By Lisabet Sarai
When I was in my mid-twenties – during my sex goddess period – I sometimes went out without panties. Walking around bare beneath my skirt, every current of air caressing my naked flesh, was thrilling to the point of addiction. It's not that I'm an exhibitionist (although perhaps we erotic authors all share a desire to expose ourselves). I wasn't interested in treating strangers to a flash of my pussy. Indeed, I would have been mortified if I'd accidentally revealed my bottomless state.
The appeal had more to do with a sense of freedom and a consciousness of risk, a heady appreciation of my own delightful recklessness. Most of my life I'd hewed close to the rules, an overachiever always trying to please others. I'd been shy and timid, dutiful and diligent, the quintessential good girl. When my hormones took over the helm, that changed. I found that I was far braver and more brazen than I (or anyone else who knew me) would have believed. And I loved that feeling, the notion that I was treading the edge rather than keeping to the straight and narrow.
My panty-less state focused my attention on the sensual. I became acutely aware of temperature and texture. Arousal simmered through me, ready to be sparked into flame by a chance encounter with a kindred spirit. Erotic possibilities waited around every corner, and, bare-bottomed and moist with anticipatory desire, I was ready to take advantage of them.
Writing my first novel felt very similar to “going commando”, though it came more than a decade later. I didn't worry about markets or reader sensibilities. I wrote what turned me on: wild, kinky, transgressive scenes, every assortment of genders, twosomes, threesomes and foursomes, floggers and spankings, nipple clamps and butt plugs, public sex, pony sex, anal sex, even golden showers. I pushed the limits of acceptability to the point that my editor actually made me tone down a couple of scenes (and this was back when Black Lace was billed as “erotica”, not “erotic romance”). My personal fantasies provided the energy to move the book forward. Craft issues were secondary. The book had already been accepted on spec, and I wasn't really thinking about what happened after it was published. The writing process itself was arousing.
I didn't know anything about genres back then., though reading Raw Silk now, I realize that it follows many of the conventions of modern erotic romance – except, of course, for its omnisexuality. The inclusion of F/F and M/M in a book that is mostly M/F will evoke criticism from many romance readers, who seem to want a sort of genre purity. They'd probably judge my heroine as promiscuous too, for having simultaneous sexual relationships with three different men, although in the end, in typical romance fashion, she chooses to commit to just one.
None of this concerned me back then. I wasn't so swept away that I lost sight of the story. Indeed, even now the novel's plot strikes me as quite tight and well-paced. I guess that was instinct, though, because my focus was squarely on the sex. Like those days when I eschewed undergarments and opened myself to adventure, I wasn't concerned with what others thought. I was free, writing for the pure joy of vicarious experience. I was in my heroine's mind and body, living my dreams through her. If others disapproved, so be it.
If you think catch a hint of wistfulness in my description of those times, you're not wrong. I don't go commando anymore. The notion embarrasses me – a sexagenarian exposing her graying pubic hair to the world? But I remember that intoxicating feeling of lightness and power. I miss it.
And my writing? I've had eighteen years of education on the tyranny of genres, what sells and what doesn't, what you can and cannot include in a book aimed at a particular market niche. I'm constantly tempted, for instance, to let my straight heroines indulge their occasional Sapphic inclinations, but I know that will be the kiss of death for any book aimed at the erotic romance market. Meanwhile, I have a difficult time keeping my erotica from becoming to “mushy”. Although I've had my share of zipless fucks, I've never found sex without some emotional connection – love, tenderness, loneliness, shared kink, whatever – to be at all arousing.
I yearn for the freedom – the innocence – of my first years writing erotica. I've started to realize I'll never be a best seller (and I'm not even sure I want to be). So why should I care about pleasing a mass of readers? I know there are some people who'll appreciate my particular approach, my personal blend of romanticism and filth. I should strip off my official author's uniform and just write to please myself, and them.
I can already feel the breeze.