Art isn’t Always Comfortable

A comment by OregonGirl indicates she’s disturbed by the snippet of ‘Assignment 3’ I posted recently.  She cited the underage girl in the story, that the story was written for titillation, etc.  She pointed out that in my Daddy/girl stories it’s clear that I’m writing about adults and consensual activity.

Yes, yes there is something disturbing about the way I’ve set up the story.  The way these characters think and their motivations are not mainstream, not comfortable to read at times.  My head has lots of characters like this, actually.  I’ve been noticing them, seeing them, feeling them grow in me over time.  I’ve resisted letting them out to stretch their legs.  Why?  Because I knew they would not only be a challenge to write, they’d be a challenge for some people to read.

But here’s the thing, as someone who wants to grow as an artist, I need to be willing to unleash my imagination even if it is uncomfortable, disturbing, even disgusting to me.  I can’t keep putting up barriers and walls, that’s going to short-circuit the process.  Additionally, some of the greatest works we have in any art form are those that stray past the edges of the mainstream and comfortable.  They exist because life is not always comfortable and easy, it’s not always consensual and safe.  Life gets shitfaced and falls down and does things it regrets later.  Life doesn’t always control it’s impulses and people get hurt.  Artists are driven to communicate what’s going on in their heads and hearts to the outside world.  The translation is always imperfect, we are driven to push through those imperfect attempts and try again.  Always trying to get closer to that ideal we can envision or hear in our heads.  And because we create art as a reflection of life, which can be both beautiful and ugly, our art is sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly.  My favorite art, the work that effects me the most profoundly, is not comfortable and easy. It challenges me, it grabs me and alters my perspective without my consent.  As I said on Facebook yesterday:

Art isn’t always nice or comfortable or easy or well mannered. Sometimes art sits down next to you and farts, sometimes it stands on the corner and screams at the top of its lungs, sometimes it sits quietly in a dark corner and catches your eye, staring in a way that makes you wish you’d gone another direction.

I am a writer, I write a lot of life inspired fiction.  Some of that is erotica, though I’m moving in the direction of erotica not being the main focus of all my work. I’m also moving away from my life experiences being the sole inspiration for my characters and stories.

Erotica is meant to elicit a particular response, to turn on the reader.  What arouses each of us is very individual, so writing erotica is not a science and I don’t pretend that what I write works for everyone.  I’ve gotten plenty of negative feedback on my Daddy/girl stories, for example, indicating that plenty of people see those stories as too close to incest and sexual abuse for their liking.  Fair enough, they can find their turn ons elsewhere.

OregonGirl was disturbed by my story featuring an adult and an underage girl.  Fair enough, it’s not going to be everyone’s thing.  Part of her protest was the power imbalance in that situation, the lack of consent where underage people are concerned, the appearance and/or approval of sexual abuse.  I get that, I really do.  I have written quite a few consent based, feminist erotica and I’m proud of that work and will continue to produce it in the future.  I also know that some of the stories in me are not going to be pretty and comfortable with respect to consent and feminism.  That’s a reflection of life as we know it, rather than life as we’d like it to be.

Back to the particular story in question, I believe when it’s done the similarities to Lolita will be much smaller than they appear from that snippet.  My female protagonist has a healthy libido and complete agency throughout.  She’s never forced into anything.  There is never contact between the two characters – the whole point of the story is a sexual relationship between two people who never have contact, they barely speak to each other.  Certainly I didn’t need the female character to be underage, but that’s how she came to me.  If it serves the story to change that particular characteristic, I will consider it in the future, however, I don’t feel particularly driven to do that yet.  And to repeat, this is a character with full agency and I really like that.

Question to my readers:  Do I have an obligation as a feminist and erotica writer to always maintain and reflect my feminist values in my stories?  Discuss.  I am genuinely interested in any viewpoints you as a reader want to share, so jump in, please.

For a future post:  What about stories that involve sexual encounters of underage people with their peers?  First sex encounters like the one I had in my own life – are they also outside the bounds of consent based, feminist erotica?

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