F*cking Outside the Lines: Erotic Romance’s Squicks and Surprises
By Alexa Day
I told someone not long ago that I was willing to read anything, as long as it was well written. It didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t altogether true. It turns out that I do have hard limits. Hang ups. Turn-offs. Squicks. I just don’t push those particular boundaries very often, and it turns out that having an untested boundary is much like not having a boundary at all.
Take dino porn. We have discussed dino porn before. You can look for it on Amazon if you want, but be warned that Amazon will then believe that you are interested in it and suggest future purchases accordingly. Dino porn, like Bigfoot porn, is one of those things that lies outside my boundaries. No matter how well dino porn is written, I’m probably not going to read it. I get that at its best, it’s supposed to be kind of an ironic, almost snarky take on the world of erotica and erotic romance. I understand that it’s pushing the envelope. It’s possible that I’m taking the whole thing too seriously. It just seems to me that it’s sex with the non-sentient species, and I don’t get the appeal of it. It’s certainly working for someone out there, but I’m okay leaving it alone.
I have the same trouble with the innocent heroine. I don’t want to put her in the same boat as dino porn, but I’m at my happiest when everyone in the story knows exactly what they’re getting into. I find that the line between innocent and dim gets blurry fast. And I’ll admit to harboring a little resentment toward our innocent friend. I’m put off by the idea that she basically stumbles into bliss without the experience gathered through trial and error and years of romantic mistakes. No matter how well written the innocent heroine is — and some great authors have worked with her — I will still want to shake her long before we’re finished.
Then we have a growing population of stories based on fetishized body functions. Lactation rises immediately to mind. I don’t have a problem with the many wondrous things the female body is designed to do. I really don’t. I just don’t find any of them arousing enough to support erotica.
But there’s pleasure to be found in reading out of bounds.
I have read some “zombierotica”: Undone by the Undead by Isabelle Drake and Hung Like a Dead Man by Sherri L. King. That, I enjoyed. At first blush, it would seem that zombierotica would violate my non-sentient species rule, right? But these zombies aren’t like the walkers from The Walking Dead, the infected from 28 Days Later, or the hordes from Night of the Living Dead, all of whom would trigger my aversion to non-sentient species and bodily functions. Drake and King are really writing about undead characters. Definitely not alive, at least in the traditional sense. But definitely sentient, and capable of communicating their desires to less undead partners. In short, zombies are the new vampires.
And on top of all that, it’s well written. I don’t mind breaking down barriers for that.
It’s not easy for erotic romance fans to admit hard limits; the genre itself is built on a measure of free thinking and open-mindedness. I think erotic romance writers in particular suppress the urge to recoil from the kinks that make them cross their legs.
But I know I’m not the only one with squicks. Fess up in the comments, if you dare.
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