|Here's a scene from Dragon Knight, a lighthearted comedy adventure hentai in which a hero (center) repeatedly rescues hot, naked damsels (left) from demons, but before they can fully express their gratitude, his jealous redheaded companion (right) interrupts. It's milder than most hentai, in that there are no explicit sex scenes, but has the typical mixture of strong plotting, characterization and sex/nudity.|
I take my cue from Japanese hentai (adult anime) when I write erotic stories. Hentai are an important art form in Japan, roughly equivalent to our XXX films in terms of who likes them (adult males, mostly) but nothing like our XXX films in terms of content. I want to explain to you about hentai as a way to help you understand my approach to writing.
Hentai are interesting because they have plots and because they aren't constrained by the cheap budgets and incredibly stupid writing (if any) that's characteristic of live-action porn in the U.S. There are some practical reasons and some cultural reasons why this is so -- it's no accident.
To put it simply, the budget for most live-action porn confines their sets to motel rooms, roadsides and offices (if that much). Hentai, because it is animated, doesn't have this limitation. It costs just the same to draw a space station as it is to draw a cheap hotel room. For that reason alone, hentai have it ALL over live action porn.
However, there are some differences between Japanese and U.S. culture that also give hentai a great advantage over U.S. adult films. Simply put, the Japanese are capable of presenting sexual elements in a story in a direct and unembarrassed way, something that's very hard for U.S. or European filmmmakers to do. When there are strong sex scenes in a U.S. or European film, they tend to BECOME the film.
That is, in a hentai the bad guy may in the course of the story rob a bank, steal a car, kidnap, tie up and rape a woman several times, and kick a puppy dog, and it's all part of the story. A U.S. film would go like this: the bad guy robs a bank, steals a car, kidnaps, TIES UP and RAPES a WOMAN -- OH MY GOD! YOU MEAN, HAS SEX WITH HER WHILE SHE'S TIED UP??? SWEET JEEBUS!!! THIS IS TOO FUCKING MUCH!
This has resulted in a censorship system in which filmmakers must eschew explicit sex scenes if they want their films to appear in mainstream markets. As a result, American films have developed a weird bifurcation with regard to explicit sex scenes. American XXX films have taken this primacy of sex scenes to its logical extreme, in that most American XXX consists of almost nothing but explicit sex scenes, while mainstream films contain no explicit sex scenes.
There have been a few exceptions to this rule, but only of the sort that prove the rule. For example, actress Chloe Sevigny had a scene in the film "Brown Bunny" in which she was supposed to give head to the male lead. Instead of faking it, she apparently actually did give the male lead a real blowjob on camera. As a result her talent agency dropped her and her U.S. career suffered, though she's still in great demand in Europe.
Mainstream publishers have had much greater latitude than mainstream filmmakers in this respect, able to present sex scenes written with as much power and explicitness as our best authors can muster. This was at one time decried as a trend that would inevitably lead to all written literature degenerating into a morass of hard-core porn. This never happened, of course, as there are all sorts of reasons for reading a story besides getting off sexually on it, whatever prudes may believe. In fact, the freedom of expression enjoyed by Henry Miller, Anais Nin and their successors has generally been regarded as a very good thing for mainstream fiction.
Unfortunately, porn publishers have followed the model of XXX filmmakers, and insisted on publishing only stories with little or no plot or characterization, consisting of sex scenes described in explicit, often excruciatingly explicit, detail.
Even more unfortunately, most erotic fiction on the web is rather more of the printed porn variety than the mainstream fiction variety. In this case, it is not the whims of cheap, unimiginative porn publishers that make explicit scenes completely predominate, but the fact that most Internet erotica writers are simply reporting out their sex fantasies, and in most cases, the set-up for those fantasies is not at all important compared to detailed descriptions of the sex acts involved in those fantasies.
I think plot, characterization and explicit sex scenes can and should all work together to create more powerful stories than would otherwise be possible. And I think that even in the case of stories written primarily for their sexual content, the addition of sound characterization and a good plot makes them better and more fun to read, without necessarily making them any less sexually exciting.
Take the anime Kite. Kite is the story of a young girl, Sawa, whose parents are killed by gangsters. The police detective who investigates the case adopts Sawa in an informal sort of way. However, he's not a kindly police detective in your classic sense. He adopts Sawa so he can train her to assassinate gangsters and such. Because she's so young, she can sneak up on them unawares before killing them or blowing them up.
The detective and his chief goon also use Sawa as their sex toy once she's grown up.
Sawa is a kickass assassin, and we're treated to some fairly spectacular images of gunfights and general mayhem from her various hits. When she falls in love with a young guy assassin, complications ensue.
A version of Kite without the sex scenes has gained widespread favor from anime fans in the U.S. because of its imaginative fight scenes and tragic storyline. But without the sex scenes, Kite isn't nearly as powerful a story because the sex scenes add depth and richness to the characters of Sawa and her vigilante "lovers." For example, in one scene we see the detective's chief goon, a huge, hulking, ugly man named Ikiro, fucking Sawa with her hands bound behind her back and a square of tape gagging her. It's not so much a consensual bondage scene as Ikiro doesn't want anything from Sawa but unrestricted access to her body, and plenty of it. In fact, at some point the detective sneaks into the room with them, and the goon pulls a gun, unsure who it is. When he figures out it's his boss, Ikiro talks with him about their plans, still fucking Sawa with complete unconcern.
These images of Sawa writhing naked, bound, gagged and helpless while the goon works his huge cock into and out of her contrast very powerfully with the images of Sawa the kickass assassin outfighting dangerous criminals. On the one hand, she's fully capable of killing very dangerous men. On the other, she passively accepts her role as sex toy for her captors, probably because she's known no other prior to falling in love with the young guy assassin. The sex scenes add depth to her character and make clear the full extent of her captors' depravity. It's a better anime because of them, though many anime fans dislike hentai intensely and find any intrusion of sex into their theaters of mayhem and science fiction to be unwelcome.
I think it is possible to create strong stories like Kite that benefit from strong sexual content, and powerful sexual stories that benefit from strong plotting and characterization. I think the bifurcation between them is a product of censorship, not any real limitations of either form. The ability that Japanese adult anime have to subsume the sexual elements into the story (and vice versa) I think demonstrates that I'm right about this. The Japanese cultural attitudes make it easy for them to integrate a strong sexual theme in to an adventure, mystery or horror story, whereas it's very rare for that to happen over here -- the only U.S. person who's done it successfully is a writer, John Norman.
Norman's Gor novels were a huge publishing success, since they had sufficiently strong fantasy storylines to be appealing to fantasy readers, and yet retained a strong bondage and dominance theme throughout that gave them an added sexual frisson. I think writers in general could learn a lot from the success of hentai and John Norman, creating stories that are very sexy and great fun to read.
That's my goal in writing these stories. It's really up to you to judge whether or not I'm succeeding. I just wrote this to help you understand the context in which I'm making my attempt.