How Realistic Should Porn Be?

Pornography is not realistic. That is axiomatic.

But there is one way in which it can be made more realistic.

Pornography, like other forms of literature with a sexual element, requires an act of seduction. It works like this. Start with a character who could plausibly be the reader – say a middle-aged, married man – and show how he could end up making love to the reader’s ideal mate – say a blond, exceptionally well-endowed, sexually-adventurous college co-ed. There’s a nearly infinite variety of possible ways for them to meet and engage in sex, from her mistaking him for her new professor to her needing money for tuition to her having deep-seated father issues to him stalking her.

At this point, I have to comment that I’m using the word, “seduction”, far too broadly because I’m including physical coercion, financial negotiation, and everything else that could lead to sex. If the English language had a word that meant: “any activity that leads up to sex,” then I’d be happy to use it. There is no such word so I use “seduction” as a placeholder because seduction is the single most common prelude to sexual coupling.

If the protagonist in a seduction plot is a young woman and her targets are two men, one handsome but a cad and the other shy but having hidden assets, then you have the standard romance novel. If the protagonist is a dashing secret agent and the targets are a femme fatale who is working for the other side and a hapless young woman who gets caught in the crossfire, you have the standard thriller. And if the protagonist is a well-hung lad and his targets are busty women who need only the slightest nudge to strip off and get it on, you have typical porn.

Turning mainstream fiction into porn only requires that the seduction phase is shortened and simplified and the collision of anatomical parts is described at much greater length in much greater detail. At the same time, other themes that are included in mainstream fiction, such as moral lessons, social commentary, or psychological insights are minimized. Not eliminated. To write porn, you still have to have some model of human psychology, though typically an unrealistically simple one, and some moral statement, even if it’s nothing more than saying that hedonism is okay. That’s why the legal system has so much difficulty distinguishing porn from mainstream literature – it’s a matter of degree not the presence or absence of specific features.

The extreme simplification of plot and theme produces a problem for the pornographer. How to keep the audience from getting bored. There are a limited number of possible sexual acts: fingers, tongue or penis in one of three orifices. You can do the math. And not all of those combinations are especially erotic – what’s so hot about putting fingers in someone’s mouth? And there are a limited number of ways to describe those acts, especially when one avoids multisyllabic words.

One option is to expand the possibilities by straying into the weird world of kink – there are more ways to tie a woman up than there are ways to penetrate her. I write BDSM pornography because I can imagine a wider range of activities than if I were writing kink-free porn. But this makes the stories less realistic for most people because they cannot imagine themselves enjoying such activities. It’s a trade-off.

The other way to make porn more interesting is to expand the seduction phase of the plot. There are a hell of a lot of different ways for people to meet and decide to engage in sex with each other. If this is done well, it makes the story much more realistic. But this poses another problem for the pornographer. When a reader chooses a story that’s supposed to be pornographic, he or she wants to get to the “good stuff” fast. That’s why people chose pornography. If they wanted a long, drawn-out narrative, they would have chosen a mainstream romance instead.

The question that I have to continually ask myself is: “How much seduction will the reader tolerate and still find my work arousing?” The answer seems to be, “More than most other pornographers think.” In many of my stories, I write longer seduction phases than most other pornographers and (some) people say that they like my writing just as much as the next pornographer’s. I have been accused of “babbling on” by one reviewer but he said that I could get away with it. And rated my story five stars out of five.

This permits me to push the boundary. As long as people keep reading and commenting positively on my stories, I can keep trying to make them more realistic by writing longer seduction phases. I need long, complex seductions because I write about bondage and light sadism but keep my stories consensual. To provide a good rationale for why a woman (my protagonists are almost always women) would willingly submit to painful and humiliating sexual acts takes a lot of rationalization. There’s no way to do that in a two paragraph seduction phase.

My next story about a middle manager and one of her technical experts (soon to be posted on BDSMLibrary.com) may have pushed the seduction phase too far. How much discussion of organizational structures and management techniques can an eager porn reader tolerate before he drops the story and goes looking for something that will get him to the action with a lot less reading?

Yet I can’t reduce the seduction phase in this story because my character is a “normal” woman with no masochistic tendencies. The reader needs a rather detailed look into her psychology and circumstances to understand why she would allow herself to be debased and humiliated by a geek that she does not respect, does not admire, and does not even like.

It’s the pornographer’s dilemma. When my story appears, I’ll be eager to hear what my readers think about my latest attempt at a solution.

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About Ashley Zacharias

I'm a post-modern woman who lives a vanilla life and dreams about kinky adventure. I write BDSM pornography but have no interest in acting out my fantasies in real life. Find my work on SmashWords.com and Amazon.com
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5 Responses to How Realistic Should Porn Be?

  1. Ashley,

    Wrote you earlier, before reading this post.

    Your setup and ending for “The Middle Manager” were fantastic. Something ironic was our posting stories, within days of each other, about underlings getting their boss’ moved up the ladder while taking advantage of them and both stories drawing so many readers so quickly. Not sure if office erotica is a trendy thing now or not.

    I am one of those readers who does like an actual story to go along with his porn. When I just want porn, I look at images. When I want a story, I read words. Your “warning” to the reader that you build a story first and the sex comes later is a very good idea that I need to remember to use.

    The thumbtacks were a surprise, I liked that imagery and it was a surprise that was defused by the well done explanation about what was going to happen.

    As for wondering if that approach to blackmail can work, I think it does in your story. Maybe a tweak here or there could make it a little more believable, like making her a little more emotionally vulnerable.

    In an episode of “Columbo”, guest starring Martin Sheen, the episode opens with a similar setup. Chemist (Sheen) for a cosmetics company creates a wrinkle remover that really works. When he reveals to the owner he wants *her* and not a bonus or raise, she cracks him in the head with a microscope and kills him. So, they handled that bit differently and her efforts to reverse-engineer the cream failed too. This is from memory, as I think I saw that episode once since it originally aired in the 1970s.

    My remotely similar story (very remote) is still being completed in segments. Trying to find someone to proof/edit the latest addition to “Controlling Sarah” (5,000 words). The complete story should be over 40,000 words.

    Thanks for your great writing,
    JT

    • I’ll have to go back and look at the “thumbtacks” scene. You are probably right that it could have been developed better if I’d left off the exposition up front.

      • No! I thought you did it perfectly! When he dumped the thumbtacks in, I was thinking the same thoughts as her, on what that could do to a woman’s sensitive zone. Not sure if it would improve anything if you moved the explanation to her thoughts. Maybe in a happy-to-glad sense. Right now, it reads well the way it is.

  2. Curtis says:

    “There are a limited number of possible sexual acts: fingers, tongue or penis in one of three orifices. You can do the math.”

    Totally aside, a quarter century ago I saw an Italian porn film which had no subtitles or dubbing. It was about a wealthy older man suspected by the polizei of being a counterfeiter. In what I thought was the best scene, his remarkably well preserved wife (not busty, and probably post-menopausal) is grabbed by two men who break into their mansion, tied to a chair in her lingerie, then fucked in the armpit by one man while the other slaps her into giving him head. Totally hot, which I never would’ve believed if I hadn’t seen it. (I assumed the men were mobsters trying to send her husband a message, but it turned out the wife was the counterfeiter and her ‘assaulters’ were male prostitutes she’d hired to give her a thrill. The rest of the film was forgettable.)

  3. Koala says:

    I’m always a little bewildered when people write to say that they want the story to stop wandering, and get to the “good stuff.” It makes no sense to me, since over 80% of what I find in online porn either does a horrible job of building the context of the story (I like your definition of seduction), or doesn’t bother with it at all. So much out there has all of the serial ramming of various appendages and implements into assorted orifices that anyone could desire. For those of us who know the path of seduction is the sexy part, it’s hard to understand why they begrudge us our own little refuge the internet. My best guess is that they are reading your stories because they know innately that sex without seduction has left them unsatisfied, but they don’t understand why. One important aspect of a drawn out seduction is that it delays gratification and builds the tension that makes the payoff feel that much better. I think you’re right that you can tease this out much longer than conventional wisdom says, and you are giving much more intense joy to the multitudes than if you just jumped to the dirty bits. I think you built up things deliciously in “Middle Manager,” and if anything I think stretching out the tension a little longer would have made it even more arousing. I can understand that would be difficult to write, because I don’t know how you could have delved deeper into her motivations with our revealing the ending. (I won’t elaborate in case folks haven’t read it yet.)

    I’ll have to think about your statement that writing kinky stuff, especially consensual kinky stuff, gives you more leeway to develop the context than vanilla porn might. Certainly there is plenty of kinky fiction out there with no real seduction phase. At least for me, the element of kink in my stories is there because that’s what turns me on. I hope the fact that it turns me on makes me do a better job writing the story, but even if that weren’t true I’d still do what I do. Your writing is way better than anything I’ve ever done, and I’m sure that is true of your mainstream stuff, and any vanilla porn you might write too. That said, I’m guessing your BDSM stuff benefits from being something that helps satisfy your fantasies.

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