There’s plenty of erotica that doesn’t require special effort to write consent: the story and the way you tell it is enough. If I write a piece about how much I love sucking a particular guy’s dick, I’m not especially concerned with whether the audience will be thinking ‘but wait! Is the man whose dick you’re sucking consenting to that?!’ Firstly because people tend to assume consent when the genders are this way round (which they absolutely shouldn’t, but that’s a different blog post), secondly because one of the key things I love about it – and therefore one of the key threads of the story – is the reaction of the person receiving. I’ll write their ‘mmm yeahs’ and ‘oh fuck please don’t stops’ into the text, because that’s part and parcel of the hotness. The same cannot be said of certain kink-focused stories, especially when that kink is consensual non-consent.
Sometimes people pitch me guest blogs, or I stumble across other blogs online, which tell hot stories about CNC scenes. And often I find those outrageously hot, because I am someone who is into CNC. However sometimes the story itself – one which could be hot if framed consensually – gives me a tingling sense of discomfort. Is this genuinely a consensual story? How am I, a reader who can only read words and not minds, supposed to know?
Here are a few tips from someone who’s made her fair share of mistakes when it comes to writing this kind of porn.
In this post I’m going to give you a few examples of consensual non-consent stories (as well as dominance/submission and other related topics). Some are (I think) good examples, with consent woven neatly in, and one is a terrible example of how not to do it. If that’s likely to be disturbing to you, please skip this post. It’s also essentially quite a long and self-indulgent essay about the lessons I’ve learned on this topic over eleven years of sex writing, when a lot of my fantasies touch on these themes. So again, if behind-the-scenes doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, this will probably bore you rigid (and not the good kind of rigid).
One of the main reasons I’m writing it is because last week tickets for Eroticon went on sale: the conference for erotic creatives will be held in Camden on 10/11 June this year. If you’re a sex writer and you’re interested in this sort of thing, do check out the website and consider joining me and a bunch of other shagnerds for a really fun weekend. So much of what I learned about sex writing I learned via Eroticon – the event itself or the people I connected with while I was there.
Anyway! Onto the post. How do you write consent into erotica?
Write consent using… perspective
When you’re me (i.e. a subby little fucker) and you’re writing consensual non-consent from a first-person perspective, you’re essentially doing it on easy mode. Saying ‘I really want someone to fuck me while I’m asleep’ is consensual, because I’m the one who wants it and I can easily express my feelings about it – consent is baked in to my perspective. In my opinion, that’s one of the most useful things about autobiographical sex writing, as a submissive.
The same cannot be said if you’re writing the story from a dominant, first-person perspective.
There’s a huge and significant gulf between writing:
“I woke up to find his solid cock sliding inside me.”
“She woke up to find my solid cock sliding inside her.”
Both, naturally, need way more context in order for the reader to understand that they’re consensual, but the latter is more jarring because in that case it’s the narrator who invites reader suspicion.
I am becoming more aware of this as I write more stories from a dominant perspective – the middle section of this blow job piece involves me trying to wring noise out of a guy I’m sucking off, and using a few dominant phrases to try and bully him into doing what I want. That word ‘bully’ is only a useful one if you understand that it’s what he enjoys, and not something I’d ever spring on someone by surprise.
So a story in which I’m dominant needs more context for consent to be clear. And similarly, a second- (“You wake up to find my cock inside you.”) or third-person (“She woke up to find his cock inside her.”) story will need more context too. When writing porn, as with everything else in life, we need to consider the power dynamics – be aware of who is in control (the narrator, or the ‘dominant’ character), what they are doing with that power and why.
So if you’re thinking of writing some consensual non-consent – whether rape fantasy, dormophilia, power-imbalance scenario between boss and coworker/lecturer and student/police officer and suspect etc – the first thing you need to bear in mind if you want to do it consensually is the perspective of the narrator.
Write consent using… in-text clues
You can use any narrator you like to tell your story, but if you’re picking one which isn’t first-person submissive, then you probably want to include a bunch of in-text clues to show people (and, in this case, fuck the standard writing advice – sometimes explicitly tell people) that this story is consensual.
There are a few ways to do that. First, you can literally give voice to your characters. This is done to (I think) great effect in this piece of audio porn by JM Seaborn. Don’t listen to the audio just yet, I’m going to use it for a later point and that point will be RUINED if you listen right now. Just read the text to start off with. The piece opens with an explicit request from the woman who’s about to get fucked:
“I want you to fuck me while I’m asleep.”
That’s a really neat way of writing consent into your sex story! Just… give voice to your characters and let people know that’s what they want! Simple!
You can also slide in a bit of backstory to the text itself, as in this piece I wrote called ‘fight me for it’ (which hasn’t had nearly enough traffic yet given how fucking hot a scene it was, hint hint clicky clicky):
“Can a man be said to ‘pounce’ if you invited him to? If so, that’s what he did.“
You can also make the consent discussion part and parcel of the story. After all, often one of the hottest things about a specific scene is the build-up before it happens. The will-we-won’t-we, and the wondering how our fantasies will translate when we try to put them into action. For example, in a story about this time a guy pretended to break into my house and fuck me while I was asleep, the vast majority of the story is built pre-fuck, as each of us imagines how it will play out…
“He paces up and down the living room of his flat, checking his watch every five minutes and willing time to run faster. The stealth fuck is not his fantasy, but he knows how much she wants it, and the thrill of delivering something she’s begged for so many times is plenty for him to get horny about.
The stealth is part of the fantasy. She pictures him in gloves. Imagines those gloved hands roughly binding her own so she doesn’t struggle. Eventually pressing against her mouth so she cannot scream. She comes twice that evening thinking about it.”
See? There are lots of different ways to flag motivations and desires in text so that a particular fantasy – which may look non-consensual if you just described the pure actions – is seen in its full, consensual light. In many ways this is easier if you’re writing erotica rather than, say, filming a kinky scene. The reason many porn producers (ethical ones at any rate) will include a lot of behind-the-scenes clips when they publish extreme BDSM is because they’re trying to do with film what erotic writers (lucky fuckers that we are) can do with a simple line or two of dialogue.
Write consent using… explicit notes
If you’ve done all the above and you’re still not sure you’ve accurately conveyed consent in your erotic writing, there are two other things you might want to consider. The first: explicit notes.
You’ll find them on tonnes of the posts on this website – short paragraphs or even just a sentence at the opening to a story which tells you ‘the following events were things my partner and I discussed in detail beforehand, and which both of us consented to’ or ‘please don’t try to fuck like this unless you’ve had explicit discussions with your partner about consent, and how to withdraw it’ etc.
Explicit content notes aren’t just a way to abandon responsibility for the piece you’re writing: personally I think you should also always convey consent within the text itself. But if you’re writing fiction, you may need to frame consent differently (your characters don’t need to consent to what’s happening, because they don’t exist, but your reader does, so it’s worth flagging so they know what they’re in for), or you might want to keep your notes short and sweet, but fundamentally if you’re playing with consent you’re probably doing it because non-consent is taboo – that’s part of what makes the role-play, consensual forms of it sexy. Acknowledging it allows your readers to relax and enjoy the picture you’re painting, rather than sit on edge, worried that they’re collaborating with you in something that could be unethical. Or worse, outright traumatised because you’ve sprung this on them by surprise.
To those of you who might be worrying that adding a ‘Note: this story contains non-consensual themes, but everyone is a consenting participant’ will put people off your writing, I have one word for you: haha! The posts that I write here which include content notes are far more – not less – likely to be clicked on and read. For two reasons. Firstly, because my lovely readers are perverts (I mean that as the highest of compliments) and therefore anything which gets flagged as ‘extreme’ in some way is inevitably going to attract their deviantly horny attention. Secondly (boringly), it’s good for SEO. Including searchable keywords (sleep sex, rape fantasy, consensual non-consent) in a content note gives me a neat and simple excuse to chuck those keywords into the first para, and let Google know what this story will be about.
Only after all this context do I feel comfortable linking to this – one of the worst pieces of sex writing (consent-wise) that I’ve ever published on the site. One which DOES now include a content note, and which I am ashamed I ever thought could be published without it. It details an astonishingly hot anal fuck that I had in the early days of my relationship with my previous boyfriend, around the time when I was introducing him to my non-consent fantasies and begging him to try and do a little bit of ‘pin me down and fuck me while I say ‘no’’ play. However, the way I have written it is astonishingly basic, and as a result he comes across as terrifying and creepy, because when it first went live I relied solely on my first-person narrator’s perspective, combined with my framing, without including any extra details about the backstory and negotiation.
Consent in sex writing: audio porn
My favourite way to highlight consent in sex writing is the one you almost certainly knew I would get to, right? Audio porn! Audio porn is immensely satisfying as a writer (especially a lazy writer like me) because you have a whole extra tool to use when you’re telling a story: tone!
I think tone is the beating heart of any sex scene – whether real life or fiction. I could take or leave descriptions of what someone’s tits or cock looked like, and even in some cases exactly how they were touched/licked/sucked/etc. But I give a massive shit about why they’re being touched/licked/sucked. I care about motivation and emotion and enthusiasm and desire and lust and all of that stuff way more than I care about exactly which tit got squeezed and exactly how hard the squeeze was. Tone is the most important thing in a sex story.
And nowhere is tone more important than when telling a story that plays with consent taboos. This hit me really hard when producing JM Seaborn’s sleep sex piece, and is the thing which prompted me to get this half-formed draft finished. The text itself must have been a challenge for him to write – I rarely ever read stories like this from a dominant perspective, for the reasons touched on above. I have my own reader discomfort when being presented with stories that feature CNC in which the writer hasn’t considered all the ways in which it’s important to weave consent into the narrative and framing. The reason I was eager to publish JM’s is that the text does such a fantastic job (in my opinion) of using both dialogue and in-text clues to make it clear this story is consensual.
On top of that, though, as we were recording I offered to read the woman’s dialogue aloud, so as to get a little bit of extra consensual tone into the story…
Listen as audio
I don’t think I do an especially great job of it, but it works. And consider how much better it works to have dual-voice narration in this scene! I did a similar thing with a fiction piece I wrote about monster cocks – getting a guy (huge thanks rmp792!) to read the dude parts added a layer of gruff hotness, but reading the submissive/recipient side myself meant I could ensure the breathless eagerness of my bits conveyed consent through tone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I do all this perfectly, but I have made enough mistakes that I hope I’m qualified to help others avoid making similar ones. Which leads me neatly onto the final part of this (God help you all) essay.
Publishing consensual non-consent: the bits people don’t think about until they go extremely wrong
The second a story leaves your head and sets out into the wide world, it will start to have effects you could never have considered. And if you’re publishing that story on the internet, you need to be even more aware of framing.
Let’s say I was emailing a tale to a hot guy who featured in the story. I would always include a bit of framing (‘the attachment here is about the hot shag we had last week so you might not want to read it if you’re at work!’), but broadly I wouldn’t need to think about it as much as I would if I were publishing it on the site.
When I publish it here, though, I need to think far more thoroughly about the way in which it’s presented: not just on the site itself beneath a content note, but in all the peripheral data that will be pulled in by other websites when I (and hopefully other people!) share the link.
I’m going to use JM’s latest piece as an example, because it’s that which prompted this (again, so sorry) essay. I hope he doesn’t mind me using his – please rest assured that if I’ve got any of this wrong, it’s on me and not him. He provided the text and the audio, I did all the editing/framing/selecting pictures, etc.
Here is an example of what that story looks like on Twitter…
And here is an example of what it could easily have looked like if I’d published it ten years ago before I really understood all the stuff above about framing and consent.
Do you see the difference? I picked different quotes from the piece – for the tweet text and the metadata – and the change in impact would be hugely significant to anyone coming across this work for the first time. The metadata is what tells Twitter (and Google, and Facebook, and whoever) what to display in the share card for a post. I could use a content note for this data, and sometimes I do, but in this instance I pulled out the dialogue because it so neatly telegraphs consent that I thought it was the only way I could justify using that image.
Likewise with the title – I ditched JM’s original title (“She sleeps” – sorry JM) and instead used a section of the subject’s line so I could frame the post from her eager perspective. That’s what shows up on the audio porn page too, so you know when you see it that the picture – while it’s a slightly extreme situation in which someone has a hand over the other person’s mouth – denotes something consensual.
Why pick that picture to illustrate this story? It really worked in context. I don’t often get to use that one – originally drawn for this post on dirty bedtime stories – precisely because if you just scroll past it on a social site without knowing me, or my work, or the context in which it’s used, it could look a little non-consensual. But I think in the context of consensual kink that picture’s really hot, and at the time this story went live I’d already used my standard ‘dormophilia/sleep sex’ image to illustrate a different audio story. To avoid having duplicates on the page, and because I wanted to reuse a picture that doesn’t get recycled so often, I went with ‘hand over mouth’ and made sure that wherever people came across that picture, they’d see it within the context of that killer opening line: “fuck me while I’m asleep.” First-person narrator, explicit consent for the specific act.
If you’re interested in this sort of thing, there is one image on the site which I absolutely fucking adore but have never used in a header: one which illustrated a story about me getting a nosebleed during a fuck. When Stuart sent it through he pointed out that it was tricky to draw this in a way that made consent obvious. And although my initial reaction to that picture was ‘HOLY FUCK THAT’S HOT’ and the blog itself details something astonishingly sexy, at the time I couldn’t work out how to keep that picture as a headline image without risking someone stumbling across it on their twitter feed and thinking it looked violent. So instead I illustrated the post with a content warning, and put the illustration behind the jump.
How to write consent: why does this matter?
As I say above, the second your story leaves your head and goes out into the world, it stops belonging solely to you. People read and interpret it, have their own takes, and the impact it has on them is no longer predictable. Everyone’s different, and my ‘yum’ might be someone else’s ‘yuck’, which in turn might be another person’s ‘this has ruined my day/week/year.’ It’s one of the things I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self – her brash, punchy, thoughtlessness might have got clicks and shares but every one of those clicks and shares had impact on a new person, and some of those people experienced harm. It’s a source of great shame.
On top of that, there are likely people who could otherwise have enjoyed some of the stories on this site who were turned off forever because I hadn’t properly woven consent into my work. And that’s a source of lost traffic, readers, and fun.
From your perspective, you might decide that none of this matters to you, and that’s OK: I’m not your boss, do what you want. But if you’re pitching work to me (or to someone else), I’d urge you to run through your piece with the eye of someone coming to it for the very first time. Ask yourself ‘how would a total stranger react to this story? Would they understand that it’s consensual? If I’m using non-consent/taboo as a ‘shock’ moment, can I assume reader consent for that, or is there a better way for me to ascertain consent before I spring that topic upon them?’ Ask yourself whether someone who doesn’t know you, and doesn’t share or understand your kinks, would experience the story in the way that you’re aiming for.
‘Show, don’t tell’ is all well and good for softer writing where consent is never in question, but the kinkier your tale is, the more effort I think you need to put in to make sure the context is understood. Readers aren’t mind-readers, after all.
I drafted this ages ago but I’d been waiting for Eroticon tickets to go on sale before I published. I am ridiculously excited to get the chance to nerd out on this stuff with other sex writers in June, so I thought I’d wait so I could wrap in an eager invitation to you to come join us if you like this sort of thing!