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'08 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations

by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft

Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons

2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
I’m Easy, But I’m No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance

Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel

Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn

Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics

On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank

Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Sex Is All Metaphors

by Jean Roberta

Porn, Erotica and Romance



When I was a teenager in the 1960s, most of the boys I dated complained about the traditional con game, as they saw it, in which girls would only “put out” in exchange for an emotional commitment, preferably a marriage proposal. This was the basic plot of the romance novels that many girls devoured in their spare time. Boys seemed to regard girls’ reluctance to have sex on boys’ terms as a sign of feminine privilege and control. Far from being enchanted by the virtue of girls who said no, boys accused girls of “flaunting” and withholding their bodies as an expression of smug contempt for males.

When I read romances aimed at “older girls,” I was as appalled as the guys I knew—but for opposite reasons. I couldn’t enjoy the standard “happy ending” in which the heroine successfully concludes her hard-to-get strategy by giving up all other interests in order to devote the rest of her life to tending her husband and children.  I could see the long-term results of this bargain in my parents’ marriage, which both of them described as “happy.” They had met in university, but while Dad went on to hold a series of jobs based on his graduate degree, Mom was a frustrated housewife with the same level of education.  If marriage was victory for women, I could hardly imagine a life of defeat.

Sexually-explicit reading-matter was hard to find in the environment of my youth, but I was predisposed to like it. Sex was exciting, and I wanted to learn more about it. Unlike “love,” which could be faked, sex was self-evidently real. All the authority figures in my life officially deplored “smut” (writing and images about sex) as well as sex in the real world. Even before I heard the expression “sex, drugs and rock-‘n-roll,” I knew that sex had the power to shake up the Establishment. If “romance” turned girls into carbon copies of their mothers, sex seemed more subversive and empowering.

Yet most of the sexually-explicit reading-matter, cartoons and song lyrics of the counterculture that arose in the late 1960s had an undercurrent of woman-hatred. The famous image of a woman being fed into a meat-grinder in Screw magazine seemed representative. Women who objected to it were told that the image was satirical, and that they should lighten up.

Much of the art (broadly speaking) of the counterculture was hard to interpret because it had an ironic or satirical tone. Satire, strictly speaking, makes fun of the stuffed shirts or sacred cows of the day, and it was hard to see how the pornographic art of the time worked in that sense.

Either the image of the woman in the meat-grinder was intended to ridicule women’s “power” over men (which didn’t look real to me), or to ridicule the piggish men who treated women as substances to be consumed like hamburger—yet there was no evidence that the guys who produced or read Screw treated women any differently.

The feminist movement for women’s rights, which had been fairly dormant since women won the right to vote just after World War 1, was revived in the late 1960s. In 1970-71, there was a publishing explosion of books of feminist theory. Most of the writers (especially Germaine Greer, who wrote The Female Eunuch) advocated sexual freedom for everyone, rather than “romance.”

From what I could see, however, sexual freedom for all was not the message of “porn.” The term “sex object” entered the language as young men of the counterculture fantasized openly about a utopia in which the whole male population would have free access to “pussy,” a kind of natural resource which existed to be used.

I can’t be sure whether the guys I knew in the 1970s were typical, but they seemed to express the general zeitgeist. The sexual double standard of the era of “romance” (guys can, but “nice girls” don’t) seemed to be replaced by a sexual double bind for women (those who won’t are manipulating prudes, those who will are subhuman playthings). Men who wanted women to be “free” to get/give as much sex as possible generally seemed to be against all the other items in a feminist agenda, including better job opportunities for women, equal pay for equal work, shared housework and responsible fatherhood.

During the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s, a Greerite emphasis on sexual pleasure for women was largely eclipsed by a more militant opposition to the sexually-explicit media of the time, which included undisguised male fantasies about revenge-fucking. Most organizations defined as "feminist" seemed to adopt Andrea Dworkin's definition of "pornography" as "hate speech." Her definition was hard to unpack because she claimed that "porn" harms women and children by definition. If it didn't harm women and children, it wouldn't be "porn."

"Pornography" (literally writing and/or images of prostitution) came to define all sexually-explicit material. Some readers, male and female, tried to draw clear lines between “erotica” (the good stuff) and "porn" (the bad stuff), but the dividing line was slippery and the criteria often seemed irrelevant to the core problem (as I saw it) of woman-hatred. Soft-focus photos of women or couples and euphemistic language were defended as more “tasteful” than clearer descriptions of raw sex, but blurry vagueness was often the best defense of male chauvinists who wouldn’t admit their real intentions. If sex per se was not necessarily offensive to anyone, I didn’t see why representations of it needed to be veiled or airbrushed to be Politically Correct.

Attempts to clarify the difference between “porn” and “erotica” still crop up on the writers list at ERWA, and the discussion often ends in a general stalemate, or an agreement that the dividing line is in the eyes of the beholder. Sexually-explicit fiction which includes plot, characters and other literary touches (which I still call “erotica”) is now sometimes described as “mainstream,” even if the sex scenes would offend a Dworkinite feminist.

A large part of the problem of classifying related genres, it seems to me, is that we are trying to hit a moving target. The range of sexual possibilities that are widely conceivable now can be summed up by the phrase “Any Two People Kissing,” the title of a story collection by Kate Dominic from several years ago.

To add to the confusion, “romance” is back in force, often with modifiers such as “erotic” or “paranormal” added to it. Much of today’s “romance” is even physically different from the dog-eared paperbacks that my girlfriends read in high school, since the rise of certain genres has coincided with the rise of e-publishing.

Current attempts to define “romance” are parallel to attempts to distinguish “porn” from “erotica.” A fairly standard current definition seems to be that a romance focuses on a developing relationship (which may or may not include explicit or implied sex before some kind of formal commitment) and includes a “happy” ending. But “happiness” is subjective and often temporary, so the “happy ever after” of fairy tales can be replaced by “happy for now.”

This is really a huge departure from the “romance” stories that once served as a kind of finishing school for heterosexual girls. Spontaneous, mutually-consensual sex no longer seems to be the enemy of “romance.” A certain historical theory that opposite forces eventually form a synthesis seems relevant here.

EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection) has a list of publishing categories in which writers could enter their works in the “Eppies,” EPIC’s annual awards contest (now closed for 2008). EPIC still defines “romance” as the story of a relationship between a man and a woman, and this frustrates authors of “romances” whose characters  don’t fit into that mold. Writers of non-heterosexual “romance” were encouraged to enter their works in the new “GLBT” category, and this acronym is itself a contested attempt to define a very diverse community of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered folks, to which more terms (“gender-queer” and “two-spirited” come to mind) are sometimes added.

The “GLBT” box really seems too big to be one category, especially if it includes fiction and non-fiction. It has been described as a literary ghetto. But then, “romance” (defined as widely as possible) also looks like a very large category, and the restriction that it must be heterosexual looks like an effort to limit it to a certain size and shape, somewhat like Scarlet O’Hara’s corset.

I still say that the “romance” stories of my youth excluded real freedom and real love as well as self-development and sexual joy. As a reviewer, I’ve run across a few “romances” of the old school, and if they were printed on paper, I would tear them up.

Luckily, however, “romance” seems to have changed with the times. Only time will tell how it will be defined next year, and by whom. Or which ideological war will be fought over which words and images.

Jean Roberta
November 2008

Follow Jean Roberta's trail to Sex Is All Metaphors in our 2008 Archive.

"Sex Is All Metaphors" © 2008 Jean Roberta. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written

About the Author: Jean Roberta is the thin-disguise pen name of a writer who teaches mandatory first-year English classes in a Canadian prairie university and who writes fiction (erotic and otherwise), research-based articles, opinion pieces and reviews. She joined ERWA in December 1998, and has never looked back. Several of her stories can be found in the “Treasure Chest” gallery. Over sixty of her erotic stories have been published in print anthologies, and Eternal Press has released her single-author e-collection of erotic stories in various genres and flavors, Obsession (2008).
Jean is a staff reviewer for the monthly reviews site, Erotica Revealed (edited by D.L. King). She blogs on Livejournal as "Lizardlez" and at Her website ( is a work in progress.
Read Jean's full bio at Erotica Readers & Writers Association.

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'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews


Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Fantastic Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

Bound Brits (ebook)
Review by Ashley Lister

Deep Inside: Extreme ...
Review by Cervo

Dirty Girls
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Hide and Seek
Review by Ashley Lister

Hurts So Good
Review by Ashley Lister

J is for Jealousy
Review by Ashley Lister

K is for Kink
Review by Ashley Lister

Lust Bites
Review by Ashley Lister

Open for Business
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
Review by Ashley Lister

The Shadow of a... (poetry)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
Review by Ashley Lister

Tasting Him
Review by Kathleen Bradean

White Flames
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn


The Art of Melinoe
Review by Ashley Lister

Demon by Day
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Gemini Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

Gothic Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

The Hidden Grotto Series
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The House of Blood
Review by Lisabet Sarai

In Too Deep
Review by Ashley Lister

In Too Deep
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Donna George Storey

Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Out of the Shadows (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduced by the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sunfire (eBook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Templar Prize
Review by Angelika Devlyn

The Wicked Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Wild Kingdom
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
Review by Vincent Diamond

Hard Hats
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Donna George Storey

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

The Night Watch
Review by Lisabet Sarai


America Unzipped
Review by Rob Hardy

Best Sex Writing '08
Review by Rob Hardy

Bonk: The Curious Coupling
Review by Rob Hardy

The Book of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Casanova: Actor Lover ...
Review by Rob Hardy

Dishonorable Passions
Review by Rob Hardy

Flagrante Delicto (photos)
Review by Jack Gilbert

The Flesh Press
Review by Rob Hardy

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Humble Little Condom
Review by Rob Hardy

Instant Orgasm (sex guide)
Review by Ashley Lister

Man O Man! Writing M/M...
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Not So Invisible Woman
Review by Ashley Lister

Swingers: Female...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Who's Been Sleeping in...
Review by Rob Hardy