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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
Im Easy, But Im 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


JeanIn his poem "Altarwise by Owl-light," Dylan Thomas wrote:

Death is all metaphors, shape in one history;
The child that sucketh long is shooting up,
The planet-ducted pelican of circles
Weans on an artery the gender's strip.1

If the exact meaning of these words escapes you, you are not alone. Thomas was better known for his lush, startling imagery, the evidence of his Welsh hwl (soul, creativity), than for the soundness of his logic. (He was also known as a lush whose behavior was sometimes startling, but never mind. His rockstar-poet lifestyle led to his death during a reading tour in 1953, and I hope he has been at peace since then.) Hwl, of course, is like lust. It is the impulse that gives rise to expression in various forms.

Dylan Thomas has always been one of my favorite poets, and his big themes (the circularity of life and death, the interconnection of all living things) seem sexy to me in a way that goes deeper than literal descriptions of body parts in action. The line "Death is all metaphors" seems self-evident to me. It is one of the universal events which can have diverse and contradictory meanings.

Sex, like death, can represent, embody or symbolize a dizzying variety of things. Sex can be communication, joining, delight, ecstasy, transformation, escape. It can be silly and fun. It can be profound and life-changing. It can be an elegant dance or a clown act. It can be bittersweet, especially when it causes two or more people to believe there is a personal bond between them when they are really responding to pheremones and the magic of touch. Sex can be comfort in a time of grief or trauma. It can be reassurance and emotional support. It can be a learning and teaching experience, or a form of research.

Editors of erotic magazines, websites and anthologies usually claim to want "sex-positive" stories. In some cases, this simply means that writers must avoid the standard taboos: no incest, no sex between characters under the age of consent in their jurisdiction (whether this age is 14 or 21), no sex with real animals (excluding magical creatures such as werewolves, mermaids and centaurs), no rape (non-consensual sex), or at least no rape described with approval. Any reasonably intelligent writer can see that these taboos are subject to interpretation and debate, and that all of them have been broken, not only in the kind of "porn" which is assumed to be a badly-written aid to masturbation, but in the kind of literature which is taught in universities. Don't blame erotic editors, however. They need to protect themselves from the enforcement of vaguely-worded laws against "obscenity."

This brings me to the issue of sex-negative writing, assuming there is such a thing. If sex is all metaphors, it can't always be a simple way to get happy. Sex can be a desperate, doomed attempt to bridge a gap in credibility or understanding. It can be an extreme form of exploitation. It can be the event that turns a high school girl who is desperate to fit in into a target for contempt from everyone she knows. It can be an attempt to prove something unprovable. Sex can be an act of self-hatred, or hatred of the other. It can be the means by which invading armies literally colonize the bodies of civilians, hoping to impregnate as many "enemy women" as possible. Sex, broadly defined, can destroy both body and soul.

Should erotic writers avoid saying anything disturbing about sex? The terms "adult" and "mature" are often used as euphemisms for sexual content, yet to avoid mentioning any negative emotions (guilt, hatred, rage, fear, despair, regret, etc.) in connection with sex is to limit oneself to a fairly childish view of the world. See Dick and Jane. Dick loves Jane. Jane loves Dick. See Dick and Jane fucking happily ever after. (For variation, see Adam and Steve or Xena and Gabrielle.)

Living in a human body seems inherently sexual to me. It is hard to imagine any situation involving human beings which couldn't include sexual feelings, if not sexual activities. Therefore the claim that erotic writers are "limiting" themselves to a literary ghetto seems bizarre to me. If anything, erotic writers are so diverse that we don't always speak the same language. Some honest members of the various lists here at ERWA have complained that they don't understand X (female/female or male/male attraction, polyamory, a particular fetish, role-playing, Dominance/submission, or the range of activities summed up as BDSM - bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism). There is usually someone else on the list who can explain X, as far as it can be explained in words.

A more fundamental credibility gap exists between those who believe that erotic writing should be sexual fantasy, an escape from the stuck zippers and frustrating interruptions of real life, and those who believe that literature worthy of respect, including the sexually-explicit kind, should shed light on the real world. The realists complain that the fantasists write unbelievable stuff, while the fantasists complain that gritty realism just doesn't satisfy a reader's need to get off. I believe there is room for both realism and fantasy in erotic literature, but the differences need to be acknowledged. In an ideal world, sex would always satisfy everyone involved. In the real world, sex often dramatizes social and political conditions, including differences in power. When a relatively privileged person buys sex from someone who needs to sell it to survive, it is clear whose lust drives the plot.

In this column, I hope to discuss a range of issues of interest to erotic writers, without violating any of the basic legal taboos. (Be warned that I might grumble about them.) Sex has been various metaphors in my life. Like a kaleidoscope, it shows a different picture with every change of position. Welcome to my world.

1 From Dylan Thomas: The Poems, by Dylan Thomas (J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1971 (first published 1937).

Jean Roberta
July 2008

"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.
Jean has many publishing credits to her name, including Obsession (Eternal Press 2008), her single-author e-collection of erotic stories in various genres and flavor. “Smoke” in Best Fantastic Erotica Circlet Press 2008), The Personal Is Political, appears in Coming Together: With Pride (Phaze Publications June 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 the 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