Writing Humorous EroticabyCal Y. Pygia©
Unfortunately, too many readers judge erotica strictly by how hard they get (men) or how wet they get (women) or, in general, how horny it makes them. While erotica, by definition, must produce such an effect, to be esteemed as a superior, or even a good, representative of its peculiar genre, the erotic story should accomplish more than the mere production of penile erection or vaginal secretions. It should offer a reason, beyond itself, for its being.
In ancient Greece's comedies, erotica was a means of social, political, and familial satire. In medieval European fabliaux, erotica was a way of criticizing the absurdities of artificial social class distinctions, the abuses of the nobility, and the hypocrisy of the clergy. In contemporary situation comedies, or sitcoms, comedy is often a means of identifying, censuring, and reforming the peccadilloes, follies, and foibles of individuals, especially members of families, nuclear, extended, and otherwise, or factory and office coworkers.
My own forays, to date, into humorous erotica, "Dream Girls" and "Do Boobs Prove Intelligent Design?," are, to my mind, qualitative pieces. The former lampoons the fantasies of the solitary, middle-age male who masturbates to a new type of "Dream Girl," the digitized damsel who consists not of flesh and blood, or even of the ivory out of which the ancient Greek sculptor Pygmalion sculpted his dream girl, Galatea, but of pixels of light on a computer screen. The latter offers a witty, rather risqué, take on the age-old cosmological argument for God's existence.
My satire is lighthearted and gentle, not sharp and biting, but, it is, nevertheless, meant to reprove solitary sex--that is, masturbation--as at least slightly absurd and as ultimately unfulfilling except in the most fleeting and momentary manner of providing, as might be said, instant gratification and to poke good-natured fun at high-sounding theological premises. I believe both to be first-rate examples of the gentler form of satire, but, alas!, they have not fared well among some readers.
I think these humorous essays have not garnered some readers' approval not because the pieces themselves fails to be humorous, but because the don't correspond with the somewhat puerile expectations of the typical reader of low-quality erotica, who, not only above all, but in lieu of anything else, wants merely titillation. Even in humorous erotica, for such a reader, the humor is a secondary consideration at best. What counts is the penile penetration of anus, mouth, or vagina and a thrusting therein until the occurrence of orgasm (and, for men, ejaculation). Such limited expectations do not bode well for qualitative literature, although, as any who peruse the sheer volume of contributions to such a website as Literotica can readily see, these expectations certainly result in a great quantity of submissions.
With regard to commercial enterprises, one must be prepared to take the good with the bad and to separate the wheat from the chaff. With televised fare, we must take the commercials along with the shows; with submissions to Literotica and its ilk, we must separate the gold from the fool's gold. The dregs make possible the tea, so let us not complain unduly.
Instead, for those who are interested in writing (and reading) not only titillation but also humor (and, when possible, humor in service to a higher cause, such as social, political, familial, or other important forms of criticism), I set forth this essay to detail three sure-fire means of producing humorous erotica. It is up to the writers themselves to produce the quality (and to readers to demand it).
The first way is the way of analogy. An analogy is an extended comparison between two things that are otherwise dissimilar; while the analogy admits such comparisons, it also admits differences. Usually, an analogy has an instructive purpose, hoping to make clear something that is less familiar by comparing it to something similar that is better known and understood. An analogy differs from a metaphor or a simile, because a metaphor or a simile offers a comparison of two unlike things in regard to only one feature or characteristic. In addition, metaphors and similes stress the similarity without admitting the differences between the things compared to one another, and have a figurative, or poetic, purpose, rather than an instructive one.
William Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage," comparing the world, as an arena of natural activity, to a stage, an arena of activity that is said merely to imitate nature. An extended analogy further develops the figure of speech, as Shakespeare does in continuing his own metaphor by comparing the men and women of the world to actors upon a stage and the births and deaths of men and women of the world to actors' entrances and exits upon the stage.
Public school biology classes used to use, and may still use, an analogy that compares the human body to a factory. Ore (food) is crushed (masticated) before being conveyed (swallowed) to a processing vat (stomach) in which it is processed (digested), the usable material (nutrients) being extracted (absorbed) from the dross (waste products), the latter of which is then discarded (eliminated); the usable material (nutrients) is then used to manufacture (build) products (proteins, fats, and so forth) for distribution (circulation, respiration, and other bodily processes).
Shakespeare's extended metaphor consists of three individual metaphors, each of which creates a single comparison. The three are related, but they are not, even taken together, sufficiently complex to create an analogy.
Although many humorists use analogies, those who write humorous erotica employ this strategy far less often, it seems, than others of their ilk. Therefore, after explaining the method, I will also give it rather short shrift in this essay.
Michael Savage's modern bestiary, The Political Zoo, is a good example of the humorous use of an analogy. It compares human behavior to that of animals, with the result that his political animals usually fare far worse in the comparisons than the actual animals to which he compares them.
Analogies concerning sex are used more often by scientists than by humorists, the former intending them as a means by which to elucidate the sexual impulse itself. For example, sex has been likened to the pleasures that mother and child experience during the act of breastfeeding. In this analogy, the mother and child bond as the erect nipple (a metaphorical penis) enters the warm, wet mouth (a metaphorical vagina), and milk (metaphorical semen) is thereby deposited within. Scientists have also employed analogies that compare sex to the perceived need to evacuate the bowels and thereby relieve stress and to eating; orgasm has, likewise, been likened to epileptic seizure.
Social scientists have also employed the analogy of the test driving of an automobile that the driver is considering for purchase to represent two single partners' living together without benefit of marriage. Their relationship, such thinkers contend, resembles a test drive during which the prospective automobile buyer can measure the performance of the vehicle: the male or female partner can likewise evaluate his or her potential spouse's behavior, sexual and otherwise, before buying (marrying) the other person. (An older version of this analogy is implicit in the statement, "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?")
However, except for the familiar baseball analogy, in which various sexual activities are compared to reaching first, second, or third base and home plate, humorists don't often use analogies as bases for erotica. (The activities that are associated with each base vary, but reaching home plate is almost always understood as representing sexual intercourse. First base may represent kissing or French kissing; second base, the caressing of the breasts or mutual masturbation while clothed; and third base, fondling the labia, clitoris, or vagina or engaging in mutual masturbation while naked. In another interpretation, kissing = first base; petting = second base; masturbation or oral sex = third base; and sexual intercourse = home plate.)
Where analogies are used as the bases for humor, they are usually the foundations for essays, rather than stories, and, since humorists seldom use analogies as the bases for erotic stories, I shall move on to the two techniques that much more frequently underlie erotic anecdotes, sketches, jokes, situations, and longer narrative plots.
The first is the use of stock characters. A stock character is one that is familiar to readers or audiences because such a character has been used many times within a specific genre by its writers. Various genres typically develop their own types of stock characters. For example, readers or moviegoers who enjoy Westerns are apt to find in this type of story such stock characters as the cowboy, the dancehall girl, the piano player, the gunfighter, the Indian, the merchant, the saloonkeeper, the schoolmarm, the sheriff and his deputy, the outlaw, and the preacher. Likewise, science fiction has produced such stock charters as the astronaut, the cyborg, the extraterrestrial or alien, the mad scientist and his monster, the robot, the Starfleet commander, and the space colonist.
Comedy has also developed quite a cast of recurring stock characters. Among them are the absentminded man, the braggart, the con artist, the confidant or confidante (feminine), the country bumpkin, the deadbeat, the displaced person, the egghead, the faultfinder, the feminist, the femme fatale, the flatterer, the geek, the geezer, the miser, the sidekick, and the talker. Some of these characters were born, as it were, of erotic comedy; others are merely especially well-suited to such comedy. Among these are the exhibitionist, the flaming faggot, the tease, the virgin, the voyeur, and the whore with a heart of gold.
To make use of such stock characters in writing humorous erotica, I would suggest that you first create a biographical sketch, as it were, of each of the ones you intend to use in your story, and then devise a tagline that can suggest a humorous storyline. As you write more stories, with different stock characters, extend your catalogue of sketches to include them. Eventually, you will have a long list of sketches which define various stock characters. As you use these characters in your stories, you can add appropriate taglines to suggest humorous plots, keeping track, of course, of these taglines as well as the evolving character sketches.
Here is an example of a possible autobiographical sketch for defining the character of the braggart soldier, who appears in many ancient Greek comedies, and is represented especially well, many critics agree, by Plautus' hero, Pyrgopolynices.
Pyrgopolynices: The beginning of the play in which he is featured indicates his nature, as he is shown feeling sorry for his weapons, for, during this time of peace, his sword and shield are denied glorious battles during which they can experience his heroic use of them against enemy warriors. He boasts about everything he does and goes even those who praise him one better, claiming lineage from Venus, the goddess of love, herself, when he is told, by a flatterer, that every woman naturally falls in love with him at first sight and claiming he should earn an extravagant stud fee for siring a child, for any offspring he fathers will be so robust as to live for a thousand years, just as Pyrgopolynices himself was born the day after the universe appeared.
Your braggart need not be a soldier like Pyrgopolynices. He may be, instead, a lecher, a pedant, an artist, a scientist, or some other type of character. Indeed, he need not even be a male; the braggart can as easily assume the form of a woman if a female character is needed to advance your plot.
A tagline, as I have indicated in my essay on "X-rated Movie Taglines," is a clever, pithy one-line slogan or storyline summary, often involving alliteration or a play on words, meant to promote a film. A tagline can also promote a book or even a story. In fact, Literotica employs taglines to promote its writers' short stories and novels. (The tagline for my essay on "X-Rated Movie Taglines" is "tagging the audience," and the tagline for this article is "Three Techniques for Plotting Laughable Fiction.")
"X--rated Movie Taglines" not only defines the term "tagline," but it also provides many examples. I repeat a few here for the benefit of those who are too lame or lazy to read the article itself. In these examples, the title of the movie occurs first, followed by the tagline, from which the title is separated by a colon.
Debbie Does Dallas: Everyone on the team scores when her pom-poms fly!
Hot Lunch: This main course is finger-licking great!
Stuck on You: You'll come unglued with laughter!
The tagline (and title) often indicates the genre of the story, the types of characters who will most likely appear in the story, the setting of the story, and even, in some cases, the type of conflict or the theme of the story. For example, "Debbie Does Dallas: Everyone on the team scores when her pom-poms fly!" suggests that the story will be erotic, that Debbie and a football team will be featured as characters, that the story will take place in Dallas (and, presumably, in the team's locker room, on the playing field, on the team's bus, and elsewhere), and that the conflict will be sexual and, perhaps, sports related. For example, a possible plotline for this story would be its debunking of the myth that athletes play better when they refrain from having sex. Perhaps the team's coach prohibits his players from indulging in sex before a game until, defying his order, the players show him that their performance on the field is enhanced, not hampered, by their pre-game performances in bed with Debbie.
Any of the stock characters I identified can be used in a humorous tale of erotica, especially when their biological sketch is coupled with a tagline that suggests a storyline. These taglines indicate just some of the many, many possibilities:
Absentminded man: a man forgets to put on a condom, thinking he has done so
Braggart: a man brags about his sexual prowess or cock size
Con artist: a man sells what he claims are aphrodisiacs or contraceptives
Confidante: a woman listens to her best friend's sexual exploits
Country bumpkin: a country girl bests a city slicker
Deadbeat: a pimp lives by whoring
Egghead: a sex researcher discovers a new erogenous zone
Exhibitionist: a girl puts everything she has on a horse
Faultfinder: even the perfect woman isn't good enough for him
Feminist: a man-hating women's libber has a tryst with a transsexual
Femme fatale: a modern medusa turns men to stone--or parts of them, anyway
Fish out of water: a displaced person makes the best of his new
environment--an all-female habitat
Flaming faggot: a flamboyant homosexual learns the limits of social tolerance
Flatterer: flattery gets her everything!
Geek: a guy makes a pass at a girl who wears glasses, and is glad he did
Geezer: an old fart reminisces about the good old days
Lolita: good things come in small packages
Miser: being too cheap can cost more than it saves
Sidekick: being a sidekick has an advantage: one gets the hero's leftovers
Talker: actions speak louder than words
Tease: if you tease, be prepared to please
Virgin: she'd never been with a man; he would be her first
Voyeur: strutting her stuff was just her way of showing off
Whore with a heart of gold: fools rush in where miners fear to pan
Finally, the third technique for writing humorous erotica is the use of stock situations. A stock situation is one that is familiar to readers or audiences because they have been used many times within a specific genre by its writers. Various genres typically develop their own types of stock situations. For example, readers or moviegoers who enjoy Westerns are apt to find in this type of story such stock situations as cattle rustling or range wars, a sheriff's taming of a wild town, a bounty hunter's or posse's hunting down and capturing or killing of an outlaw or an outlaw band, pioneers' peaceful or violent clash with Native Americans, wagon trains traveling West, and townspeople's extension of civilization by their building and developing their town. Likewise, science fiction has produced such stock situations as the colonization of moons and planets, the mining of asteroids, the exploration of space, invasions of Earth by extraterrestrial aliens, the creation of monsters by mad scientists, and evolution or genetic engineering run amuck.
Comedy has also developed several stock situations. Among them are the glimpse of a birthmark that discloses kinship, girl meets boy, mistaken identity, rags to riches, the spoiling of virginity, the taming of a shrew, and the liberation of a sexually repressed woman. Many are subject to variation. For example, as I argue in "Thank Heaven For Girly Boys," the girl-meets-boy plot has been revamped to include both girl-meets-girl and boy-meets-boy storylines, and the introduction of the shemale (that is, the chick with a dick) has further expanded the variety of sex partners with which writers of erotica can people their fiction.
By way of concluding, let me pause to reiterate this essay's main points. Too narrowly limiting humorous erotica to stories which merely titillate through descriptions of sexual activity is not only puerile but it also restricts the genre severely and unnecessarily and, at the same time, degrades its quality. Instead, such stories should be permitted the same possibilities as those that existed for earlier writers of humorous erotica. In ancient Greece's comedies, erotica was a means of social, political, and familial satire. In medieval European fabliaux, erotica was a way of criticizing the absurdities of artificial social class distinctions, the abuses of the nobility, and the hypocrisy of the clergy. In contemporary situation comedies, or sitcoms, comedy is often a means of identifying, censuring, and reforming the peccadilloes, follies, and foibles of individuals, especially members of families, nuclear, extended, and otherwise, or factory and office coworkers. This same latitude, allowed by the readers of Literotica, for humorous erotica would likewise enrich and expand the genre for them and this venue, for which reasons I strongly advocate readers' adoption of this attitude. The sex will still be there; it just might not be the sole or primary reason for the stories' existence. For writers who desire to write qualitative humorous erotica, the use of analogies, stock characters, and stock situations are three techniques for developing familiar storylines that can result in innovative and amusing adaptations, innovations, parodies, and pastiches.