Monday, February 18, 2013

Holy Hannah

by Kathleen Bradean

I can't think of anything I've written that's about the sacred or the profane. I suppose writing erotica might count if I thought it was an evil pursuit, but as a character observed in the movie Enchanted April, it's awfully hard to be improper when there are no men around. Or in my case, it's difficult to be wicked when you don't take your critics seriously.

What is it about explicit sex that gets everyone so tense?

There's a literary prize for the worst sex scenes. It's like that squinty, perpetually frowning girl on the playground who lived to tattle on her schoolmates. If she couldn't put a stop to the shenanigans, she'd pace and fret one step outside the scene, ready to point the finger of blame. It wasn't because she secretly longed to be invited to join the others. Nothing upset her more than the idea that they were having fun and getting away with it. Sometimes I feel there's a cadre of writers like that. They don't want to write explicit sex, which is fine, but they don't want anyone else to either, which isn't. So they pick out a few lines from a novel and hold that out of context passage up to ridicule, perhaps hoping shame will stop people from writing about sex.

Why isn't there a prize for best sex scenes? Probably because few people in the English speaking world want to admit that such a thing can exist. Imagine the humiliation if your peers thought you nominated a scene because it turned you on instead of the criteria being good writing. Oh, the horror! A piece of writing so powerful it made your cock or cunt respond! *staggers to her fainting couch*

We simply can't let that happen, can we? People treating sex like just another thing people do instead of partitioning it off in its own special world where it can be safely mocked? Egads. Next thing you know, I'll be demanding that people actually read erotica before condemning it. I'm a mad woman, I tell you. Insane! Literary critique coming from a place of knowledge rather than ignorance? The lit crowd would have a fit of the vapors, the poor dears.

Oh dear. I'm being a bit ranty, but I've had about enough of this nonsense about erotica being bad writing, worthless, and a bastard genre. It may be difficult to be improper when you don't believe in impropriety, but I'm sure it's even harder to be a sanctimonious prat when the rest of the playground points their fingers and laughs at your priggish ass. Be warned - that's exactly what I intend to do from now on.



  1. Wow! Go get 'em Kathleen.

    Actually there used to be a prize for best sex scene a few years back called the "Rauxa" prize. Just when I got up the courage to submit something they seemed to disappear. Too little too late.


  2. Garce - The same thing happened to me with the Rauxa Prize. The International Leather people do erotica prizes but I have a feeling they have to be BDSM. Lambda Literary has an erotica category but this year the winner won't be allowed to receive it at the awards ceremony. (Boo!) EPIC does award erotica a prize but in the past the judging has been problematic at best. I hope they sorted that out.

    I have a feeling that the Hugo & Nebula awards for science fiction and the awards for mystery fiction came about because the genres were treated with such contempt. A viable erotica award would do much to support the genre.

  3. Chuckle! You tell 'em, Kathleen!

    When the Erotic Authors Association was established by Marilyn Jaye Lewis, one of its objectives was to give out a "best erotica" prize. I believe they did award the prize for a few years, but couldn't sustain the effort.

    In fact, EAA could revive this. What we'd need is a sponsorship from some erotica publisher (maybe Cleis? or maybe Selena Kitt would be interested in having Excessica sponsor it?) The actual prize doesn't have to be a lot of money, if it carries prestige. To do that, you need a cadre of skilled, committed and objective judges.

    I'd volunteer, if we could get enough other folks. One might want to create multiple awards for different subgenres - spread the wealth (metaphorically speaking) around, and make the decisions a bit easier.

  4. a major problem with establishing a contest is that the writers I feel are best suited to judging erotica would have entries in the contest.

    And why would I get to decide who is best suited?

    And what's the criteria? Literary "merit?"

    My head already aches.

  5. What you said, Kathleen.

    Oh yes, awarding prizes for anything (except maybe an Olympic sprint - fastest body wins) is problematic. Awards for erotica still seem like a good idea.

    Hypocrisy abounds. It amazes me that relatively famous writers can become sexually explicit and be praised for their cutting-edge courage, but those who specialize in erotica are still relegated to the margins.

    Well, our work is cut out for us.

  6. Jean - I'd like to see an award grow. (although I also have reservations about the idea of one book being "the best")

    Given the bad sex writing awards, which is aimed squarely at literary writers who write sex scenes, I think someone in the literary genre is using ridicule to scare literary writers out of writing sex. Sex is curiously absent from much early science fiction, as if a leap forward in technology included finally triumphing over his physical urges. Then Star Trek and Firefly and a host of other shows boldly cut to the captain pulling on his boots while an alien woman reclined on his bed. But that's genre stuff! Egads.

  7. Hi - I'm Daddy X, a soon to be contributor.

    It strikes me that it could be difficult choosing a 'best' erotic work, given the world of esoteric turn-ons and offs. We all have things that get the juices flowing that just might be exactly what squicks the next person.

    Feels good to make my first post here.

    Be well
    Daddy X

  8. Daddy X - Welcome to the Grip! (I feel funny writing that as "the grippe" is not a good thing to have).

    You might want to read my post on my personal blog about the best sex scene ever written. It started as a critique of a book that claimed to show the best 101 sex scenes in literature - a promising title!- but quickly became a rant about how sex was best left off the page and in the reader's imagination. Don't even get me started on his comments about non hetro normative sex. Ugh. But that post was/is so popular that I thought I better point people to the real best sex scenes in literature in another post. Here's a hint: eye of the beholder.

  9. All grips are not equal. Consider the grip I have on myself right now. Good to see you here, Kathleen
    Daddy X


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