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Donna George Storey
Erotica Readers & Writers Association
I want to change the world one dirty story at a time.
When I posted this mission statement on my website, I hoped my cheeky ambition would make my readers smile. I smile every time I read it myself. And yet I’m totally serious. I truly believe that writers who are brave enough to speak their truth about the erotic experience in all its complexity—the yearning, the pleasure, the conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction—do change the world for the better.
Writing erotica has certainly changed my world.
Like most, if not all, writers, I’ve loved words and stories and slipping into someone else’s skin for as long as I can remember. However, common wisdom has it that only a chosen few are allowed to be Real Writers, rich and famous and enshrined in the syllabi of literature classes. An ordinary person who enjoys making stuff up shouldn’t make a fool of herself by trying to write pathetic “novels” that would lie in drawers, she should instead study Real Writers and try to say something impressive about them in academic articles that no one will read. It wasn’t until I left academia in my mid-thirties to take care of my newborn son that I mustered the courage to begin to write fiction for myself. Suddenly, it was as if I’d stepped from Dorothy’s black-and-white Kansas into Technicolor Oz. Colors were brighter, scents sharper, snatches of ordinary conversation became utterly fascinating. Everything that happened in my life, whether trivial or tragic, became writer’s gold: material for a story.
From very early on, I also discovered something interesting about the nature of my sly, sultry muse. Virtually every story I wrote focused on some aspect of sexuality. Even when I swore to be virtuous, my typing fingers would invariably lead my characters into a situation where they expressed themselves erotically—and those were always the parts of my story I enjoyed writing the most. For a while I tried to rein in my impulses (and did manage to sneak a few of my stories into “serious” literary magazines) but my creative spirit kept undermining me by offering up ever racier story ideas. One day I found myself at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association and saw Violet Blue’s call for stories about couples exploring their sexual fantasies. I wrote up one of the wilder stories I’d been brewing, sent it off, and scored my first print publication in Taboo: Forbidden Fantasies for Couples. Over a hundred published erotic stories later, I still rely on the ERWA calls for submissions page for the latest news on print and online markets.
Since breaking my first Taboo, I’ve published an erotic novel called Amorous Woman, a modern adaptation of a 17th century Japanese erotic classic about an adventurous woman who experiences every flavor of sexual pleasure the country has to offer. (See, I did end up putting my degree in Japanese literature to good use!) I’m also honored to be a columnist here at ERWA with the ongoing “Cooking Up a Storey” and an archived series sharing what I learned from my efforts to promote my novel called “Shameless Self-Promotion” (Yes, the butt in the picture is mine but the pink neon letters on my underwear are Photoshopped in).
With the popularity of erotica and erotic romance these days, it’s sometimes hard to remember that just a few decades ago, no respectable woman was allowed to read, much less write sexually explicit stories. When Nancy Friday was shopping around her groundbreaking collection of women’s sexual fantasies, My Secret Garden, she was told by male “experts” that women simply didn’t have such thoughts. Throughout history women in particular have been told how they should—or should not—be sexual. Only in the past few decades have women won the chance to tell the world what we really want and need in bed or wherever else we choose to express our eroticism. Seen from the perspective of centuries of silence, any woman who writes about her desire authentically is engaging in a radically revolutionary act.
However, I’m not just recruiting women writers to this worthy cause. While men in a patriarchal society nominally “rule,” any individual man is likely to feel the pinch of repression, shame, and pressure to conform to some impossible model of gendered perfection as much as a woman. Creating my own stories rather than just being a consumer of our culture’s clichés of sexuality has made me better able to resist other’s ideas of what I should be doing, thinking and feeling. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my libido from writing erotica. And if you still need convincing, doing research for erotic stories has also made my real sex life much hotter—and it was pretty damn good before.
So if you’re here at ERWA because you’re already writing erotica, a big thank you and keep on doing what you’re doing. If you’re more a reader than a writer, I encourage you to start dreaming and writing and expressing the truth and magic of this fundamental part of the human experience in your own unique voice. Can there be a more pleasurable way to change the world?
I’d like to offer for your enjoyment three samples of my erotica, all of which express my favorite theme—the potential of the erotic imagination to empower and transform.
The first story, “Picture Perfect,” is from the above-mentioned anthology edited by Violet Blue, Taboo: Forbidden Fantasies for Couples. The story was later reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 5 edited by Maxim Jakubowski, and Alison Tyler’s Never Have the Same Sex Twice. This is a couples’ fantasy you can definitely try at home—trust me!
“To Dance at the Fair” first appeared in Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and was reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 9 edited by Maxim Jakubowski. This story includes some of my perennial erotic fascinations—naughty professors, sex in past ages, and what actually happens when you try to translate fantasy into real life.
For dessert, there’s an excerpt from my erotic novel, Amorous Woman (Orion, 2008), which draws from my own experiences living in Japan. In this chapter, the protagonist, an American named Lydia, has just learned that her Japanese best friend writes pornographic manga. This inspires Lydia to create a no-holds-barred, Japanese-style fantasy of her own.
Copyright © 1996 and on, Erotica Readers Association, Inc.
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