Exploring vanilla, a challenge

In recent months I’ve often wondered why there seems to be so much kink in erotica.  Why do so many writers choose to write about characters that are immersed in the world of BDSM or fetish?  The only reason I can come up with is that BDSM, kinky sex, adventurous sex, call it what you will, allows the writer an almost infinite number of ways in which their characters can have sex.  If you can think it up you can make them do it that way; from a simple flogging to non-con via an ogiastic excess of partner swapping, boot blacking, pony play and countless other proclivities.

Why do we as authors and readers need such variety?  Not that I’m against variety or experimentation in sex either imagined or real, but if our characters have to have sex every few pages then its easy to assume that the sex has to be different every time, which is why letting them get their kink on is so handy.  We can use the paraphernalia around sex to make the sex interesting and different, but isn’t there a risk here?  Aside from the fact not every reader will be attracted by kink heavy content, aren’t we running the risk of our characters doing rather than feeling sex?  If we concentrate too hard on how the hands were bound don’t we run the risk of losing sight of how it felt to be bound or the emotions or intent behind the need to tie or be tied.

Let’s not forget, sex can be the same positions with the same person, sex can be familiar and friendly, it can be the same, repetitive movements made different by feelings and mood.

While I love to read a beautifully crafted sex scene of deliciously foreign fetish, I also want to read about intimacy and intent, which may or may not go hand in hand with the kink, as writers we shouldn’t rely on kink to short cut us to variety in our work.  At the moment I’m working on several different stories, you can find some of Performance and In Vitro here on the blog, and while they all include sex that explores fetish and kink I’ve also wanted to delve into the nature of everyday sex. Is it possible to have an erotic story with sex between the same two characters that doesn’t require a fork lift truck of equipment and footnotes providing further reading?  Can I write sweet, creamy, luscious vanilla sex in a way that is compelling, realistic but not repetitive?  I hope so, but yes, I’ve been something of a coward and made my task easier by including the odd crop wielding dominatrix or exhibitionist episode.

I’d be interested to hear your views, is there too much kink in your ink?

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14 Responses to Exploring vanilla, a challenge

  1. Ms T. April 13, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I absolutely think that you can write a story that is full of luscious vanilla sex and make it as believable and hot as the most decadent fetish scene.

    With erotica, people explore sex that may be out side of their norm and we all know that sex sells. Romance novels have been making money hand over fist from Bodice Rippers to Today’s “Steamy” stuff.

    I personally prefer stories that can mix it up. If it’s a novel and all the couple engages in is fetish sex I tend not to enjoy it because it isn’t realistic at all. I firmly believe that at some point everyone has a moment in their relationship where all they want is their partner, skin-to-skin, celebrating the moment.

    • Ruby April 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      Perfectly put, one of my own personal fantasies is spending all day falling in and out of bed with my partner, with nothing more kinky than dropping crumbs from toast. Perhaps kink allows us to make the characters “other” in the way that in romance novels heros and heroines have something aspirational about them that takes us out of our everyday life and into the fantasy of the story.

  2. kinkyshoes April 13, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    It’s something that I have been thinking about a lot lately as I started my own blog-I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty vanilla, and I think that’s ok. Some of the hottest scenes I have read have in fact described just that. I can’t help that niggling feeling though that it’s somehow not very exciting…part of it for me is about exploring fantasies that I know I am unlikely to experience, that still fill my imagination.
    It would certainly be nice to think there is something for everyone out there

    • Ruby April 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

      My view is that what really connects us to a scene is the emotional content, that we feel what the characters are feeling. Of course it helps if they are acting out something that we find desirable too, but that doesn’t always have to be fetish or kink, but perhaps it is easier to relate to things we can imagine happening to us? After all, most folk know how having thier neck kissed or skin caressed feels.

  3. HH April 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Well Ms. Kiddell,

    Together, in an intimate, loving, caring, deeply spiritual way, Lo and I explore the kinky side of a relationship grounded in love, trust, and mutual support.


  4. Lady Grinning Soul April 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    I’m not sure if you can have “too much kink in your ink”; you can certainly have too much badly written kink though. Whilst kink may be a good way to go for variety, I think you’re right that describing and explaining all the paraphernalia can also fill the writing leaving no space for the emotions and feelings of sex. And I really do miss the emotion and feeling (good or bad) when reading “and then this hand went here, and her feet were bound, and he touched her…” kind of erotica.

    Actually the whole phenomenon of SO MUCH kinky erotica is something I’ve thought about for a while too, and I have another hypothesis. As well as writing erotica causing us to write kinky, I think being kinky also persuades people to write.

    When you have specific kinks it is really hard to find porn/erotica with quite the angle that turns YOU on. And when you can’t find it, I think many people create it themselves.

    And the other thing I considered is that, when you’re kinky sex becomes a bit more complicated: finding partners and creating scenarios that you want is difficult and as a result, you have to give it more thought than you might have to if you were vanilla. So perhaps, because kinky people think about sex more, we also think about writing it more… it’s a bit of a stretch, but I feel like it might be true for a few people at least…

    Having said that, I now feel quite driven to attempt something vanilla. It’s been a while since I wrote anything vanilla.

  5. Paula April 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Well put Ruby, although it does seem to me that what is and is not deemed ‘vanilla’ depends very much on individual interpretation.
    For some “Pull up that nightie and brace yourself, Gerty.” counts as foreplay. For others, if there’s no hint of a flogger and some candles, you might as well forget it.
    I find that I can’t easily compel myself to write something that doesn’t come from the muse,(and she is largely just a filthy little ho!) because *I* have to feel it before I can believe others will too, when they read it.
    The main problem I have found with trying to write ‘vanilla’ is that it always ends up seeming more ‘purple’ than erotic.


    • Ruby April 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Hi Paula,
      I’m not a great fan of “vanilla” as a description either, because, as you say, what is adventurous for one is standard for another. I also think that “vanilla” can be used dismissively which doesn’t seem fair.

      Perhaps the vanilla falls into purple prose because kink seems to have a sharper edge to it which makes for sharper writing?

  6. Wyeth Bailey April 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    I concur with LGS on one point for sure. My guess would be that more kinky people write about sex than vanilla people (which is not to say more erotica writers are RL kinksters). I think people who express the full range of their sexuality are more likely to spill over into other modes of expression.

    I also think it has something to do with communicating intensity. You would have to be very, very deep into a character’s head to read the emotional intensity (or the psychological complexity) he or she experiences in even a casual (ie not close partner) BDSM encounter. Sometimes the writing the physical impact of the pain or the restraint or the submission gives the writer an opening to write about the emotions.

    I think, also, it is easier for readers of erotica to project themselves into a scene when what they are reading is physical and more emotionally non-specific. This is helpful when what they want is a good wank or a warm fuzzy. It also speaks to that line between wank books and literature. Because the more deeply we develop the characters and the story, the less the reader inserts him/herself into the scene.

    The biggest risk in sex with someone we love is emotional. I have come to believe that the implied danger in kink in erotica sometimes stands in for that risk, in a similar ways as the heroine in peril does in traditional romance. Stories need drama to drive them forward, to build the emotion in characters that we will not otherwise feel, not in this form factor. Where it fails is when it relies on props and tropes. You can’t pull out a flogger or have your characters open a door on a dungeon and have their relationship suddenly become interesting when it simply isn’t.

    For me, in real life, the best D/s is often nothing more than a whispered word just before or long after the flogger. And sometimes, the raw vulnerability of a vanilla sex act, in context, feels more dangerous than anything ever has before. It is the emotion, the relationship, the complexity of the interaction between two people, whether they love each other or not. This level of subtlety is not an easy thing to write. It is much easier to escalate the flogger to a single tail, or throw in a gang bang or a few hundred more exclamations of “Oh my!”

    It is much easier to titillate from the outside in, to grab the reader by the crotch, so to speak. But in my not always humble opinion, it can be more meaningful to arouse the reader from the inside out, and grab him, or her, by the heart and the brain and leave them in a puddle of confused, dreamy satisfaction.

    Oops, I said that last bit out loud, didn’t I? Got a little carried away, forgive me ;-D

    • Ruby April 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Wyeth.

      I’d not really thought about it in terms of the kink being a foil or analogy for emotional connection, but I can see that it is something I’ve probably done myself. As you say, it helps move the drama along and externalises feelings and emotions that would otherwise be internal meanderings of the mind.

      And you know me, always keen to grab a reader by the crotch!


  7. Aisling Weaver April 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Too much kink…hmm.

    I issued a challenge not too long ago to write a vanilla piece. And for all the action on my #fuckmefriday challenges do you know that not a soul took that one up?

    I think the reason for the volume of kinky erotica lies in a few different directions.

    Firstly, erotica writers write what sells. Erotica readers buy what captures their attention. In many cases those are going to be stories that include things that are outside their experience and proclivities. We read to experience things. We read to feel and see and discovers life through eyes different than our own. Erotica also can immerse the reader in a sexual, sensual situation that could be far outside the reader’s comfort zone.

    Most people can experience vanilla sex. It’s the sex at the edges, the dark, the kinky, the bloody, the stuff that makes you flinch from the dark cracks in your own mind that few are willing to venture into in reality. Sometimes even the writers aren’t willing to go there, and it’s through their writing that they do.

    Writing vanilla sex can be harder than writing kinky sex. You have to be careful, avoid the cliches, you have to find new ways to slither into your reader’s psyche and grab them. You have to convey the whole of the experience – it can’t be just sex flavored with vanilla extract. It has to be whole bean vanilla with all the complexity, all the flavor, all the intensity, the depth and gods, yes, all the emotion. That, is where everything about vanilla comes from.

    Writing is a portal, for both reader and writer. It challenges ideas. A well written story can change someone forever.

    • Ruby April 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      I love the way you’ve written this….

      “Writing vanilla sex can be harder than writing kinky sex. You have to be careful, avoid the cliches, you have to find new ways to slither into your reader’s psyche and grab them. You have to convey the whole of the experience – it can’t be just sex flavored with vanilla extract.”

      And perhaps that is part and parcel why we don’t do it, because it is difficult! So much easier to write about the perversions of the flesh and make them other than to confront the difficult truths that make us human and explore them through the vanilla flavoured filter that everyone (well almost everyone) can experience.

  8. impuregenius April 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm #


    I am pondering this as well, and have posted a few thoughts on what is “erotic”. A psychologist called Jack Morin in “The Erotic Mind” considers that there are four cornerstones of eroticism – Anticipation or longing; Violating prohibitions; Searching for Power; and Ambivalence. Much of what is erotic therefore lies in the unknown, crossing boundaries and power play. So maybe that is why kink is especially successful in terms of erotica?

    My writing is quite vanilla, although the most read post I have written was a short spanking story – though that may say as much about my readership as my writing!


    • Ruby April 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Hi M, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

      I’ll have to look up Jack Mornin as that sounds an interesting read and I like how you’ve summarised it. You touch on something that has come up in the comments and has given me more food for thought – this notion of kink as other for the reader.


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