By Alexa Day
Okay, real talk.
I write erotica and erotic romance. You all knew that.
From time to time, I do need help with research. Not that long ago, a friend and colleague helped me out with some questions I had about horseback riding. Someone else pitched in with some info about Uber. Another friend is drawing a floor plan to help me out with a location.
All these things are rich background details. They’re here to make the story feel more real. It’s important to get these right because getting a detail wrong can pull readers out of the story.
Today I want to talk about those other details. You know. The “good” parts.
I can only speak for myself here, but I do have to research at least some of the hot sexiness that appears in my work. I just don’t think I’m doing it the way the general public seems to think I am.
I’ve had to lie down in back seats to see if they’re the right size. I’ve had loud conversations in bathroom stalls to gauge just how far a girl’s voice will carry. I’ve rested my arm against a marble countertop to see if it’s cold. (The triceps muscle is great for this, in my experience.)
A great many people seem to be under the impression that one cannot write sex without having exactly the sort of sex that one is writing about.
That’s not true for me. I mean, I guess other writers might be doing that — and more power to them, I say — but I’m not. Honestly, with my schedule, I can’t imagine where I’d find the time to have that much research sex. And I’m concerned about what would happen if my worlds collided, and work and play became one. What usually happens is that both work and play become less enjoyable.
So no research sex for me.
In her February Salon article, “I’m a smut-smith, not a nympho,” Nicola Jane writes about the “Erotica Fallacy,” which she describes thus: “For nonfiction writers the gap between writing and life doesn’t exist. Nigella Lawson cooks, Bill Bryson travels and Piper Kerman recounts her real-life experiences of prison. For some reason, now I write erotica, I’ve apparently become a nonfiction author.” Many people, including her boyfriend, presumed that she had done most, if not all, of the things she wrote about.
In Jane’s case, and mine, all those titillating details come from the imagination. We’re making it up. I don’t think people find that as intimidating, but I often wonder why. Shouldn’t the woman who is constantly thinking about sex, in glistening Technicolor detail, raise eyebrows, too?
Or consider: should the woman who is constantly thinking about sex warrant the same non-response as the woman indulging in frequent research sex?
Why should the revelation that a woman writes erotica, erotic romance, or both generate so much hand-wringing, winking, and nudging? Is this happening to the male writers in our genre?
I wonder if we’re moving toward a society that treats erotica and erotic romance like just another subset of fiction. But then I wonder if I really want to live in a society like that. Sure, all that chuckling and giggling gets on my nerves sometimes. But sexy books are still pretty special, in their own unique way.
Follow Lady Smut. We’ll give you something to think about.
Alexa Day writes erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent and fictional worlds where strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and recovering attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.