Once upon a time, I wrote erotica.
Let me preface this with: I have nothing but respect for erotica authors. I’ve written prologues for erotica anthologies, and one of my favorite authors edits erotica (and writes some of the most stunning personal essays you’ll read. Her name is Rachel Bussel Kramer, and her collection called Sex and Cupcakes is well written, authentic, marvelous stuff.)
That said — when it comes to erotica…
I, um, sucked. (Ba-dum-bum!)
Actually, that’s not entirely true. From what I’ve been told by my editor and the few but dedicated fans of the series, the stories were solid, and I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish.
However, it fell into a wormhole.
It was, in my mind, a “bridge” between romance and erotica, what they now categorize as “romantic erotica.” It had the higher sexual level of erotica, with the character arc and love relationship development of contemporary romance.
Unfortunately, like a wormhole itself, the audience proved more theoretical than tangible.
I didn’t understand the erotica audience well enough, and they called me on it. Meanwhile, romance fans found the sex too overwhelming. It was a conundrum. The sales weren’t dreadful, but they certainly weren’t enough to justify my continued pursuit in that cross-genre.
More important than the sales, however, was the fact that I discovered my own limits. The demands and real estate that the erotic element took up in the manuscript off-balanced my true love of humor, screwed-up underdogs, and character arcs that weren’t as dependent on exploration of sex as a metaphor for freedom, enlightenment, and personal expression.
Through writing it, I got out of my comfort zone, which was valuable. I learned about my likes, dislikes, and process. I learned the dangers of writing for an audience without at least checking whether said audience exists.
I also learned the world’s longest and ugliest acronym.
(I told you it was unwieldy.)
What it stands for:
Your Kink Is Not My Kink (But Your Kink Is OK)
In researching different fetishes and sexual practices, I discovered the phrase commonly used among various groups. It was purely non-judgmental: a statement of one’s own boundaries, without prejudice against other people’s interests. It is often shortened to YKINMK… your kink is not my kink.
I am a die-hard plotter. When I was reading Therese’s piece on”off-roading“, I was shuddering a little. While there are always elements of surprise in my manuscripts, I need a map. I need my outline.
That doesn’t make her way any less valid. I respect it, and I respect her utterly. I just know me.
Plotting is my kink.
I write commercial genre fiction. I have done so strictly for money before. (To be brutally honest, we had a house payment due, my husband’s construction business was going under, and I was pregnant and newly laid off. I promptly called my editor and said — verbatim — “Tell me the hole in your list, and I’ll fill it. I will write about crack-addicted lesbian nuns. I can turn it around in three months. I need the job.”)
I’m still happy with the work I did in that contract. (Although I am admittedly glad that crack-nuns were not in vogue at the time.)
That said, I know that others would not, could not, do that, even with guns to their heads. And that’s fine.
I have been the sneered at “romance author” at literary conferences (where I was teaching, no less.) I have been asked the dreaded “so when are you going to write a real book?” with the accompanying small smile. It has been… uncomfortable.
Doesn’t matter. Romance, genre, commercial… that’s my kink.
Literary fiction, poetry, slip-stream, experimental, cross-genre, no genre… those are other people’s kinks. And that’s okay, that’s valuable, that’s wonderful. They’re just not mine.
The best thing about YKINMK.
The reason I love the ugly acronym is the philosophy it embraces: knowing yourself, while accepting that others will be different, and those differences are fine.
Right now, there is an unbelievable amount of agony, discord, and violence in the world. As writers, we absorb what’s happening around us, no matter what we write. Writing is how we process the world we live in. It’s how we learn about ourselves, and share ourselves with others.
It takes wisdom to know who we are, and what we stand for… our kinks.
It takes courage to act in ways that are resonant with who we are, despite criticism.
And it takes faith to let other people act according to who they are, without judging them.
We can’t control others. We can’t change them.
In short, we can’t impose our kink on them. On the other hand, no matter what kink they’re into, we can stay firmly in our own stance with a gentle YKINMK.
It may seem like a leap, to go from someone being critical of a work or genre of fiction he doesn’t like, to global intolerance and violence. But both start with judgment, the firm belief that something is objectively “right” and something else is clearly “wrong.” In our world, (which let’s face it is more art than science), these judgments lead to fear.
Think about it — how many times have we read things like “literary culture is crumbling” or “readers only seem to pay for stupid, vapid formula” or similar statements? Without even the benefit of “I believe” or “this is my opinion” attached to it?
To quote Yoda (being a geek is yet another of my kinks):
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
Tolerance starts in small ways. We can be true to ourselves, stand firm in our authenticity, and give others the space to do the same.
Your kink isn’t my kink, perhaps.
But I wholeheartedly believe that my kink, and your kink, are okay.
So tell me, truthfully. What’s your kink? When it comes to your writing, what do you stand for, what do you believe in? What are your proclivities? What do you love?