Hard Copy: Violet Fenn on the perils of writing erotica – when others overshare
I’ve always been open about the fact that when I started writing erotica I had no real background in it. I’ve written for years, but mostly articles about music or the paranormal; erotica was a big leap for me.
Even now that I’ve had several erotica titles published (and more in the pipeline), I’m well aware that my personal background is vanilla to say the least, given that I’m a forty-something straight mum of two who lives in suburbia with a long term partner. Reading that back I am managing to bore myself. Do try to stay awake at the back, now.
Ignorantly, I assumed that all my friends were similar – after all, we had similar backgrounds both socially and sexually, at least as far as average chats over coffee would suggest. But one of the first things I discovered about other people’s newly formed perceptions of me as someone who writes about sex is that they suddenly decided they could tell me anything. Anything.
After the inevitable ‘Ooh that must be so much fun’ conversation with an acquaintance, not long after I’d my first erotica piece published, she informed me apropos of nothing (and in the supermarket, of all places) that she’d always fancied having sex in the middle of a particular town centre graveyard but had never mentioned it to her husband in case he found it offensive.
At my own mother’s wedding earlier this year, one of her friends asked me loudly how I’d got into erotica as she’d ‘always fancied a go,’ whilst her husband smiled nervously and backed into the wisteria.
Someone that I’d always assumed to have a very happy marriage whispered to me at a party that she was pretty sure that she preferred women, but had never had the heart to upset her husband by being honest about it.
I rapidly became a repository for other people’s confessions. A pervy priest, if you will. But what really boggled my mind was how quickly I discovered that the more ‘average’ a person looked, the more likely it was that they were secretly playing stranglewank games with the neighbours whilst their partners were out at work.
Early in 2013 I was interviewed a national women’s magazine and as more real life people realised what I was doing, the confessional floodgates opened. One of the first emails I received was from a lady I’d known online for years through parenting forums and who had thus far seemed the quiet type (yes, I know). It turned out that she had a part time job as a sub in a city centre dungeon, and would I like to visit (I am definitely going to visit!).
I’d always assumed I was quite au fait with the variations of people’s sexual proclivities. After all, I’m an open-minded woman who’s been around the block a bit in her youth – nothing should shock me, right? And nothing really does shock me, except the increasingly obvious gap in my knowledge.
I’m not oblivious – I did know the mechanics of most kinks – I just hadn’t realised quite how many of my own friends were indulging in them. Some of this is obviously down to the ‘Fifty Shades Effect’ – people who previously wouldn’t have done anything more saucy than buy the occasional pot of Ann Summers chocolate body paint as a jokey gift are now determinedly taking control of their libido and perusing sex toy sites recommendations with gusto. And more power to their masturbatory elbow, say I.
But why this desire to suddenly tell all, and to me in particular? A lot of it is down to the fact that secrets are the most fun when we’re telling someone about them and if you can raise a few eyebrows at the time, then all the better. I’m a safe option – I will most likely squeal with delighted surprise, but not actually be offended by your predilection for getting spanked whilst wearing nothing but washing up gloves.
And in the meantime, I shall be taking notes. Watching and learning. And wondering whether there are any spare rubber gloves under the kitchen sink…
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