Sex & Love

How I Went From an NYU Law Student to a Smut Writer

Rachel Kramer Bussel, author of Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Her book is a collection of stories about spanking and its sexual appeal.  Before I officially start, a word of … Read More

By / January 5, 2009

Rachel Kramer Bussel, author of Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Her book is a collection of stories about spanking and its sexual appeal. 

Before I officially start, a word of warning: some links may not be safe for work viewing.

Hi, I’m Rachel Kramer Bussel, and I write and edit smut. Or porn. Or erotica, whichever you choose. I don’t really care what you call the dirty stories in my books, and tend to think that those who press the porn vs. erotica question are simply looking to obscure the issue. The point of my books is to get people off, and hopefully along the way, make them think a little. Today I want to share how I went from an NYU Law student to the editor of 24 anthologies ranging from spanking to foot fetishes to exhibitionism to crossdressing. You could say it’s all because of Monica Lewinsky. She was the protagonist of my first published story, called “Monica and Me,” written circa 1999. It was a fantasy about, well, Monica and me, about what would happen if I (or rather, my narrator) met her at a booksigning. I took something true (my crush on her) and turned it into fiction for a book of celebrity sex fantasies called Starf*cker. That was just as I was leaving law school, uncertain about my future (I never graduated from law school). I went on to work at various administrative jobs, and kept on writing in my spare time. I wrote and submitted and erotica story every few months, many of them true, about my budding sexual explorations, and found getting published to be a thrill I fast became addicted to.

In 2004, I got offered a job as Senior Editor at Penthouse Variations, where I still work, and later went on to write the Lusty Lady sex column for The Village Voice and other nonfiction; I currently write the Dating Drama column for The Frisky. So dealing with sexual content, whether it’s about my life or fictional, has proven pretty easy for me.

Along the way, I started editing erotic anthologies of my own, based on ideas supplied by publishers. Now, I tend to come up with an idea for an anthology, then pitch my main publisher, Cleis Press. Sometimes we bat ideas around for a while, and other times, they go for it right away. Then I put out a call for submissions, and wait for stories to roll into my inbox. A recent review of my fellatio anthology Tasting Him: Oral Sex Stories, asked, “How could a collection of twenty-plus stories with such a narrow theme sustain any level of interest? And wouldn’t a focus on a single, physical sex act – fellatio – tend to move the content away from the psychological and emotional explorations that I view as the essence of erotica toward more superficial presentations reminiscent of bad porn?” What’s interesting to me is taking a theme, whether it’s a sexual act or a location (my upcoming books Do Not Disturb and The Mile High Club deal with sex in hotel rooms and on planes) and mixing it up. In other words, not going for the obvious. I like when authors dazzle me with a story that makes me rethink sex, that turns me on, even after having read thousands of stories. Maybe that means in the airplane book having cybersex via text message. Or exhibitionism via webcam. For my book on crossdressing, I had butches dressing as femmes and men wearing panties. What I’ve learned in my years of writing and editing smut is that anything can be eroticizedæseriously, anything. Sometimes I teach erotic writing workshops and two of the exercises are: write a story involving a chair, and write a story involving George W. Bush. I don’t assign those because I have a fetish for either, but because seeing where those prompts take people’s erotic imaginations spurs me on. Later this week, I’ll be sharing some erotic writing tips and some of my favorite non-erotic books from the past year. If you’re interested in writing erotica, I highly recommend checking out the site Erotica Readers & Writers Association. It’s the main resource I use and refer people to, and continually updates its list of calls for submission, as well as maintaining mailing lists and columns of interest to smut writers. What I love best about erotica is how democratic it is. Everyone has fantasies, whether or not they have or will ever act on them, and those can spur stories spanning the globe and the range of sexual acts. Plus, erotica is booming, even with the economy and state of the publishing industry, so there are numerous opportunities to get published, or to just expand your writing repertoire or write a love note to someone.

Many people get started in erotica writing about their own lives, whether true stories or barely embellished fantasies. But I don’t want you to think you have to write about your life to pen arousing erotica. Hardly. There are plenty of brilliant writers out there crafting outrageous, creative, and highly fictional stories that continue to wow me.

If you have questions about erotic writing you’d like to see me answer here, please feel free to drop me a line at rachelkramerbussel@gmail.com with “Jewcy” in the subject line. Later this week I’ll take you behind the scenes of my first book trailer shoot (for Spanked) and share my favorite books of 2008.

Rachel Kramer Bussel, author of Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week.  Stay tuned.