkster I knew believed her. There were too many problems with the books, and not just because she portrayed some unsafe practices.

You may have been fantasizing about a particular act or orientation for years, but fantasies are an unreliable guide. So are many stories. To hear some people talk about sex between women, scissoring is the be-all and end-all. In 35 years of sex with women, I have yet to scissor. I can’t even figure out the instructions.

Trying to write about an unfamiliar sexual subculture or practice has serious pitfalls. My personal favorite is a slash fan-fiction story in which one gay man “fisted” another’s cock. I had outrageous visions of one man plunging his whole hand into the other’s urethra. The author didn’t know about anal or vaginal fisting (the practice of slowly, gently inserting the whole well-lubricated hand inside your partner); she just wanted to say that her character grabbed a cock in his fist. Oops.

So does this mean you can never use your imagination, or that you have to limit yourself to writing your own experiences? Not at all. There is a place for research in erotica, as with any other fiction.

1. Read all about it. First, check out the how-to manuals and memoirs. In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of useful and informative books about all kinds of sex. There are superb books on the theory and practice of same-sex love, just about every form of BDSM, erotic hypnotism, enema play, fisting (both vaginal and anal), and more forms of sensation play than I can name. Now that ebooks are so common, you can download anything in peace and privacy.

Check out reviews in places like Goodreads or specialty forums before you buy; not all books are created equal. Steer toward nonfiction; many fictional depictions are inaccurate or actively unsafe. Movies can show how things work physically, but most are insanely unrealistic about the culture and feelings of participants.

Then you may want to go to the library, preferably a university library. Your local library may allow interlibrary loan from nearby academic libraries. You would be amazed what you can find in scholarly books. There are serious psychological and philosophical studies of homosexuality, transgender, transvestism, sadomasochism, and other sexual variations. Books on queer studies and gender studies may be densely written, but they can also offer insights.

Learn about safety, culture, history, and terminology. Read enough to understand how various members of the subculture relate to their sexual practices and to others who share their orientation. You’ll discover that every subculture is a cluster of micro-cultures, some of them deadly foes and others allies. Practices that seem the same to the outsider may have entirely different meanings. A drag queen and a sissy maid both dress in feminine garb, but their aims and clothing are profoundly dissimilar. And both are different from a transgender woman. Know the distinctions, or you’ll piss everybody off—including your intended audience.

2. Make friends in the community. The Internet makes this a thousand times easier than it was twenty years ago. If you’re writing about people who take on animal personas, find an online forum for furries. (And learn the difference between furries and yiffing.) Lurk first. Reading forum threads and participating in group chats are excellent ways to understand a subculture. Approach individuals with respect. Remember, they are not here as zoo displays, nor are they obliged to answer intrusive questions.

You may also find in-person meet-ups where people gather to meet others who share their tastes. Some are informal, public events (sometimes called munches) where people dress in ordinary clothes and don’t do anything more surprising than drink diet soda. Others are parties or clubs where people go to play—a word that has a much broader meaning than you may be aware of. Look for events for newbies. Not everyone is lucky enough to live in an urban area where there are plenty of venues, but even rural areas have their gatherings. I used to drive 110 miles to go to BDSM parties in a neighboring state.

3. Practice, practice, practice. When you learn specific techniques from a book—for example, how to peg your partner with a strap-on—test it out in person with a willing volunteer. When I first started pegging, I was startled and impressed at the sense of power it gave me. I was also surprised that relatively small motions could create such an intense reaction. That’s something I wouldn’t have known without doing it myself.

Now excuse me. I have a naked woman in my bed, and we’re going to try to see if we can manage to scissor without falling off or breaking an ankle.

***

Lorelei Powers, also known as Mistress Lorelei (pronounced LOR-eh-lye, and named for Germany’s famous siren of the Rhine River whose seductive music lured sailors to their doom), is the author of the BDSM how-to classics The Mistress Manual and A Charm School for Sissy Maids, as well as the short story collection On Display. She is a bisexual, polyamorous sadist and lifestyle Domme. She has started using her surname to avoid confusion with her respected colleagues, Lorelei Lee or Lorelei of BedroomBondage.com.

By profession, Lorelei Powers is a writer and editor. Under various other names she has published a number of books, articles, and stories. She also teaches writing classes, gives workshops and presentations on BDSM technique, and offers private coaching sessions by phone or in person for Dom/mes and submissives.

She blogs about BDSM at The Mistress Manual and about sex, feminism, politics, and naked men in bondage at Gallery of Dangerous Women. Follow her Twitter feed at @MsLorelei

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