Erotic literature is a powerful thing. It reflects our desires. It shapes them. It helps us better understand who we are, what we like, and how we like it. It has the potential to open our minds and bodies to new experiences, and awaken new or latent forms of desire. It gives us the chance to transplant ourselves into infinite worlds of pleasure and fantasy.
So with that in mind, it makes sense for your go-to place for fantastic erotic writing (yes, we do mean us!) to reflect, shape and awaken as many kinds of desire as possible. And, if sex is a universal human experience, then those of us who peddle sexy stuff should make it as universal and human as we can. It’s time we spoke up for diversity.
Diversity is something that sexually explicit media have broadly failed at for centuries. While we all have our preferences, the ‘norm’ from which erotic media deviate to a greater or lesser extent is still defined by youth, whiteness, heterosexuality, and framed by the male gaze. For every civil rights victory and ‘equality and diversity away day’ the world has seen, too many contemporary representations of sex are still limited to fit, able-bodied white people fucking in a penthouse.
If diversity does emerge, it’s often mired in creepiness. Erotica and pornography have always relied on caricatures of the ‘other’ to be titillating or transgressive. Whether it’s the submissive geisha, the hyper-virile ‘native’, the naïve country bumpkin or the two hot lesbians who suddenly get bi-curious mid-pillow fight, lots of erotic fiction (like porn – like life, for God’s sake) is full of reductive tropes. The ‘diverse’ world is too often represented and instrumentalised by outsiders for the sake of cheap thrills. We can, and must, do better than this. And right now, we at Erotic Review are making it our mission to try.
It’s time we made the effort not just to find stories that wouldn’t make Edward Saïd or James Baldwin turn in their graves, but that accurately, positively and respectfully represent the sexual agency and identity of the millions of people of colour in the UK and worldwide. We want stories that explore and celebrate the erotic lives of people with disabilities, and who have disabled partners. We want minds and bodies in all their forms, doing whatever makes them tick. We want gayness, straightness, bi-ness, queerness, transness, genderfluidity and pansexuality. We want stories that challenge assumptions, defy stereotypes, and excite you into the bargain. We want fiction that represents you, and people like you, as exciting erotic beings who are shaped and influenced – but not defined, and certainly not ‘othered’ – by their race, faith, body, mind, gender and class.
And we at ER would like more fiction that does this for us too. I more want material that represents interracial sex without fetishising non-white bodies, and lets me connect with teenage Sunday mornings spent falling for Hrithik Roshan while I watched Bollywood films on Channel 4. I want more stories that disrupt heteronormativity and gender binaries, to help me tap into that time I read Orlando on a train and then had a sexy dream about an amorphous Tilda Swinton. Call me selfish, but diversity and representation are important for me too. Cute as I am, I don’t just want to read about sex with myself.
This isn’t to say we’re looking for writing that exclusively explores your lived experience. Good erotica, like all good fiction, is borne of the imagination – if it weren’t, we’d all be just splashing around in a sea of masturbation narratives for fear of representing another human being on paper. But, crucially, we do not want voices that speak of or for others without doing them justice.
Maybe you don’t want to join us. That’s cool. But consider this a standing invitation, an open door. We know we might not always get it right. But we’re working on it. And we’d love to see your work, and to hear what you have to say.
Submission guidelines can be found here.
Image credit: ‘Diversity’ by Nabeelah Is.