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6 Things people get wrong about erotic fiction

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story "Don't Ball the Boss" (inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch) was nominated for the Pus...

No, erotica isn't just about whips, chains and nasty words — here's what you're getting wrong about the genre

I’m an erotica author and I’m not afraid to tell you. I write sex — good sex —and there is nothing wrong with that. Right? Well, some people seem to be under the misconception that all erotica authors are probably deviants with genital piercings. Although I might be a little deviant, you’re not going anywhere near my downstairs with a needle.

Let's face it: Historically, the most famed and respected erotica authors were actually normal people (as normal as writers can be, anyway). Look at Anaïs Nin, Anne Rice and E L James. If you were to meet any one of these women on the street, you'd think, What a nice lady! You might even see them at PTA meetings.

More: Top 6 most sexually charged excerpts from erotica books

Somehow, though, we've gotten totally off-track on what erotica is and what it isn't. In order to remind you that erotica is worth your time, here's a list of genre myths and why these myths are about as true as the existence of Bigfoot’s brother Carl.

Myth: Erotica is only for desperate housewives

True, a lot of my housewife friends enjoy erotica (usually behind closed doors), but erotica is for single people, too. We've moved so far beyond the books with Fabio on the cover to a phase in literature where sex can be classy, hot, a little dirty and not a cliché at all. It's a human right to have sex; I feel the same way about reading erotica. If you want to read erotica, read it. You are not a lonely cat lady for doing so. Instead, you are a woman comfortable with your sexuality and comfortable being sexual. And if you do happen to be a housewife, read some erotica with your husband. I attest from personal experience that the reading never lasts long…

Myth: Erotica uses filthy words

Good erotica (stress on the good) is not all about words that begin with C, P or D. (You know the words I'm talking about. I have similar cringe-factor over the word "moist." No idea why.) Good erotica authors know how to create sex scenes without the graphic anatomical descriptions you might find in a medical journal. Good erotica authors also don't resort to cuss words that you wouldn't even say around a ship full of sailors. Erotica, like any form of literature, is an art form, and the art is woven amid sensual settings, physical descriptions and, yes, moans, groans and heat. Bad words are not required.

More: Erotica 101: Meet the first woman of erotica, Anaïs Nin

Myth: Erotica is all about kink and bondage

I know I mentioned E L James, and I'm very pleased with what she's done for the erotica genre in general. That said, I think women who've only read Fifty Shades have no clue that erotica isn't all ropes and chains. Erotica can be, believe it or not, steamy scenes between a husband and wife. Erotica can be sudden sex in an alley. Or erotica can be slow seduction with candlelight and roses. Some women fear that all books in the erotica genre will feature a Red Room of Pain and this simply is not true.

Myth: Erotica isn't about love

I don't like watching porn. Do you know why? There's no character development. There's no plot line or conflict — except, perhaps, the all-important question: Will the TV repairman ever get around to actually fixing the TV? I like reading and writing erotica because, yes, there's sex, but that sex has meaning. By the time the sex actually happens (in good erotica), we care about the people about to jump in bed. We're rooting for them. The tension has been building for chapters and, finally, yes! They get to shag! That shagging often leads to love, because by the time the lead characters are having sex, they've established that they want each other, they've overcome some serious conflict and, finally, with a sigh, they earn each others' bodies and souls. Erotica is not meaningless petting; good erotica is love that leads to sex or sex that leads to love. Either way, the words are not empty.

More: How erotica books improved my sex life

Myth: Erotica is just useless word porn

The doubters will say erotica is just a vapid way to pass the time. I say erotica can not only get you in the mood, but it can teach you some things. For one, erotica can teach setting. If there's a romantic scene you just enjoyed reading, create it yourself, whether that means filling a bubble bath or wrapping your breasts in saran wrap. (No judgments.) Also, you can learn some technique — more so than you get from watching porn. Erotica gets down to the details of hands here, mouths there. Think of erotica as a highly entertaining instruction manual.

Myth: Erotica is only for straight people

Maybe 10 years ago this was true, but not anymore. There is man-woman erotica, of course — piles of it. However, there is any and all variety of other match-ups out there, whether you're looking for homosexual (which I find amazingly hot), lesbian, bisexual or poly... whatever. It's wonderful to see the genre opening up this way, sort of like a pair of legs wrapped in thigh-highs. Any fantasy you have, no matter how out there (see fan fiction, for instance), has probably been written about. Just do your homework and find the erotica of your dreams.

Endnote: There is bad erotica

The myths I've covered only apply to good erotica. I hold no responsibility for bad erotica, because there are plenty of authors out there who have no idea how to write a sex scene and, yet, by some heinous blip in the universe, get published. Beware of bad erotica. You'll recognize it immediately, because the first page will probably feature phrases like "heaving bosom" or "erect member." This has been a public service announcement.

More reading

Christopher Rice reveals the secret to writing a good, gay sex scene in fiction
23 Worst sex scenes in fiction — ever
Sexy book excerpt: An unlikely pair find passion in this risqué romance

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