Why Gay Erotica Still Matters in the Digital Age

kissAs the world of print media continues to evolve, i.e., as magazine subscriptions move from your mailbox to your inbox and the Internet presents itself as a one-stop shop for all things literary, erotic fiction seems to be defying the current reinvention of reading in the digital age. At least so far.

Why? The easy answer is the enormous success of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy. The books that brought spanking back to the mainstream have been credited with reviving the public’s interest in erotica, a point difficult to argue when, more than two years after its release, the first book in James’ series continues to outrank The Hunger Games and Of Mice and Men on Amazon’s list of current best sellers.

Sure, there will always be publishing trends. But erotica has actually been a literary mainstay since the time of the Ancient Greeks, with anthologies of erotic short stories — particularly the gay variety — continuing to grow in popularity. And there are a number of reasons for this.

Obviously, all types of reading provide us a respite from everyday reality, but sexy stories take the escape a step further, providing the safest possible environment — namely, your mind, which houses your most robust sexual tool, the imagination — in which to contemplate and explore the various fantasies you might not wish (or be able) to experience in real life. And unlike porn, which simply spoon-feeds us images, reading is an interactive experience, one that forces us to use our imagination.

Erotica — whether it be raunchy or romantic, sexy or silly — stimulates the brain, which in turn ignites other parts of our bodies. It touches our most raw emotions and our basic human instincts. For some fans, it’s almost addictive. “I would much rather read than watch,” says a friend, who, back in the day, swore to me that he subscribed to Men magazine primarily for the articles. “It makes the fantasy so much more personal. When I read a sexy story, all the guys are my type. In porn, not so much.”

But in addition to acting as an aid for arousal, erotic stories, when properly executed, have all the characteristics of great literature — plot, characterization, tension, and payoff — allowing for emotional creativity and insights that isolated sex scenes on your laptop or TV simply can’t give.

Plus, they’re really fun to read aloud. Especially with an audience. (Try it.)

And in an age where the simple novel has become passé in favor of the more merchandisable trilogies or “sagas,” erotic short stories deliver all of the nourishment mentioned above without the daunting commitment of thousands of pages.

51yAAjburCL._SY346_As for the question of why erotic books remain relevant when one can find innumerable sexy stories on the Internet, the answer is quality, quality, quality. Sure, there are plenty of sites online that offer erotic tales for free (from blogs to forums where people swap personal experiences), but as with everything, you get what you pay for.

In the same way that a guy with exhibitionistic tendencies and a webcam can become a “porn star” online without rendering valueless the much slicker products being turned out by major porn studios, every imaginative sort with a keyboard can fashion himself a writer, but that doesn’t mean these wannabe storytellers are giving professional authors a run for their money. There will always be a market for creative ideas, intriguing storylines, and memorable characters tidily presented in well-written prose with proper grammar and spelling.

Simply put, there’s a reason that writers like Rob Rosen, Landon Dixon, and Natty Soltesz, to name just a few, have had hundreds of erotic stories published: they’re masters of the art.

Also, a book allows for better mobility. And it’s easy to stash, if need be, without the added step of erasing your browsing history. And since not everyone has a laptop or tablet device, books are still ideal for trips (you never have to switch them into airplane mode or worry about them running out of juice just when you get to the juicy part) or for curling up in your favorite reading spot. Because after staring at a computer all day long, a printed page is like a vacation for the eyes.

And a computer is hardly the sexiest place to read erotica.

Last but not least, a book is tactile. Which is important because many people like to “touch” when reading erotica, whether it be flipping pages, earmarking your favorite scenes, or something else. “Plus,” says my friend who prefers reading about sex to watching it, “sometimes I don’t know what I’m in the mood for. And only a real book allows you to open to a random page.”

Winston Gieseke, former editor in chief of Men and Freshmen magazines, is the editor of four anthologies of erotic stories published by Bruno Gmünder: Indecent Exposures, Daddy Knows Best, Team Players, and the upcoming Straight No More.

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  • tdx3fan

    I disagree. Books are on the way out to be replaced mainly by Kindle and Kindle aps. Also, people are much more readily willing to forgive spelling and grammar mistakes in online free fiction than they are in “professional” fiction… which, is often FILLED with mistakes, even after a “professional” editor has reviewed it.

  • Jake357

    I prefer romance over erotica (although that romance can have erotic passages in it), but don’t give me any of that m/m stuff. And yes, there is a dif between gay romance, gay fiction, and m/m despite the fact that various publishing entities and sites like Amazon and Goodreads lump them all together. M/M is written primarily by women for women. It’s like the book version of all those “lesbian” videos straight boys wank to, except straight women read these one-handed. The characters are always poorly written (rather poorly disguised women) and the plots have no basis in the gay experience. They’re the ersatz fantasy of what suburban housewives think gay dudes get up to. Gay Romance is often written by gay men for gay men and the difference (and quality) shows.

  • dvlaries

    It’s appropriate that you use a shot of Blake Harper and Jason Branch for the story; anyone whose seen 1998’s “Chapters” watched them fall in love right in front of the cameras. No, it didn’t last, but it was amazing to watch.

  • Niall

    Problem is I just haven’t come across any good and no cringeworthy gay erotica in a long while.

  • jwrappaport

    Great article. As with regular fiction, the book is always better than the movie. We live in a truly unprecedented age in which sexual gratification is literally at our fingertips 24/7, and we (or at least I) need some reaffirmation that humanity and integrity haven’t been “blocked,” if you will. I would argue that we need this reaffirmation now more than ever. The best erotica does precisely this, and it, like any successful work of art, makes the human condition more bearable; it reminds us that, “with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

    Having descended from my soapbox, I have to say that much of the gay erotica I’ve read in the last few years has been nothing short of transcendently awful. Good grief.

  • jwrappaport

    One minor quibble: lest the author get away with too sweeping a generalization, lots of published and printed erotica written by professional, “bona fide” authors is worse than trash, while lots of free, amateur erotica posted online by the unwashed masses is of truly stunning quality. There’s no real way to abstract a rule on quality – you just know it when you read it, and plenty of it is free.

  • balehead

    If you spent time in a gym and less time always bitching on the internet you might be able to create some “erotica” of your own…

  • Jake357

    @balehead: That was toxic, irrelevant, and completely unnecessary. You can’t see any of these posters, so you don’t know what they look like. And erotica has nothing to do with they gym and monosyllabic douchebags that can only speak of how often they go. But it wouldn’t be the gay community without an egregious level of toxicity, would it? Who needs gay bashers? We do it so well on our own.

  • MikeE

    @balehead: You are constantly harping on about how bitchy and bitter the “queens” on Queerty are.. yet you keep coming back with the exact same bitchy and bitter insults against people you don’t even know.

    you’re a sad person if the mere possibility that someone doesn’t spend all of their time in a gym is you idea of an insult.

    No, I don’t spend all my time in a gym. No one would confuse me for a porn star. But I’m happily married for 10 years now, have a beautiful family, I’m surrounded by friends, I now have the master’s degree I worked very hard to get, and a blossoming international career. Would I trade this for the perfect porn-star body? Not a fu**ing chance in hell.

    No matter how “hot” your own body might be, you’ll never live up to MY standards of what’s desirable in a man. Every spiteful word you write here, every vapid, superficial, vain insult you toss out, demonstrates that you are not worth knowing. At all.

    Enjoy your gym body. It’s a shame you have a cesspit soul to go with it.

  • jwrappaport

    @balehead: Fair enough, I probably should start bike-riding again. You remind me of an old gentleman friend of mine from back home: a fratty gym rat who had the sad misfortune of being born without a personality, and whose self-loathing was amply reflected in his sexual proclivities (which I was happy to oblige). We always had a fun time, but he struck me as a deeply sad, broken soul whose passions extended no further than protein powder and wordless sex in his car at 4AM.

  • Scarlet Cox

    @tdx3fan: In fairness, what’s to be expected from an editor of four print anthologies?

    Queerty fail, alas: This article isn’t remotely free of agenda.

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