Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My "dirty" is pretty tame...

I've recently come to realize that, in the grand scheme of the erotica genre, I don't really write dirty stories.

In terms of erotica put out by traditional publishers, I think I'm on par with the level of dirtiness and sexy filth. Anytime I pick up a Cleis anthology or other erotica book from a physical bookstore, the stories contained in the pages are more or less on par with mine.

But in the Wild West of self-published erotica? Compared to all that's out there, my stuff is pretty tame.

My stories tend to have some story set-up, the sex scene, and some story wind-down. In the case of longer pieces, sex might be a regular highlight of the book, but the story comes first. (And the sex tends to be people just having sex.)

I don't do dub-con, mpreg, aliens, shifters, various bodily functions, hypnosis, non-con, vore, tentacle, or anything else like that. I barely even do BDSM. If I were to compare my fiction to the gay porn industry, my stories are like videos from Helix Studios. They feature clean-cut and attractive men -- often twinks -- who have sex. A large chunk of self-published erotica is like the gay porn studio Treasure Island Media -- macho, hairy men who are aggressive and dominant with each other and demean one another in the act of very kinky sex.

Both have their place and both have their fans. I admit to sometimes watching and reading the more aggressive type of porn/erotica.

There were two recent events that helped make it clear to me that I write fairly vanilla erotica.

The first is a review I received. The reviewer asked for some dirty stories and I sent along something I was proud of and thought he'd like... only to receive a review that rated my stories as average, typical erotica. That review truthfully didn't hurt (I've long since learned to not let reviews affect me), but it did set my mind to questioning/wondering about my place in the erotica genre.

The second is from analyzing my sales stats. My bestselling book, by far, is Seduced By My Best Friend's Dad (which I co-wrote with Sandra Claire). It was my standard erotica formula -- sort of like a Helix Studios video turned into written format -- except I had the "father-like figure" as the romantic partner. Sandra and I had decided to venture slightly into taboo, but still stay clear of it. (I like to refer to this story as pseudo-pseudo-incest -- it's not biological incest and it's not step-incest. There's actually no legal or biological connection, but the twink has always looked up to his best friend's dad as a father figure.)

I highly suspect that it's the "search engine optimized" title that's leading to high sales -- and thankfully the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so I've fulfilled the promise in the title.

These two instances helped clarify for me that I do not, in fact, write dirty stories in the eyes of those who read them regularly. I do, though, write dirty stories in the eyes of those who do not regularly read the genre. Perhaps it's because those who don't read the genre don't realize how kinky it can get, or perhaps they just haven't gotten bored with general erotica yet (which, I think, is why the super kinky stuff does well -- readers get their fill of the more vanilla erotica and then go in search of dirtier stuff).

The flash fiction I wrote here four weeks ago is honestly the dirtiest thing I've written as Cameron D James. I know my colleague, Master Dominic, makes a killing on sales of very dirty stories, despite only having a handful of titles and with none of them on Amazon.

However, I have always said and believed that one shouldn't write to market, just to chase the dollar. A writer should write the story they want to tell and then worry about market placement later. For that reason alone, I plan to keep writing fairly-vanilla and fairly-clean erotica. I admire those who can write the type of story that readers crave (but that readers often refuse to admit they desire it so much). Those writers are keeping readers satisfied and are also filling a niche that needs to be filled... just as I do with my Helix Studios style erotica.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is The President And The Rentboy. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press. With his erotica writers' group, he is a member of the Indie Erotica Collective. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.


  1. Hi, Cameron,

    I know what you mean... I am sometimes tempted to publish stuff that is really, really filthy. To be honest, some truly taboo stories do turn me on. I have no doubt I could match many of the self-published porn authors out there--with better grammar and sentence structure, too.

    I don't usually give in to that temptation, though. It feels somehow not enough of a challenge. And yeah, I think I would freak out some of my more romance-oriented readers if I used the same pen name, so maybe I'm chicken.

    I must say that when I saw your title, I immediately thought of your orgasm denial flash fiction piece. That struck me as definitely dirty.

  2. I think the idea of "dirtiest" can be a bit odd. It's one thing to have a fetish (and I certainly read within my fetishes). But I take issue with the idea of "growing bored with" general erotica and needing some version of "the hard stuff."

    In my own reading, I've definitely gotten jaded to the basic transgressive thrill of erotica. I don't feel anything in particular about the mere fact of dirty words on a page.

    However, what grabs my attention now is an interesting story, good writing, genuine connection, the sense that the author is into it. That can come from a vanilla story as much as it can from a fetish story.

    Sales and search engine optimization, though, are a different beast.

  3. With sex as with food, or any other physically enjoyable experience, some people tend to always want to "push the envelope" with new and more intense ways to experience it. "Extreme" is a word so overused these days that it may go out of fashion, and so is "outrageous," but "dirty" and "filthy" have enough connection to earthy images that they will probably last longer.