"Each year, I adjust myself to the new erotic zeitgeist. I imagine what would happen if I stuffed all the manuscripts I receive in a time capsule, and buried them for our descendants to unearth in the next century. What would they say about the things that turned us on? As much as we enjoy certain fundamentals of sex — the flesh, the suspense — there are minitrends that flow in and out of our erotic history, and they make a distinct impression on me. […] But in my unpaid role as a sexual anthropologist, I'm drawn to explore the undercover meaning of a sexual blip on the charts. After all, these various writers who all settle on the same erotic subject don't know each other; they have no idea that scores of others are writing and fantasizing about the same obsession. […] Sexual repression is like a jack-in-the-box that you can never entirely stuff back in its hiding place. Whatever we are not supposed to think about in a time […] is exactly the sort of secret fantasies that are going to flourish.”
KD Grace, in her piece “What Women Want,” asks "One of the most disturbing [questions], in my opinion, though one of the most important questions to be addressed by all women […] does erotica feed [society's] stereotypes?"
Because our porn—what we turn to to turn us on—matters. It says something important about where we are as a society and who we are as a people. It is a snapshot of our present moment in time’s fears, desires, and needs.
So many people are so quick to dismiss erotica and porn, saying they, as I’ve said before, “Aren’t real stories. Of course they are. They are important and vital. Everyone in history has been touched by and has experienced in some way love and sex. Those things are inextricably bound to our lives. Hell, every person in existence owes their lives to those things in one way or another. Erotica and romance stories are humanity’s way of exploring that ubiquitous aspect. To delve deep in our psyche and society and speak honestly about the things we want and need. What is more real than that?” Yet, still far too many people are far too content to “secretly surf my porn online and, while I'll gladly enjoy and wank to the work in the privacy of my own Kleenex, I still plan to publicly shame the people who make it. Because that's what good and decent people do. Because porn is literary sausage; I want it to exist, just not the people and processes that make it.”
We’re too often too afraid to look at it too closely. Coweringly afraid, I think, of what it might say about us.
Take BDSM and kink.
Now, I’m of the mind that being kinky is a sexual orientation. I think that it takes a certain kind of person to do what we do and find pleasure—real, honest pleasure beyond the taboo novelty of it—in it.
But I also recognize the fluidity inherent in the orientation.
I am kinky.
But how that manifested itself within me, the particular kinks and fetishes that part of my being latched onto…yeah, there was probably a lot of nurture mixed in with the nature of me. Or at least as much as nurture as my attraction to geeky boys with glasses and a smart mouth within the nature of my heterosexuality.
Because, yes, of course, the world and time we live in would impact our desires. How could it not, when it shapes everything else about us? I’ve talked a bit about this before, but I do believe that when anthropologists look back at this moment in time, they’ll note the correlation between the rise in BDSM’s popularity and the very deep struggle for equality—among genders, orientations, race, class, religion, and a myriad of other minorities. Right now, when the state of power feels so in flux, when so many of us fight for recognition and respect and basic human dignity on the daily, it’s not hard to see the appeal in playing with the exchange of power in safe, sane, and consensual ways.
I think erotica, and the sexual landscape as a whole, offers us a safe space to explore the struggle of our current state in cathartic and thoughtful ways. To decide for ourselves what things like power, equality, consent, and identity mean to us and how they affect both our erotic and wider, more mundane lives.
To decide if we’re happy enough dismissing this rich and impactful genre as simple fap-fodder, not worth any thought or consideration past our climax.
Or if we’re brave enough to, as Grace states, defiantly seek meaning in this too often discounted medium.
Read KD Grace’s full piece “What Women Want” Here