16 March 2012

The P-Word

The latest rage, according to mass media is the idea--indeed, the very notion!--that women who are, shall we say (for demographic purposes), married with children secretly desire to read about being tied up and sexually manipulated. The flagship book of this genre is Fifty Shades of Gray, a self-published make-work of bondage and torture, purportedly not a true tale. (I've been wondering if a hundred shades would be even more erotic, or around twenty would be more acceptable to society.) More surprising to all, it seems, may be that those women actually enjoy reading about such scenarios. This newest "mainstream" literature has been dubbed "mommy porn" by several people reporting on this newest trend. When I saw this morning that my literary colleague Johanna Garth was blogging on the P-word, I knew I had to respond.

As a young man, sure we snickered and sneaked peeks at the girly mags. As an adult I had greater access to such materials. But the stigma persisted. While I never outright read anything more spurious than a few "letters to the editor" of certain magazines, I did appreciate depictions of amorous activity within the pages of otherwise mainstream literary works. It was titillating, as intended, but moreover depicted realistic, believable behavior among consenting adults. In my own writing (A Beautiful Chill, After Ilium, Aiko, and The Dream Land trilogy--yep, alien sex in that last one), I have tried to continue that philosophical concept: sex, even in more extreme forms, is realistic and believable behavior between normal adults.

Enough said on my perspective. I cannot comment on the female perspective for obvious reasons...except as reported by females who have spoken on the topic while I was listening, invited or otherwise. The titillation it brings (and in literary terms that also means plot, description, characterization, motivation, theme) is certainly the result of the material being taboo. The ebook revolution has made it possible for readers to read in public surreptitiously. No more hiding behind a newspaper or covering the raunchy cover art from judgmental eyes. Nothing new about that.

However, what does this trend really mean? From a psychological perspective, people have dreams that show what they fear and what they desire, both of which cannot be presented during waking life or acknowledged in public. Yet, if we allow our fears and desires full reign during our daily lives, we might be:

1) embarrassed, 
2) distracted from what we must do (job, etc.), 
3) tempted to change our routine, duties, tasks, or 
4) disappoint, even betray, the values of various political forces aligned against us.

For the first, embarrassment is a form of relief. Let it go. It passes. What doesn't embarrass you makes you weaker. For the second, it is simply a matter of practicality. Who hasn't slipped away to the company restroom for some R&R? Or dabbled on certain websites while using an office computer? The third result is what worries members of society who have activated their junior policy police decoder rings: What would society be like if these women were to turn to such a pornographic lifestyle as depicted in erotic books? Utter chaos! Husbands would be abandoned, children left starving in the streets, and the world a messy mess! No, we cannot risk letting anyone catch a glimpse of what other options exist outside of normal, narrow, nitpicked, non-naughty social roles and public behavior.

It is the fourth result that has us alarmed--alarmed enough to announce media-wide that the latest sensation is not to be allowed. Indeed, the warning exists solely for the purpose of arming hordes and legions of do-gooders (those with their membership dues up to date) that a new target has sprung forth from the loins of imagination! Attack! Twart the evil ideas! Stomp down and rub out the undesirable desire! It also happens to fit nicely with the latest so-called "war on women"--a strategic misnomer whereby each side can accuse the other of hating women and wanting to control them. Personally, I think there are quite a few men who need to be controlled lest they upset the natural order. I call them politicians. And I might include everyone who seems to want to influence them in one direction or the other. Vote for "Other" this fall, folks! Vote with your genitals. Everyone should be the sole boss of his/her own body.

In the end (whoa, what an unfortunate choice of prepositional phrase, but it fits the theme of this blog post), people will--and certainly should--be allowed to make their own choices. Even if the lowest common denominator is porn. The rest of usyou must wait patiently to detect the first sign of the Apocalypse. Unless this trend is that first sign. Then it will be much too late. But wait! There's more!

There is the PayPal-Smashwords conundrum. A business has a right to decide what it sells or does not sell. That's capitalism. McDonald's makes demands of food suppliers and they comply or do without the business of the largest restaurant entity on the planet, possibly the universe. With books, it seems fair (at least on paper) that the same idea should be true. If I do not want to sell your dirty book, I should not have to. Yet consider the reverse: If you do not offer my dirty book for sale, you won't get some of the profit. And dirty books tend to sell; everyone likes a dirty book (or "graphic literature") once in a while. Those who do not are dead, or as another trend would suggest, or are zombies.

I do not write erotica for the sake of arousing the reader in certain biological ways. I include scenes and behavior and activities to further the development of plot or characterization, to complicate the plot, to serve as illustration of world views and behavior tendencies. It's what people do. It is integral to the plot. Having declared such, I also have written pure erotica (yes, an oxymoron, I know). It's a way of visualizing possibilities, of trying out strategems or role playing options in life. Don't we all?

We don't have to publish it. But some of us do. And others seem to like that. It is a match made in the bedroom, or the bathroom, or a beautiful meadow full of soft moist grass, or a city park with a hard wooden bench under the starlight, or on a kitchen counter with the dishwasher running rough, shaking us to orgasmconclusion--or any long, firm, powerful, symbol of wild abandon without the abandonment. Like the Washington Monument. Such is our language. Such is our heart and mind. Dirty is in the eye of the gardener.

In the interest of not offending the visually challenged, some examples of erotica have been censored.

(C) Copyright 2010-2011 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

1 comment: