The Vagenda

In Search of Something to Wank To

seven-years-to-sin-cover

I think any student currently taking up residence in their university library as deadlines and exams roll around, will agree that a little ‘me-time’ has become a necessity. For me, writing my dissertation on contemporary erotic romance literature has increased this need considerably. But unfortunately, sitting in the library day after day, reading sex scene after sex scene, I have realised that nothing out there is really doing it for me. With porn and erotic lit not hitting the spot, what is there to wank to?

I have always found pornography to be, at best, uninspiring, and at worst, downright problematic. Watching semen splatter all over a girl’s grimacing, pained expression isn’t really my idea of a good time. Supposedly there is so-called ‘feminist porn’ out there, but my half-arsed searches have proved it to either be as elusive as the clitoris in mainstream pornography, or based on the premise that what constitutes women-friendly porn is the addition of a lovey-dovey backstory.

During my dissertation research I found that many women instead turn to erotic literature to get their kicks. But this hasn’t got me going either.

The sex scenes in erotic lit start off ok. It’s not the unrealistic aspects of the texts that are problematic; genre convention dictates elements of the fantastical. I can deal with the overzealous description of just exactly how wet the heroine is on a scale of leaky drain to luxury power shower; it’s all part of setting the scene. The kind of exaggeration that I can’t deal with is the description of the character’s thoughts as they seal the deal. He’s all, “oh my god, if I look at you I will literally die [read ‘come’] because of your incredible beauty” and she’s all, “you’ve basically reinvented sex for me and I’m essentially having an out of body experience.”

Take this sex scene from Sylvia Day’s bestselling historic romance, Seven Years to Sin. The heroine, Jess, is finally about to get down and dirty with the book’s Byronic hero, Alistair. As he begins to undress her, Jess feels “slightly intoxicated”, drunk off his man fumes. She proceeds to lose her shit when Alistair himself de-robes, and says that “her entire body [feels] alien to her”. By the end of the scene she is a “different woman”. She’s had to completely separate mind and body in order to justify all the sweaty huffing and puffing that has just occurred, including, may I add, a part in which Alistair climaxes during fellatio but manages to maintain his “rigid tension” and penetrate her to insanity for the next five pages. Without even taking a nap in between!

While Jess’ mind is away with the fairies, Alistair also gets his interior monologue weigh-in – because equality. And because split POV is the hip new trend in erotic romance writing. Jess pats his face and he exclaims, “Christ, Jess…If your aim is to kill me, be mercifully quick about it. Don’t torment me.” Chill out Alistair, it’s a pat. Like Jess, Alistair is also “drive[n]… to madness” and starts growling and grunting in every other sentence. However, his madness is justified as part of his animalistic masculine nature. So Alistair is allowed to go totally nuts whereas Jess has to split her identity so that sex does not become, heaven forbid, a part of her personhood.

If this doesn’t seem a little iffy, then what about the fact that the mind-blowing sex in erotic literature is only acceptable because of the undying love between the hero and the heroine and their inevitably conformist and heteronormative marriage. Slut-shaming is prevalent in erotic romances, only marriage gets the thumbs up. This sits just as badly with me as the often overt misogyny of pornography does. Is it not possible to combine the genuinely satisfying sex of erotic lit with the casual coupling of porn encounters?

I’m not saying the result would have to be like this liberal dude making the whole affair “so comfortable” and bland. What about a hybrid scenario where the guy and the girl are all “I respect your personhood and would also like to fuck you” and then some fairly standard porn but with better camera angles ensues, except that the interior monologue of the woman is dubbed over the top and she’s going, “yea this is just what I needed and it’s going to make me come a realistic number of times and I won’t go insane with pleasure but I’ll definitely have an awesome time”?

If anyone knows whether this already exists, please let me know. It would be great to stop going solo to the patriarchy, and would probably help with revision too.

- NT

17 thoughts on “In Search of Something to Wank To

  1. I fear you are reading the wrong kind of erotic literature… there’s pretty much something for everyone out there.

  2. My wank bank of choice is ‘My secret garden’, a compilation of women’s sexual fantasies. You can read it online for free too: https://ia600507.us.archive.org/21/items/MySecretGarden/17327923-Nancy-Friday-My-Secret-Garden.pdf

    Basically it’s a collection of letters from women about their sexual fantasies – so the content, the writing style and the attitudes change drastically. Each letter is accompanied by a reflective paragraph on why this may turn the woman on. If not erotic, it’s a very interesting read. It’s an old book though so do take some of the social observations with a pinch of salt. It suits my over thinking mind very well. There’s something for everyone!

  3. There is great feminist porn out there, but it isn’t that easy to find. Even the places that do it well sometimes stumble. One great clearing for that kind of thing is Lust Cinema, which functions primarily as a vehicle for the work of director Erika Lust but that has a bunch of other stuff, too, including much of the really amazing work being done recently by Eddie Powell and Jacky St James for New Sensations.
    If you’re looking more for vignettes (just the sex, please), then try Bright Desire, run by Australian director Ms Naughty, which has some really amazing stuff. More mainstream sites like XArt, Dane Jones, and Erotica X can be pretty good, too. If you’re looking for something a bit more filmy, try the work of Nica Noelle, first at Sweet Sinner, now at Hard Candy Films.
    There’s a lot more, too (especially if you like boy-less material), but that’s a start.

  4. I think the most feminist porn I know of is the Crashpad ones. Not so much for feminism but for the range of genders shown.

  5. Good Vibrations has a selection of feminicentric (is that even a word?) porn. Not specifically feminist, but geared towards women as it’s audience.

  6. I agree with the above comment there are lots of books on female fantasies and they certainly push my button… Nancy Friday “my secret garden” a 1970′s classic. I personality like the raw, gritty basicness of them… Love and commitment not often a subject covered if you know what I mean.

  7. tumblr should be your friend. it certainly is mine. you can find whatever you’re in to I think… all in short and sweet pictures or gifs.
    I am so grateful for tumblr.

  8. I’ve noticed there are two kinds of porn. Porn featuring authentic sex and porn with fake sex. Sure, the guy cums in fake sex, but the entire scene makes Mitt Romney seem sincere in comparison. Fake expressions, bad, really bad acting. This is obscene given that sex is natural to all humans.

    Good porn is created from authentic sex of two or more people having an incredible time together while someone videos them. One has to almost TRY to screw this kind of video up, although certain self-appointed “directors” are apt to do so. The “actors” don’t need to be amazingly hot, just normal decent looking people who can express their horniness, enjoying it immensely, while someone videos them. This kind of video usually is at minimum fun, and often great. Sadly, most porn ISN’T this type.

    Awful porn occurs when moronic “directors” coach the women into silly expressions which dolts and ten-year-olds imagine reflects amazing passion. Fake sex and mediocre porn usually feature women who look like Barbie, who are shaved, who look ludicrously bland, with high perkies, women who buy the half-witted notion they have to ACT.

    Herein is the greatest problem with this type of porn, which sadly constitutes most porn. People are coached to ACT. Huh? Why pretend? Why not do it and enjoy it? They obfuscate the greatest feeling on earth with silly looks, flat intonation, and cliche story lines of gooey facials and the woman pretending to be lost in deep lust.

    I don’t know who really thinks that kind of porn is any good except very young guys or none-too-bright dudes.

    I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that women hate the fake sex videos, but are likely to enjoy the authentic stuff, the videos featuring people being natural, lusty, and authentic.

    How people can ruin a sex-video is beyond me. But most porn manages to do just that.

    Porn ought to be taken out of the hands of the “pros.” Regular people do it much better.

  9. I never came across really well written porn literature, and I wonder how much it finds its reason in the genre itself, which is as many genres do, busy with finding variations of the very same position. It would be great if more authors outside of designated erotic literature sphere would include sex more ambitiously within their own work. I still think and Doris Lessing once wrote a wonderful preface, that Lady Chatterly still is an example beyond the obvious imaginations to be found.

  10. Man fumes?

    Eeep, that makes me think he needs to take a shower. Or a charcoal tablet, possibly.

    ::hurl::

    Michael:

    Herein is the greatest problem with this type of porn, which sadly constitutes most porn. People are coached to ACT. Huh? Why pretend? Why not do it and enjoy it? They obfuscate the greatest feeling on earth with silly looks, flat intonation, and cliche story lines of gooey facials and the woman pretending to be lost in deep lust.

    Are you talking about professional mainstream porn? If so, then they are acting, they’re not having sex with someone they want to have sex with. It’s a job, it is faked.

    I don’t know who really thinks that kind of porn is any good except very young guys or none-too-bright dudes.

    I’d say it’s particularly not-good for them, because too often it happens they get the idea this is what sex should be like, and then try to behave that way in their own sex lives. It’s not even specific acts that are the problem there – it’s the lack of consent.

  11. piquezine.com claims to publish “quality erotica” for women. Very varied both in terms of content and style, but some of it is pretty good imo.

  12. Try the Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reiz. It covers vanilla to kink and features a kick ass heroine who is, shock horror, not a virgin. Also, try the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Ann Rice, it’s bonkers and kinky. Both are far more inventive than any shades of grey mush.

  13. I’ve got to speak up for my erotic romance colleagues here. We write what sells, at the end of the day. One of my publishers specifically states on their submission page that the story must be told from 3rd person POV and must feature alternating chapters from both (or, if it’s a menage/multiple partner story, all) of the characters involved in the relationship. They also specify that the growing romance should feature in at least 70% of the story. I think fans of erotic romance want to read smutty stories with a fantasy man/romance thrown in and there are many authors, including Sylvia Day, who have gained a huge following by giving readers exactly what they want. I try to write intelligent heroines and realistic heroes but, at the end of the day, all that matters is that the hero brings out the heroine’s repressed sexual desires by being such a skilful lover that she has no choice but to ‘let go’. Isn’t that what many of us fantasise about? Meeting a decent, good looking guy who just knows what we want and exactly how we want it? That is the basic fantasy driving the popularity of these types of books. As for ‘slut shaming’ and marriage being the only satisfactory conclusion to the stories, I can tell you that it might be true in mainstream romances from publishers like Harlequin/Mills and Boon, etc, but not with the majority of erotic romance publishers. The only requirements we are given when we are writing an erotic romance are that the characters involved are either HEA (Happy Ever After) or HFN (Happy for Now). If we are writing Erotica, then no level of romance or commitment is required or even expected.

  14. I happen to have written a book that might sit between the mush and the porn because it’s Choose Your Own Adventure style so the reader is the main character. It’s been out since Feb and the difficulties I am finding in getting it out there tie in with a lot of what’s said here.
    It’s marketed as erotic romance but there’s no romance in it and so some readers are upset there is no lovey dovey storyline. It works as a series of scenarios or short stories and it’s pretty filthy. I’ve not gone for multiple orgasms – indeed there isn’t an orgasm in every scene because that heaving bosom, panting, earth shattering endless orgasm, and then another one, just isn’t what real sex is like.
    The other commenter who’s an erotica writer is right about the market and what sells but it’s that the publisher’s have created a certain market and then women think erotica has to be romantic and porn is a dirty thing they must distance themselves from. I’d describe my book as closer to porn.
    So where are all the readers that are tired of being condescended to and told they want their escapism to be romance fuelled and not just sex? Why is “just sex” a bad thing?
    Check it out, if you like – Follow Your Fantasy by Nicola Jane.
    My prediction for the Choose Your Own nostalgia driven revival? Someone will come along and do a sexy romance one and be a bestseller.
    Either women want romance or they’ve been made to think they do because that’s all they really see out there. Or, third alternative, since women can get sex easily (compared with men) the “escape” is not a world in which they can get sex, it’s one where they get romance. I wonder when there will be another form of escapism….the kind of sex women would get if more men weren’t learning how to do it from porn.

  15. Weirdly (as a bisexual woman who’s pretty much gone to the gay) Sherlock/John slash does it for me… wish I had the money for psychoanalysis.

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