Monday, October 27, 2014

Suspension Thereof

By Lisabet Sarai

Our topic for the next two weeks is “Disbelief”. As the contributor who always posts first, I usually attack the most obvious interpretation of a new theme, leaving more creative or surprising interpretations for those who come after me. So be it. Today I plan to talk about the tension between realism and fantasy in erotica, or between belief and disbelief, if you will.

A significant proportion of people who read erotica do so, I think, in order to get away from the real world. They approach our stories wanting to leave the possibly frustrating aspects of their own sex lives behind -- to vicariously experience the forbidden, the outrageous, the exquisitely pleasurable situations and actions we dream up for them. At some level our readers understand that we’re ramping up the heat, exaggerating the sensations, ignoring the risks while focusing on the rewards, but they push that understanding to the back of their minds while they’re consuming our lust-full tales. Of course they know that many men aren’t ready for another go ten minutes after they’ve come. At some level, they’re aware of the implausibility of sex on a ferris wheel, sex under the table in a crowded bar, sex while sky diving, and all the other naughty scenarios we create. Their personal history might remind them just how uncomfortable it can be to fuck in the back seat of a car or on a dank, sandy beach.

They deliberately put aside that knowledge, though, because they want to believe what we offer them. They’re eager to descend into the maelstrom of desire and be battered by a delicious assault to their senses.

It’s a delicate balance for us authors, however. It’s all too easy to push things too far. All it takes is one absurd detail, one truly impossible act or ignorant mistake about procedure, and we’ve broken the spell. The reader remembers it’s all a silly fantasy, that although sex can be transcendent, it’s all too often the same moves with the same person at the same time every week... if it happens at all. The nature of that critical slip can differ from one reader to the next, also. Reader A will bristle at something Reader B swallows hook, line and sinker.

So how can we reconcile the impossible extremes which turn us and our readers on with a need for some modicum of realism? It’s a tricky problem. Each of us approaches it a bit differently.

Some authors – Remittance Girl comes to mind in particular – don’t try to varnish the reality of sex. Most of RG’s stories – well, the ones that particularly stick with me – present sexual interactions that are as confusing, conflicted, imperfect and problematic as sex actually can be. Her genius resides in the fact that she can still arouse the reader (or at least, this reader), despite eschewing the exaggeration and candy coating so many of us use.

Other authors come right out and tell you not to believe a word of what they’re offering. Greta Christina’s searing tales of willing abasement fall into that category. Her fabulous collection, Bending, begins with a preface in which she warns that her filthy and disturbing tales should be considered as total imagination, and that the reality of dominance and submission is normally quite different. She concludes the book with an extensive list of resources for people interested in safely exploring their kinky desires - something her characters definitely do not do.

In contrast, most of my erotic work at least pretends to be realistic. At the same time, I’ve penned some pretty unbelievable scenes in my time. My technique, such as it is, involves a gradual transition from realism to fantasy. I focus squarely on my hero’s or heroine’s perceptions and reactions, trying to show that the wild activities that finally ensue flow naturally from the characters’ mental and emotional states. As the characters accept what’s going on, I invite the reader to do likewise – to join in believing things that are unlikely at best.

I’ve got an example for you, the lead up to one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever written. In this excerpt from Incognito, my sexually-frustrated heroine Miranda wanders into a seedy bar. She doesn’t intend to get fucked on the billiard table by two extremely shady characters – it just sort of happens. I cringed when I re-read this chapter – unprotected anal sex with strangers, penetration with foreign objects, voyeurism and exhibitionism, the works. But I slipped into it so gradually – even my disbelief was suspended, while I was writing!


A faint breeze ruffled her hair. Looking around, Miranda found that she had walked almost to the waterfront. She was in the no-man’s land between North Station and the North End, a region of narrow streets, dingy brick warehouses, and seedy ‘cafés’. In fact, there was a typical place across the road.

Bill’s Bar had a sickly green wooden façade, pierced by a couple of small, neon-lit windows. Several motorcycles hugged the curb in front. Country music drifted through the open door.

I need a drink, thought Miranda. She resolutely suppressed any other thoughts as she entered the joint.

Inside, it was surprisingly spacious, with a bare, scarred floor and a ceiling crisscrossed by pipes and ductwork. A bar hugged the right wall. Wooden tables and chairs were scattered around the rest of the periphery. It smelled of stale beer and cigarettes.

The middle of the room was dominated by a pool table, a well of brightness in the otherwise dim interior. Two men, apparently the only customers, were engaged in a game. They did not look up when she entered.

She settled herself on a bar stool and ordered a beer. They did not sell wine. The bartender was a slender, nerdy young man who seemed out of place in these rough surroundings. He put the amber bottle in front of her, and then retreated to the opposite end of the bar. From there, he cast furtive glances at her while he polished the glasses.

Miranda turned her attention to the two pool players. Their looks were much more in keeping with the environment. Both wore tight jeans and T-shirts that had seen better days. Both had lurid tattoos on their biceps. One of them was small, lithe and wiry, with a drooping moustache and a red bandanna on his head. The other was a huge, bear-like man. He had a luxurious mop of ragged, greasy-looking black curls. A livid scar ran down one of his cheeks, giving him a disquietingly crooked smile that was almost a grimace. As if responding to her attention, he looked up from the game and directed one of those smiles at her. His teeth were sparkling white.

Miranda felt strange, hot and cold simultaneously. She felt her nipples tightening, pushing out the fabric of her top. Moisture gushed into her panties. Normally she would find these men frightening, or perhaps faintly disgusting. Tonight, she saw them quite differently.

“Hey, baby!” said the thin one. “Come on over and play a game with us.”

Without hesitation, she picked up her beer, slipped off the stool and strolled over to the billiard table. She was acutely aware of the way her hips swayed, clad in tight denim. She felt her unfettered breasts bounce with each step. I must look like a slut, she thought, ridiculously pleased with herself.

“Hello, guys,” she said. “How’s the night treating you?”

The burly man winked at her. “Better all the time,” he said. “So, you know how to play pool?”

“More or less. You try to get the balls into the holes.” Miranda smiled archly, and her companions snickered.

“Yeah, right, using one of these sticks.” Gypsy-hair handed her a cue, and pointed to the white ball on the green baize. “Go ahead, babe. Give it a try.”

Miranda took her time. Slowly, she rubbed the little blue nugget of chalk over the tip of the cue, as if she were rubbing her finger over her clit. The image had the expected results. Her sex throbbed in time with her pulse.

She bent over the table to take aim, her buttocks in the air. She found it hard to concentrate on the shot. She could feel the denim riding up over her thighs. Her bikini panties were probably visible. Did her companions catch a whiff of her musk as she leaned forward? She could swear she could smell herself.

A lock of her long hair fell across her shoulder, interfering with her aim. Before she could react, Bandanna lifted it with one finger and flipped it back. He smoothed her rippling mane down her back, then brazenly fondled her butt. She looked him in the eye and smiled. “No fair. You’re messing up my concentration.”
Bandanna grinned. “Sorry, baby. Go ahead, shoot.”

She made one last calculation, and sent the cue ball precisely in the desired direction. The six ball caromed off the far rim and headed straight into the closest pocket. The seven ball rolled directly into the corner pouch, just as she had intended.

Her audience applauded. “That was some shot! You’re really good.” Their lascivious stares seemed tempered by genuine admiration.

Miranda looked from one to the other. The heat between her legs was unbearable. She hiked herself up so that she was sitting on the billiard table, and spread her thighs wide. “Boys, you have no idea how good I am.”

The two bikers looked at each other in disbelief, then back at her. Impatient, Miranda pulled her skirt to her waist, lifted herself off the table, and pulled off her underwear. Playfully, she threw the wisp of silk at Gypsy-hair. “What are you waiting for?” she said. “I haven’t got all night, you know.”

Bandanna had his fly open first. His cock was slender and smooth, rising up from a nest of reddish frizz. Miranda took hold of it and began to pump, feeling the already swollen tissue grow even harder.

The bigger man was not far behind. He grabbed her other hand and wrapped it around the erection now jutting from his jeans. His cock was like the rest of him, huge. Miranda could not encircle it with her fingers. He was uncircumcised. His foreskin slid back and forth over taut, veined flesh.

Miranda worked them simultaneously, revelling in their grunts and moans. Meanwhile, her juices ran out of her, staining the felt under her bare behind. She caught a glimpse of the young man hovering behind the bar, his eyes wide, transfixed by the scene. She smiled to herself and stroked the two cocks more vigorously. “Enough!” groaned Bandanna. “I’ve got to fuck you, baby.”
I thought you’d never ask,” said Miranda. “Come on!” She lay back on the table, her legs spread wide. The moustached biker climbed on top of her and positioned his cock at the entrance to her cleft. With a grunt and a jerk of his hips, he was inside her. She was so wet by now, there would have been no resistance even to a cock as large as Gypsy’s.


So what do you think? Is this too much, too fast, too over-the-top? (It gets worse – or maybe better!)

Or have I made a believer out of you?


  1. Lisabet:
    First, let it be known that it was I, the one who couldn't even find his way to the site when first invited, who managed the task of changing the topical listing- a fete of which I'm very proud. Another stride toward my quest of arriving in the 21st century. As you can tell, we miss you.

    The excerpt was over the top for you but it read like a passage from a story on EC for Men (No I'm not opening up that can again). It would probably offend the sensibilities of many romance readers. Standing alone from the rest of the story, which could have made the same scene very dark, I found it funny, somewhat mocking the male fantasy.

    One thing I enjoy about your work, that seems like the pure fantasy you suggest, is that I'm never more than a paragraph away from a female character gushing juices while slipping into fantasy, even if only for a moment. I don't care if it's not 'real', neither are shape shifters. I'm in for the fantasy.

    1. So you liked it, huh? ;^)

      Congratulations on your latest conquest of Blogger!

  2. Spencer, that is awesome. Thanks for changing the topic—I figured I should check today and see if that had happened, and I really appreciate that you took care of that.

    Lisabet: To me, the excerpt is a funny mix of reality and fantasy. I lived in Boston long enough that the setting is utterly real to me. I know exactly where you're talking about. As far as the behavior of the characters, as a reader I'll shift my expectations depending on the vibe of the story. The vibe here tells me not to expect plausibility—this is the sort of thing one thinks about doing and wonders, "What if I just got on the pool table and spread my legs?" It's nice sometimes to read stories that spin a scenario from there.

    I think it's fun that you suspended your own disbelief in the process of writing this. :)

    1. Sometimes when I open my mind, I really don't know what's going to come out...

  3. During my bartender days, working at some sleazy places, I saw ... uhhh... some stuff. Nothing as wild (or wonderful) as your scene, though.

    I'm not that in control of my fiction. I just follow the characters and their development. They seem to know more about themselves than I could ever invent. Sometimes they toe the straight and narrow (read realistic) sometimes they go nuts. I seem to like it best when they go nuts, their own momentum driving the story and my fingers.

    1. Hi, Daddy,

      It's really the same with me. I might pretend to be in control, but a lot of it is pure instinct. Still, I rarely jump right into a scene without some easing in via realistic detail (like the bar... knew you'd get that!)

  4. For anyone interested, there's a cool thread on ERWA 'writers' titled "the importance of doing research" that would pertain to this post. It kinda went all over the place, which is not unusual for that forum.

  5. Lisabet, I remember that scene from Incognito. It definitely seems like a fantasy, but it's very appealing, since all the characters get what they want.

    1. Hi, Jean,

      Unlike RG's characters, mine often get what they want - though not always.


  6. Lisabet, that passage was far more believable than many a pool table scenario I've seen. And better written, as well, with a convincing set-up and setting. There's something about a pool table in a bar that begs for over-the-top action, so I think more readers are inclined to go along with it.

  7. Hi Lisabet!

    Actually I think what you say about it is quite true, this is a woman doing what a responsible woman would never et herself do, and I think even the men would be looking over their shoulders questioning their luck, wondering who is about to burst in the door and what they'll be carrying in their hands when they do.

    But I think there are many women who have this very fantasy. According to Nancy Friday the most universal and popular fantasy among women is a rape fantasy including a gang rape fantasy not that far away from this one. Women don;t want to be raped, no doubt, but for some reason many love to imagine it. So why wouldn't a woman be willing to suspend her disbelief to read of something erotic she would never allow herself to actually do? Like having sex on a pool table wth strangers?


    1. I'm sure I'd never get this scene past Totally Bound at this point. But it sure gets *my* juices going!


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