By Champagne and Benzedrine
We sex bloggers might think we’re an uninhibited bunch; but it’s a lie. We all self-censor ourselves, just in case one reader takes ‘offense’ at something we say, or accuses us of being ‘insensitive’ regarding another.
We hide behind the supposed anonymity of our Internet pseudonyms (my driver’s license doesn’t say ‘Champagne and Benzedrine’ in real life, for example) but end up defending the reputation of our online identities almost as vehemently as our real ones.
It’s only when you step beyond this virtual society we’ve manufactured for ourselves that we’re able to peer into the uncensored abyss of the human imagination; and it’s a pretty scary place to be.
I discovered that research online erotica. The Internet has allowed the posting and proliferation of sexually-explicit stories on a scale previously unheard of and it’s like a window into a world we might not want to admit exists.
The Alt.Sex.Stories Text Repository is probably the best known story site on the ‘net, and has over 1,000 authors contributing to it. That adds up to a collection of stories that run every gamut of sexual perversity you can think of.
And not all of that diversity is good.
Take stories involving underage characters, for example. That’s probably one of the most shocking, offensive and morally reprehensible aspects of human sexuality to pander to – yet the Internet is replete with stories about adults having sex with minors.
And while the proliferation of child pornography, or even images depicting underage characters in sexual situations, is thankfully illegal, the First Amendment actually protects the written word. Authors who write stories about the abuse of minors cannot be prosecuted for it (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.)
The fact that erotic fiction archives feature so many stories about underage characters – written by both men and women – is terrifying. It suggests that there are pedophiles lurking behind the visage of even our most respectable friends and neighbors. It’s enough to make parents like myself vow to lock up our kids until they’re thirty-eight!
Another incredibly popular niche of anonymous erotica is the non-consensual genre; stories involving rape, torture, abuse and worse. Some of these stories are ‘bodice rippers’ or ‘forced seduction’ stories – no worse than you’d find in Mills and Boon. Others, however, run the gamet from disturbing to downright scary.
One of the strangest things about the popularity of non-consensual stories is the fact that a disproportionate number of them seem to be written by women. Ever since Nancy Friday chronicled women’s sexual fantasies back in the seventies, it’s been no secret that rape fantasies are popular – but some of the stories written anonymously by women are just downright disturbing. One involved a woman fantasizing about being shipwrecked on an island and then being first raped, then slowly spit-roasted and devoured by the natives.
Another female writer admitted: “I find the idea of being murdered so that someone can dine on the flesh of my inner thighs exciting.” She explained the appeal thus: “First, objectification; being treated as or made into something less than fully human (i.e. dead, lower in the food chain, used by others regardless of my consent/safety). Second, being appreciated; serving the appetites of others, literally.”
Other popular genres that are considered taboo include bestiality – which, again, seems to have a disproportionately high number of female authors. The most popular single genre for erotica – which seems to even outnumber ‘straight’ sex stories – involve incest and consensual sex between family members. ‘Mind Control’ stories are classified separately to non-consensual ones (which I find ironic, as both involve rape) and are largely written by male authors, in stark contrast to the more physically violent non-consensual tales written by women.
One of the most popular story collections on the Internet – The Kristen Archives – even has a section devoted specifically to ‘Putrid Stories’ which, she warns, are “nasty, horrible and disgusting.”
What’s disturbing to me is not so much that these stories are legal to post and read on the Internet – I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment and can happily tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
No, what really disturbs me is what it means. The popularity of these story begs the question: Just how many regular people are out there with these terrible things going on inside their imagination?
How many think these things, without necessarily writing about them?
They might watch porn, or talk dirty to their partners, but inside the secret compartment inside their head – where nobody else can ever catch you – is it this sick shit that’s getting them off?
But then again, perhaps the legal precedents inspired by the First Amendment should offer me some consolation. If the Internet’s proven that thousands, if not millions of Americans have utterly depraved imaginations, at least their dark desires never leave the confines of their brains (or, if they do, spill no further than a .doc file on a story archive.)
Some people argue that writing such stories is actually cathartic – the process of pouring them out actually helps keep those desires in check. It’s the people who keep such cravings bottled up that became the Jeffery Dahmers and Ted Bundys of our world – turning their sick fantasies into bloody realities.
That concept even became a successful legal defense back in 2003, when Ohio resident Brian Dalton’s 11-year-sentence was overturned in 2003. He’d been arrested and charged after his private diary was discovered, which chronicled a disgusting litany of sexual fantasies involving the abuse of children. However, the Ohio Appeals Court overturned that conviction, stating that despite having and writing about committing these acts, he’d never actually done so.
ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Raymond Vasvari, in his defence, argued: “However disturbing his ideas, in America, every person is entitled to record his thoughts without the fear of prison.”
So how do you feel about that?
I’m not sure. I’m stuck between my liberal beliefs and commitment to free speech and the parts of my mind that just think it’s wrong.
Ultimately, if my forays into Internet erotica have taught me anything, it’s that the human imagination is a much darker and scarier place then I’d ever thought possible – and that the next time you ask somebody ‘what turns you on?’ you’d probably be better off if they didn’t tell you the truth.