Erotic Interlude: Your Sexual Fantasies are too Arty!
By Hapax Legomenon

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Daniel Hernández (1856-1932) Reclining Nude

I didn't know whether Lisa would enjoy my story Erotic Notion #41: Coming Attractions which was more of a pornographic reverie than anything else. In fact, I consciously avoided mentioning it when I saw her next. She must have read the story (it was only 2 pages long), but I doubt she had gotten into it. And maybe I didn't either. It was more of a prose exercise than an attempt at storytelling.

"I realize that this piece was more of a parody than anything," Lisa said, "My problem is with the story's style. Erotic fantasies should be easy to read. This one sounded too arty and artificial."

"But the story lines of porn films are dull; my story tries to compress what was already a bad story into a one or two minute preview."

"I see what you are saying," Lisa said. "But when you turn it into a prose piece, you make it impossible for readers to get into the story."

"That's the point!" I replied.

"A good sexy story shouldn't be hard to read," Lisa said. "The style should be loose and natural, as though you were simply transcribing a sexual fantasy. Maybe if you were reading Faulkner or Proust or a young experimental writer, you'd be ready to deal with complexities of style. But remember: erotic stories are supposed to be sexy! A convoluted Proustian sentence will never be sexy (no matter how many cocks and pussies it contains)."

"Erotica is a deeply subjective and irrational activity," I said. "It's only natural that the flow of thoughts would be unshapely or even ungrammatical. I'm trying to translate raw feelings into words."

"I accept that, but your sentences are so compressed and convoluted that the feelings never come to life. Your style seems almost ornamental."

"Complexity," I pontificated, "is in the eye of the beholder. And long sentences don't automatically render prose unreadable. Sure, you can overdo it, but an occasional extended sentence can be tolerable and even appropriate if it conveys a chain of thoughts."

"I won't disagree," Lisa said. "How can I? But you miss the point. Erotica appeals primarily to emotions; a weighty style seems out of place in a story whose aim is sexual titillation. It's like finding a Samuel Becket story inside an anthology of children's fairy tales. You can write like that and perhaps even succeed, but how can you expect people to call it erotica? Why not use the expectations of a genre to your advantage instead of trying to subvert it?"

"You are certainly entitled to that belief," I said. "But this is my story; I can try anything I want."

"Sure, try it," Lisa said. "Try anything! But if you want readers won't find a dense style sexy. Maybe you have a Wizard of Oz fetish or an obsession with corsets or high-heeled shoes. Maybe you are the only one who finds such details fascinating. But if your story targets people with your same fetishes, what have you accomplished?"

"In a way," I said, "all erotica can be reduced to personal fetishes or sexual triggers."

"But your stories don't feel like sexual fantasies; I feel like I'm reading an artist's attempt to simulate sensuality with prose. I guess I applaud your ambitions. But wouldn't it be easier just to write sexual fantasies exactly as you imagined them – without the artificial language?

You can't just do that," I said.

"Why not?" Lisa said. "An erotica story needs to feel casual and extemporaneous. Perhaps erotic stories should be written in a single sitting; you shouldn't be allowed to leave your chair until you finish it."

"Wow. You make it sound so easy," I said to Lisa.

"And you make it sound so hard," she replied, laughing.

Written November 2009

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"A convoluted Proustian sentence will never be sexy (no matter how many cocks and pussies it contains)."
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