Why some people look down on erotica…

04 Mar

I believe that all of the best writing, whether it’s erotic or literary or genre or journalistic, takes practice and skill before mastery is achieved. It can be as difficult to learn to write a great erotic story as it is to write a great story of other types. To be able to create your own distinctive universe where your characters meet, talk, screw and/or kink out, is not an easy accomplishment.

One of the earliest magazines I edited and wrote for...each coverline came right from my sexual psyche or pop culture interests.

However, in one important aspect erotica is a less demanding form of fiction writing for the simple reason that it doesn’t take all that much to turn people on, if you are basically giving them what they’re looking for. For example, if you hand a poorly written femdom story to a submissive man, it still might turn him on if there are nuggets in the tale that capture his fantasies.

As an editor, as well as a reader of online fiction written by any number of anonymous souls, I’ve been constantly amazed at how weakly written amateur stories can be really hot in spite of their poor grammar or structure. But it makes sense, because it is the stimulation of body rather than the mind that is the primary goal of porn, erotica, smut, or whatever you want to call it, and the body is easily titillated. A single apt turn of phrase in an otherwise crummy tale can do the trick.

If a person, not necessarily a trained writer, puts down his or her fantasies honestly, or at least passionately, and with a modicum of intelligibility, there are bound to be some people out there who will get aroused when they read such jottings.

On the other hand, if an unskilled scribe attempts to craft a mystery, even with honesty, passion, and intelligibility, the odds are high that it will excite nobody, because the challenges and complexities of writing a mystery are usually too much for the novice. In this sense it’s harder to write a mystery than an erotic story, for the simple reason you can’t fall back on the biological urges that can so readily be triggered by the right smutty passage in an otherwise lumpy pile of pornographic pulp.

Attempts by tyros at most other literary categories, from literature to westerns to thrillers to romance, are often hopelessly bad with no available fallback on the libido, as in erotica. Of course it doesn’t mean that, given time and effort, beginners in all these fields can’t develop the necessary skills to succeed.

Most people understand all this instinctively–even unconsciously–about erotica, and from this comes their attitude that somehow erotica is not “real” writing…or at all challenging to write. Everybody knows how easily and quickly our individual arousal buttons can be pushed by the right words or images, and so they figure it doesn’t take all that much skill to write horny material. Unfortunately, they can be correct.

But–when you read a great piece of horny prose, the skills utilized are obvious to the discerning eye.

Still, all this is one big reason for the never-ending condescension of the civilians (as some of us pornsters call people outside of the business) toward the art and craft of erotica writing. Such condescension and misunderstanding are occupational hazards to be encountered at parties, family gatherings, or wherever such civilians gather. “You write what? Oh, I didn’t know magazines actually paid people to write stuff like that.” (Snicker, titter, smirk, gasp!)

On the contrary, they did–and sometimes very nicely indeed.

...and one of the more recent. The main covergirl is like the 1950s paperback femmes fatale that I love.


I found the covers of the magazines at the great online source for vintage publications, I don’t work for them, but I love to browse in their site and scroll through more than thirty years worth of titles I worked for. So visit sometime.


Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Erotica


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Why some people look down on erotica…

  1. Herman Glimsher

    March 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    wrong to downplay how “easy” it is to turn people on… au contraire, I think it is the hardest (pun intended) thing in the world!!

    • irvoneil

      March 6, 2012 at 12:18 am

      No, I stand by what I wrote, Herman, but let me expand on it because your comment makes me realize I should have had this in the original post. The creative situation is analogous to photography: amateurs can produce great pictures every now and then–I remember being startled by a photo taken by my grandmother at Coney Island in the 1930s. It was just something that was in her family scrapbook. She just caught a great moment with her box camera. But amateurs generally cannot deliver the great photographs consistently. I think the same is true with erotic writers. Sure, amateurs can come up with something hot now and then, sprung fresh from their passion–but it takes the seasoned masters of the art and craft to produce the heat time and time again.

      Thanks for helping me realize I should have said this, because I would be the last person to say it’s easy to write good erotica on a regular basis!

  2. Herman Glimsher

    March 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    I see …valid point, but rarely do the efforts of the amateur who has somehow stumbled on a transcendent boing-boing moment match those of the professional, who not only with consistency but with a finely tuned pen can dive into the confiserie of pleasure, the creamy cunnificence of the artful pornographer.

    • irvoneil

      March 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Artfully put, Herman. So on many points we are in agreement. Now all that remains is to educate the masses to these qualities which the pornographic professional brings to the table, a few of which you have just demonstrated with the verbal virtuosity of your comment!


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