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Do-It-Yourself Smut: Writing the Erotic

April 9th, 2015     by Danielle Gehl     Comments

A couple years ago, I ran a workshop called “Writing Our Desires: DIY Literotica.” I was thrilled and happily scandalized by the way folks threw themselves into the discussion and activities, calling out sexy words and body parts and constructing scenarios and storylines that made other participants go “Oooh.” The workshop confirmed my suspicion that lots of us want to write smut and will gladly do so when given the time and space.

Erotic writing can take the form of fiction, journaling, songs, poems, love letters, sexts and more. If you can write simple sentences, you can write erotica. I dare you to try.

Why write erotica?

Since that workshop, I’ve thought more about why I like to write about sex, which means I’ve thought lots about how erotica can be a tool for reclaiming the “dirty” or “filthy,” a for self-care and self-knowledge.

Sexuality is a powerful tool for self-expression, and for giving and receiving care. Our bodies are also the sites of our struggles for social justice. We all have trauma around our sexualities and gender identities, by virtue of being raised in a culture that shames, devalues, and harms our bodies. Though our experiences of that trauma may be very different, the process of healing through storytelling welcomes anyone who is open to it.

As visionary trans femme performer and artist of colour Kai Cheng writes:

“It is time to talk about sex – not just the ins and outs and how-to’s, but also the good and bad and ugly. To talk about our differences and how it is possible that for some, sexuality is a playground or an exciting new frontier, and for others it has been a prison. How it is possible to feel as though one has at once had too much sex and not enough. It is time to talk about the jealousy, the wanting, the waiting, the scared children that still haunt so many of us. About the sex we were denied, the sex that we survived, the sex that blew open the locked doors of our haunted hearts and made us scream and moan and cry with rage and ecstasy. The sex we haven’t had yet – the sex we have only begun to imagine. The sex that sets us free.”

Writing about sex lets us name ourselves and our desires. It’s powerful, and fucking hot. It invites us to tell those stories that shame and despair have buried, the stories that yearn to be shared. Eroticism can be both medicine and a tool for survival for folks whose sexualities have been harmed by the daily realities of racism, colonialism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other oppressions.

In a world that tries to dictate how and why and whom we fuck, writing lets us practice the language of bodies, identities, boundaries, and desires. Talking about the sex we love and the sex we crave is affirming and transcendent. It explodes our assumptions and our ideas of what is possible.

Whether you’re writing about holding hands or strapping on, erotica is also just good old-fashioned saucy fun. Here is an easy way to get started:

Brainstorm words and phrases that interest and inspire you. Write them down on a piece of paper. Cut out the words, put them in a pile and draw a few at random. Then challenge yourself to write a couple sentences using all of the words you selected. This can be really fun in a group of folks who trust each other.

Some ideas: slip, bite, glow, press, laugh, sing, murmur, window, grass, wrist, clavicle, boots, lipstick.

Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Take breaks. Take care. Gently notice your turn-ons, and your triggers. Make yourself laugh. Be as cheesy, brave, filthy and shameless as you want to be. Ask questions. Scandalize yourself.

When we create, we dream new worlds, new potentials: for our sexuality and our beautiful, complex selves.

Tags: body politics, diy, gender, sexuality

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