Waving The White Flag

by | July 24, 2014 | General | 5 comments

By Kathleen Bradean

Over the past decade, I’ve discussed, argued, and mused over
erotica as a genre. Last night, while reading a piece of erotica, I decided
that my arguments are invalid.

Oh, on an esoteric ‘awake at three in the morning with
another writer who is like my fricking soulmate as we share profound insights
into The Everything of Everythingness’ level, the ideas I fought for and
against do matter. To someone. Probably an academic. And me, but I’m weird that
way. But to everyone else, they don’t, because everyone else properly goes to
bed at a sensible hour, doesn’t drink absinthe at cons, and likes the erotica
genre because that’s what they reach for when they want to turn on their brain.

Rather than fight against the label of erotica, I’ve decided
to embrace it because it’s damn useful to a writer.  Think about it. A person who picks up a
romance expects a story about a relationship. No one picks up a romance then
half way through asks with a suspicious glint in their eye, “Wait. Is this a
kissing book?”

A writer can only put so much on the page. The reader has to
bring something to the party, and the most important hostess gift– so to speak–
is the expectation of arousal. If you’ve been thinking of sex since lunch at
work, through the commute home, and during dinner, you’re going to be more
primed for sex than someone who only just now thought about it as they’re climbing
into bed. It makes the writers work so much easier if the reader is already willing
to be turned on.

The problem with not having the erotica label on my work is
far worse than having it. I imagine the wrinkled nose of a reader as they look
down at their tingling groin and mutter, “Wait. Is this a fucking book?” And
imagine the chirping crickets awkwardness of someone reading through a sex scene
they weren’t mentally prepared for and being bored by it. They might do something
to retaliate, like quote part of the scene out of context and publicly
ridicule it in a contest designed to shame writers for attempting to write sex
scenes in books that are not officially designated dirty, filthy smut.


Not that I find that sort of thing annoying as all get out
or anything.

While I’ve been writing erotica for years, I’ve often been
at odds with the label, but now I’ve decided to make my peace with it.  I know you’ve been waiting breathlessly for
this moment.  😉

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at: KathleenBradean.Blogspot.com www.JayLygonWrites.com


  1. Remittance Girl

    Although I haven't been waiting breathlessly, I find it an interesting moment. You make some excellent points about reader expectation and 'primedness'.

    Much to mull over.

    • kathleenbradean@yahoo.com

      The drift of the genre's definition is still a matter of concern. It doesn't mean what it used to mean, and that leaves traditional literary erotica in an odd place.

  2. Jean Roberta

    You're right, Kathleen. It doesn't seem to mean what it used to mean. I have mixed feelings about labels too. I like to fantasize about a marvelously open-minded reader opening a book by any of us (esp. you, me, or RG) with no expectations, and feeling carried away to another world. However, clear labels prob. prevent unnecessary freakouts ("There is sex in this book!"). For better and worse, marketing seems to require labels.

    • kathleenbradean@yahoo.com

      I think we'd all like to cry out that a story is a story, but I'll admit that I find the mystery category quite useful when I look for a book I'd enjoy reading. My user side is in conflict with my producer side.

  3. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Kathleen,

    I've come to terms with the fact that there are lots of people who just won't *get* what I write. And I do feel genres are useful up to a point, though the current publishing world takes them to ridiculous extremes.

    You're certainly right that what is marketed as erotica has changed dramatically since I was first published. I just have to shrug and say, "so what". I have my own definition, which doesn't necessarily agree with yours, or anyone else's for that matter. It's a rather futile topic to argue about, which is why I avoid the topic when it crops up, like measles, on the ERWA writers list!

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