Should your characters wear masks?

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

So here we are, in the last few weeks of 2020, with the Covid-19 epidemic still raging. I’ll admit to being surprised. An eternal optimist, I expected the disease would be under control within a few months of its appearance. Instead, the pandemic rages on, worse now in some places than ever. It has radically altered day-to-day life, to a greater or lesser extent, for almost everyone on the planet. Furthermore, even with the encouraging developments related to vaccines, this situation seems likely to continue well into 2021.

Of course, lockdowns and quarantines can actually benefit us writers, more or less forcing us to put butt in chair. I’ve been very productive this year, writing a new novel and starting on its sequel as well as producing several shorter pieces and re-publishing some older work whose rights have reverted. Still, I’d trade it all to go back to life without masks, hand santitizers, contact tracing apps and social distancing.

What about our characters, though? Should we put them through all the (pardon-my-French) crap we’re dealing with in our own lives? If you write contemporary erotica or erotica romance, this is a serious question. Speaking for myself, I never go out of the house these days without two masks – one to wear, and one to give to somebody else who might need one. Should my heroine act the same way? Will readers who have now become accustomed to Covid-induced constraints think our stories are strange or unrealistic – or even irresponsible – if we leave out those ugly and annoying details?

I know that some of the members of the Storytime list have already incorporated Covid-19 into their fiction. We’ve also seen a run of flashers that depend on the special circumstances of lockdowns, working at home, Internet-only socialization and so on. I’ve written one or two myself.

However, I’m not going to include the daily irritations and terrors of Covid-19 into my main body of work, at least not for the foreseeable future. Why remind our readers of all the unpleasantness they’re already facing on a daily basis? Romantic or erotic fiction, no matter how “real” we try to make it, will always include an element of fantasy. It’s hard to imagine something less sexy than a global pandemic. I’d like my readers to forget about that aspect of their lives, at least for a while.

There’s another reason I’m not keen to have my characters wearing masks and worrying about contagion. Books have a potentially long lifetime. Details that are current and immediate now may well seem dated in a couple of years. In 2025, ubiquitous face masks may be viewed as weird. (Indeed, I hope this is the case.) I’d like readers to be able to relate to my work half a decade from now.

My first novel was published in 1999. It is still in print. Originally set in Bangkok in the nineties, it has no cell phones or social media, no Google or YouTube. And yes, it does feel a bit strange to read it now. The last time I edited and republished the book (about ten years ago), I decided to anchor it firmly in time (the year 2000), so that readers would judge it according to that particular era. That process made me very aware of how technological and social aspects of a book can affect the reading experience.

Of course, each of us must make a personal decision on this issue. One might liken it to the question of whether to write condoms into our erotic tales. Some authors feel that this is unnecessary in a genre based on wish-fulfillment. Others believe it’s their job to provide models of safe sex.

Indeed, younger readers who have grown up in the era of AIDS may find my erotica, where condom use is pretty rare, makes them uncomfortable. Alas, AIDS changed sex forever, in a very negative direction.

I pray that the long term effects of Covid-19 will be less damaging to our sexual, social and emotional health. I’d like to believe that’s true – as I said, I am an optimist. In any case, I’m writing my stories for happier days, when the pandemic is a sobering memory rather than a daily challenge.

Rug Burns, Broken Dicks, and Monster Penises – Realistic Sex in Erotic Fiction

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and four cats. Visit her
web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


It seems to me that often enough in erotic romances, the sex
is not only unrealistic, it is something that is not humanly possible. Now that
anyone can upload erotic fiction to the internet and call themselves authors,
readers must separate the wheat from the chaff. And get a load of that chaff! There
is sex with Bigfoot who has a foot-long (or more) schlong. Alien sex. Perfectly
built doms who tie their subs up in such a way they should be laid out on a
stretcher and sent to a hospital. Anal sex that defies the laws of nature. Lack
of lube. Lack of foreplay. The list goes on.

Did you know that there are awards giving out for poorly
written sex? Here is an excerpt from the 2012 winner of the Bad Sex Awards,
Nancy Huston’s “Infrared”. 

No sooner have we settled onto the bed
and begun to remove each other’s clothes with the clumsy gestures of impatience
than I realise Kamal also knows about passivity — yes, he also knows how to
remain still, fully awake and attentive, and give himself up to me as a cello gives
itself up to a bow. Arching his back, he surrenders his face, shoulders, back
and buttocks, waiting for me to play them, and I do — I play them, play with
them. Most men are afraid to let go like this — whereas with a little finesse
the wonders of passivity can be tasted in even the most violent throes of

In a delirium of restrained desire, I
weigh, stroke and lick Kamal’s balls, then take his penis in my hands, between
my breasts, into my mouth. He sits up, reaches for me and I allow him to
explore me in turn. He runs his tongue and lips over my breasts, the back of my
neck, my toes, my stomach, the countless treasures between my legs, oh the
sheer ecstasy of lips and tongues on genitals, either simultaneously or in
alternation, never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy
like a fish in water, my self freed of both self and other, the quivering
sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and
all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling
you bodiless and soulless into undulating space where the undulating skies make
your non-body undulate …

And orgasm — the way a man’s face is
transformed by orgasm — oh it’s not true they all look alike, you have to be
either miserable and broke or furiously blasé and sarcastic to say they all
look alike — to me, every climax is unique.

My body hurt just reading some of that, especially the bit
about arching his back and surrendering his face, shoulders, back and buttocks.
I pictured a man having a seizure. “Violent throes of love-making” should
not lead to unintentional pain, right? Then there were the horrid similes and
all the undulations.

Why don’t these people ever suffer from injuries from their
passionate rolls in the hay? The most common injuries from sex play are most
likely vaginal tearing or breaking, back injury, penis breakage, yeast
infections, urinary tract infections, and foreign objects stuck where they
don’t belong. Richard Gere isn’t an internet meme for nothing, you know. Why
don’t lovers ever get carpet burn? Why don’t BDSM aficionados ever get chafed
wrists or ankles or sore joints from having their arms and legs pulled to the
limits the human body can tolerate? No, lovers are “transfixed” or
“propelled into undulating space”. No one ever needs Vix Vapo Rub
after an afternoon of hot, steaming fucking.

I speak from experience when I mention penis breakage. When
my husband and I were younger and much more stupid, we got into a hot bout of
sex play and… I broke his dick. I’ve never heard of this happening, but it’s
apparently much more common than you’d think. It was even covered on the
American TV medical drama Grey’s Anatomy.
Dr. Mark Sloan got into some heated passion with intern Lexie Grey resulting in
painful and embarrassing injury. The staff didn’t know the identity of the
“lucky” lady who did it so there was much guesswork going on.

When it happened to my husband, he heard a very loud snap, and then the pain began.
Thankfully, it didn’t require surgery. There was nothing to do but let it heal
itself. All was fine and good until it happened again a few years later. He
told a friend of his at his old job about it. That guy always gave me the
biggest smile whenever I saw him. I think he was jealous we were so into it,
although all of us could have done without the pain.

On a lighter note, I recall reading an excerpt from an
erotic romantic comedy that described a woman’s queef. It was meant to be
funny, but I just cringed. A queef is a pussy fart, in case you haven’t looked
at the Urban Dictionary lately.

Such sexual accidents, while realistic, don’t make for much
romance although in some cases a little realism would go a long way to make the
sex more believable. How about pink skin from the leather cuffs or an
average-sized penis? Why are so many alpha males built like an Angus bull? Yes, I know it’s about escapism, but still… What do
you think?

The Virgin as She Was Meant to Be

By Henry Corrigan (Guest Blogger)

Several weeks ago, as
often happens on the ERWA Writers discussion list, a question was
posted and soon after a debate began. The question was how to write a
scene that involved the sixty-nine position, but from a female
perspective. The author was having difficulty because he had no
actual experience with the position. (He had no experience with being
a woman either, but that’s beside the point.) He asked several
female members of the group if they could offer any insight. The
answers he received were varied and detailed, but one of them stuck
in my mind.

It was from the
incomparable Rose, and her reply didn’t so much as deal with
sixty-nine, but with writing from the woman’s point of view in
general. She lamented that today, many stories which try for the
female POV, often end up revolving around the same poorly conceived
idea: the trope of the virgin.

The story is simple. A
shy, goodhearted but burningly curious young woman decides to leave
her hometown of Virginity (Birthplace of Everyone, Ever) and move to
the exciting, but kinda scary city of Sex (Everybody Comes Here).
Wherein, on her first day in town, despite being given no outward
instruction, she somehow manages to perform an incredibly complicated
and intense…insert sex act here.

Why is this a bad idea? As
Rose put it, the story left her disappointed because she was unable
to believe in the characters. Doing something right for the first
time without instruction, especially sexually, doesn’t happen in
real life. And if a story is not at least partially based on reality,
the reader can’t connect with it.

This simple fact applies
not only in erotica but in all of literature. If science fiction goes
too far out into the black, no one wants to follow. If the
protagonist of a horror story shrugs off a wound that even a layman
knows is fatal, said layman will demand his money back.

Bypassing reality, while
expedient, comes with the cost of losing the reader’s interest.
Science fiction can go as far out as it wants to, so long as it
remembers to keep a sleeping pod open for humanity. Erotica must keep
the human element in the bedroom as well, if it wants readers to
return for more.

Because for as wonderful
and special as sex can be, it is still, at its heart, a physical act.
And like anything physical that a person tries for the first time,
they are bound to do it wrong.

Real people will gag,
cough at the wrong time, or feel ashamed when something doesn’t go
the way they imagined it. They may even hurt their partner without
meaning to. It’s distressing and humiliating, but everyone goes
through it. To pretend otherwise is like being that guy in high
school who brags about how great he was in the sack the first time
around. Everyone knows he is full of it before he even finishes

Don’t be that guy.

The impulse to skip over
the embarrassing moments may seem like the logical thing to do. When
I first started writing, I did the exact same thing. Why put in
happenings that are difficult to talk about, even years later?
Because people who’ve experienced a similar event will be able to
connect with your fictional re-imagining. The point is not to remind
readers of an embarrassing time in their lives, but to put them in
the right frame of mind to remember what came after. The moment when
they got it right.

That golden moment when
they and their lover found a rhythm or that one little spot and
suddenly…blankets got kicked off the bed, pillows were knocked
aside and two people clung to each other till they had nothing left
and all of it felt just a little bit like dying. Then they did it all

The missteps, accidents
and occasional tears were necessary because they made finally driving
each other absolutely, skin tremblingly insane worthwhile.

Readers come to erotica
because they want heat, but they stay for the heart. They don’t
just identify with characters who have foibles and make mistakes but
with the authors who create them as well. They purchase stories, tell
their friends and little by little a network of fans begins to form.

Give readers the heart,
heat, accidents and mistakes they want and they will look to you for
more. Remember, there may be a whole vast Internet out there full of
poorly written virgin stories ready to pull readers under, but if you
give them a safe port full of well written tales, they will study
oceanography to get to it if they have to. 


About the Author

Henry started writing erotica for the same reason that gets most people into trouble; Because of a girl. Several years ago he decided to turn his passion into a professional career. By day, Henry is a full-time federal employee, and by night a student working towards an MBA in healthcare. Whatever time he has left over, is devoted to family and writing. His work has been featured at and twice in the ERWA Gallery. He is currently at work on two novels. Updates and randomness can be found on twitter, @HenryCorrigan. More of his work can be found hanging in The Cave at

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