The erotic as continuum–not binary

Top view of tired bearded young man with book sleeping in bed at home

If you haven’t read the lovely book Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders, I suggest you do. In it she encourages us to tell our stories—even if just to ourselves—to fight the darkness always at the door. Storytelling is important to my work, and to my soul, so I’m always exploring the various nooks and crannies, drives and desires that propel new stories out of the darkness. Darling, when you think about it, it’s really quite amazing: something exists where there was nothing; something different, ever so subtly, from everything that came before and will come after.

The ruminations inspired by her book included thoughts about sex and storytelling. Namely, why is sex, and the erotic in general, segregated in our storytelling? We have our erotic stories in this bucket over here, discreetly tucked away to not offend the utterly hypocritical puritans of modern western society. Then we have everything else over here, proudly displayed in the bright lights. And these two buckets are governed by a host of rules, explicit and unspoken, generally about keeping them as far apart as possible. Never the twain shall meet!

The roots of these taboos are deep, but I did read recently something that’s really stuck with me: “People who are out of touch with their bodies are a lot easier to control.” Indeed! How about we make things a little more difficult for these would-be puppet masters?

I’m sad to admit it, darling, but I totally observed—even believed in—these horrible rules for far too long. Too many times have I thought: “can’t add that to the story” or that being suggestive is more “artistic.” (Seriously, wtf does that even mean?) What about treating the erotic as a continuum rather than binary? Hiding it away makes it an either/or proposition. Really, isn’t it about the range of options from Debbie Does Dallas to Hallmark after schools specials? (Wow, did I just date myself there or what, darling?!)

Work that is pure celebration of the erotic? Wonderful! Work that has no visible presence of the erotic? Also wonderful! I’m sure there will be lots of both in my future. Deepening a scene, character, or image with an erotic charge? Still a work in progress. Using explicit sex scenes as a way to move a story forward? Yep, still figuring that one out. Not slut-shaming myself? God, where to begin?!

Wonderful as all this is, there’s another consideration. Self-expression is deeply interconnected with responsibility. The more expressive I am, the more responsibility I carry to inform and respect your consent. You, darling, need to know what you’re in for so you can say “heck yeah, bring it on!” or “nah, thanks, I’m good.” This is as much a work in progress for me as all the other quandaries I enumerated above. This is not slut-shaming or censorship, it’s something else, something more caring.

So, darlings, I hope you’ll join me on this erotic adventure to unravel the binaries wherever we find them!

The world is too damn straight!

two handsome men kissing

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Published by eddy

Edward Ficklin (he/him), the maverick illustrator not afraid to say gay, is a self-taught painter, writer, publisher and sometimes technologist. He creates daring and exquisite queer fantasy art, publishes queer-centered sci-fi comix, and pontificates regularly on a range of topics in his Queer Quantum Dispatch newsletter.

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