Friday, April 29, 2011

The written word - Opening Doors

Romance and Erotic in written form have been around for centuries. The French and Orientals have been entertaining those who could read since the middle ages, much of it a great deal earlier. True, not everyone had access to books or could read way back then, but it was there. The doors had been opened if only to the rich and idle.

A sample from Stuart's Taste of the Orient

Let us now lock the double door with its golden lock,
And light the lamp to fill our room with its brilliance,
I shed my robes and remove my paint and powder,
And roll out the picture scroll by the side of the pillow,
The plain girl I shall take as my instructress,
So that we can practice all the variegated postures,
Those that an ordinary husband has but rarely seen,
Such as taught by T'ien-lao to the Yellow Emperor,
No joy shall equal the delights of this first night,
These shall never be forgotten, however old we may grow.

Chang Heng A.D. 78-139

But, when you look at attitudes of the readers, what's really changed? There are only so many ways tab A can fit into slot B, although we like to think we dream new ones up with each generation.

The internet has shown us new doors and new attitudes towards both readers and writers of erotica. It used to be men were the accepted authors of the Penthouse and Playboy stories. That seems to have changed and many men are now taking on female pen names in order to get their stories published. I don't know what the stats are on who's buying the books and stories, whether more men or women read the naughty stories you and I write, but I bet it's closer to even than ever. I could also be completely wrong here, but I just get the feeling I'm not.

What I feel needs to be addressed or at least thought of is the way the general public relate, or can't relate, to us, the authors, of the smut/romance/erotica they read.

Pen names give the author a cloak of secrecy. We hide behind it knowing, in many cases, that if our true names are found out, all H*ll would break loose, as I've seen with the outing of a couple of friends. Romance and erotic romance outsell every other genre according to stats I've seen. Yet, the authors of this sensually driven fantasies are badgered and bullied for creating the books readers all seem to crave.

For myself, those doors, the ones where readers can't understand that we are not what we write. Read that line again:

Writers are not what they write.

Stephan King did not go to cemeteries and dig up dead cats or loved ones. There were no aliens buried in the back yard, thinner wasn't real, honest!

It's not okay to email a romance author and suggest, blatantly, that if she only had a REAL man she wouldn't need to be a lesbian. OR! It's really not okay to send a complete stranger an email telling them their hot and you want to f**k them or have them do strange and wonderful things to you. This list could go on for pages. How many romance or erotica authors have taken pen names in order to protect themselves, not only from being discovered by their boss' or co-workers, but by strangers who seem to think the title author makes it okay to stock, harass or terrorize someone?

These are doors we've perhaps opened without realizing what could happen. The internet is an entirely new world, a new door, and it's just now becoming a place a great number of people use daily. The morals of a world wide society, that's what this door is and we're struggling to explain it, live within it and even define it. On one hand, we have the ultra conservative who wants all things personal kept away from adults and children alike. On the other hand we have those who feel to censor anything is wrong. Plus all the millions in between those two hands.

Maybe this door will force human kind to grow up. But, maybe we've opened a Pandora's box dooming us all. What do you think?


Nichelle Gregory said...

Excellent post, Jude! I think we've definitely opened the lid on Pandora's box and there's just no way to tell what's waiting for us at the bottom.

The internet is/has been a wonderful door, but it's got an ugly side that we've only seen the tip of I'm sure.

Pen names for many authors are necessary. Privacy and anonymity is a personal choice. A wise one I think in this day and technological age. Even with a pen name there's no guarantee you won't be outed as we've seen with Judy Mays insane situation, but many of us still want some cloak between us and the readers who think they know us by what we write.

Have a great weekend!

Tim Smith said...

Jude, you've brought up some excellent points, especially in light of recent happenings.

I guess I'm going against the grain because as you know, I'm a man writing straight erotic romance under my own name. I thought of using a pen name but decided against it becuase I already had a following for my previous books. None of my friends, family or co-workers have looked down on me or labeled me a degenerate pornographer. I work in the public sector, but so far my second career hasn't caused me any problems like those experienced by Ms. Mays. I wish her and everyone else who is subjected to that kind of narrow-mindedness success in overcoming it. Why be ashamed of what you write and hide behind a veil of secrecy?

Let's keep opening doors!

Tim Smith

Connie Northrop said...

I understand what you're saying and I've seen a few people harassed for what they write and I've had people look down their noses when they see what I read. I hope the new doors force people to grow up but I'm afraid it may be a slower evolution than we would like.

Ray said...

If those who criticize what we read were as insightful as the author of this piece they wouldn't be so quick to condemn.

Take a bow Jude.


Celine Chatillon said...

The Internet has sped up the "unmasking process" I think. The general public has always been bent on discovering who is actually behind the pen name, so it's a new phenomena. Alas,the Internet also speeds up the process of causing that unmasked author hell by ridicule and cries of censorship for the sake of the children.

In a way, authors can take comfort in knowing many classic tales were also censored--Huckleberry Finn, for instance. If we keep our dignity as authors, we'll weather this latest insanity and come out with our dignity intact.

Jude Mason said...

Thank you all for your comments. This is a topic I'm sure will come up again and be just as volatile, at least for a while. It's just so sad we 'civilized' people seem so hell bent on denying the joy of the written word if it concerns sex.


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Jude,

Thanks for your thoughtful post, all the more relevant given the recent events involving Judy Mays.

I do think that readers are interested in finding out more about the authors of the books they enjoy. I've observed that the most popular writers, at least in the romance genre, are those who engage their readers in conversations, who portray themselves as real people. At the same time, we have to consciously construct our authorly identities, not only to protect our privacy but also to shield our readers from prosaic details that perhaps don't fit with the image we'd like to convey.

It's a tricky question, how much to reveal. And it is definitely critical that we be aware of the dangers.