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in defence of erotica

Penis, vagina, bum, boobies, sex. Say it with me now: penis, vagina, bum, boobies, sex. Loud and proud! PENIS, VAGINA, BUM, BOOBIES, SEX! Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s crank it up a notch: dickmeat, cock train, slutslot, jerries, stash. Dickmeat, cock train, slutslot jerries, stash. Try saying that ten times fast.

Yes, that’s right, in this month’s column I’m talking about S-E-X. More specifically I’m talking about writing sex and that oft-misunderstood literary genre: erotica. Erotica, loosely defined, is literature which focuses on titillating scenes and explicit sexual descriptions. It differs from pornographic writing in that its primary objective is not sexual arousal. According to Woody Allen, ‘with erotica you use a feather; with porn you use the whole chicken.’

Like any literary genre the boundaries of erotica are blurred and the term covers all manner of sins. There is erotic fan fiction where diehard fans sit down at their computers and write about the sexual escapades of their favourite fictional characters and celebrities. Jar Jar Binks and Padme Amidala have a passionate affair on the planet Naboo while Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson struggle to keep their pants on during the search for the missing naval treaty. Then there are the classics of erotic fiction such as the work of Anais Nin. And again like any literary genre there is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let’s start with the bad. There are hundreds of terrible writers out there who are giving erotica a bad name. E.L. James I’m looking at you. Yes, I have to mention the elephant in the room although I would much rather pretend it didn’t exist…Fifty Shades of Grey. Why has this book become so popular? I don’t get it. James has about as much finesse with erotica as a fish has with walking. ‘My inner goddess is doing the meringue with some salsa moves.’ Inner goddess? Really? ‘His lips are parted – he’s waiting, coiled to strike… Desire – acute, liquid and smouldering, combusts deep in my belly.’ Sounds like she has some digestive issues to me, but nothing a bit of Metamucil wouldn’t fix.

If you’re searching for well-written sex then look no further than Brisbane-based author Krissy Kneen. Kneen’s memoir, Affection, deals with sex in such a beautiful, tender way that I didn’t even bat an eyelid during the explicit threesome scenes. Her most recent book, Triptych, is a little more confronting. It includes the usual sex, you know, human and human, but then it also slips in sex between a human and a horse. But wait, there’s more: underwater sex… between a woman and an octopus. I haven’t been able to look at baby octopus salad in the same way since.

While I may not find the idea of sex with an octopus arousing I can appreciate the sensuous language, well-crafted scenes and erotic nature of the book. Who isn’t turned on by a creative sentence and damn fine punctuation? It is good erotica. From bestiality to incest, Kneen tackles the most unsettling of sexual taboos and exposes the pleasure behind them. And that, after all, is what erotica is about — pleasure.

If that sounds a little too intense then I suggest you turn to Nicholson Baker. His most recent novel, House of Holes, is surreal, hilarious, and chock-a-block full of sex. By the third page of the book a woman is having her breasts groped by a bodiless arm called Dave’s arm and before long Dave’s arm has transported her to the House of Holes, a mysterious sex resort where every wild and wacky sexual fantasy is available. In chapter three, a woman called Luna arrives at the House of Holes thinking she is going to see a concert of Russian piano music. Instead she is strapped into a ‘pussy cradle’ with her legs through two holes in the wall. The long-dead composer Alexander Borodin begins to play her right leg as if it were a piano while Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov plays his piano transcription of Scherazade on her left leg. Meanwhile a guy named Chuck is pushing her ‘frilly doilies of labial flesh’ aside with his ‘thundertube of dickmeat.’

The ridiculous and disturbing elements of this book are rendered entertaining through Baker’s original writing style and ingenious use of euphemisms. The book has plenty of the usual vagina, cock and tits, but it takes it one step further with phrases such as ‘his cock train was commuting in and out of her pussyhole’ and ‘simmering chickenshack.’ It’s crude and absurd but also enjoyable. So I’m begging you, put down Fifty Shades of Grey and treat yourself to good erotica. No inner goddess doing the salsa in your lady parts. No liquid desire messing with your digestion. Just well-written sex.

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One thought on “in defence of erotica

  1. Unfortunately one woman read Fifty Shades and told another woman to read, and she told another and another etc. And the problem is, none of them knew about decent sex or erotica, they were obviously just sex starved and word of mouth led to millions reading it and the publisher putting it out without bothering to read it or edit it. Which is why it sucks balls!

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