EROTICA: Rules of engagement when asking readers to review your draft

Africa is not a continent of prudes, and consequently, African writers sometimes write erotica. Hey, that’s great. As long as these “after dark” stories are about adults having safe and consensual naked time – write on. In fact, Brittle Paper is looking for erotica, should you be interested.

However, there is some basic etiquette involved when asking another writer to look at your erotic draft. Going about it the wrong way verges on – or IS! – sexual harassment.

1: Do not send your piece to another person without asking first.

Ask the potential reader if they have time to read your work before sending it. Always. Even if your story isn’t erotica. Even if you sent them work before. You ask.

(Yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare. As in – I know about two people who I have a relationship with that would be okay with my just attaching the story and sending it along. Two.)

There is a person in my life who does this perfectly. I was once her mentor. That is over. But occasionally she asks if I can read a piece. Her emails tend to read in the following format:

Hi,
I hope you are well.

I am trying to write a piece for the (insert publication). My piece is (insert word count), is (insert fiction / non-fiction / poetry), and is about (insert two line summary).

Kind regards,
(name)

Do this.

2. If somebody agrees to read your piece do not ask them if they like or enjoy certain sexual activities.

That is none of your business, unless that person is actually your lover.

2b. Do not ask the reader if they think the sexual scenes are realistic.

You are asking for feedback on your story. The person reading it will give you their thoughts on their terms. To do otherwise risks wandering into sexual harassment territory.

2c: Your reader is not your research.

If you are writing characters outside your personal experience, it is your job to research. Read, use the internet, read some more. But it is not your reader’s job to be your personal source of information.

Examples of inappropriate questions:

  • A writer asking a disabled person if they can have sex and how.
  • A writer asking a woman reader if it is realistic for a woman to demand cunnilingus.
  • A writer asking a gay man if it is normal to “switch” (the one who is penetrated vs the one penetrating).

To clarify:
It is fine to ask a writer with a disability to read your story involving a disabled character who has fab sex / bad sex / wants sex. But it is the reader’s choice what they feel comfortable commenting on. It is the reader’s choice if they want to share personal stories or their own research. You, dear writer, don’t get to ask.

3. When writing erotica with violence, consider the following:

A: Tell the reader before they read your story, so they can decide for themselves if this is something they feel comfortable reading.

B: Do your research, not write your Hollywood inspired fantasy.

C: Have a rethink as to why the hell you want to write that, since it is a topic that is so easy to get wrong.

3b: Erotica is not rape. Also, men, this is not your chance to go all MRA

Yes, men can be raped. Yes, men can suffer domestic violence. But the backlash against #Metoo and #Timesup does not change the reality that most rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment is done by men to women. It is not a 50/50 discussion. Do not contact a woman to read a mansplaining story about how men can be victims, women are just as bad, or the worst – trying to show women how to they really should be processing their feelings after experiencing sexual violence.

Writers, you have no idea what your reader has been through. Women do not need to have their horror mansplained back to them, nor do they desire to see it framed as “entertainment”.

Conclusion:

Women are rising in the publishing world. We are tired of being harassed, manipulated, and put down. Behave. If men writers want women’s help, do so with manners and empathy. Now go out, write on, and be empathetic human beings.

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