Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Clothes My Words Wear

Erotica is apparently a bit of a trend right now. Doesn't really surprise me. One of the first things I noticed about my e-reader was that I could now essentially read anything, anywhere without fear of reproach. Not that I was a real racy reader to begin with.

As a long time fantasy and science fiction reader, a bit of reading apprehension is not uncommon to me. I suppose I can't shake the fear that the cover I'm displaying for all the world to see somehow says something about me. I've never let that fear stop me from reading in public, and it has occasionally earned me a comment (both good and bad).

Sometimes, I just want to be left alone. Perhaps I selected a book that was a bit outside the "norm" for me. I may not want to talk to you at length about it. Or maybe it's something I'm embarrassed about. It happens. When I was younger, I devoured every book that I could find. Once, I'd made it all the way through the bookshelf, and only my mother's Nora Roberts books were left. I read one, and was completely terrified of my mom finding me. It was like I'd secreted away a dirty magazine or something.

The point here is that there are nice things about not being able to immediately pick out a cover and know what someone is reading. It makes sense that racier stories might flourish on the digital platform.

My wife suggested that I try my hand at a sexy short story. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. To be quite honest, the prospect scares me a bit. I wouldn't say I'm a prude, but when I contemplate writing a sex scene, it feels as if I'm gearing up to take naked pictures of myself. Sharing that with my wife is one thing. Publishing something like that, though?

Now, I'm not saying erotica authors are like strippers. What I am saying is that it takes a certain amount of stripper-like confidence to get up on stage and flaunt what you've got. Writers can't help but put a lot of themselves into their writing, and sex scenes are no different. You're inevitably revealing part of yourself, and you're baring it to the world when you publish.

Jen Eifrig wrote a good article about sex scenes. It got me thinking. I know I'm going to write one eventually. I can't do the whole "dim the lights" trick forever, can I? I'm not sure I want to.

We could put on our business glasses for a moment. Sex sells. You can stop well short of nudity and still use sex to sell. E-readers are raising the privacy bar. I don't think there's much doubt that the Internet was the biggest thing to happen to adult entertainment well... ever. Digital publishing seems poised to do the same for the literary side of things. I'd be a fool not to consider it.

On the other hand, a writer can't half-ass a story. Your heart has to be into it. It shows.

I guess my question is: Am I talking about shucking my clothes and running around the house naked? Or am I the guy at the beach in a sweatsuit because swim shorts are too revealing for me? Social norms tend to shape our sense of morality. Would taking a nude photo be considered scandalous in a nudist colony? Or would it just be "taking a photo?"

It's an interesting thought, requiring a lot of insight into how my personal sense of morality has been shaped. It's sort of like the clothes my words wear. They don a style that, at a glance, gives a reader some ideas about who I am and what my values are. So, then, are naked words just as sexy?


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