Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fantasy and Reality

Special Guest Blogger: Emily Dubberley

As a full time sex writer, I divide my time between writing erotica (for my fantasy site, Scarlet magazine – - and Penthouse, among others) and writing ‘real’ sex advice (for everyone from Forum to Look). I also undertake a monthly feature for Scarlet called Emily at Large, in which I go off and try something sexually adventurous each month, from attending a naked disco to sploshing to having my vagina cast in plaster of Paris.

There’s an intriguing blend of fantasy and reality in sex writing. People assume, when reading my Emily at Large adventures that I’m some larger than life sexual adventurer, when in reality, nothing suits me more than a massage, some kissing and good old-fashioned missionary. If I write an article about group sex, there’s an expectation that I must get it on in orgiastic style every other weekend. And just by merit of being labeled a ‘sexpert’ numerous men are terrified of the idea of introducing me to their parents (for every cloud…).

People assume that magazine reality and reality are the same thing. In fact, ask most sexperts and they’ll admit to having a certain ‘persona’ for their media work – we cry, have crappy relationships and have occasional lousy sex just like anyone else. But in magazine reality, we’ll smile sweetly, give objective advice and pretend that nothing ever shakes us. It’s a necessary evil – if you have to keep a straight face when someone tells you they let their dog lick them out, or when someone’s buttocks are bouncing inches from your face at a sex party, you soon learn to apply the ‘mask’.

And then comes erotic fiction. Although the stories I write tend to be fantasies, I’d be lying if I said reality had no bearing on it. My characters have a tendency to share certain physical attributes with me. They like to be fucked the way that I like to be fucked – except in the case of extreme fetish, in which case I’ll generally chat to someone who is into that scene to get their bearing on what’s hot. And yes, there have been times when I’ve regretted not having a notepad next to the bed when a partner tries something new and arousing.

In certain cases, I’ve felt obliged to email a ‘muse’ a story I’ve written to check they’re OK with it appearing, as I’m sharing a personal part of their life as well as mine. Even though I always change identifiable details – name, hair colour and, on occasion, gender – I still think it’s only polite to check that the person who inspired the story is happy with their write up.

And then there are the times when fantasy is used to feed into reality. I will freely (OK, slightly guiltily) confess that there have been occasions when I’ve written an erotic story with the express intention of seducing someone. I’ll email a prospective conquest an erotic story I’ve written (albeit someone who I’ve already established has a certain amount of interest in me). I’ve never been so crass as to put them in the starring role (that comes once I know them a lot better) but I will send them something I think will turn them on. It’s a surprisingly effective technique (if not exactly the definition of ‘playing hard to get’). And on occasion, they’ve gone on to inspire future erotic stories courtesy of real life entertainment...

If I look back over the erotica I’ve written over the last six years, I can track every relationship or even crush that I’ve had and gauge a fair amount about my state of mind at the time. As such, even the stories that are the most fantastical have a degree of reality about them. They reflect the person I was when I wrote them.

When I review other people’s erotic books, I’m often curious about the relationship between their words and their personalities. I’ve met a hard-core femme domme writer who’s a softly spoken mum; a woman who writes almost exclusively from the perspective of a gay man; a softly spoken shy French girl whose words portray extreme submission. I wonder whether their erotica reflects their true sexual personalities or whether it’s pure imagination. And yet I’m guilty of the same thing I hate in other people – judging authors from their writing. You wouldn’t expect a crime-writer to be a murderer, so why expect an erotica writer to be obviously sexually voracious?

Sex is a real thing, with everyone having their own perspective. As such, writing about it will always bring the question ‘how much of this is true’? But really, does it matter? If you’re reading a sex column and you think ‘that sex tip wouldn’t work for me’, don’t follow it. If you’re reading an erotic story and getting off on it, who cares who wrote it? When it comes down to it, only you can create your own sexual reality. Anyone who believes anything else is clearly a fantasist.

Emily Dubberley


Portia Da Costa said...

Fantasy and reality are very clearly defined for me. I have a 'dark side', a kind of Darth Da Costa who writes the fiction and thinks up all the outrageous kinky things my characters do... and then there's the real me, a totally separate entity, who's a quiet, demure, cautious middle aged housewife.

Just as my husband, Vincent D'Onofrio, if you don't believe me... LOL

Nikki Magennis said...

(Darth Da Costa ? - you're killing me, Portia!)

Emily, I wanted to say thanks for being our very first guest blogger, and for sharing such a wonderful piece with us. It's a real honour to have such an intrepid journalist visit us here on Lustbites.

For those of you in the US - Emily is sort of the Kate Adie of sex writing. Her journalism and other
work has taken readers to places they may never have imagined existed (the vagina plaster cast session springs to mind).

But I have to ask: What is sploshing?

Portia Da Costa said...

I don't know if Emily is around right now... but I think 'sploshing' is a sort of fetish for sploshing around and covering oneself in things like custard and baked beans... sort of squishing slippy slidey messy substances against bare skin and rolling around in them

I don't really get the attraction myself, but each to his or her own! :)

Portia Da Costa said...

Oh, and lest I forget my manners, may I second Nikki's vote of thanks for a totally 'triffic post!

Nikki Magennis said...

Custard, eh? That might work. Not mixed with baked beans though, that would be foul. Sort of like a kinky Noel Edmonds gameshow, and surely nobody would find that sexy.


Suzanne Portnoy said...

As I've read Emily's article on sploshing, I can confirm it's whipping up cake mix and then pouring it over another person. I don't quite get it from a sexual point of view but it looks like fun.

Thanks for your contribution here Emily. Now when are we meeting for that drink??

justjo said...

I'm glad sploshing is about cake mix. I can relate to that.

The only time I tried to get interesting with Haagen Daz in bed, my husband - then boyfriend - just sat there scoffing it. Sigh. There's appetities, and there's appetites...

Janine Ashbless said...

Great post Emily! I always enjoy Scarlet's "Emily at Large" articles.

I want to be Darth Iquitous. But I'm more likely to be Darth Sipid. Or Darth Fatuated.

There are erotic authors who seem to Walk the Walk as well as Talk the Talk. And then there are authors - like me - who are cautious and ordinary in real life: a blog/novel based on my actual sexual exploits would be pretty dull! Maybe it would have been different if I'd been gorgeous or more confident as a teenager/young adult. Who knows.

Je ne regrete rien. It's all good.

I'm with Jung: our conscious "me" persona is not the sum total of our psyches and there are many other "people" down there who occasionally bob to the surface and take charge. Conflicting facets of our personalities can all have value and be assimilated into the Self via artistic expression.

Now I sound completely mental...
Just you wait till I rule the world. Bwa ha ha ha...

Alison Tyler said...

Lovely post!

I especially like the image of bringing a notebook into bed... "Hold on one sec, while I write that down!" My first published piece in Playgirl was sort of like that... a man and a woman trying to figure out the difference between their individual climaxes, and taking notes until they weren't able to continue (the note-taking, anyway).

Seducing via sex stories is an erotic image in itself, as well. I just read (and hope to publish soon) an intriguing piece by Kis Lee about a woman exploring bondage fantasies (purely for research, of course) with a handsome stranger on a bus trip to Vegas.

Much food for thought here... oh, and speaking of food, I saw an HBO sex special that featured "sploshing" (nice segue, hmm?) and I think it was all sorts of foods. Sitting on pies, being covered in goo and whipped cream, pudding, juice, and so on. I think there's even a magazine dedicated to the fetish...


(Clearly feeling much better. Look at me talking about food!)

kristina lloyd said...

Lovely to have you popping our guest-blog cherry, Emily. And a really smart and candid post. Cheers.

Has anyone offered her a cup of tea yet? Slice of cake? Nikki, quick! Hide that copy of the Radio Times. We’ve got a sexpert in the house.

The fantasy/reality stuff’s really interesting. I suspect I’m like a lot of us. Sometimes there are overlaps in my life and my fiction (How could there not be unless I rented out another brain?). Sometimes the two are poles apart. What I find interesting though are the different values people accord to sexual fantasy. I’m a firm believer that fantasy can be an end in itself; it doesn’t have to be a means to an end (though if you want it to be, fine). Sometimes, fantasy’s seen as a lesser reality, a repressed desire to act stuff out. It’s as if fantasy’s a paler version of the stuff we daren’t try. I feel sorry for fantasy when it gets dismissed like this. After all, a lot of the time fantasy is superior to reality (why else would it exist?). No one gets cramp in fantasy. No one laughs in the wrong place. You can introduce David Beckham wearing military fatigues and combat boots at any point in the narrative (though I find he works best on a hillside when a tropical rainstorm has just broken).

I explored the theme of fantasy v reality in Asking for Trouble (I haven’t mentioned my bestselling book for a while; I can feel you’ve all been waiting). Beth is given the chance to bring her darkest fantasies to life and isn’t sure she wants to, partly because they’re sleazy and dangerous, and in conflict with other aspects of her self. Partly because she fears reality might disappoint. As the story progresses, reality and fantasy start to blur and things get hot and scary.

Some people think AFT is based on a true story. It isn’t. I made it up. A man I don’t know (friend of a friend etc) recently said he found it hard to believe it was written by a woman. This really bugged me, and I’m still not sure why. I think there was a veiled criticism in the comment, and an implication that I wasn’t very ladylike. (Yeah, I know, it’s 2007. The pressure’s off, mate.) I don’t know what that’s got to do with fantasy and reality though. I seem to have gone off at a tangent. Sorry.

Darth Da Costa. Love it!

Alison, so glad your appetite’s coming back.

Emily, it was great to do swish things with you and Tilly the other weekend. The fact that I’ve admired your plaster of Paris (it’s like cockney rhyming slang) brings a whole new blur into this blurry arena of where reality stops and starts.

Kate Pearce said...

Thanks for a great guest blog! It really got me thinking.
I'm one of those boring soccer type moms who no one on Earth believes would write erotic romance. And that's fine with me.
I haven't really taken the time to identify exactly where Kate Pearce is coming from(ha ha) within my personality so now I'll have to think about it. Although I reckon for me, it's all about the fantasy and writing what turns me on rather than ever actually getting out there and doing it

Anonymous said...

I'm back from my jaunts. Hi everyone - great post, Emily. I love it.

I do get asked quite often about how much of my books is 'true', how much research I do - perhaps because I do interveiws in the Daily Express. It's a hard question. I do make it up, but there's often a grain of truth.

I don't think I've ever had a heroine do something I wouldn't do myself - if given the time, opportunity and lack of domestic ties.

Well, except maybe let a werewolf tie me to a chair...

Okay, maybe if it was a really hot werewolf.

Emily Dubberley said...

Awww - thanks for all your lovely comments. It was really fun writing the piece and fantastic to be in such talented company.

Re: sploshing, Suzanne's right - in my case, it was cake mix, custard pies, treacle (hell to get out the nostrils) and various ice-cream sauces. I drew the line at eggs and baked beans because I was pretty sure I'd have thrown up if I'd have had to use them. See for more details (don't worry, there's no nudity) I didn't find it sexy but it was great fun - like being a big kid in a food fight.Alison, the website is where you can get splosh magazine from, so you're right...

Janine, I agree entirely re: multiple personas - there are times when I've written something and thought 'wow, I never realised *that* could turn me on, and stories I've written that, reading back years later, I've been shocked that I wrote (not because of the content as much as because I've changed so much since I wrote them and could never write them now)

Kristine, thanks for the tea and cake - and it was ace being all swish (and not remotely splosh) with you and Tilly the other weekend

Suzanne, I'll let you know when I'm next in London - currently juggling two books (possibly soon to be three) so I'm tied to my desk (no, not in that way - though, come to think of it, maybe it could be a motivating factor, or at least stop me from finding endless things to distract me from writing...)

Kate, I agree with you about writing stuff that turns you on. I've chatted to some erotic writers who claim that their own erotica doesn't need to arouse them but I disagree - or at least don't find that to be the case - if it doesn't turn the writer on, I can't see how it could turn anyone else on.

And finally, Tilly - thanks for inviting me onto such a lovely blog



Anonymous said...

I think the idea of writing a sexy story as a way of trying to seduce someone is fabulous.

Olivia Knight said...

I tried that technique with one of my lecturers, once - a creative writing lecturer, so I had *some* defence for showing him! He was shocked and appalled and seemed to think erotica didn't count as writing. In the end, the more basic ploy of popping round for coffee had the desired effect... But I like to think the erotic softened him up (or hardened him up - phner, phner...) Ironically - and this aspect wasn't deliberate, and it never even occurred to me till now, I really am that naive - the story was based on my adolescent fantasies about my science teacher!

Olivia Knight said...

But yes - on the fantasy aspect - my ex-colleagues used to rag me endlessly about it, and everyone takes great glee in asking about your 'research'. I think they're just delighted with the opportunity to talk about smut, rather than really asking a serious question, but I may be giving undue credit. My standard reply, when people ask where I get my material, is "my twenties".

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I bought my husband a shirt that says, "My wife writes romances. I benefit. Big time."


Alison Tyler said...

A few of my friends confessed to using my stories to seduce their crushes... "Oooh, look... let's see what Alison has in this month's Playgirl..."

But every once in awhile, they'd end up horrifying the poor boy instead of seducing him...

Kate Pearce said...

This is relevant-honest;y-bear with me!
Today we went to buy a car and the sales guy got chatting with us and it came up that I write 'romance'-of course, sales guy is fascinated and my dear husband gives him my website addy and all my smut pops up.
Later when himself was signing the papers the guy says to me-'can I ask you something?" and I'm bracing myself for the usual 'have you done everything in your books question' when he says 'do you think you have to have a dirty mind to write books like yours?' and I look at him and say 'everyone has a dirty mind, the skill is being able to share it with other people' It's so true-and it shut him up!