Erotica Writing and Responsibility

Lisabet Sarai has a post up about kink erotica and responsibility, especially about a sexual assault case in NZ that involved adapting scenarios from Fifty Shades of Grey, without other kink knowledge or education. (To be clear, and serve as a trigger warning: the sexual assault involved a stalker ex who disguised himself to act out scenarios they learned from FSOG with his ex, who did not know it was him; this is described in more detail in the link.)

Sarai grapples with the question of erotica and responsibility: “Our books are not how-to manuals. We’re writing to challenge, engage, and arouse our readers, not teach them about sex. Yet clearly our readers do learn from our books – sometimes not what we intend. Should this bother us? Or should we just shrug off the people who take us literally, even when they might come to physical or emotional harm? Is it really their problem? Or is it ours?”

I’m glad we are grappling with these questions as erotica writers, and there is a public forum to discuss them.

I wrote a brief comment summarizing what I wrote at length in this post, saying that I do assume that folks might learn about kink from my erotica. I learned about kink from books first. So I take that into account when I publish erotica, and make sure that my work reflects my kink ethics and knowledge, especially around negotiation and consent.

She responded, and it’s a response I will cherish, because it is a sign that I may be accomplishing these goals in my work:

“Your stories are among the more extreme that I’ve read, but I recognize and respect your emphasis on consent. You’ve managed to crack the riddle – how to maintain the heat while still emphasizing personal responsibility and the relationship between the Dom and the sub.”

There’s the beginnings of a lively conversation on the ERWA blog on this subject. Perhaps you would like to lend your voice to it?

4 thoughts on “Erotica Writing and Responsibility

  1. Great topic. Xan, I’ll echo Sarai’s comment: I have learned a lot from your stories about how to artfully include realistic consent and negotiation while maintaining the heat that we work so hard to produce. If I recall correctly, it was your story in ‘Say Please’ that corresponded with my increasing resolve and desire to write hot, kinky, hard consensual erotica. I have been more and more conscious of topics of consent, negotiation and safer sex practices in the erotica I read and write. I’ve seen some awkward approaches, but we all go through awkward phases while we’re learning, that shouldn’t scare us off.

    Like you, I learned about and discovered BDSM and formal kink through books. I did seem them as instructional manuals, even if that wasn’t the intent of the author. As I gained experience, I began to understand the gap between reality and a fantasy world of no diseases and no unintended consequences.


  2. Kyle,

    Thanks for your comment, and your kind words about my work. That story in Say Please is one that I worked really hard on in terms of representing my own ethics.

    I wonder about the idea that consent and negotiation are in tension/opposition with heat. In my sex and play life, consent and negotiation are a pre-requisite for heat; it’s lack of consent and negotiation that are likely to kill my hard on, even as a voyeur.
    I find that this concept of consent/negotiation in opposition to heat is not just a worry in erotica, but is something some folks feel in their play/sex as well—that sex/play is better without negotiation and consent, that discussing what we want and are up for spoils the moment, or at least that we risk losing heat if we negotiate too much or have too much consent. When I teach negotiation this often comes up, particularly among straight participants, as there are such clear (and highly gendered) scripts for straight sexual negotiation and they generally do not involve explicit consent or much verbalized negotiation.

    I agree that over-planning is a common pitfall, and that many folks dislike lengthy explicit scripting of their play/sex. I wonder if planning and scripting get conflated with negotiation. I also know from the negotiation classes I’ve taught that folks imagine negotiation as being a very dry conversation; I generally find that it revs me up, and is not dry at all.

    If folks find these things dry, boring, and generally not hot in their sex lives, I could see why it is even more of a worry in erotica. But also how it could be vital and important to offer as another model, and erotica could be a wonderful place to do that. I still remember the first sexual partner I had who really insisted on consent, wanted not just the absence of a no but the presence of a yes, of my desire, and how intense and powerful that was, how transformative, to even imagine that was a way sex could go. Erotica feels like a vital arena for presenting the many different ways we could make negotiation and consent hot for the parties involved and for the reader.

    By the way, there is a post on this site offering links to examples of how other writers have presented consent, as well as one of my own. (


  3. Pingback: Aftercare: In Kink and Erotica | Kink Praxis

  4. Pingback: How we talk about play | Kink Praxis

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