What if the sex is just not happy and hot? This expresses a concern I have for my forthcoming book Inky Flesh: Stories Written by the Body and whether it will find a reading community or not. I do not fear that no one will enjoy the stories, but I wonder if their thinking about sex approach will be embraced by many readers. The usual genre demands, as much as I understand them at this point, tell me readers prefer stories about love, romance, and sex to be either happy or hot, so the question is what if they are not necessarily so?
They say the romance genre leans toward the Happy Ever After (HEA) ending, and I have seen how porn leans toward the Fully Spent (FS) ending. But, in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice: Is there room today for the Thoughtfully Titillating Tale (TTT)? Perhaps here, I am haunted by Hawthorne.
This is why I am curious to see what reading community waits for Inky Flesh, if any at all. Can a girl write more than just a happy or hot ending or is she destined forever to smile in the face of sex—even if the sex is bad? Yes, I am still channeling Bradshaw.
The stories in Inky Flesh variously consider sex from reflective, romantic, and randy perspectives. And, since sex can mean, result, and be many different things, these stories are more thoughtful than necessarily happy or hot. There are, of course, are exceptions.
As I wait for Inky Flesh to come to print life, the anxious author within me, who appears to be wearing Carrie Bradshaw drag at the moment, found comfort within Simon Sheppard’s essay “Mondo Porno Pomo.” Sheppard’s essay appears in the book The Burning Pen: Sex Writers on Sex Writing. While reading Sheppard’s essay, I felt some plagiarism paranoia, but alas, it was only writer’s envy, for Sheppard very aptly expressed much of the chatter in my head.
The point that struck me the most was when Sheppard suggests sex writing can do more than make us happy or hot: “So one of the things porn can do, especially well-crafted, thoughtful erotica, is help convince us that sex is worth not just talking about but thinking about.” I was thrilled to see others striving for sex writing that thinks about sex, perhaps even prompts us to think about sex. I open the door here to admit love and romance, for love, romance, and sex (LRS) are humanity’s perpetual threesome with one periodically left jealously watching from the foot of the bed.
As for writing about love, romance, and sex: while these can surely be happy or hot, they can also be neither. Sheppard makes this point when he asserts they can be “dark and dysfunctional and even destructive and still be worthwhile.” They can also be a complicated mix of all of the above, and they can be riddled with social, psychological, economic, physical, and even spiritual concerns.
Therefore, writing about love, romance, and sex that is only or always happy or hot, while sweetly or hotly ideal, risks narrating them more in shadow than not, which is certainly fine if one primarily seeks prurience. Sheppard suggests sex writing can persuade us to think about sex, and I find this premise productive.
So, between Happy Ever After and Fully Satiated, is there room for the Thoughtfully Titillating Tale? And, if not, will Mr. Big will still date me, for I hear he has a huge—reading habit.
Read and ongoing interview with author MJ Isola. You can learn more about Simon Sheppard via his web site or his Facebook page.
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