Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sex With Strangers

By Donna George Storey

Several years ago, I shared some of my erotic fiction with a friend from an online writing workshop. He came back with this curious reply: “I found it interesting that you like to write about sex between people who know each other.” I laughed out loud. I knew a good majority of smutty stories involve strangers bonking madly after a random meeting at a club or the bus stop, but was it really so remarkable that I wrote dirty stories where the characters share some kind of emotional as well as physical intimacy?

Indeed as a writer and a reader, I tend to prefer stories where the emotional tension between two—or three or more—partners is as compelling as the physical connection. I firmly believe the best erotic tales start with a good story first, and that you should be able to tone down the sex or even take it out completely and still have an interesting encounter. This might seem to put me strongly in the “love” camp. Certainly when I first sat down to ponder this compelling topic of the relative importance of love and sex in erotica, I assumed my priorities as a writer and a lover would remain firmly in alphabetical order.

But then I realized, as have my esteemed “Oh Get a Grip” fellow bloggers before me, that it’s not so easy to decide. I’ve been truly, mutually in love but twice in my life, and the first was a mere three-month practice session. In both cases, however, I fell in love only after it was clear that the sex was fantastic. In other words, I waited for my body to find the perfect fit before I let my heart get involved. It’s also pertinent that in my single days, I found the phrase “making love” to be a painfully laughable euphemism. It most definitely did not describe what I did with the men I slept with. Back in the heyday of the sexual revolution, I meant to “fuck like a man” and that didn’t involve the mushy stuff. Yet the years have taught me that when love and trust are the foundation of erotic indulgence, I do feel more loving afterwards, more forgiving of petty day-to-day annoyances. Each time my husband and I make love—or fuck like wild animals--we renew our vows. Thus, sex and love enhance each other, like lime and chile, vanilla and cream.

I’m starting to get hungry.

In any case, our awareness of this mutually nurturing relationship between love and sex can only strengthen a writer’s powers. I once commented to another erotica writer that I couldn’t imagine having really good sex with a stranger. I was of course speaking from personal experience. She countered with her own personal experience at swingers’ clubs where indeed she’d had transcendent sex with partners she’d known for a few minutes. While I have no interest in exploring an open marriage, the writer in me felt chastised and challenged. What would it be like to be the type of person who went to these clubs and had a good time? What would have to change in the way I perceive the world for me to create a convincing character who inhabited such a different space?

The very idea of pulling this off provoked and excited me. And yet, I can’t really claim full membership in the “sex” club either.

For all my amusement at my online’s friend’s comment so many years ago, I have to admit I’ve written plenty of stories about strangers having satisfying erotic connections. You could even argue that if my stories turn my readers on, I’ve had sex with people I haven’t even met. Yet even then, love matters. That is, my love for the very process of writing fiction: becoming my characters, transforming my fantasies into language so that others may share in my momentary vision of the many ways eros finds expression. Every erotica writer who is serious about her work by definition brings love of her art to the page, but he also must tap into the fundamental creative energy of sex itself. Complicated, maybe, but the good news is that we don’t have to choose one or the other at all.

We just have to keep writing.


Donna George Storey has always loved sex. She is the author of Amorous Woman, a very steamy novel about an American woman’s love affair with Japan, as well has dozens of erotic short stories which have appeared in such places as Penthouse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica and Best American Erotica. She currently writes a column for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, “Cooking up a Storey” about her favorite topics: sex, food, and writing.


My website:

Cooking up a Storey


  1. Donna,

    Thank you for joining us here at the Grip this week.

    A wonderful post, and you final remarks - we just have to keep writing - are possibly the best words of advice anyone can ever give to a writer.



  2. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of this awesome community, Ashley. I just loved reading all the sexy posts this week. And I have to say, it made me think about my own priorities in a new way.

    Sex with strangers at bus stops never looked so appealing ;-)!

  3. I'm with you. Although occasionally I might enjoy a short erotic story where strangers have sex, I always love stories filled with a good plot and plenty of romance. If hot sex comes as a progression and bonus to the romance I like it, but I usually crave the romance the most.

  4. I am so thrilled to see that Donna is the guest blogger this week, and not surprisingly, Donna, I found your entry brilliant. I love the way you extended the observation of sex and love in writing to the love of writing/act of doing it. I fully concur with this notion — as I understand it, no matter what we're writing about, or indeed doing, doing so from a place/energy of love infuses it with that energy, which may come through regardless of subject matter. (I loved the way you said that if your stories turned a reader on, it may be said you've had sex with people you haven't even met.)

    Thanks Donna and Oh Get A Grip!

  5. Donna,

    I like the idea of thinking what it would take to change your outlook on sex with strangers. I've been happily married to the same man for almost 17 years, and could never see myself having a meaningful sexual experience with a complete stranger. However, sometimes people in long-term relationships do become strangers to each other, and then the sex/making love is no longer a satisfying emotional or physical connection.

    Wonderful post and thank you for joining us this week!

  6. I really like the thought-provoking angles from which you examine this question, Donna—you've revealed so many interesting ways of assessing and interpreting it.

    One thought I had after reading your piece: perhaps meaningful sex (or even a meaningful author-reader encounter on the page) is a mechanism that in and of itself entails that the parties involved leave behind their "stranger" status with respect to each other.

    Spamword: hosplay

  7. Hi Donna!

    Welcome to our little blog. That was great post.

    I agree with your writing philosophy, that story comes first, which means there has to be a connection between the people before anything else happens.


  8. Greetings, Donna!

    Welcome to the Grip,and thanks for your characteristically insightful take on the topic. (And of course you managed to work in some food...)

    I _have_ spent some time at sex clubs (with my husband) and I have to say, I didn't find sex with strangers very exciting. The few times that I've really enjoyed myself was when we'd been talking to a couple and felt a warmth and a commonality, before we ever got physically involved.

    (The best part about going to a swingers club has always been the fantasies my DH and I share afterwards.)

    I was thinking about Amorous Woman and remembering the scene in the onsen when the narrator gets involved with a supposed stranger. Long before there's any skin-to-skin contact, there's an emotional/intellectual interchange between the narrator and the professor. The sex is a natural--inevitable--consequence of their banter. It couldn't happen any other way (especially in an erotic novel. In the real world, we tend to not allow ourselves to give in to those sorts of inevitabilities).

    Thanks again!


  9. I can relate to what you say here, Donna.

    My favorite sort of erotica is that which explores the undercurrent of the relationships that drive the sex. Often, that undercurrent is love, but sometimes it's just tension in a shared experience that binds the participants. Perhaps a moment of tension that result in an intense momentary connection. A space in time that could never be repeated.

    And these unique moments can come between long time lovers and chance encounters. But this emotional tension is essential.

  10. Just back from a 5K run/walk and I have to thank everyone for your awesome comments! Emerald, I have found myself becoming more aware of different forms of connection the more I write, and especially with readers. If they enter my world and feel it strikes a chord, then we are intimate in a way that I could never attain with people I see every day, you know? I guess like most writers, I write for the "ideal reader," who is someone sympathetic, rather like a lover!

    Helen and Jeremy, I do so appreciate your excellent points about husbands who can become strangers and strangers who transcend that status somehow. This fluidity is fascinating--and it is exactly what we can explore in fiction. I also have seen a number of illustrations in Craig's work of a compelling tension that isn't "love." Indeed there is something very sexy about "angry" sex as well, that's for sure.

    Ms. Ladd and Garceus, thanks for your comments as well. I have to say an erotic story with lots of "romance," or possibly in other words an emotional and intellectual connection, is far more compelling to me. Sometimes I even skim the sex scenes to get to the good part, lol.

    And last, but not least, Lisabet I so appreciate your sharing your experiences. I can certainly imagine that any element of fellowship and common interest would make for a far richer experience. AND I even more relate to the pleasure of weaving a fantasy together. Nothing better!

    Anyway, thanks again for the chance to participate in this inspiring topic and for your feedback.

  11. Hi Donna,
    Interesting and delicious post here, as usual. ;-)

    I say I think you may have fooled around and fell in love...and that's what I call the happiest of happy endings.

    p.s. spam word: hedism