Erotic fiction is definitely NSFW but it’s perfect reading material to get you going. And why wouldn’t the ‘Lusty Lady’ use a wheelchair or the ‘Horny Hunk’ be deaf?
N is for NSFW is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability
Writer Penelope Friday talks to us about mixing sex and disability in the pages of her erotic fiction.
I came into writing erotica through fan fiction. Fan fiction (often called ‘fanfic’) is a class of writing in which you take other people’s characters and give them adventures of their own. A large proportion of this is dedicated to writing ‘adult’ fiction – no matter whether the original characters were engaged in sexual activity or not!
I always feel as if I should apologise for coming to the genre through fanfic, as it’s seen as a ‘lesser’ form of writing, but actually the amount of fun I’ve had – and the amount of friends I’ve made – through writing it means that I decided that I didn’t want to suggest that I regret my beginnings!
When I first started having erotic fiction published, I didn’t originally intend to write so much on disability and sexuality issues.
To be honest, it didn’t occur to me that it was needed until I wrote an article for Disability Now and acknowledged the lack of disabled characters in my fiction.
After that, the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t written erotica with protagonists with disabilities; I hadn’t found disabled characters in anyone else’s work.
It was as if disabled people never had sex: we didn’t seem to exist in mainstream erotica.
Sadly, this “disabled people don’t have sex” attitude is one I’ve experienced in real life: I have an invisible disability (ME) and am treated like two different people, depending on whether I’m in my wheelchair or not.
In the former case, people never catch my eye, let alone show any interest in me. While I can’t say that everyone falls over themselves to flirt with me when I’m without the wheelchair, certainly I’ve had some attention!
With this in mind, I wrote my first story with a disabled narrator, Picking the Man. The story was written from the point of view of Ellie, a wheelchair-user who’s quite upfront about the fact that she’s sexually active.
The story involves her chatting up a non-disabled man with whom she’d like to have sex. Given my own experience, I wanted to face (and challenge) the attitude issue. Ellie describes the potential date as thinking: “It sounds like she’s flirting with me. But she can’t be – she’s in a wheelchair!”
Overall I’m interested in people. Everything I write – erotica or not – is based upon the people in the story. Yes, I quite often write about people having lots of sex, but I start with the characters, not the sex. I imagine a person, and it is their experiences that I write about.
As well as writing about characters who are disabled, I write across the sexuality spectrum: I’ve probably written more LGBT fiction than straight fiction. My protagonists may be male or female (or neither), straight or queer, disabled or not. It’s about the people, and who they are – not what they are.
It has become something of an obsession to write characters with disability into my erotic stories, many of which have been accepted by mainstream publishers. I think there’s a place for dedicated disability publishers, just as there is for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender publishers. It’s good to have places that we minority groups feel we can rely on to acknowledge our existence!
But it’s also important for mainstream publications to take erotica that features disabled people. Some of my erotica has been published in anthologies where my story will be the only one with a disabled protagonist and it reaches a different audience, mostly non-disabled.
I want to challenge these people’s assumptions about disability. I write from the viewpoint of the disabled protagonist, trying to give an insight into the character and demonstrate that people with disabilities don’t actually spend all our lives thinking about our disability any more than non-disabled people would consider the way their bodies work.
I occasionally get emails or letters from people who really appreciate the fact that I’m writing about disabled characters, and I treasure them immensely. I want to normalise disability because, after all, for disabled people, living with disability is normal. This is how our lives are.
And yes, we have sex!
And if you fancy a raunchy read, here’s a list of erotic literature featuring disabled protagonists
N is NSFW is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z