All About Pleasure: Changing the World

by | February 18, 2012 | All About Pleasure | 4 comments

by Donna George Storey

Last month I proposed the perfect excuse to taste fine chocolate while you’re writing erotica.  This month I thought I’d focus on a different reason why what we do can feel good. Indeed while writing erotica allows us to celebrate the sensual, it offers another equally satisfying, even spiritual, pleasure—knowing that the stories we write make an important difference in our culture.

Now, my dear Fellow Erotica Readers and Writers, perhaps you’re wondering how can I make such a grandiose statement.  No doubt, you’ve heard the same comments I’ve gotten from well-meaning critics, which can be summarized in this question:  “You’re such a good writer, why are you wasting your time writing dirty trash instead of Real Literature?” 

The next time someone says this to me, I have an answer.  I truly believe stories that explore the power of sexuality in our lives—for the good as well as the bad as is more common in polite literary fiction—carry on the great literary tradition of speaking out about the passions and conflicts that we all live with every day but that the authorities would prefer we keep hidden for the sake of social order.

With women’s access to birth control still considered a matter of public debate, we must admit we live in a society where it is still a revolutionary act to acknowledge that ordinary, “decent” people have sex for pleasure.  Just as both sexes benefit from the availability of birth control, both men and women gain from the chance to express their personal truths about their sexual desires.  Even if men have traditionally been allowed more sexual agency than women, they’ve still been subject to significant restrictions that merit full examination and exposure.

By writing erotic stories that express the unique styles and tastes of real people, we are proclaiming that sex doesn’t have to be silenced.  Nor must it be relegated to the realm of the XXX pornography industry where the rules are so very different from the world we live in:  strangers have sex within minutes of meeting in positions that are strictly camera friendly; all women have multiple orgasms with minimal stimulation; and all men have huge penises and prefer to ejaculate outside of their lover’s body.

Now, I don’t mean to revive the old debate of what constitutes porn (usually seen as visual, male-oriented, and subversive) versus erotica (usually characterized as written, female-oriented, and thus less threatening to the social fabric as long as feeling is involved).  Whatever you want to call erotic expression that celebrates the fullness of the human sexual experience, the powers of the mind and imagination as well as the body, is fine by me.

The important thing is that we keep up our courage when so many still try to marginalize our work and value each new story as a chance to tell the truth about what it means to be human.  If you define a good story as one that stays with you, I’ve read more memorably good erotic stories than any other kind. 

So keep writing and keep changing the world—one erotic story at a time!

Donna George Storey is the author of the erotic novel, Amorous Woman.  Her short stories have recently appeared in Best Women’s Erotica 2012, Best Erotic Romance, and The Best of Best Mammoth Erotica.  Learn more  at

Donna George Storey

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. 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'm the author of Amorous Woman, a semi-autobiographical erotic novel set in Japan, The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents the Best of Donna George Storey  and nearly 200 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies. Check out my Facebook author page at:  


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    How timely this essay is, given the recent BookStrand/PayPal kerfluffle as well as your experience of censorship trying to add a link to this very post on Facebook!

    Of course I agree with your point. Though I don't normally consider my writing to be a subversive or political act, it really is. And I suspect that the world would be a far happier and more peaceful place if individuals were not (still!) forced to suppress their sexual urges – or to despair because they feel inadequate when faced with the simplistic and idealized images of sexuality in the media.

  2. Remittance Girl

    Hello Donna!

    What a marvelous post. It's a topic very close to my heart and, to a certain extent, forms the basis of my PhD proposal.

    And, of course, I agree wholeheartedly with Lisabet on this because in filling out world with those simplistic and idealized images of sexuality. In a way it is a brilliant piece of what magicians call 'redirection'. It appears we're all being very open and coping with sex as a subject, but since those images don't even come close to approximating the real lived experience of sex, we're still actually avoiding it.

    I think writing erotica is very much a political and transgressive act because, when it is written well, it does come as close as possible to asking us to contemplate our true relationship with eroticism, sexuality and sensuality.

    I blame Aristotle. His Nicomachean Ethics passage on the inability to pursue rational thought in the face of pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, has been so valorized and expanded to encompass even the contemplation of pleasure, that it has been very easy to caricature our genre as 'dirty trash'.

    I firmly believe that culture has suffered greatly from our retention and unquestioning adherence to this exaggeration of our rational limitations (on one hand) and a devaluation of emotional intelligence on the other.

    I live in hope that what Barthes said is true: that "the reintroduction of the sentimentality of love into sexuality would be the ultimate transgression".

    We shall see, I guess.

  3. Donna

    Thank you, Lisabet. That BookStrand/Paypal list of what was acceptable amused me even as it horrified me. The definition of acceptable bestiality (werewolves) and necrophilia (vampires) just pointed out how some fantasies, especially those that make money, are okay. And it's okay to write about rape if it's not for "titillation," but what about violence against beautiful young women in bikini's? That's not sexual?

    Anyway, not to get off topic, I heartily agree that your work is a political act, first of all because the writing is smart and elegant and that alone challenges the stereotypes we face in a big way :).

  4. Donna

    RG, I cannot wait to read your dissertation! Every point you make resonates with me, beginning with the supposed open sexualization of our culture, when in fact we are just chasing distorted Platonic shadows of what sex and eroticism really are (not that I know much about philosophy 🙂 I know it's considered cool to claim advertising does not affect how you see the world, but I know it has worked on me in insidious ways and suspect it is shaping others' views as well. (A favorite example–that the ideal woman doesn't require much attention emotionally or in bed or she's "high-maintance").

    Anyway, I do believe well written erotica can slowly make the case that we don't have to follow these safe, and misleading, ways of expressing sexuality.

    And please do let us know when we can read your dissertation :-)!

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