In Praise of the One-Handed Read

by | May 30, 2013 | General | 6 comments

By K D Grace

I’m a bit like a kid at Christmas when May rolls around. Why’s
that, you ask. It’s National Masturbation month, that’s why! I can’t tell you
how happy it makes me to see something as healthy, life-affirming, and
down-right fun as masturbation get a little much-needed positive press. So I
decided that, as National Masturbation month draws to a close (not that the fun
is ending, just the month) that I’d write a few words in praise of the much-maligned
one-handed read.

Doesn’t it seem strange and more than a little sad that some of the world’s
best, most celebrated writers find themselves on the not-so-coveted short-list
for the Bad Sex Awards? Is there some misguided, unwritten rule that states a
story is only ‘worthy’ if it doesn’t
make the reader squirm deliciously in her seat, if it doesn’t makes her need to engage one hand in areas far south of the
novel in her grip? And where the hell did we get the idea that just that one
act, in fact the most crucial act of the human condition, sex, should not be
treated with the same weight, or the same tongue-in cheek irreverence or the
same heart pounding delight or wonder or horror as any other part of the human

If a writer gets the sex right, I mean gets it really right, then what other
response should there be but for our bodies to tingle and our hands to stray?

Which leads me to another reason why a one-handed read should be praised and
sought after by readers and writers alike. A well-written one-handed read
engages the reader on a physical level that no other type of read can. A
one-handed read takes the reader a level deeper than the voyeuristic experience
that reading tends to be. A one-handed read allows and demands reader
participation in solidarity with the characters, and, indeed, with the writer.
The story suddenly becomes interactive in a literal sense. And even more than
that, the story suddenly becomes a sexy ménage between the reader, the
characters and the writer.

I’ve always felt that just because a writer strives to give the reader a
well-rounded literary experience with a story that’s gripping (no pun intended),
pacey, thought-provoking and satisfying on some level; just because a writer
tries to offer the reader a well-written, stonking good story doesn’t mean that
 stonking good story can’t involve a little one-handed pleasure mixed in. Why
the hell shouldn’t it?

Okay, maybe it’s that feeling of exposure; maybe it’s that
fear of being caught in the act, so to speak, that frightens writers away from
making the sex hot and squirmy. But it’s a lesson straight from the pages of
creative writing 101 that the place we most fear, the place we feel the most
vulnerable is the place where the most powerful writing happens. Embrace the

Those of us who love to read love a story we can be pulled
into. I love a good adrenalin rush, a good heart stopper, a good brain teaser,
a good tear jerker, a good happy ending, so why wouldn’t I like a good wank all
in the spirit of a sexy story? Why do we think that good writing is negated if
our stories make people want to go rub one out?

I’ve been involved in the world of erotica for enough years now to have seen
the quality of writing go through the roof, enough years to have been gripped
by heart-stopping, tear jerking, brain-teasing stories that STILL have
fabulous, seamlessly-written, deliciously sensual one-handed scenes. Why can’t
a good book be both a page turner and a one-handed read? We now connect with
story on so many more levels than ever before. We read eBooks, we listen to
audio books, we curl up with a good old fashion trade paper-back and a glass of
wine. But really, was there ever a time when reading a good book wasn’t
intended to be a sensual experience, wasn’t meant to make us FEEL things in our
body that we wouldn’t otherwise feel, wasn’t meant to scratch an itch that
nothing else could quite scratch? So why, oh why, should we exclude that best
of, most intimate of — that even better than a nice glass of wine sensual
experience of the one-handed read?

Oh no doubt there’ll always be a need for sexy snippets just
long enough and hot enough to get the rocks off, and I like those just fine
too. But why should one-handed reads be reserved for just such works? Why
shouldn’t the sex scenes in any type of novel or story be well-written enough,
steamy enough, raunchy enough to send one hand straying? It seems to me that if
a sex scene is well written, then we should at least feel something down in the
genital direction. I’m not saying that everything written about sex should be a
turn-on, but I am saying it should affect us in some way because sex affects
us. It affects us powerfully, uncomfortably, sometimes disturbingly, and it
often affects us the most because we don’t want it to and we don’t understand
why it does, nor do we understand its power over us. But it most definitely
DOES have power over us. It’s supposed to have, so to try to write sex that
excludes and banishes the one-handed read seems absurd.

Without getting all mystical and goose-pimply and bringing
on the sex magic; doing my best to keep it real and genuine, I have to ask;
when is there a time that a writer doesn’t want a reader to feel her work, to experience her story as so much more than words on a page? Why
should our sexual responses not be fully included in the experience of story?
So I’ll say it again: let’s hear it for the one-handed read!

Happy Masturbation Month! I wish you all gripping, touching,
deliciously squirmy reading. And writing!

KD Grace

Voted ETO Best Erotic Author of 2014, K D Grace believes Freud was right. It really IS all about sex — sex and love – and that is an absolute writer’s playground.

When she’s not writing, K D is veg gardening or walking. Her creativity is directly proportional to how quickly she wears out a pair of walking boots. She loves mythology, which inspires many of her stories. She enjoys time in the gym, where she’s having a mad affair with a pair of kettle bells. She loves reading and watching birds, and she loves anything that gets her outdoors.

KD’s novels and other works are published by Totally Bound, SourceBooks, Accent Press, Harper Collins Mischief Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, and others. She also writes romance under the name Grace Marshall.

K D’s critically acclaimed erotic romance novels include, The Initiation of Ms Holly, Fulfilling the Contract, To Rome with Lust, and The Pet Shop. Her paranormal erotic novel, Body Temperature and Rising, the first book of her Lakeland Witches trilogy, was listed as honorable mention on Violet Blue’s Top 12 Sex Books for 2011. Books two and three, Riding the Ether, and Elemental Fire, are now also available.

K D Grace also writes hot romance as Grace Marshall. An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis, The Exhibition and Interviewing Wade are all available.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Fabulous post, K.D.! "Interactive" indeed!

    Thank you for expressing this so eloquently.

  2. sentaholland

    Thanks for this insightful and exciting article. Strong feelings are a big part of the reading experience for me and i have on occasion shouted out angrily and laughed uproariously when reading (other physical reactions!). If a reader takes a moment in the book as a jumping off point for exploring their sexuality a litte further and a litte more directly, it's a crative act that really takes co-authorship to to next level.

  3. Annabeth Leong

    Thanks for the post! I like the comments about reading and writing should be physical experiences — and it's not just erotica. A friend last night told me about this Emily Dickinson quote:

    "If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way"

    I think both your post and Dickinson's quote are saying that good writing should affect all parts of a person.

  4. Garceus

    Hi K D!

    This is definately close to the heart in all of us. I think the two most ancient genres of story telling must be the Ghost Story and the Sex Story. I can imagine paleolithic shaman around a fire telling the tribe the old stories of the gods and the powerful spirits, and I can imagine men in bear skins returning from the mammoth hunt bragging about how they stuck it in good to the old lady last night and how she begged 'em for more and what total studs they are. We haven't changedt hat much either.

    I think therepression of sexual writing is still part of that patriarchal thing of men wanting to control women. But I also think that the love of sex narrative is kindo f a woman's thing to some extent. People will get pissed at me for syaing that, but yeah, men are more visully oriented and women are more verbally oriented, consequently FSOG has found more readers with women than men.


  5. Garceus

    . . . Also clearly women are better typists on these little keyboards than men are . . .

  6. Fiona McGier

    Garce, you are so funny! I wondered who was having such trouble typing! If your fingers are too big…hmm…
    Ahem…back on topic.

    K.D., excellent post! No one flinches at writers who offer graphic descriptions of explicit violence that makes me too uncomfortable to continue reading. Yet those books are on the best-seller lists, while romances sell a lot, but never get any respect. Books about power struggles that men like, with women as trophies, and sex with them being mere power-displays, are best-sellers, while people raise their eyebrows and turn away when I tell them I write erotic romance. Sigh.

    One-handed reads deserve respect! And yes, just because you write a rousing good sex scene, doesn't mean that the rest of your story is tripe. Let's hear it for stories that allow us to pleasure ourselves, so that when we have a willing partner, we can share those feelings and enhance everyone's sex lives!

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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