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The 80/20 Solution

Well, as the Supreme Court Justice once so famously said about pornography, “I really can’t define it, but I know it when I see it!” Or words to that effect; I don’t remember the exact quote.

Another old adage states that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I suspect that is true when it comes something being “erotic” or not as well: it is up to the individual viewing it to decide whether it is or it isn’t as far as his or her erotic preferences run.

So, how can we discover what is erotic and what isn’t? Again, it comes down to each person’s taste.

One individual may find feet to be incredibly sexy, as far as they are concerned. Nothing strikes them as more erotic than a comely foot touching an erection or that foot covered in a rich coating of semen. Other people may shrug their shoulders at that: vaginas, mouths, and even fingers are much more to their liking, when it comes to getting them excited.

Some people who are into the fetish can’t even get an erection without latex being present. Still others prefer leather or vinyl outfits as a part of their foreplay.  

A goodly number of individuals seem unable to become seriously interested in sex without handcuffs, chains, whips, and paddles being in evidence. Conversely, others may find the same sort of physical discomfort and pain which arouses so many to be a real buzz-kill, as far as they are concerned. Some disciples of  BDSM are transported to the heights of ecstasy while being light whipped or having sharp little nipple clips digging into their most intimate spots!

At the outer edges of this diverse universe of human sexuality, feces and urine may play a role. Non-aficionados of scat play and “golden showers” may turn up their collective noses at this sort of thing and say a loud and heart-felt “Yuck!” when presented with this kind of stimulation. 

In short, the old song had it right after all. “Different strokes for different folks”!

Where, exactly, does this leave the erotic novelist? Reliably in the center, if that novelist cares about selling many copies of his books!

While it is true that once in a while, an aberration like “50 Shades of Grey” may sell millions of titles, it is even truer that most books which feature a BDSM theme are limited to a smaller market formed by fans of that particular kink. Most people simply prefer not to read about something if it does nothing for them, personally, even if others find it to be wildly titillating.

Every erotic novelist struggles with this. Just how much is too much for the average reader?

Some variation from the “regular” themes featured in erotic books may be acceptable, even welcome by most readers. But an erotic writer’s going “too far” can be disastrous for sales.

That is the successful novelist’s dilemma; deciding what is provocative, instead of being off-putting, to the casual reader. He or she who goes too far is in for a rude awakening when it comes to book sales figures.

The bestselling author has a keen sense of what is “right” and what is “wrong”, as far as the reading public goes. Take it from someone who has been writing in this genre for a long time…it’s not as easy as it looks to guess just how far is too far!

Occasionally, we all get it wrong. Several of my books over the years have generated indignant reader responses.

In my quest to make things more interesting for my fans and not to deliver the “same old, same old” with every book, I have been guilty of pushing things too far in several instances; at least in some of my readers’ minds. Some of the plot devices I have employed in an attempt to broaden a character’s sexual experiences have proved too much for some readers.

Do you, as a faithful reader, have a pet peeve, a specific book of mine that you feel lies outside the bounds of normal experiences? If so, please let me know, via my email address:

As I always say, I love hearing from readers, for either good or ill!

What Is Erotic, And What Isn’t?

 By C.K. Ralston