How Writing Erotica Changed My Sex Life

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literotica1Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
I owe my career in erotica to one controversial woman who made headlines in 1999: Monica Lewinsky. While muddling through law school, I had been reading a lot of sexy lit. So, when I noticed a call for celebrity erotica stories — to be compiled into a collection called, appropriately enough, Starf*cker — I penned a fictional story called “Monica and Me,” in which “me” and Monica get it on.

That story was published in 2000, and I’ve been writing and editing erotica ever since. No, I don’t sit around all day and picture how to get character A naked so she can ravish character B. Instead, my ideas usually come from a far more personal place.

I can draw a pretty clear line between my pre-erotica vs. post-erotica lives, the key being that after I started writing it, I became more open to sexual adventure and discovery. To be clear: I wasn’t a prude before. But, once I was channeling my sex life and and fantasies into fiction, I started to let loose. I worried less about what other people might think, and I began to value sexual exploration in the same way I had prioritized travel or learning about art. Erotica helps me identify and process the way my sexual mind works, which in turn shows me how far I want (and don’t want) to go in the physical world.

The first stories I wrote were rooted in my personal experiences and fantasies, from my first lap dance to my first sex party to an array of crushes. But, the deeper into the world of dirty-lit I got, the more I found I could learn about myself by writing characters who were quite different from me. Trying to picture what sex might be like for a trans guy or a straight man challenged me. I discovered that my job as a writer was to find out what it was about a specific scenario that pushed my character’s buttons.
literotica2Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Erotica can also be a way to better understand what I’ve done sexually — after I’ve done it. Once, after an intense BDSM session in which my lover struck me with a belt, leaving bruises, I wrote about the experience as a way to figure out what had made it so exhilarating. I wasn’t psychoanalyzing myself; I was simply forcing myself to articulate why, exactly, it turned me on. In erotica stories, as in any story, you can’t just say, “It's sexy because it's sexy.” If you do, the story will leave readers cold; you have to show them why it's sexy.

I’ve been writing erotica for almost 15 years now, and it still pushes me to uncomfortable places. Yet, those are exactly the stories that teach me the most. I'm still learning about the secret desires lurking deep in my psyche. They aren’t necessarily things that would come up while talking dirty with a partner; they aren’t even always things I’d want to admit. This isn’t because I’m ashamed, but rather because these fantasies exist in a mental space where "anything goes" — where there are no judgments or consequences for entertaining an erotic impulse. That’s an almost-impossible space to achieve in real life; no matter how open-minded we may try to be, we are all human, and have our own preconceived prejudices. Writing erotica is a safe way to come to grips with my kinks, especially the ones I only realize as I’m writing a scene.

For example, I once wrote a story of a professional submissive whose client wanted her to call him “Daddy" — and it turned her on incredibly. In real life, that kind of role-playing isn’t really my thing, but in that fantasy space, I can tap into the aspects that do make it hot: It’s taboo, she's surrendering control, and she's getting paid for it. That’s something people miss when they take erotic entertainment too literally; just as someone might get off on watching porn about something they don’t want to try in real life, erotica writers can craft fictions that may turn us on — but only on the page.
literotica3Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Erotica has also made me more open-minded when real life sneaks up and surprises me. Last year, I was on a plane and sat near a man twice my age (74 to my 37). We wound up talking about erotica after he noticed the racy bookmark I was using, and the conversation took a flirtatious turn. I never thought I would find a guy in his seventies attractive, but I did. I was able to notice and appreciate this without being put off or wondering “what it meant" — because I'd already tested those waters in a story of mine. In this way, writing can work like training wheels, opening our minds to possibilities.

When I access that mental place where I can be completely unfettered, I tend to go to some taboo places, and it’s those that I’m most interested in. Many of my stories have a humorous element, but some tap into something deeper — such as one about a woman who is spanked until she cries. There’s something cathartic about picturing that scenario, even if my own activities don’t go quite that far. If the brain is the biggest sex organ, then developing my erotic sense via the page is the first step in expanding my own sex life. Writing down the fictional stories that unnerve me (whether they’re about a rape fantasy or a nudist club or having multiple partners when I’m in a monogamous relationship) serves a bigger purpose: It unlocks those ideas. Then, I get to decide what — if anything — I want to do with them.