if you use the term “mommy porn”, I may have to kill you

I love erotica. Way more than visual “porn”, and I think a lot of women are like that. We are (supposedly) more emotional/imaginative, whereas men tend to be more visual/tactile. So what this means is that most women prefer to get their porn via the written word, and most men would rather have it on video.

But I like video, as well. I think a lot of women are like that, too. it just serves a different function. Video-porn is a private experience. An immediate-masturbation activity. Let’s face it, it’s only good for one thing. And unless you’re visiting sites like sssh.com, it’s a fairly fast & shallow encounter. Literary-porn, on the other hand, can be enjoyed in public. A save-it-for-later kind of thing. like a woman’s version of the “spank-bank”. (If I am at my kid’s karate class, or waiting in the dentist’s office, or sitting on a train, I might be reading erotica on my kindle. Don’t judge.)

But it’s more than that. It’s deeper, a richer experience. In erotic romance you have a plot, and characters to care about. The best erotic romance is funny and smart, and there is a strong emotional component. You don’t just want to see the two MCs fuck, you want to see how they do it, why, and what happens after. Even scenes which, if read as an excerpt might be bland, can be extremely sexy if they are the culmination of three chapters of sexual tension.

When you break down romance, it’s all fairly sexy. Even straight-up “romance” (as in, not “erotic romance”) often has some pretty steamy scenes. But then… I have heard a lot of people say they don’t like to read explicit sex in their romantic fiction. They go so far as to say they actually skim over the sex in a romance when they find it. There is a whole genre tailored to these people, called “sweet romance”. I guess I can understand this, theoretically. If you’re reading a great story and there pops up a gratuitous sex scene, and then another one, and then another, it can cheapen the experience. (I feel the same way when watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. Do I really need to see so much needless plot-independent violence? No.)

But sex is part of life, and it is a BIG part of romance, and romantic relationships. So I think it needs to be there for a romance story to be “real”, for me. Also, I like it. A book only needs one or two sex scenes, really, if the romance is there throughout. Sure, the “fade-to-black” type are acceptable, but not half as much fun. A good sex scene tells me so much more about the characters, it is the most intimate moment of their relationship! And just like in real life, it can be very revealing. I’m sure we’ve all had a partner we thought we knew pretty well, until we had sex with them.

And a sex scene tells me a lot about the author, as well. How do they handle it? What terms do they use? Do they get all flowery and metaphorical all of a sudden? Clinical and cold? Too graphic? Not graphic enough? Confusing? Boring? It’s all very telling, and I’ve had erotic scenes make (or break) my love for an author.

So, about “mommy porn”… I never read the 50 shades books. I tried, really I did. But three pages of first-person present tense into it and I gave up. Sorry. I can’t throw stones about anyone’s writing, but it was a difficult three pages for me, that’s all I’ll say. All writing issues aside, when something gets Oprah talking about erotica and BDSM, it’s a big deal.

I’m not a huge bdsm fan. It has to be very carefully handled for me be able to read it, and even then it’s rarely arousing to me (once you’ve lived with actual abuse, it’s not very sexy to read fake abuse). But there are a lot of people who love it. And even now, after all the 50 shades hysteria has mostly died down, we see elements of it in many erotic romance titles.

There was an article last year that caused a hub-bub about it, and because I’ve recently been thinking about this I dug it up. It’s called “Spanking goes Mainstream“, and in it there is a lot of discussion about why women might be interested in being tied up, spanked, etc. Why would we let men dominate us in bed, when we have to fight so hard for equality everywhere else? Why would anyone harbor a “rape-fantasy”, no matter how “safe” it is? What about the thousands of women who claim to be living “the lifestyle” as a submissive? WTF is going on? Well, I have an idea. And it has something to do with erotica, and erotic romance.

One of the biggest problems I have with BDSM in fiction is that the power balance is all off. In a real Dom/sub dynamic, the sub is the one with the real power. Not many authors get that. They insist on writing Doms as these wealthy, powerful, self-important assholes who want to wield control over subs and who get off on being called “sir”. But that’s so far from the reality. The Dom likes being called “sir”, or whatever honorific, because it re-enforces the fact the sub has chosen and has put their trust in him/her. Real control stays with the sub. The power to end the play rests almost solely with the sub. The content of the scene is all about the sub, what they’d enjoy, what they “need”. The sub’s behavior, their response, dictates the entire sequence of events. They are actually in control of every part of the interaction. I have never read a BDSM book which admits this. (Though I don’t read a lot of them so I’m not saying there aren’t some that do)

But I think the fact that the entire “scene” or “play” is centered on the sub’s desire is the reason “mommies” respond so strongly to it. For women who give their whole lives to their families, who work outside the home, and then put in a “second shift” cooking, cleaning, and mothering, this is a lovely daydream. What a fantasy, to think that your partner would prepare and perform an elaborate sexual event, possibly lasting hours, centered solely on your pleasure! Can a person ever have more sexual power than that?

The same is true of erotic m/f romance, and erotica. The sex is always depicted in the most fantastical way possible: with men who are selfless, thoughtful, generous lovers. In erotica, no matter how aroused the man is, he always takes the time to please his partner. So then, the woman is always in control, even when she kind of isn’t, because the entire sexual act revolves around her orgasm. Calling it “mommy porn” makes it a silly, naughty, guilty pleasure. When in reality, it is an escape for women so dissatisfied with their reality, they have retreated to the daydream of fiction.

I don’t think women who like BDSM erotica or “mommy porn” are giving up any control. They are not tired of workplace responsibility, they are not stressed by the duties of power. They are seeking more power, and more control. They are hoping to escape into a fantasy in which their needs come first, their responses matter. We are promised equality, workplace respect, social opportunity. But in the real world we still don’t have equal pay for equal work, our reproductive rights are not our own, and our femininity is seen as a weakness. In real life, Wal-mart sells t-shirts that say “nice story babe, now make me a sandwich“. Is it any surprise 50 shades sold 70 million copies?

5 thoughts on “if you use the term “mommy porn”, I may have to kill you

  1. Did you read Power exchange and Safeword by AJ Rose? If not, check it. The way he handles the BDSM Elements of the story boggled my mind. Of course, this is from the point of view of a middle age, white, het,woman. 🙂 And like you, I hated 50 shades, managed to read twenty pages. Life is too short to waste time in bad literature.

    • Yes! I liked Power Exchange a lot (I have not yet read Safeword). That was a good example of BDSM in a healthy relationship, with a nice story as well. I’m not a super fan of cop books, only because I’m married to a cop, and I tend to get too picky about the realism of those details (which really takes the fun out of reading, you know?) But I will probably read Safeword at some point.

      Honestly I can’t even believe some of the crap I’ve downloaded (erotica titles I mean) that I never got more than a few pages into. Thank goodness for kindle “samples”, right? 🙂

  2. Sex scenes are the hardest part of the book to write. Every word is a struggle. I’ve had plenty of people tell me not to bother, just shut the door, but I know just skipping it makes readers feel cheated. I am nowhere near erotica- I like the straight up romance with a decent relationship build up or it just doesn’t appeal to me. And I totally don’t get the BDSM. My husband slapped me on the butt while I was doing dishes, said he heard women liked that, told him it was just a good way to get his own kicked.

    • Yeah, as a reader I like a somewhat explicit sex scene. Though the closed-door type can be okay, too, as long as the intimacy between the MCs is obviously increased afterward. Overall, I think as long as you write what you are comfortable with readers will “feel” it, and it will be fine.
      LOL about your husband 🙂

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