Whoa, what? Where'd that come from, you ask? Well, New Year, New Me! Okay, not exactly. And I'm not exactly a judgmental bitch... not all the time, at least. This post has been brewing in my head for some time now, and I figured what better way to open the new year than with a bit of spunk? The post title is fair warning to you all: I'm not about to be nice, and you might disagree with me, but I don't care.
Let's talk about erotica, shall we? A year and a half ago I first wrote my little Erotica Writer's Manifesto. It was partially serious, and partially facetious. One line in particular is especially important to me:
I will not write trash.
I feel the need to reiterate this, and expand upon it. I know what some of you may be thinking: How do you define trash? One man's trash is another man's treasure. Or in the case of erotica, one person's squick may be another person's kink. I get that, I do. I like a good spanking scene now and then (as you can probably tell from my new short story), but that might totally turn off other people. That's fine. But for me, there is a line.
I joined a group of erotica writers late last year, excited to be in a group of like-minded people who write the same sort of stories I write. I love Agent Query Connect, and they aren't prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought a forum specifically for erotica writers would be perfect for me. Well, I didn't stay long. I poked around for a couple weeks, interacted a bit, but then I deleted my account. I couldn't get anything more there than I do from AQC and my network of writing friends on Facebook and Twitter. That, and I didn't like some of the conversation taking place there.
I'll bring this back around to the issue of writing "trash" in a second, just bear with me here. Anyone who knows me in real life, or who's interacted with me frequently enough in any online forum, Twitter, etc. knows I'm generally very middle-of-the-road, don't like taking "sides", hesitate to make any sort of value or judgment statement whatsoever (because I don't want to offend anyone, and don't want to have to retract a statement later if I change my mind and decide I'm wrong). I have to feel pretty strongly to draw any sort of line in the sand. But here I am, drawing one.
There's a particular type of erotica that is immensely popular and sells very well. I happen to find it slightly morally repugnant. I won't buy it. And if it's not something I'd buy to read myself, I won't write it, either. The question came up on this other forum about jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak, and publishing these types of stories because they're a hot seller. Some said sure, it's a little squicky but I write them and they make me good money. Some said no, I wouldn't do it. There was plenty of "don't do it if it's not right for you" but also plenty of "set aside your own objections and go for it! It's a hot seller! You can do it!" I made a comment similar to what I just said above: I wouldn't read it, and find the subject matter morally questionable, and therefore you won't catch me writing it to make a few bucks. Someone came back with a gentle nudge to tell me I might not want to offend my fellow writers who are trying to make a living, just because they chose to do it writing stories that aren't necessarily what I would write.
Well, whatever. That pissed me off a bit, I'll admit. It made me laugh a little bit, too. I thought it was interesting that someone chose to single me out for my opinion, but not any of the people encouraging others to swallow their own objections and drink the Kool-Aid. But that's all really beside the point.
The point is this: I won't write trash, and I consider those types of stories to be trash. I've hesitated to name the particular theme in case... well, I guess I'm still worried about offending any of my potential readers (old habits die hard) but here it is: pseudo-incest stories. The ones with step-parent/step-child sex, or step-siblings, etc. Daddy/daughter stuff especially. (I'm sure there are other subsets and themes that I disagree with, but this is the biggest.) You wouldn't believe how well they sell. It makes me shudder.
But the fact that these stories are popular isn't the only thing that astounds me. The seemingly nonchalant attitude of some of the writers about the moral "grey area" they inhabit with such writing was pretty stunning. There are discussions among writers about how well some of these different stories sell, how to "get over it" and write this type of story ("it" being your own mental blocks/objections), how to toe the line of legality, etc. Of course the arguments against me go something like this: You don't assume a murder mystery author is encouraging murder, do you? You don't think an author who writes about serial rapists or baby-killers is endorsing that behavior, do you? No, of course I don't. But this is different. I'm sorry, but it just is.
That's what I would qualify as trash. Subject matter that is morally reprehensible. And authors who pander to that market regardless. And without even bothering to write a good story. Because let me tell you, I followed the Amazon links and read some free samples, and in 99.9% of the cases, I found the writing quality to be sorely lacking.
The writing quality may even be what pisses me off the most. I have a message for these types of authors (and let me make it painfully clear, I am NOT referring to any and every member of that online forum I joined and then left, because they do not all fall into this category. I'm directing this toward any writer, anywhere, who writes these types of trashy storylines, especially if they also write trashily. No, trashily is probably not a word, but it fits here anyway.) Here's what I have to say:
You're giving erotica a bad name. You're the reason that people keep telling me I should use a pseudonym if I want to publish erotica. You're flooding the market with these books that I not only find disgusting, but that are also poorly written. Erotica can be so much more than just trashy sex. I'm tired of your predictable characterizations and plots. It makes me sick that many of these pseudo-incest stories feature a father figure who "teaches" the young woman about her sexuality. Or a mother figure who is a frigid bitch, leaving it up to the daughter to give the step-father the sexual attention he craves. I mean, seriously? WTF? Can't you at least think of something a little more imaginative? And hey, maybe a little less misogynistic?
Jump on the trashy bandwagon if you want, but you won't find me there. Not now. Not ever. You'll see all of my erotica published as J. Lea Lopez because I like what I write, and even if I touch on subjects or situations that some people may be uncomfortable with, I'll do it responsibly, and with some class. And talent. If I'm not willing to put my name on it, I'm not going to write it at all.