TABOO means: proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable; that is prohibited, banned, or forbidden.
What are your taboos? What should be kept concealed–have any mention of it suppressed? What do you find disturbing and say, “Oh my God, that’s horrible!” Graphic and explicit sexual and child abuse, rape, torture, and murder are certainly in this category. Those dark, troubling subjects make me cringe and are taboo in my mind.
Sex is taboo for many people, especially on TV or in movies. Some hate to talk about it or even having it mentioned. It’s an uncomfortable subject for them.
But how starved for subject matter would writers be were it not for taboos–and for those brave or foolish characters who flirt with the forbidden? For writers and authors there is a fine line.
It is difficult to say storytelling that includes these topics is taboo, or many of our greatest novels would be banned – Lolita and numerous others. Or think about all the taboos flaunted in Game of Thrones on television.
When a story is purely fiction, and no one is harmed or forced to read the work against their will, a written text is not improper or illegal. It is pretty standard for obscenity laws to revolve around imagery–still or video–rather than written works.
However, some agents, publishers, or publications have certain restrictions or topics they won’t touch. One Colorado publisher will not accept novels with any reference to sex in them at all. Naturally the individual reader makes his or her own choices on what they purchase or read as well.
For erotic romance authors the common taboo topics are primarily sexual – things like underage sex, masturbation, incest, anal sex, sexual variations and paraphernalia, and other “kinky” sex.
Most taboos are created within a society as a way to control people and force them to comply with approved cultural values. Other societies, other cultures, do not necessarily share them.
For example, the slight glimpse of a Victorian woman’s ankle was considered too racy for much of the 20th century. In fact the mention of limbs at all was taboo. Everything was covered up. Some people even went so far they covered the legs of their pianos in little skirts. However, I doubt the sight of woman’s ankle ever spurred anyone into uncontrollable lust.
The first taboo that comes to my mind is anal sex.
In the past anal sex was rarely discussed, however, it exploded into mainstream consciousness in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It had been a taboo practice few couples would ‘fess up to trying, even if it was something they’d fantasized about or had experimented with. It is certainly not for everyone, but it is much more commonplace now. 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women have tried it.
The Fifty Shades of Grey novels demonstrated that readers have no problem with sex beyond the vanilla. Our society is becoming more open and non-judgmental when it comes to sexual experimentation. More people realize sex is a beautiful and pleasurable experience that should be celebrated rather than considered a dirty or taboo act.
What was considered taboo years ago isn’t nearly as shocking now. Most sex acts are not nearly as forbidden anymore, so almost anything goes these days. Especially among consenting adults who are willing and even eager to try new, exotic sexual things in the bedroom or elsewhere. Romance novels reflect that trend.
Authors need to be true to themselves since, in many ways, fiction is an extension of themselves. If you have a story inside you, tell it. Taboo’s shouldn’t be denied or tip-toed around. We shouldn’t be afraid of talking about and exploring them. Broaching these difficult subjects should not be off limits for fear of risking offending people or upsetting their own families.
It is how we handle the subject that really matters. As a writer there are lessons to be learned from the character’s experiences, and how the protagonists come out stronger on the other side. Some things might happen off the page but may remain a strong theme; the character whose abuse as a child has defined their choices later in life and helped form who they are today.
Taboos exist, and they always will. However forbidden, they don’t define what writers can or will write.
The key is to write taboo subjects sensibly and with sensitivity. Never just for cheap or crass shock value. For romance authors, within the context of lovers, anything is permissible. From the perspective of a love story, sex is an integral part of it. Taboo sex or not.
I try to handle potentially upsetting subjects with care. If the scene is crucial to the story, I attempt to put it in a way that is true to the character. But also so it ends in a satisfying way that gives resolution to the conflict. The journey can’t be wasted.
I take responsibility for what I write, and hope the readers feel entertained at the end.
ABOUT THE WRITING
In October I completed my 11th novel, PURE FOLLY. It is almost 70,000 words long, and a sexy romance story about a top Hollywood actor and his new, younger personal assistant who had always idolized him. The fun setting where it takes place is on a mega-yacht in the Caribbean.
I am back to writing Mister Right Seeks Miss Wrong now.
This is the second time I have waited two months instead of one to issue a new blog. Not by design, but that’s just how it worked out. I’m not promising how often the blogs will appear. I used the extra time to complete Pure Folly.
In my September blog I mentioned I had logged 133 new titles, plots, and notes for possible future stories. That number is currently up to 143.
FREE SHORT STORY
This month’s free short story is available for subscribers on the website. Trick or Treat is your almost 1,900 word Halloween treat from me. Just send me your email so I can provide you with the password for access to this story and all the others. Enjoy!
There will be other free Holiday themed stories coming for subscribers soon.