Last night the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum hosted a reading by the first three authors of Brooklyn-based publisher Badlands Unlimited’s new erotica book series, New Lovers.
The sound setup in the theater section of the museum where the panel took place made it difficult to hear everything being said on stage, which kind of added to the fun. Giving a side-eye glance at a room filled with intellectuals straining to hear the word “cock” being said over and over was an event within itself.
Wednesday Black read from How to Train Your Virgin, her book about mice in servitude and sexy tree beasts. Lilith Wes read from We Love Lucy, which was about straight up deep dicking, and Andrea McGinty read from God, I Don’t Even Know Your Name, which was a bit like Clarissa Explains It All, if “All” means penis. For all three authors, this marked two firsts: their first time writing erotica, And their first first time trying to explain what erotica is.
During the Q&A portion of the evening (always an awkward/intimate exchange at any event) a 20-something dude with a man bun approached the front of the room with confident gusto, hinting that maybe he’d been prepping his question mentally for most of the reading. He asked the ladies:
“What’s the difference between porn and erotica?” *MIC DROP*
None of the readers on stage had an answer, which presents the opportunity for an interesting discussion on whether or not female erotica writers, although progressive and advanced in their own lives and careers, can truly allow themselves to fully, and audibly realize that the difference between staged, brightly lit sex for commerce is vastly different than the expression of the many nuanced sexual desires that any woman walking down the street may have on any given day.
Erotica is a group of friends suggesting a game of Truth or Dare, all hoping that it will lead to making out in some way, and porn is dropping a letter at the post office and having a recently returned astronaut who was there buying a book of stamps mount you from behind.
Erotica is the fanciful, languid description of desire and passion. Porn is pubes on pubes. Not knowing the difference between the two is like not knowing the difference between open-heart surgery and the quick and wet work of Jeffrey Dahmer.
Women are writing erotica more and more, as highlighted during this particular reading, and that’s fantastic, but it’s sad to see that even having come all this way they might still feel “dirty” about it, or like they aren’t still fully “allowed” to be doing this.
Writing about sex shouldn’t be any different or naughty seeming than writing about how to clean a shower. It’s (hopefully) something that everyone is doing, and really, there’s nothing new to be said about either. Which brings up another interesting point of the evening.
All three authors, at one point or another, talked about “go-to phrases” in porn and how it really is hard to come up with different ways to describe what ends up being 20-75 (150?) varieties of doing what leads to the same end result … an orgasm, or an orgasm-like experience.
Heaving. Pulsating. Throbbing. Cock. Penis. Boner. Member. Boobies. Butts. Bing bangs. If you keep going, it’s like what happens when you say the word ketchup too many times. It all just seems like gibberish.
There are one million awful and wonderful ways to go about writing about sex, and there’s no one wrong or right way. The beautiful thing about what Badlands is doing with their New Lovers series, and what Black, Wes, and McGinty are doing with their work, is keeping the conversation out from behind closed doors, and adding new blood, and fresh voices, to one of the longest running subjects in the history of time itself. The more we talk about sex (especially as women) the more it seems like an okay thing. And it is. It’s okay. We can all do this. There’s not one bad thing about it.