What Do I Tell Her?

I am fortunate to have several close friends who support what I write, but, truth be told, I also have many family members who strongly and vocally disapprove. As we all know and as was discussed in many incredible posts before a few months back, erotica has long been the black sheep of the writing world, regardless of its quality. It’s a shame, really, that so many amazing authors can be slapped with a derogatory label and/or be “on the fringe” simply for writing about sex.

Just before the real heat of the erotica sex writing versus mainstream sex writing conversation arose, a close family member made a point to call out her negative thoughts on what I write, and—perhaps because of the ongoing conversation, or just because of how it all went down between us—it’s resonated in my head off and on all this time. She was not the relative who’d previously crushed me by telling me my talent was wasted; the words of this woman, instead, infuriated me. We were mid-phone conversation when she brought up the fact that her daughter had started asking what I write, and, instead of coming up with an answer, she had apparently called to tell me of her plight. She said, “My daughter is asking what you write. What do I tell her? What on earth am I going to tell her with what you write? Do you ever think about that? You’ve put me in a really weird position.”

Irritation is a gentle way of describing the feeling I had in that moment. Granted, I don’t have children, and of course the appropriate response is entirely dependent on the age of the child—but I’m pretty sure there are a plethora of ways for a parent to approach this without blaming someone else for putting her “in a really weird position.” I said, “Why don’t you just tell her I write fiction?” But the response was, “She wants to know what kind. What do I tell her?”

Again, I’m not a parent, so I said: “Why don’t you tell her what you’re comfortable with?”

Unfortunately, this relative went on to say how awful her situation was because of what I’d chosen to focus on, and I opted to get off the phone rather than be berated. But months later, the real answer I’ve wanted to say still floats around in my head. It’s the easy answer—for me—that I know she and many others might not accept, but that I’m certain is the answer many of us feel, and why so many of us have no issues writing something that is, unfortunately, so shunned:shutterstock_126180551-2onfbpage2

I write erotica.

Yes, it’s really that simple.

But okay. If we want to go further, if we need to delve into the depths of how powerful and real this genre is, then here’s my official answer:

I write erotica. I write fantasy. I write desire, discovery, and truth. I write love, intimacy, communication, relationships, and connection. I write human touch, empathy, grief, lust, and pain. I write reality, and about how we as people interact and share with one another, and the affect, good and bad, this has on our lives. And—whether or not anyone agrees with it—I’m writing something I love, and that I’ll continue to write because it shouldn’t be villainized when what it’s based on is happening everyday, in so many homes, between the very people who continue to object to it.

It’s sex. It’s real. More than that, it’s beautiful, amazing, deep, painful, transformative, close, and powerful. And you know what else? It’s the most natural thing in the world.

That, my dear? That’s what you tell her.

XX,
Jade

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16 Comments

  1. I am a parent and I completely agree with you. I have always tried to answer their questions truthfully, sometimes that involves picking your words carefully to make the truth age appropriate but it is still the truth. If she is not old enough for you answer then ‘she writes fiction stories for grown-ups’ would also work. When my daughter was much younger I told her that, her follow up question was ‘do you have to be a grown-up to read them?’ I replied yes, and that was the end of it.

    The problem here is the Mother is projecting her issues with the subject onto the child. The child has no issues with it or even understanding of it, if you present things in a matter of fact way with no shame or judgement attached then I have found children accept it as just another piece of knowledge.

    Mollyxxx

    • I absolutely love everything about your comment, Molly, because it’s all so, so true. What an amazing world it would be if all parents taught their children in that same matter-of-fact way without the judgement or shame. Your explanation to your own children (it’s for grown ups, and so yes you need to wait until you’re a grown up to read it) is so simply perfect it’s unreal! (I should pass that along…) Thank you for reading and commenting! XX-Jade

  2. this relative was putting all of her stuff on you, and it is really sad. really sad that she does not celebrate what a truly beautiful writer you are…that is what i would tell her, before she tells her daughter anything…

    • Ah, Leonora! You are always so sweet to me, and yes, I agree, it was all her issue. I try not to comment on how people should raise their children as I have none and have no place saying such things, but I do think all of us could stand to be more tolerant of each other’s choices, and teach that to those we love. You know? XX-Jade

  3. You write stories about adults for adults to read. I want to add that your stories are erotica which are appropriate for an emotionally mature, adult audience – something that your relative clearly isn’t. It really annoys me when people use the ‘thimk of the children’ line as a way of condemning others. Your relative doesn’t have to like your genre, but even a basic level of maturity would allow her to think that whilst not being her thing, there is no problem here.

    • Thank you so much for commenting, and I totally agree with you. It’s amazing how often others must express their discontent with what others do/prefer/love, isn’t it? There is a way to teach things to children, and it doesn’t need to involve pointing fingers at those who make mature choices. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! XX-Jade

  4. Wonderful post.
    I wonder – it would be easier for people to explain if we wrote about murders and horror and violence. Less taboo there… Incredible.
    X x x 💖

  5. I had one close relative tell me recently that whilst they’re really pleased that I enjoy writing and am obviously doing well, I shouldn’t talk about it in front of people as it makes them uncomfortable. Then asked if they’d upset me. I was truthful… I wasn’t upset. However I didn’t tell ’em how flaming angry I was. And it made me even more determined to enjoy what I do and be proud of it!!!

    • There you go, Anna! I love it. This post was much of that same feeling–I am proud of what I do, and I simply cannot understand why people have such a stupid (and I mean stupid) view on these things. Amazing our society has such an issue with this… Thank you for reading and commenting! XX-J

  6. I really hate not telling my family what I write, but I know that they, and my sister in particular, would be horrified to find out. So I keep quiet about it to save their embarrassment. Sometimes, when I hear my sister talk about her achievements, PhD, political life, work, family etc., I long to say, well I’ve actually just published my 7th book, and look at some of these good reviews I have been getting. But I can’t share this sense of achievement with them. My sister and my 91 year old father are very prudish and they would think that erotic writing is just wrong. I have told some friends what I write, but they have not asked what name I write under or where they are published, but just looked a little puzzled when I told them. They really cannot understand why I would even want to write erotic romances. So I just live my two different and very separate lives. It is not that I am not brave. I really don’t care what most people think of what I do, but I don’t want to upset the people I care about. Perhaps one day I will ‘come out’, but not just yet.

    • Rachel, thank you so much for commenting, and for sharing your experience. It’s unfortunate that we so often have to separate our two worlds because people have such a strong reaction. And I’m sorry to hear your family does not see your accomplishments as equally as their own. So frustrating! You will come out when the time is right…and hopefully, one day, our world will not be so negative toward erotica writing. Thank you again for commenting, and reading! XX

  7. A great post, and a question that many erotica authors might struggle with. When I just started out with my blog, I tried to keep it a secret, but then realized it’s almost impossible. I am impulsive when I talk and I was afraid I might say something in front of the kids. So we just told them that I write and that I write erotica. The youngest was 15 back then. Any questions they ask now, I answer truthfully without giving them information on where to read my words.
    This family member of yours tried to make her problem yours. She handled the situation badly and blamed you for it.

    Great post!

    Rebel xox

    • Thank you so much, Marie! I love to hear that you tell the kids – it really does seem there’s a way to communicate this effectively, of course bearing in mind the child’s age. I also don’t like keeping secrets from those I care about. So while I agree that telling this young relative explicitly what I write wouldn’t be appropriate, there is a way to communicate it with her without so much judgement. It is so wonderful to hear there are others that feel the same, who have taught their children in a way that not only doesn’t enforce judgement and shame, but one that fosters positivity, creativity, empathy, and open-mindedness. XX-Jade

  8. This is a wonderful post. I don’t write erotica but I have often imagined conversations with my niece about my nude photography. Those conversations may never happen as she’s only six and who knows what I’ll be doing in another decade, but I wonder about it because my sister in law has an unhealthy attitude to body type that already means my niece talks about ‘bad food’ and ‘I shouldn’t eat that’ and this bothers me…I sometimes imagine what they’d think if they knew my friends and I were happily photographing ourselves naked in the name of body positivity!! Xx

    • Thank you so much for your comment! And oh dear, that sounds like a similar conversation to what I had with this young relative of mine. I actually pulled up paintings of Venus and Aphrodite to explain show that women often have curves, because I’d heard similar comments from her! Body positivity is so important, and your conversation about nudity is along the same lines. It’s a shame that so many people have these hangups to begin with, but then enforce them with their children. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and positivity! 🙂 XX

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