by Lisabet Sarai
I write erotica and erotic romance at the more intense end of the heat scale. I'm not afraid to use explicit language when the story requires it. I've never had particular trouble calling a “throbbing pillar of male flesh” by one of its common names. So it may come as a surprise to readers to learn that one of my pet peeves in erotic writing is an excessive focus on body parts.
All it takes is one mention of a character's G-spot and I'm ready to throw the book across the room. (Of course, I won't really do that, as it would cause serious damage to my beloved Eee PC, but I'm speaking figuratively.) I would rather not hear about how one hunk's back entry stimulates the other hunk's prostate. I couldn't care less when a heroine's fingers tickle the hero's perineum. I even get a bit annoyed by incessant references to women's clits, grateful though I am that men finally did discover that delightful little nubbin.
My objections are not rooted in squeamishness. I've written scenes that my publishers wouldn't print because they were too extreme. My main objection to all this anatomy is that it doesn't matter. It's distracting. Especially in romance, but even in erotica, the emphasis should be on the characters' feelings – both their emotions and their sensations.
The fact is that when you are making love or even just having sex, you are typically not thinking about either yourself or your partner in terms of discrete organs or erogenous zones. Sex is an integrated experience, and sexual feelings are diffuse. I don't really know, exactly, when someone is licking my clit. The feelings ripple away from the point of stimulation and affect my whole body. I would bet a month's royalties that no man, being penetrated, thinks, “Oh God, yes, I can feel him rubbing against my prostate, and it's fantastic.” No, he's more likely thinking, “Oh yeah, give me more!”. Or perhaps not thinking at all, just reveling in the physical sensations and his own emotional reactions.
An author's goal should be to have her readers identify and empathize with her characters. In a sex scene, she wants the reader firmly ensconced in the character's head. Explicit descriptions do play a role in achieving this objective. They may arouse the reader, making it easier for her to imagine the character's experience. We're conditioned to react sexually to words like “nipple” and “cock”. Dirty words evoke sexy feelings. A skillful erotic author takes advantage of this conditioning.
Overuse, however, blunts the reaction to sexual terminology. In addition, an excess of physical details will draw the reader's attention to the characters' bodies and away from their minds and hearts. The reader becomes an observer rather than a vicarious participant in the scene.
Furthermore, it is the psychological associations of sexual acts, as much as the acts themselves, that make them exciting. Let's consider anal sex once again. (I will admit that it is a favorite literary topic of mine.) Yes, it can feel great if done correctly. But personally, I think the reason that anal entry is so exciting is because it is something of a taboo. In addition, there is a larger element of trust involved in allowing anal penetration than in other sexual acts. It is especially intimate because of the risk of injury and the element of surrender on the part of the individual being penetrated. It is special, regardless of whether the prostate is stimulated or in whether in fact any prostate is involved, because of the bond that it can create between the participants—in the case of erotic romance, the characters.
I'm particularly put off by references to the G-spot because the notion of a magic key that unlocks female ecstasy is so antithetical to the core tenets of romance. In my view, it's not what's being done to you that counts—it is who is doing it. I suppose that some people may experience sex differently, but for me at least, arousal is as much mental, even spiritual, as it is physical. I truly believe my tag-line: imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.