TO SPEAK UP OR SIT QUIETLY
"The pros and cons of coming out of the closet about writing erotica."
by Madeleine Oh
Every author of sexually explicit work faces this dilemma: should we admit to what we write or huddle behind our pseudonyms and cash the checks? Is it wiser to proclaim publication to our parents and children or hug the news to ourselves? Do we look our friends, co-workers, parents, and children in the eye, and say, "I write erotica/ romantic/ explicit romance/porn," or do we smile and mumble, "fiction"?
Like so may life decisions; it all depends.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I'm very up front about what I write and publish, but I enjoy the luxury of self-employment. If I still worked for the public schools in the bible belt, I'd be keeping mum about "Madeleine".
To tell or not to tell depends on a careful weighting of the pros and cons - assuming here you use a pseudonym. If you're writing under your own name, the truth is already out. I debated using a pseudonym, my inclination being not to use one, but since I was already building a readership for paranormal romance under my own name, and my erotica tends to be very, very different from my romance, I opted for a pen name not wanting to lose unsuspecting readers by shocking them. I've been very open that Madeleine writes the naughty stuff; it's my personal consumer's warning.
So, safely ensconced behind an anonymous pen name, why speak out from the shadows?
If you work in a sensitive profession, live in the bible belt, or a small town, or have friends, relatives, or employer you are convinced will react negatively, the shelter of anonymity is the wise and prudent choice. If I were still a public school employee, I'd have kept very, very quiet about my close relationship with "Madeleine" But there are definite pluses to telling: Crossover readership of readers who know you by your 'other name'. Promotion without concern for sheltering behind a pseudonym. Book signings and public appearances. There are the shocked looks and the stunned silences, I'll admit, but I've received those for announcing I write romance.
One big plus has been learning how many people enjoy erotica and romantica and kinky stories as much as I do. I've actually been pleasantly astounded at how few negative reactions I've received. Okay, perhaps everyone who's horrified no longer has anything to do with me but on the whole reactions vary from intrigued to curious, to "Smashing, where can I buy one of your books?"
Another advantage of owning up to writing 'those sort of books' is it gives you a marvelous weapon to deflate literary pretension. Faced with sneers and sniffs over writing Romance, there's nothing like a blithe, 'Oh, and I also write kink erotica," to take the wind out of the lit-snob's sails.
But my biggest reason for speaking up about what I write is that I see myself on a mission. Call me an irritable, old wrinkly (after all, I am !) but I'm out to whittle away at the twisted notion that decent women don't like sex, certainly don't want to read about it, and heavens to Betsy would never dream of writing the stuff. Balderdash! It's just another way of saying women aren't entitled to good sex, shouldn't know about it, and have no right to seek knowledge or self expression.
Giving those in sensitive occupations and situations a bye, the rest of us need to stand up and say proudly, "I write erotica, romantica, porn, explicit romance" (pick your own genre). There is force in numbers and if enough of us speak up, the tutters and tskers will be forced to admit that respectable women do read and write about sex, and between us we'll silence those who'd muffle us.