A young journalist gets an education in smut
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I'd never considered a career in smut until I got fired from my day job as a waiter. As a freelance journalist, my first instinct was to find a stable writing gig. But after hours of meticulously scouring Craigslist, I was a beaten man. There just aren't that many full-time writing positions available. And though the perks in freelancing are great (changing the world, getting free shit, etc.), the financial ceiling is pretty low. But thankfully, as I abandoned my job search that night, I found myself surfing the Web for free porn and thinking about my mother. Wait. Let me explain.
My mother is also a writer. And after getting a series of rejection letters, she sought career advice from an esteemed professor. He suggested sex writing as a fast, easy way to make money, likening it to the advertising work American actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron do abroad. Thanks to pseudonyms, writers can publish erotic fiction without tarnishing their reputations. After all, who would know A.N. Roquelaure, author of the Sleeping Beauty erotic series, is really Anne Rice unless she'd wanted us to know?
My mother was financially stable enough to disregard the professor's advice, but in that moment it seemed to be a perfect solution for a struggling journalist. I figured all I needed was some practice and a good pseudonym.
Sound easy? It's not.
Sexy prose does not come naturally at least, not to me. I had to find my e-zone, to push my inhibitions aside and turn up my id. I put in a heroic effort with my first story, but the pirate-themed fetish piece was dripping with the self-deprecating humor I inject into my usual culture stories and not all that sexy. I needed some guidance.
I figured Good Vibrations, with its wall of books with titles such as I Once Had a Master and Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z, would be a good place to start. So I went to the Mission location, bought some anthologies, and signed up for the next night's erotic writing circle. I thought if I met people who were working out the kinks in their writing, maybe I could work some into mine.
The next night I smoked nervously in my car outside the Center for Sex and Culture. No doubt the room would be full of semiprofessional sex writers, I figured, dressed for action in lingerie or rubber suits. They would be so comfortable talking about pussies and cocks and masturbation and fucking that I, with my red face and sweaty palms, would look like a fidgety prude.
Of course, I was wrong. I was first greeted by the center's cofounder, sexologist Carol Queen, whose sensible sweater and black-rimmed spectacles made her look more like a hip college professor than the porn star I expected. There were about seven other people, none of them dressed for sex either. Among them: a high school teacher, a social worker, and a life coach. They all looked as nervous as me, notebooks clutched in their laps.
Queen's cofacilitator, Jennifer Cross, began with a work in progress about a woman haunted by the memory of a rape. Her protagonist had no need for therapy, choosing instead to cultivate sanity in the arms of a lover with a taste for violent role play. Cross's lusty voice rose and fell with her characters' sexual peaks and valleys. It was fucking hot. And nothing like my story.
The high school teacher was next. Her story about a teenage girl's trip to the Holy Land differed drastically from Cross's. It seemed more funny than sexy, so I was surprised to see people squirming. The same thing happened when the life coach read. His story, told from the perspective of a young boy witnessing his first sex act, was also humorous. But it too had the desired effect on some. The grand finale was Queen's story about a star-crossed relationship she'd had with a lesbian in denial. Her piece was funny and realistic yet undeniably erotic.
I left the reading circle confused. Although most of the stories were good, few had made my naughty bits tingle. If they could be considered erotic, wouldn't my pirate story also qualify?
I decided to turn to the experts to help answer the tough questions.
I asked Cross about the role of humor in erotica. It seemed to work for Queen and some of the others, but wouldn't everyone laugh at some poor dude with a pirate fetish? Cross told me not to worry. "Some folks might think a story is stupid or not sexy or boring," she said. "But there will be those who breathe a sigh of relief because someone finally wrote about their fantasy."
She also reminded me that erotic fiction like all writing isn't easy. I turned to another expert, Violet Blue sex blogger, author-editor of several erotic fiction anthologies, and well-known erotic podcaster for more advice.
"The key is authenticity. Strive to create real, complex characters flawed, not perfect in realistic relationships with an honest, rip-each-other's-clothes-off need to fuck burning beneath the surface at all times," said Blue (yes, that's her real name), whose Web site, www.tinynibbles.com , features samples of the genre's best writers; links to Web publishers, online communities, and safe porn sites; and photo albums of erotic art.
"And please," Blue added, "don't go overboard with genital-sexual euphemisms."
For publishing options, Blue guided me to www.erotica-readers.com , which has an extensive list of soliciting publishers. It took a while to comb through the endless calls for submissions, and although I didn't find any for pirate stories, I did locate Black Lace Anthologies, which offers $800 for stories with werewolves, vampires, and other oddities, and Penthouse Variations, which pays $400 for stories about anything sexual. Cross also assured me editors are open to new writers as well as experimental stories.
It seems all I need now is a pseudonym. *
CENTER FOR SEX AND CULTURE
2215R Market, SF
To read Justin Juul's pirate story, visit www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision .