Sunday, January 16, 2011

It Has to Be Said

There's a topic spoken of only in hushed whispers in erotica circles, and that's gender discrimination.

In science fiction, literary fiction, and  -according to a recent open letter to the editor -  the New Yorker, female writers are passively/aggressively discriminated against. In erotica the reverse is true. The now defunct publisher Black Lace was notorious for only publishing female writers. The excuse was that it was an important part of their marketing to assure women that their sexual fantasies weren't in the hands of icky boys who would turn it into porn. (That's not the way they put it, but that's what it meant.) Even now, Best Women's Erotica and many other erotica anthologies explicitly state that only female writers may submit.

I'm female. I benefit from this discrimination.

Or do I?

As witnessed by the huge percentage of female writers who contribute to open call anthologies, female erotica writers can compete on a level playing field with the guys. I think that this open hostility and discrimination against male writers only hurts the anthologies, and by extension, it hurts me as a writer.

So back to that idea of the marketing ploy. First off - how many readers pay that much attention to a writer's name? From a recent FaceBook discussion about author bios, I found out that few people read them, and those who do are usually other writers. So readers don't care. But that's the main argument for discrimination! Could it be that idea is antiquated at best, and probably just dead wrong? Second - who would flip pages past a story just because they don't want to read something by a writer of that gender? A reader would give a story a shot, at least a couple paragraphs. Either the story engages them, at which point they forget all about the writer, or it doesn't, in which case, they aren't gong to think "But it's by a woman, so I'm going to slog through it anyway!" No. That's not how readers behave. Third - it used to be that anthologies were produced by strict sexuality guidelines so that no reader would be exposed to something that might offend them (in erotica!) but now stories range all over the spectrum of sexuality in books aimed at heterosexual audiences and it hasn't hurt sales. 

Which brings me to this point.

Years ago, when erotica was coming out from under the counters and being shelved with the rest of the real books, there might have been a reason to treat the readers with kid gloves. The seventies and eighties were laden with so many sexual minefields that everyone trod very carefully. Probably too carefully. (The whole Heterotica 6, or was it 7, kerfuffle by overly PC committee comes to mind.) But we're a bit more savvy now, or at least our audience is. Isn't it time that publishers caught up?

Readers already get it. They don't care about the contents of a writer's underwear. Only the story matters to them.

It has to be said: The story is all that matters.

Publishers, let down the drawbridge and let the male writers in. I've met many of them in person. I promise that they aren't icky. More to the point, some are amazing writers. Why in the world should readers be protected from quality?

Saturday, January 01, 2011


For the past two years, on New Year's Eve, I've been seized by a sudden urge to try absinthe. I have no idea why it only strikes on that day.

Part of the lure of absinthe has to be the ritual. If there's one thing creative types adore, it's a ritual. You don't simply pour a shot of absinthe and down it. I suppose that you could, but that reduces it to simply another flavor of alcohol.

The other part of the lure is the mystic.
Absinthe is the drink of artists. If you believe the bad press, it's a gateway to insanity. If you believe the aficionados, it's the gateway to the muse. Those aren't mutually exclusive. But like most anti-drug hysteria, I doubt most of the alarm surrounding it. It's legal to sell in the US again, I assume after a great deal of scientific evidence proving its safety. Considering how rarely the US Government lets science be heard over hysteria and religious nuttery, the case had to be compelling.

Absinthe isn't a cheap habit. For that reason, I'm hesitant to dive into it. And I worry that the flavor might not be to my liking. I've tried basil infused vodka, so an herbal drink isn't out of the question. I'm not terribly fond of anise though. Or more accurately, I don't like black licorice, so I'm a bit hesitant. But this coming May when I head to New Orleans for Saints and Sinners, I think I'll give it a try. That's the perfect city for indulgence, muses, and maybe a touch of madness.