Saturday, July 14, 2012

Humor in the Bedroom?

by Ellen Tevault

Since agreeing to write this guest blog entry, I have struggled with several things. Does humor belong in the bedroom? We’ve all had bedroom mishaps, but are they erotic? Will the reader think so? Or will the humor kill the romantic or erotic moment for the reader? Another thing I’ve struggled with is that I haven’t written much in a long time. Editing has been my main focus for the last couple of years. Even as an editor, I’ve gotten away from erotica and erotic romance. Also I’ve been trying to find a REAL job, so I’ve tried to limit my names attachment to erotica in case a potential employer searches the internet for me.

I know it is crazy. If I wrote mysteries, employers wouldn’t think I am a murderer, but for some reason writing erotica gets me listed in the freak-don’t-want-to-hire file. In other words, the gate keeper deems me inappropriate.  I’ve never had an erotica editor look at my automotive repair articles and decide I’m not someone they want to work with on a project. I find that funny. Sex is a natural part of our lives, but writing about it makes me unemployable instead of showing that I can write and edit about a variety of topics, including the most difficult one of all – Sex

I’ve had romance writers ask me about how to write sex scenes. One time a writer in my writing group tried her hand at an erotic scene. It was a mere paragraph long, but she couldn’t read it to the group. When she finally read it, I couldn’t understand what the big deal was. I’ve read scenes like that in a Danielle Steele novel and wondered why the novel was deemed erotic in a book review. In other words so tame that I was waiting for the action to begin. As an editor, I would have said, “Show, don’t tell.” I know, that phrase haunts us writers.

Eventually that same writer did write an erotic romance and sold it to Loose Id, but she refused to share the news with the rest of our writing group because she was ashamed of the erotica content. Can you believe it? She didn’t want to lose the respect of the other writers in our group for “writing such stuff.” The writers she was worried about have always been supportive of my writing, whether it was erotica, technical articles about auto repair, or my venture into children’s literature. It doesn’t make sense to me. Sex and erotica are a funny business, but that takes me back to do the readers want humor in their smut reading? Let’s face it, sex is serious business. So it depends on the sales.

When my friend, Gavin Atlas tried to help me with this entry, he said, “Heat is difficult for me to maintain if I'm also wanting the reader to laugh.” I’m sure a lot of writers feel this way. How do you make it hot and funny? Can it be both?

One of the first qualities women choose as important in a partner is sense of humor, but does it belong in the bedroom? I’m not sure. It can help you connect to your partner, but it can also be a distraction. I say it depends on the couple.

Once upon a time, I wrote If a Dildo Could Talk. Oceania recorded it on one of her websites, which is no longer available. I tried submitting that story to several places, before it made its way to Oceania’s inbox.
The story is about a lesbian who hides her sex toys because her mom is coming to visit, so the dildo decides to get even for being stuffed in a sock drawer by telling the reader about sexual conquests. I purposely set out to write a humor piece when I decided to write it, but that was why it was so hard to find a home for the story.

One editor enjoyed the humor, but didn’t find it erotic even though it was sexually explicit. Eventually Jamie Joy Gatto decided it didn’t fit her website, but emailed it to Oceania for hers.

Since the other editors commented that it wasn’t erotic, I struggled with whether humor negates the sexual content as erotica. I don’t see how. I think it just depends on the reader. To write this blog entry, I looked at several of the top erotic romance sites and a few of them has humor listed as one of their genres, but some didn’t. I guess there really isn’t an answer to the question. It depends on the writer, publisher, and reader whether the two genres can hit it off and live happily ever after together or just have an occasional fling.


Find Ellen's blog here.

And her story in Back Door Lover here.


  1. Ellen - Welcome to the Grip!

    It's so hard to mix humor with sex. I'm glad you try though.

  2. Oh! And you know Gavin Atlas? He's a real sweetheart.

  3. Hi Ellen! Welcome to our blog!

    I have to admit that book cover gets your attention.

    I'm hoping that fifty shades of Grey will do for erotic writing what Harry Potter did for witches. I tried hard to read that book and failed, but I'm cheering for it all the way.

    I've noticed also that humor rarely seems associated with erotic writing. Two literary exceptions I aspire to imitate if I ever can are Phillip Roth whose Portnoy's Complaint got me busted in high school history class in 1971 when I was caught reading it in class. They caught me because I disintegrated in laughter over one of the masturbation scenes during a lecture about the holocaust, and currently Nicholson Baker whose erotic passage in "The Fermata" about Marian and Kevin and Susie (you can read a preview on Google books) is the funniest piece of erotic writing I've ever read or imagined possible.


  4. Ellen, I remember your dildo story! It's hilarious & also erotic, IMO, but more hilarious than seductive. Welcome to The Grip.

  5. Hi Ellen and Kathleen,

    Kathleen, you just made my month way better. ::BIG hug::

    When Ellen brought up sex and humor, I wondered why I found the combination difficult. For years, I’ve wished I wrote and published in “mainstream” humorous fiction because I love being silly. I’ve written humor (or attempted it) in stories, but almost never in the actual sex scene.

    I think I’ve identified the disconnect. In my fiction, the heat comes from exploring my own bottom boy psychology and “sex-negative fantasies” although I hate that term. I mean thoughts like “I’m scared I have no control, but I’ve never had better” or “I’m ashamed I want these men to do this to me, but I desperately need it.” If I added levity, I doubt I’d take the character seriously when he’s supposed to be helplessly drowning in submission and lust. Although I bet readers would say I don’t venture close to sadism, it’s still often aggressive, banging-the-headboard-almost-to-the-point-of-concussion sex— a combination of the agony and the ecstasy, I guess, so my characters understand the connection between suffering and passion. And they want more.

    Okay, but what would it take to make them laugh? Perhaps if I were to write more “sex-positive” erotica where the tension is not related to what’s happening in bed, humor might feel natural.

    A confession: I once told my boyfriend, “I think a person is most alive when he’s having sex.” He said, “I think someone is most alive when he’s laughing.” I wonder what both at once would be like?

    Gavin :)

  6. Gavin - you've obviously put some real thought into the problems with writing funny sex. I think it's hard to laugh with a character because no one has the same sense of humor, so we're forced to laugh at them,but that's hard to do if the writer has you rooting for that character.

  7. Wonderful post, Ellen, and equally magnificent comments!

    Gavin, thanks for visiting and sharing your insights. I personally find it almost impossible to be funny even when I'm not trying to be erotic. To deliberately combine the two...well, maybe only if this were an assignment from my master!


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