Friday, July 11, 2008

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: Fetishes

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)


Of all the things to write, I feel one of the all-time toughest has got to be fetish erotica. Gay or lesbian - or straight if you're gay or lesbian or bisexual - is a piece of cake. I mean take a quick look at it: the elements of arousal are obvious, just insert body part of preference and go with it. For gay erotica it's male body, for lesbians it's female. For straight it's the opposite. You don't have to create the ideal man or woman, in fact it's better to describe someone (the lust object) who is a bit more ... real. Perfection is dull, and can be bad story telling, but a body with its share of wrinkles, blemishes, or sags can ad dimension and depth.

Same with the motivation, the inner world of your character. I've said it before but it bears repeating: the trick to writing beyond your own gender or orientation is in projecting your own mental landscape into the mind of your character. You may not know how gay sex, lesbian sex, or straight sex feels (pick the opposite of your own gender) but you do know what love, affection, hope, disappointment, or even just human skin feels like. Remember that, bring it to you character and your story, and you'll be able to draw a reader in.

But fetishes ... fetishes are tougher. Just to be momentarily pedantic, Webster's says that fetishes are: "an object or body part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification." That's pretty accurate - or good enough for us here - but the bottom line is that fetishes are a sexual obsession that may or may not directly relate to sex. Some pretty common ones are certain hair colors, body types, smells, tastes, clothing, and so forth.

We all have them to some degree. Just to open the field to discussion, I like breasts. But even knowing I have them doesn't mean I can't really explain why I like big ones. It's really weird. I mean, I can write about all kinds of things but when I try and figure out what exactly the allure of large hooters is for me I draw a blank. The same and even more so used to happen when I tried and write about other people's fetishes.

But I have managed to learn a couple of tricks about it, in the course of my writing as well as boobie dwelling (hey, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon). I've come up with two ways of approaching a fetish, at least from a literary standpoint. The first to remember that fetishes are like sex under a microscope, that part of their power is in focusing on one particular behavior or body part. Let's use legs as an example. For the die-hard leg fetishist their sexuality (all or just a small part) is wrapped around the perfect set of limbs. For a leg man, or woman, the appeal is in that slow, careful depiction of those legs. The sex that happens after that introduction may be hot, but you can't get away with just saying he or she had "a great set of gams." Details! There has to be details - but not just any mind you. For people into a certain body type or style the words themselves are important. I remember writing a leg fetish story and having it come back from the editor with a list of keywords to insert into the story, the terms his readers would respond to, demanded in their stories. Here's where research comes in: a long, slow description is one thing but to make your fetish story work you have to get your own list of button-pushing terminology.

The second approach is to understand that very often fetishes are removed from the normal sexual response cycle. For many people, the prep for a fetish is as important, if not as important, as the act itself. For latex fans - just to use an extreme example - the talcum powder and shaving before even crawling into their rubber can be just as exciting as the black stretchy stuff itself. For a fetish story, leaping into the sex isn't as important as the prep to get to it - even if you do. Another example that springs to mind is a friend of mine who was an infantilist - and before you leap to your own Webster's that means someone who likes to dress up as someone much younger. For him, the enjoyment was only partially in the costume and roll-playing. A larger part of his dress-up and tea parties was in masturbating afterward: in other words the fetish act wasn't sex, it was building a more realistic fetish fantasy for self-pleasure afterwards. Not that all of your literary experiments need to be that elaborate but it does show that for a serious fetishist the span what could be considered 'sex' can be pretty wide.

The why to try your hand at fetish erotica I leave to you - except to say what I've said before: that writing only what you know can lead to boredom for you and your readers. Try new things, experiment, take risks. In the case of fetishes, it can only add to your own sensitivity and imagination - both in terms of writing and story-telling but maybe even in the bedroom.

And who could argue with that?


5 comments:

Dreamwalker said...

You paint a good and reasonable approach and I will remember your words as wisdom.

Your last paragraph left me in a contemplative melancholy. The act of stretching yourself literarily is bound to impact the rest of your life and it has done so for me on several occasions.

I once slipped on a banana peel into writing a narrative of lovemaking from a woman’s point of view. I entered into it with the intention of writing from the man’s point of view, but the flow of the story took me into the woman’s head and before I noticed it, she had taken over. Had I noticed earlier I would have forcibly turned the narrative around because I was frightful of doing the complexities of the female experience justice.

As it happened, the devil flew in me and I finished the story owning the woman’s mind and body and what an enlightening experience that was! The fictional character took me by the hand and walked me through her experience with me stumbling behind, pointing and gawking. Mildly amused with my cluelessness, the character showed me things that men think are female secrets but in reality are truths out in the open. Truths that leave women baffled that men cannot see and understand.

Sadly, the truths that were so obvious while cradled in her mind, faded quickly like the memory of a dream once the story was finished and I was expelled into the cold, harsh world of my own reality. But the memory of the imprints of the remnants of the shadows of the experience nevertheless made me a better lover and a better man. And it gave me a newfound respect for the fictional characters running around in my head.

Come to think of it: I have a serial-killer character in my head that I have so far shied away from. Maybe it’s time to say hello?

Dreamwalker said...

You paint a good and reasonable approach and I will remember your words as wisdom. Your last paragraph left me in a contemplative melancholy. The act of stretching yourself literarily is bound to impact the rest of your life and it has done so for me on several occasions.

I once slipped on a banana peel into writing a narrative of lovemaking from a woman’s point of view. I entered into it with the intention of writing from the man’s point of view, but the flow of the story took me into the woman’s head and before I noticed it, she had taken over. Had I noticed earlier I would have forcibly turned the narrative around because I was frightful of doing the complexities of the female experience justice.

As it happened, the devil flew in me and I finished the story owning the woman’s mind and body and what an enlightening experience that was! The fictional character took me by the hand and walked me through her experience with me stumbling behind, pointing and gawking. Mildly amused with my cluelessness, the character showed me things that men think are female secrets but in reality are truths out in the open. Truths that leave women baffled that men cannot see and understand.

Sadly, the truths that were so obvious while cradled in her mind, faded quickly like the memory of a dream once the story was finished and I was expelled into the cold, harsh world of my own reality. But the memory of the imprints of the remnants of the shadows of the experience nevertheless made me a better lover and a better man. And it gave me a newfound respect for the fictional characters running around in my head.

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M.Christian said...

Thanks! I'm so glad you liked it -

Best,

Chris