I post stories on Wattpad. I mention in my bio that I write erotica and publish it on my blog. Recently I had a young woman message me that she wanted to read my blog. She admitted that she was fourteen.
I felt conflicted. When I was fourteen I was definitely reading stuff that was as “adult” as the stories on my blog. But it seemed really wrong for me to point her to my explicit writings. (Frankly, the story she’s reading on Wattpad isn’t too much less mature than anything I post on my blog, just maybe less blunt). I hemmed and hawed, and then got busy and forgot. Today I responded and said this:
I’m really not so sure about giving you a link to the blog b/c of your age. I think it’s okay for you to be intrigued and want to read smutty things (I did when I was your age) but I’m not sure I’m comfortable pointing them out to you.
At the beginning of most erotica ebooks and blogs there’s usually a disclaimer that says “Adults only 18+” or something. I have it in my books, too. It’s a holdover from porn, I think, a CYA disclaimer. I’m actually not sure why it started showing up in ebooks. I’ve checked in many mainstream-published erotica titles and there’s no “age gate” disclaimer. Because it’s silly. Also, any kid can walk into a Barnes & Noble and buy straight up erotica stories, or explicit romance, and no employee will stop them. There are no age checks on books, except for a handful of porny magazines (sales of which are usually governed by community standards). This includes the art books, and some of those photo books are very explicit.
I’m not so sure that we erotica authors should be perpetuating this 18+ book myth. Also, I think it’s good for young men and women to explore sex from the safety of a book. They’re going to explore it anyway and nobody ever got pregnant from a Maya Banks novel.
I don’t have an 18+ disclaimer on my blog. I do have an adult content warning. I obviously want people to know what my blog is about. I mention mature readers in the content warning, although I’m not sure what this means. I’m not sure that I’m really mature yet myself. 😉
I’m also super opposed to efforts to limit access to “objectionable” books from teens. I think this is a clear path to censorship and it’s dumb to think that teens are all innocent and we’re somehow protecting them. Sometimes school administrators have warped ideas of what’s appropriate.
When I was fourteen I was having daily naked oral sex sessions (both ways) with my boyfriend. I didn’t drink or smoke pot but most of my friends did. I went out of my way to find and read sexually explicit books and I was already writing sexy stories. These stories resonated with my experience of the world. I was already vibrating with an interest in sex, and stories about sex seemed to make sense to me. They let me explore what I was feeling without fear of pregnancy, STDs or being raped. They helped me learn who I was and figure out what the fuck all these hormone-driven feelings were all about.
I also managed to smuggle a copy of My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday into my bedroom at about this age. Holy shit did that book wake me up to my sexual fantasies! I really credit it with helping me sort myself out as a teen, and that book isn’t holding much back. In fact, the fantasy I posted the other night was inspired by a fantasy from that book. I guess what I’m saying is that erotic books were an important part of my teen experience and helped me immensely as I grew into my sexuality.
Because of that experience, I want teens to have access to explicit writing and the internet is a great place to get it. But when asked directly by a seemingly interested young person I felt very reluctant to provide access. I don’t know if this is right or wrong, I just know how I feel.
What do you think? Is erotic writing okay for teenagers?
A couple of responses from Twitter…