“How did a nice girl like you start writing smut?”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question... Well, let’s just say it’s a popular one, especially when the subject comes up at parties.

Instead of answering directly though, I like to take a step back. See, I’ve been READING erotica ever since my well-meaning grandma gave me a stack of paperbacks with significantly more risqué sex scenes in them than was probably appropriate for a teenager. The first erotica I read which labeled itself as such was for a class in college and I’ve been hooked ever since. After reading everything I could get my hands on without actually visiting an “adult bookstore” and then discovering the unlimited supply of smut on the internet, I came to a shocking realization – a lot of erotic writing was utter crap. And by that I mean it was both abysmally written and poorly edited, and a lot of it didn’t turn me on.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But for a long time, I didn’t know WHAT, exactly, I wanted to write. So I wrote poetry, some of it on sexual themes (ok, most of it). I wrote bits and pieces of historical romances, usually just the “good parts” before I got bored. One day, after reading a particularly awful collection of stories, I decided to write down one of MY fantasies and see if I could do any better – I knew I couldn’t do worse.

Armed with the courage that simply by my knowledge of human physiology and how to use both a dictionary AND a semicolon I was bound to be a better writer than some people who actually managed to get published, I set out to write my lover a story for Valentine’s Day.

Wow - it was a lot more difficult than I’d thought it would be. And yes, rereading that particular story now makes me cringe; however, I do still think it was better than the stories I was trying to surpass. So I kept at it, mostly writing very short stories, like those I enjoyed reading. Occasionally I borrowed a theme or a plot and re-worked it to my satisfaction when a story I’d read had a disappointing ending. I wrote out my fantasies. I wrote about things I’d never ever do, to see if I could get into the characters’ heads and make a particular sexual act or kink hot for my readers. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I talked to other authors in my community online. We talked about what made a story hot, what ruined otherwise wonderful stories, and how some things transcend taste and could be considered general rules for writing erotica, whatever genre or flavor.

In the course of all this writing and thinking, I learned a few things.

I learned that there is value in both reading and writing erotica/smut/porn. Reading about sex, in a fun, non-clinical way, frees up the creative part of the brain to explore new paths. It encourages you to play with and explore new fantasies, new sexual ideas. To try on new concepts, explore what you like and why, what you don’t and why not.

Also, while it was always difficult for me to TALK about sex, writing forced me to find and become comfortable with a sexual vocabulary. Once I was more at ease thinking and writing the words, they became far easier to speak aloud and to ask for what I wanted, explicitly. My inhibitions and shyness began to melt away as my sense of shame regarding sexual acts decreased. After all, if so many other people were reading and writing about such things, they couldn’t be THAT rare and I couldn’t be THAT much of a weirdo for wanting to try them, right?

Another benefit of writing about or verbalizing your thoughts and fantasies is that it makes sex more tangible. When you stimulate your mind and start thinking about sex, pondering its complexities and possibilities, you’ll be far more open to noticing and acting on sexual impulses when you feel them. I firmly believe that thinking about sex, fantasizing and being receptive to possibilities, seriously increases your likelihood of having a spectacular sex life!

One of the things I like best about writing sexually explicit content is that since I’m already breaking the rules and going against societal norms, I can take control of how I’m presenting sex. For me that means that I can be sex positive rather than sex negative. I write about characters doing all kinds of kinky things, but it’s ALWAYS consensual. If boundaries are over-stepped, I make my characters deal with it, rather than everything just being magically all right. My characters use condoms and have reasonably safe sex. While I do occasionally write on themes that are a bit heavy, the majority of my erotica is plot-free, angst-free, and more humorous than romantic.

Finally, both reading and writing erotica has taught me about the power of names. With sex, so many of our words are silly or childish or crude or negative. Even the decision of what to call my writing is a bit of a landmine and changes with my mood – is it erotica (which conjures swooning maidens in historical settings) or smut (image of a Bible-thumping preacher) or porn (the bleach-and-spunk smell of the back rooms in an adult bookstore)?

If you’ll excuse me for playing fast and loose with etymology: if the prefix “porn-” comes from the goddess Porne, an incarnation of Aphrodite dedicated exclusively to sexual pleasure and lust, the kind of lust that has a voyeuristic edge or intent to titillate. And if “titillate” means to tickle, then porn is about being tickled. Porn is erotica is smut is something I read that gives me little tingles in my body. Not exclusively in the naughty bits, but all over. Something that makes me feel my flesh, reminds me that I have a body between my shoulders and knees, that I’m not just a brain in a jar sitting in front of a computer, typing.

Erotica is something that makes me feel alive, in a visceral way. Something that reminds me that I have a body, that my body is ME.

On that note, check out my website Recommendations page, which has several erotica/smut links to both actual in-print books and other websites that I’ve enjoyed. Check out a few of them and see what you think. Ponder new possibilities.

And heck, try writing some of them down – maybe you’ll be the next famous erotica author!

© 2008 Julianne N. Bentley All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Julianne Bentley, the original Wanton Hussy, works with individuals (and couples) who want to bring the passion and joy back into their bedrooms.

Drawing on over fifteen years of experience discussing the ins and outs of sexuality, in all its forms, Julianne brings compassion and energy to the process of supporting you in making the changes you need in order to have the sex life you want and deserve.