It’s true. Humans are sexual creatures. From the time we hit puberty we’re on a mission (albeit sometimes subconsciously) to find sexual partners. It’s natural and instinctive and wired into our DNA. Humans aren’t the only animals who have sex for pleasure, we’re just the only ones intelligent enough to express our feelings about it, talk about it and devise methods of being stimulated even when another person isn’t involved.
We watch sexually graphic movies, get aroused reading erotic fiction, and have even found new and improved ways of self-pleasure and masturbation. It is what it is. One of the ways people vicariously have sexual experiences is through reading fiction. Fiction is a safe environment where one can explore their sexuality and fantasies without having to seek out a partner. Besides – a little reading never hurt anyone.
Nowadays erotic fiction is its own genre, though it seems to be a part of every genre. From V.C. Andrew’s ever popular Flowers in the Attic (outright fictional incest), to the more modern works of Laurell K Hamilton (depicting a great deal of fantasy sex with fantasy creatures). Sex happens, even in fiction, because humans are sexual creatures.
Studies have actually shown that when erotic reading material (call it porn if you will, but I prefer erotica) and erotic movies are readily available to satiate individual sexual desires — the rate of sex crimes actually goes down! The study also suggested that erotic material did not cause men to objectify women.
So who reads erotic literature? A lot of people (women and men). Normal people. Not sexual deviants. Not perverts. Just people like you and me. Why? Because it’s enjoyable and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a fantasy.
Now to the reason for this post. Some of my erotic fiction (and the erotic fiction of other authors) has been banned on certain distribution sites due to PayPal threatening to close their merchant accounts if they don’t remove all “barely legal” (i.e. erotica with 18-19 year old characters), non-consensual (I believe this includes dubious consent) and pseudo-incest (i.e. step-sibling, unrelated “uncles” etc…) stories from their distribution outlets.
Please note that the legal age of consent is eighteen and eighteen to nineteen-year-old’s do have sex, so that particular type of erotica is not depicting anything illegal. Also, it’s perfectly legal for an adult to have sex with an adult step-sibling or even an adult step-parent, or a non-related adult ”uncle” so that, too, is not depicting anything illegal. Non-consensual sex is illegal. However in the context of fictional erotica (fiction is the keyword there), it’s actually a popular topic because a lot of women have a non-consensual sexual fantasy. Sure, not all of them, but many do and it’s not weird or abnormal. Psychology Today even had an interesting Op Ed on the subject that cites one study’s results saying 62% of the women surveyed admitted to having a non-consensual sexual fantasy. Fiction is the perfect way for them to explore this fantasy in a safe way. Even psychologists deem non-consensual sex fantasies as being normal.
While you may have no desire to read the aforementioned types of erotica – as Selena Kitt put it in her posts here and here, we could be heading down a slippery slope. It limits what you, the reader, are allowed to read or buy, and what writers are allowed to write.
“But, Steph,” you tell me, “I don’t read/write *that* kind of erotica. So why should I care?”
Martin Niemöller wrote a rather famous poem called “First They Came From The Communists” and it goes like this:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.
This poem could easily be applied to literature and censorship. That is why you, as a reader or writer, should care that erotica is being censored. Because next week it could be V.C. Andrews or Laurell K Hamilton being pulled off the shelves. It could be your book, or your favorite author they come after next.