Vena Ramphal sensual ladies I know. I met her in person a few years ago (she is UK based), and have stayed in touch ever since. She is mesmerizing…without further ado…
Beckoned. Beloved. Bereft.
I recall choreographing these words in a daydream of longing. This tiny dance of language sums up my erotic voice. I know that for many people, this isn’t remotely erotic. There is no sex, no nudity, nothing explicit….
As a reader I’ve always relished the the power of words to stroke the imagination. As a writer I want readers to shimmy their way into the space between my words. I want them to imply themselves – their body, their story, their emotion, their fantasy – in the writing. My erotica is implicit…..
Its only recently that I’ve claimed the label ‘erotica’. I want to say a bit about the challenges I’ve had with the label in the hope of helping other writers claim their own erotic voice.
Leonora and I first connected on twitter, where I share my tiny dances of language. When we first met in the flesh she said to me,”Vena, I think you would write erotica really well.” I was flattered but surprised. While I knew my writing to be sensual and erotic, I didn’t think of myself as being in the genre of ‘erotica’ per se.
I was surprised at her statement because the erotica I had read was very different to my writing. There was plenty of variety in what I’d read – from BDSM, to vanilla couple sex and plenty more besides. Some things I liked. Mostly, I really didnt. But most significantly I couldn’t relate to any of it as a writer. I simply couldn’t see myself in the genre. So, I decided that what I was writing wasn’t erotica.
But Leonora’s statement – and it really was an “I know what I’m talkin’ about, kid” kind of statement – made me think. Upon reflection I realised that at a subconscious level I was waiting for someone to give me permission to join the club. By trying to find erotica to which I could relate, I was unconsciously asking for permission to include my writing in the genre. When I failed to find that permission, I excluded myself.
Next, came the realisation that if I had excluded myself I could simply include myself. Realising this was one thing. Being able to do so with authenticity was another.
Analysing My Writing
The numinous Line
From the nape of his neck
To the base of his Spine
There are three core components in my erotic writing. They’re not all explicitly present in every piece but the vibe is there. They are:
1. Visceral: I want the words to land in the reader’s body. ‘Visceral’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘sexual’.
2. Romantic: I mean romance in the broader sense of tapping into the existential ache of the human condition. I’m not aiming to answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?” I’m aiming to leave the reader feeling like they can sigh into the answer for themselves. I want their heart to catch a little.
3. Sacred: To me the body is utterly sacred. I hold my own in delighted, familiar reverence.
These components set my standards. Being clear on them means that I can be authentic in my erotic voice.
Embracing My Influences
The thing that really helped me to claim the label ‘erotica’ was acknowledging my influences and fully embracing them. I know that some philosopher somewhere – probably several in fact – have noted that all writing is autobiographical to an extent. By recognising the influences that shaped my erotic voice I went from feeling like I was flapping about in the wind to seeing that I had a clear, strong baseline. I’m not a fan of the ‘anything goes’ approach. I like to have a framework, whether I’m writing or……. dancing.
Which brings me to my influences. Classical Indian dance, the sculptures of Kajuraho etc., the devotional-erotic literature of classical Sanskrit. This isn’t any old baseline. This is a fully fleshed tradition of erotica. These influences have been a huge part of my life as a professional dancer since I was a teenager.
Classical Indian art – dance, music, sculpture, literature, architecture, painting, even jewellery making – is permeated with the erotic. Erotic love is championed as a true and direct expression of divine love.
Suddenly, I understood my erotic voice – visceral, romantic, sacred. By actively hanging out with my influences I slipped into the confidence to claim the label ‘erotica’ for my writing. I became unapologetically comfortable with the boundaries of my language and style.
I no longer excluded myself.
Learn more about my gorgeous friend Vena at venaramphal.com
photo by Vena Ramphal