In my smut, I endeavor to describe sex and bodies so trans readers are less likely to be jolted out of erotic engagement. That is one of my primary goals in my erotica. I write with the intention that at least one, but often all, of the characters can be read as trans by a trans reader, even if they are not clearly marked as trans. (Though much of my work does center trans characters, including quite a few stories where more than one character is trans.)
A few notes before I jump in
Much of my printed work that does not center characters that are marked as trans is gay erotica. There are a few reasons for this, that mostly boil down to that much of my work is written to a specific call, and there have been more gay markets. I also want to name that my general lean in trans and genderqueer characters is toward masculinely gendered folks and genderfluid genderqueers. I have been fairly focused on meeting my own needs as a trans reader, and that means I’ve been mostly writing trans genders I have been. This is a major bias in my published erotica to date.
I am a white CAFAB genderqueer person whose gender has morphed throughout my life, and included gender fluid femme, gender switch, trans fag and tg stone butch identities. I’m writing from that experience, and cannot speak for the incredible diversity of trans writers and readers out there. Because of my place of privilege as a masculinely gendered white trans person, it is likely that I am going to enact unconscious transmisogyny and racism in this blog series, as in my writing as a whole. I welcome critical responses, if you would like to share them (either in comments or via email).
Most importantly: Please take this blog series and more specifically my strategies for writing erotica for trans readers as one voice of many on the subject, and seek out other trans perspectives.
My strategies for writing for trans readers One thing I do when writing for trans readers is attempt to avoid describing acts that are likely to create a disruptive experience. This is a fairly difficult project, as I know best what kinds of things are disruptive for me as a trans reader. I do what I can to make best guesses in this area, but it is certain that I do not know all the sorts of things that might create disruptive erotic reading experiences for trans readers. I would love to hear about the erotic reading experiences of other trans folks (either in comments or via email). I will listen carefully and attempt to take your thoughts into consideration in my future writing.
Despite the multiple stories I have written with group sex, I don’t include a lot of sex that has someone getting fucked in the ass and simultaneously in a front hole or cunt, because that can be a disruptive experience for trans readers. I have written a couple of stories that have or imply this sort of penetration; in those stories I have endeavored to leave room for at least one of the other characters to be read as trans. Similarly, I don’t generally include detailed descriptions of bukake, or CBT, or piss play that specifies a cock as the source of piss. I have on occasion written stories that do involve piss play of that sort; in those stories I attempted to leave room for at least one of the other characters to be read as trans.
I frequently choose not to describe character’s bodies in detail (especially in a gendered way). Erotica as a genre often leans hard in the other direction. This is one of the main ways I attempt to make my erotica accessible to trans and genderqueer folks, try to prevent the common experience of being jolted out of a story that I described in part 1 of this blog series.
I recently read a roundtable discussion among science fiction writers discussing non-binary gender in science fiction. Benjanun Sriduangkaew discusses a particular choice around describing bodies:
“One of the things that I really loved about Ancillary Justice is that Ann Leckie doesn’t spend a lot of time on describing her characters’ bodies—we don’t have much of an inkling on what Breq, Skaaiat, Awn or Anaander look like. We’re occasionally told one is ’handsome’ but there’s no indicator as to where they are round or where they are narrow, so to speak! I take a similar approach; a character might be tall and pale, but I don’t talk about hips or chests.”
I avoid describing bodies in a way that is a bit different from my understanding of what Sriduangkaew is describing. My characters are often very gendered, but in ways that are not attached to specific body parts. When I reference chests, cocks or cunts, I rarely describe them in detail; a deliberate choice that is about preventing trans readers from having a jarring erotic experience that can come with such description. Similarly, I often make the choice to not name where folks are being penetrated, unless it’s an orifice that is common to many, like a mouth or an asshole.
I have written a lot of smut that centers trans characters, often more than one trans character, which is summarized here should you wish to check it out. I want to give a few examples from stories that do not center characters that are explicitly marked as trans; this will hopefully illustrate my overall approach.
“Facing the Dark” (printed in Backdraft: Firemen Erotica) is a story told from the POV of a man who particularly enjoys topping firemen, and Colin, the fireman who seeks him out to bottom to him in a cathartic scene. Here are a couple moments when I describe Colin, without focusing on his body in a way that might prevent a range of trans folks from identifying with him:
- “I refocused on the man in front of me, and looked him over. He had newly healing burn scars on his thick neck. His hands were large, the forearm muscles well developed. His eyes were haunted. Yep. He was a fireman. Direct. Bold. Scarred. Strong. Just my type.”
- “I stood silently, inspecting him, walking around him, my boots resounding on the floor. He stood, head up, arms neatly by his side, just waiting. The burn scars ran down his neck and left shoulder. I have never played with a fireman who didn’t have scars, or that haunted look in his eyes. His scars were pink and new. I touched them lightly.”
This description does not mark his body in a gendered way, and hopefully leaves open a range of identifications. If anything, the physical description focuses mostly on the thing that is important to the top: that he is the sort of fireman that is just his type. It is the only physical description of Colin outside of play or sex. I barely describe the top character at all, in terms of his body; the intention is to leave him open to identification for a range of trans folks.
A good portion of the BDSM play in this story centers on Colin’s chest, from rough body play, to caning, to fire play. I wrote it using the words chest, pecs, and nipples, leaving it open to imagination and the needs of the reader. Colin could likely be read as a cisgender gay man, a trans fag, a masculinely gendered genderqueer. Most masculinely gendered trans folks could probably read themselves into these passages without being jolted out of the story. Here is an excerpt. As a heads up, it describes pain play, specifically cathartic rough body play.
“Punching on the pecs is one of my favorite things. With a guy like this, who is so strong, to make the kind of impact I want, I needed to up the ante. My lead shot gloves do that nicely. I rammed my fist into him, and felt the difference. Punches on the pecs are hardest on the mind. Blows are coming dangerously close to your face, but you are supposed to offer yourself to them. The deep impact jolts the wind out of you, and makes you feel like you have no defenses, like your strength won’t protect you. I could see it register with him, now, as I slammed force into him—that he was giving up his armor; that he had no control, had given it to me; that he was naked before me, and I was going to reach inside and take what I wanted from him.
My dick was throbbing as I watched him take it. He kept balanced, breathed with it, but his eyes just looked so raw and young all of a sudden, like I had reached past his toughness, slid through whatever was haunting him and found the part of him that was vulnerable and hurting. I just kept pounding him, knowing it was going to break through, watching for it, until it burst through his eyes. Tears slid down his face and he just kept standing there and taking it, letting it bubble out and through. It was gorgeous to watch. What courage that takes. I soaked it in, not holding back, relentless as I slammed into him, letting the dam wash through him and out his eyes.
I slid off my gloves and rubbed my cheek against his chest, feeling the heat come off in waves. I reached my head up and tenderly licked up the fruit that had fallen from his eyes. I slid my tongue into his mouth deeply and fed him back all the pride I had for him, that he was so brave for me; just rushed all of that out of my mouth and into his. I closed off his nose and breathed it into his lungs, willing him to take in the vision of him in my eyes.”
When these characters fuck, I try to describe it in a way that will not jar folks out of the story. I talk about cocks, and dicks, and holes. I do not describe either character’s cock; both are named without description, letting them be what the reader wants them to be. (I know that as trans folks we might imagine them in a range of ways that align with how we fuck.) I do not describe holes in detail, other than using words like warm and tight, and occasionally specifying ass and mouth.
I do use the words spurt and cream when talking about orgasms, but do not describe in more detail than that. I think it is there that some folks might get jarred out of the story. I do not personally get jarred by that sort of language, as it is part of my orgasmic experience. It often feels gender-affirming to me, as long as there are no detailed descriptions of ejaculation. Some trans folks who fuck with cocks (however we conceive of them) use that kind of language around orgasm. That said, it is one area where my guess is trans readers may differ in our experience.
Here is another example.
In my short piece “The Test”, (printed in Got A Minute?), a femme bottom sucks cock in a public bathroom in an attempt to pass the test of a butch dominant, so that the dominant might take her on as a novice. In the story, neither character is described physically, leaving them pretty open to identification. The femme bottom could possibly be read as a femme trans guy, a femme cis dyke, a femme genderqueer, a femme trans woman. The butch top could be a tg butch, a masculine genderqueer, a trans man, a butch trans woman, a butch cis dyke. (Or at least that’s what I hope.)
As the scene begins, the protagonist describes herself as “dripping wet”. As it continues, she references her clit, her pussy, her ass and her nipples, without describing them. The most description focuses on her mouth, referring to it a few times as wet. This hopefully leaves her open to identification to a range of femme trans folks. The top’s cock is not described beyond references to a head and a base, which hopefully allows a range of trans folks who like getting their cocks sucked to identify as the top. Here is an excerpt to give you an idea of what this kind of thing might look like. As a heads up, the cocksucking scene includes a description of humiliation play and sexual objectification.
“’Yeah baby, work your mouth on my cock,’ you mutter. ‘You love the feel of my cock in your mouth, don’t you slut? You’ve been thinking about this for days, you nasty slut. It’s consumed you. You’ve been imagining yourself on your knees, sucking me off. You’ve been wondering if you can pass this test. It’s been distracting you, frightening you, turning you on, imagining my cock down your throat. Come on dirty slut, take all of my cock. Suck me harder. Like that. Faster. Take it all in. Show me what a good cocksucker you are.’
The world disappears. All that’s left is my mouth, your cock, and your words insinuating themselves into my pussy, grabbing my clit, pinching my nipples. My ass contracts as your words thrust themselves into me. I take your cock into my wet hole deeper and harder, in time with the hard thrusts of your words. Your words urge me on, encourage me to open wider, take you in, thrust my mouth onto you, savor the feel of you in my throat.”
This story includes an orgasm that does not refer to specifics around come, which I think might open it up further to identification for a range of folks. There is no money shot, no detailed description of anyone’s sexualized body, and hopefully the absence of these common elements of erotica make this story one that a range of folks can identify with.
In Part 3, I discuss what it means to not include detailed descriptions of body parts, and ways to meet the needs of readers that are usually met by those descriptions. In other words, I address the question of what might be missing in this approach.