You all may have noticed (or not if you’ve never read my work, and shame on you) that most of my stories include sex or at least the mention of sex. Weird, romantic, disturbing, funny, confusing; I like to write all the sex.
The best sex writing, though, is the kind erotic horror inspires me to write. I didn’t realize I might actually be good at it until recently, when I was invited to submit something for DarkFuse’s Erotikos series. (which is going to be AWESOME, by the way) You can read the teaser story, GOOD VIBRATIONS, written by yours truly, for free. Here’s a look at the trailer.
To say I was excited to be involved in this series would be an understatement. I wasn’t sure what Erotikos editor, Dave Thomas expected, because a lot of people, publishers included, have different ideas of what the genre is about, so I sent him three very different stories. One is very dark, another is surreal and weird, and the last, Good Vibrations, has a generous dose of humor to go with the dark and weird. This is what I love about the horror genre in general. You can take one idea in so many directions, the possibilities are almost limitless.
Anyway, you probably don’t care about all of that. What the fuck is erotic horror? (Many of you have asked me this already) Isn’t that just torture porn? Or monster porn? Or maybe you’re curious about how the two themes, erotica and horror, can possibly work together? Aren’t they a contradiction? How can a person can turn your crank while also scaring the bejesus out of you? Well, I’ll try to define it.
When I say erotic horror, I’m not talking about sex with vampires or stories pussy-eating space monsters that pleasure a plain Jane Earth girl and make her a sex slave on their planet. Those are definitely dark erotica, but not examples of the erotic horror I know and love. (Although, pussy eating space monsters is going into The File.)
The really simplified, basic definition of erotic horror is a horror story with sex in it. However, that’s misleading and doesn’t really give readers an idea of what they’re about to read. All horror is a little erotic, because horror is a seductive genre. I mean, we have to convince the reader to come into our twisted world so we can scare the shit out of her. That requires some serious sweet talking. But just because a horror story has a sex scene in it, doesn’t mean it’s erotic horror. To be erotic horror, in my opinion, the sex has to be an integral element to the story. It must be necessary to either the plot or the development of your characters. Sure, you can add it for shock value, and I have done that, but the best erotic horror weaves the fear and sexual arousal so tightly together, separating them would cause the story to fall apart.
Really good erotic horror makes you question yourself, your beliefs and even your sexuality. It turns your stomach, while also turning your crank. This requires ideas or themes that are so far outside your comfort zone, you almost take a step back to question who you are. The back and forth between sexual arousal and repulsion digs into a part of the brain we don’t often visit, but don’t worry. Erotic horror is a safe place for you to explore fears, emotions and sexual desires that aren’t generally acceptable. Often, a dash of humor is needed to help the reader keep going. Lighten the mood. Make what they’re reading not quite so heavy. This combination of fear, arousal and humor is problematic for some.
It’s not about glamorizing anything or making light of anyone. I can say that a million times, though, and few people would really hear me. I think the problem lies in the bad rap the two genres have gotten over the years. I know erotica isn’t a respected genre. It’s not considered serious fiction, and its authors aren’t considered serious writers. You don’t need skill to make someone horny, after all. (I disagree, but we’ll save that for another time) Erotica is also widely considered to be a “woman’s” genre, like romance. We all know how seriously women are taken in some areas of publishing. Another topic we can discuss later. Horror has similar stereotypes attached to it, although it’s considered to be a boys’ club. Women can’t scare people and men can’t turn them on.
Combining the two is insane, because who’s going to write it?
Erotica and horror are a natural pairing, in my opinion, but I get the impression that women writing erotica that doesn’t shit rainbows and butterflies of feelings really bothers some people. On the other hand, men writing violent scenes involving sex are viewed as misogynist assholes. I’ve heard a range of questions and comments about my reasoning for choosing this genre. It’s degrading to women, so how can I, a woman, embrace such a thing? It glorifies abhorrent behavior, deviant ideas, and taboo themes. It tells people I’m cool with this stuff. I’m easy or freaky or whatever. It’s not healthy. It’s not something a good feminist would write. How can I look at my daughters and be proud of what I’ve done?
Erotic horror should be entertaining first, but it can also be liberating and empowering for both reader and writer. As a woman, being able to explore ideas and fantasies that terrify me allows me to take control of things that make me feel powerless in real life. As a writer, it frees a creative part of my brain other fiction just can’t tap into. I love that I can take an issue that is important to women, like how we’re raised to protect ourselves against rape, even though we have no control over when it’ll happen (and many of us accept it’s a matter of “when” rather than “if” which is so sad), and turn it on its head. I can make a man experience the same fear, dread, and shame that women are conditioned to feel every single day, with a just one scene. (A scene you’ll get to read in the Erotikos series) I can also make readers see that having a fantasy that’s outside the norm doesn’t make them sick or weird. We all have deviant fantasies. We all wonder about taboo ideas. Reading/watching these things lets us explore those fantasies in a safe place, and maybe opens up a whole new way of thinking. It doesn’t mean we’ll do it. It doesn’t mean we want to. It just means we’re open to exploring.
Sometimes erotic horror doesn’t have any of that. The best, and I’m talking, the ultimate, most well-crafted, perfectly written erotic horror, or just horror in general, can take a completely disgusting premise or the most terrifying and/or disturbing scenes, and still make it erotic, without using actual sex. It’s all in the word choices and the atmosphere created by the writer as he moves the reader through the story. These have you reaching the end, finally taking a breath, and then realizing you’re kind of turned on, but you’re not sure why. Man, that’s some good writing.
Now, I’m not saying erotic horror changes lives or breaks down the narrow minded bullshit that plagues today’s society, although, maybe that’s a good goal. (Personally, I’m sick of figuring out what will or won’t offend or trigger someone.) I’m saying it challenges us to question what we think we know about ourselves. Anything that challenges you can’t be all bad.
And sometimes, yes, erotic horror is just a good way to knock one out. There’s nothing wrong with that either.