When I first stumbled upon queer erotica on Tumblr, my 12 year old mind was blown – mainly when I realised that women could have sex with each other (lol). My second time reading erotica was fanfiction my friend had written between Hayley Kiyoko and herself, but the less said about that the better.
But queer erotica as an industry has been around for decades. And while the recent boom in ‘sex positivity’ has helped destigmatise cis erotic content to an extent, their queer counterpart was not extended the same courtesy. So I talked to some professional writers to get the inside scoop.
“There’s definitely a stigma of ‘don’t talk about it’ for any form of sex worker or erotica content creator” says nonbinary trans queer writer MagicLottie. “It feels like I’ve been fighting a programmed stigma, not necessarily against other people but against platforms. They want the content there but don’t want to promote it for the sake of not angering bigger entities.”
Writer TJ Dallas agrees. “I occasionally feel like other genres look down on erotica, however the LGBTQIA+ communities (all genres) have been exceptionally welcoming. I also feel like one bad erotica story can taint the rest, even though one poorly written mystery or crime thriller wouldn’t have the same effect on the rest of the genre.”
Nonbinary queer writer Rien Gray adds, “There’s a certain type of comment I’ve gotten over the years that amounts to “sex in fiction is pointless/gross, but yours is good”, and it always takes me aback. It doesn’t feel like a compliment, because by accepting it, I’m putting down everyone else in my sphere who works hard to write good, inclusive erotica.”
Erotica as a genre often struggles to be recognised as a legitimate form of fiction, often getting dismissed as being a byproduct of fanfiction. But trans writer Georgina Kiersten, who actually got their start as a fanfiction writer, still looks to those communities for inspiration.
“Erotic fanfiction is often the vanguard of erotic and romance literature. The stuff that is trending in fanfiction communities will most of the time appear in original, professional fiction. I also find that fanfic authors have just as much or even more of a handle on how to write tantalising erotic fiction that arouses their audience.”
MagicLottie also had similar beginnings. “I started with fanfiction, which I am learning is a weirdly common starting point for a lot of independent writers. But I wanted to branch out so that I could explore gender and sexuality a bit more since that’s easier to do when you’re not tied to pre-existing characters.”
Now admitting to consuming any kind of erotic content is not really going to do you any social favours, especially for those who don’t identify as male. This double standard only seems to add to the argument that erotica is somehow ‘lesser’ than other forms of content.
“Anything that is attached to sex is automatically looked upon by the wider society as ‘low-brow’ or ‘less intelligent’ than the rest of mainstream literature. For me personally, I am often talked down to. And add on the fact that I’m a parent – I get “you must be an awful parent if you write sex for a living’’” says Georgina.
For TJ, it was her audience that brought her out of her shell. “I was quiet about liking erotica before, even with my wife, but I’m a lot more confident now, in part because of the wonderful feedback I’ve received from my readers.”
All the writers also expressed how writing erotica helped strengthen their relationships with their identities. Rien admits that it took years for them to become comfortable writing trans and nonbinary characters in explicit sexual contexts.
“Discovering how many readers found these characters to be attractive was a revelation. I’ve had a lot of reviews to the tune of “this is the first nonbinary character I’ve ever read about” and it’s always humbling to think my work is creating that initial impression. In that way, it’s made me a lot more confident about my own identity.”
MagicLottie adds, “My expression of sexuality has definitely been changing. I’ve been taking more pride in having outfits I want regardless of if I’m ‘meant’ for them or not, even going as far as taking nudes or risqué pictures of myself.”
While this is good news, queer erotica remains a predominately white field. Navigating these spaces can be incredibly challenging for queer BIPOC writers as the support isn’t always intersectional. Georgina finds it to be a constant uphill battle.
“If you are Black, then you are too queer or trans to get the support you need to write and promote your books. If you are queer, trans, and disabled, then you are too Black for those spaces. It often feels like the entire publishing community is against BIPOC individuals because they are threatened by us.
My biggest advice to other Black LGBTQ+ authors is to find your group immediately. It will save you in the end, especially when you are surrounded by white people who have no idea what it’s like to be a Black and LGBTQ+.”
Another thing these writers have to deal with is the rising ban of erotic content on social media platforms. Coupled with heteronormative policing methods, it definitely seems like queer erotica has gotten the shorter end of the proverbial stick.
But it’s not just online censorship. Stories are often criticised when they lack plot, with the immediate assumption that the characters must be fetishised. Which is surprising considering the number of times cis writers are given a free pass for it.
Rien agrees. “I’ve often seen queer erotica writers telling stories focused on consent and joy that get dismissed as fetishisation for presenting an ideal fantasy between their characters. It’s almost as if enjoying what we like without shame ruffles feathers.
That isn’t to say fetishisation isn’t an issue. It happens quite often with characters of colour and trans women (as well as the intersection there), who get boiled down to a set of highly sexualised stereotypes and have no agency or internality. Which is why it always helps to get a sensitivity reader – and pay them – just to be sure.”
For MagicLottie, content warnings are key. “This is the best way I can think of to avoid fetishisation over anything else, the content warnings let people know what they’re getting into. Otherwise, I’d like to think I hit that right balance of sex and plot, avoiding fetishisation but keeping it a nice balance of horny and wholesome.”
Georgina adds, “Queer people have the right to explore their sexuality in a safe space. I absolutely do not understand the double standard that LGBTQ+ fiction gets vs their cishet counterparts because LGBTQ+ romance and erotica is a safe space for queer people.
Now, when it comes to fetishisation and even objectification, my personal feeling is that, as long as you keep everything in the realm of fantasy? It’s fine. Because, at the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with sex as long as it is consensual.”
Support all these lovely writers here:
Georgina Kiersten: Website
Rien Gray: Newsletter
TJ Dallas: Website