Have You Done All Those Things You Write About…?

by | August 6, 2020 | General | 7 comments

By Ashley Lister

There should be a warning for everyone who is considering writing erotica that, at some point in your writing career, you’re going to be asked this question. “Have you done all those things?”

This question doesn’t get pitched at authors in any other genre of fiction. No one is asking horror authors, “Have you ever haunted a house?” or “Were there a lot of killer clowns living in the sewers where you grew up?” No one is asking romance writers “Did you live happily ever after, after forming a relationship with a man who you didn’t really like when you first met him?” No one asks crime writers “Have you ever killed someone? Or solved a murder? Or been killed?”

And yet, write erotica, and it’s the first question you get asked. “Have you done all those things?”

And how am I supposed to respond? If I say “NO,” it gives the impression that I’m writing from a place of prudish ignorance and inexperience, and no one wants to read books written by the ignorant. If I say “YES,” it sounds like I’m depraved man-slut eager to embroil myself in any carnal relationship available. A resounding “YES” might make me seem like an authority in the subject matter of the genre but it also makes me seem like a person with somewhat questionable morals.

  Worse, if I answer honestly and say, “I thoroughly research every aspect of my writing,” that sounds like I’m a prudish man-slut: I have done all those depraved things, but I don’t want anyone to know that I’ve done them. In truth this means, whatever it is I haven’t done, I learn about through videos and conversations with more knowledgeable friends.

But, in response to this question, my favourite answer will always be, “Mind your own f***ing business.”
This answer contains an expletive which shows that I’m not prudish, and yet it also contains an absolute nolle prosequi, allowing me to maintain an air of distance from more deviant practices, whilst still appearing worldly because I know that those encounters exist. I agree it’s not a response that is going to get me mentioned in literary supplements, and it lacks the wit of Oscar Wilde. But it’s a response that serves a purpose and, even if it doesn’t satisfy the person asking the question, it certainly satisfies me.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. larry archer

    I believe that if you want your stories to have an air of authenticity, then you should have some experience in what you write about. A lot (most) of my stories revolve around swingers and it’s often amusing to read some writer’s descriptions of the Lifestyle contrasted with what “actually” happens at wife swapping parties!

    • Ashley Lister

      Larry – a damned good point. And it can be hilarious reading some of those imagined descriptions xx


  2. Rose B. Thorny

    My short answer would be, “I’m not sitting in prison, or on death row, so no, I haven’t done *ALL* the things I’ve written about.” This answer only really works if your erotic stories also involve crime and/or a body count, but it also leaves all the rest up in air…maybe yes, maybe no.

    Rose 😉

  3. Lisabet Sarai

    I like to smile mysteriously and say, “Well, I have an active imagination… but my work is also strongly influenced by my personal experiences.”

    Keep ’em guessing!

    • Ashley Lister

      Lisabet – you are a mistress of the mysterious smile. Whenever I try that, I simply look like I’ve dropped a few IQ points.


  4. Rikki de la Vega

    My own honest answer: “Some of it, some reported to me, and some I’ve read elsewhere.” And if they ask which, I say with a sly smile: “That’s for me to know and you to guess!”

    • Ashley Lister

      Rikki – I do like that suggestion of slyness. I might try that the next time the question is thrown at me.


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