F*cking Outside the Lines: Erotic Romance’s Squicks and Surprises

You going to say no to a title like that? Click and try it.

You going to say no to a title like that? Click and try it.

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.

Try this one for free, if you dare.

Try this one for free, if you dare.

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.

And follow Lady Smut if you want to go there.

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  • Madeline Iva
    February 15, 2015 at 11:06 am

    You’re funny, Ms. Day. Innocents, dino porn, and zombies? Never would have thought to compare them m’self.

    I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who can defend dino porn, but I’d like to raise three cheers — not only for Isabelle Drake’s *excellent* zombie story — but let us also not forgot the wacky world of Daisy Harris before she went off to college and began focussing mostly on m/m.

    Before that she had a world full of crazy hot ‘steins’ and hot-bots, & I talked about that here: https://ladysmut.com/2012/10/22/cyborgs-sex-bots-steins/ and here: https://ladysmut.com/2012/10/25/ms-fifty-shades-of-gay

    • Alexa Day
      February 15, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      I’ve been sitting in on an e-conversation with someone writing dino porn, and her position, drawn broadly, is “honey, lighten up!” I think they get that dino porn is squicky for a lot of us, but they’re trying to have a playful good time with it. Even though it’s not for me (really, no thanks), I absolutely love to see people experimenting with things in this cheerful manner. I’d love to hear from a dino porn writer here in the comments.

      I’m totally okay putting innocent heroines and Bigfoot in the same boat, but I think the zombies are in their own class. I’ve only read a couple of them, but they were both very sentient and capable of enthusiastic consent. 😉 They’re just dead. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m more okay with dead characters than with innocent ones, which probably sends a message about me, right?

      Oh — and I am absolutely in favor of robo-sexytimes.

  • Madeline Iva
    February 19, 2015 at 8:58 am

    If the cyborg you’re thinking of is Michael Fassbender, I’m not going to say no. That is all.

  • Madeline Iva
    February 19, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Meanwhile, Zombies…Vampires….ghosts…Frankensteins…they’re all undead, but something about the zombie & frankenstein is definitely associated with dead body (perhaps already rotting) stuff and the others aren’t…

    This squicks you out, doesn’t it? I think that some of the writers are really good and get you over the hump, but I think it’s worth noting that for some readers there’s resistance at first and that must be overcome.

    It’s a cleanliness/purity thing that gets some readers, perhaps. Isn’t it funny that the general vampire romance reader doesn’t associate drinking blood with something ‘unpure’?

    • Alexa Day
      February 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

      I read an erotic Frankenstein-style story — I think it was Body Parts by Adrianna Dane, but I’m not positive — where the engineered man was very, very much alive. That was a super hot story. I think even Shelley’s Frankenstein monster was very alive; if he is gross today, we must blame Hollywood.

      My limited reading shows writers falling into one of two camps — acknowledging reader resistance by meeting the reader halfway, or challenging the reader to move forward anyway. I love a challenge!

  • A. P. Bullard
    February 19, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I have my boundaries when it comes to what types of erotica I am willing to read. Anything that focuses around nonconsensual abuse, gross bodily functions, or interspecies relationships are most definitely on my “I’m going to just glue my legs shut” list. Dino erotica would fall within that category, though the idea makes me laugh.

    That being said, you made zombie erotica sound like something that would be interesting to read, and worth stepping out of my comfort zone for.


    • Alexa Day
      February 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

      A.P., the zombies are definitely worth it. They’re not like vampires, in the sense that you do have to get comfortable with the idea in your mind as you’re reading, but I enjoy doing that sort of work. Maybe they’re like vampires used to be, before we romanticized them so.

      Do give them a try; I’d be very interested to know what you think!

      • A. P. Bullard
        February 20, 2015 at 12:57 pm

        I will definitely try it out! I like stepping outside of my comfort zone. Well, within reason. haha

  • Alexa Day
    February 22, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Alexa J. Day and commented:

    So where do you draw the line?


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