(By Hapax Legomenon, excerpt from Existential Smut 1).
In the early 1990s when I was in my 20s I wanted to write short pieces with erotic themes from a male point of view. I wanted them to be both poetic and titillating while exploring the erotic imagination from different angles. Calling the project “99 Erotic Notions” I planned to self-publish and perhaps share it digitally. But the Internet was still very young, and I worked abroad for several years, so I didn’t have time to publish anything online. By 2003 I started publishing stories on an X-rated story site (ASSTR) which probably was the raciest site at the time (with multiple kinds of stories guaranteed to offend even the most open-minded). Comparatively speaking, this story collection was fairly tame – so much that readers would regularly write me to ask, “where is the rest of the story?” or to tell me I had forgotten to include the sex scene. Between 2003-2010 my story site received a few million visitors, and I received a steady supply of comments and encouragement from (mostly male & horny) readers.
As I continued writing, my overall attitude towards the project changed.
First, the story frame became more interesting to me. I wanted to have a story frame consisting of dialogue between a male storyteller and a female reader-critic (a sort of flipping of Scheherazade). Originally, the story frame was supposed to be simple and maybe one paragraph between stories. I had written “The Deal” in 1998 as a gentle introduction to the book’s premise. Then in early 2005, I came across the Japanese concept of Atogaki, a postscript to a manga story which contains the author’s self-criticism. Every time I wrote a story, a contrarian voice usually emerged in my head. Partly it was designeritis (the reduced ability of artistic types to enjoy artistic works because of their familiarity with the mechanics of creativity). But as a story writes itself, logical inconsistencies become obvious. A story’s premise begins to seem forced or absurd. Characters seem too beautiful or athletic or intellectual. Behavior seems too fantastic or foolhardy or malleable. The reader tolerates these imperfections for the sake of enjoyment, but later, the weaknesses of a story seem more important to talk about than the strengths. This mirrors the struggle between the restless and amorous erotic male imagination and the skeptical and often puritanical stance of the female reader. I never wrote any story with the intent to add an erotic interlude later. But after I’ve lived with the story for a few years, I begin to hear a dialogue about whether the reality of the story comes anywhere close to the reality of – well, real life. In a way, the book’s main struggle between the narrator and Lisa reflects the struggle between the restless imagination and the skeptical – and perhaps puritanical – impulse to civilize or even squash it.
As the decades pass, it became clear to me that the erotic self casts long shadows over people’s lives. And I was just a single middle-aged man blind to certain realities: victimization, exploitation, childbirth, long-term relationships, gender fluidity, living honestly and adapting to social mores. Erotic desire wasn’t just about having a healthy fantasy life; it was about caring; it was about sharing; it was about giving; it was about perceiving what makes people so interesting and special besides just having a great figure, a sexy laugh or athletic prowess in the bedroom.
Third, sexuality was evolving with technology. In the middle of 20th century, dirty books and magazines were becoming widespread in the U.S. even if they created scandals. By century’s end, pornographic videos were more readily available (the offline kind – videocassettes and DVDs), and so was AIDS. By the 21st century, the Internet enabled many new kinds of sexual expression (and exploitation); teenagers were discovering new ways to flirt with friends and strangers. Young women were discovering more ways to profit from quasi-sex work while older (and wealthier) people were happily paying for it. People used the Internet to learn about all new kinds of sub-communities celebrating niche fetishes and new ways to look at gender. Playing video games and inhabiting virtual worlds became a way to interact with other people (and to fake one’s identity – not to mention, physical appearance). Who knows what will have changed by the time you finish reading this paragraph!
Volumes 1 and 2
I had been adding stories pretty regularly in the 1990s and 2000s. Then during the 2010s it became a “back burner” project for me while I focused on other stuff. Part of the problem was I didn’t know what to do with it — declare the project officially finished? Package them into ebooks? Keep writing these things indefinitely?
In February 2018 I devised a workable plan. I would take the story website down, polish the stories, maybe add a story and a few interludes and then publish all the Hapax Legomenon stories in two separate volumes. I came up with a nicer title for the series (Existential Smut). The remaining stories not by Hapax Legomenon would go into volume 3, which I would serve as editor (rather than contributor).
The stories in Volume 1 and 2 cover a wide range of erotic experiences; The goal is both titillation and reflection. Each story was written at a different point of my life; some will please more than others. The first two volumes provide a snapshot of one man’s erotic imagination over a 20 year period. Is it typical? Who knows! Everyone has interesting and compelling erotic experiences and fantasies; but very few people have taken the time to write them down. Maybe reading this work will help you to understand why your own sexual fantasies are so compelling – whether they are satisfying or frustrating. I am no mind-reader, but I understand that people read erotica not to learn about my fantasies but to have a deeper understanding of their own.
For those who think they know the identity of Hapax Legomenon and suppose that the author and his characters are one and the same, I confidently assert that they are wrong. For those who think they know the real-life people or real-life events that inspired the episodes here, let me just say that the truth is not what you suspect; the inspirations have less to do with people or events but a certain feeling, a certain moment, a certain amount of idle time spent wondering about the alternate world we call Pornutopia. Truthfully, we humans are so adept at hiding and disguising our fantasy lives that Martian tourists might believe us incapable of it. And if I for a moment believed that anyone could crack the code of these stories to reveal my erotic secrets, I would spend hours changing details to disguise coincidental similarities. Trust me, I’m that paranoid.
Some after glancing over these notions, might wonder, “Well, where is all the sex? Doesn’t an erotic story need to have a certain minimum number of sex scenes to be considered an erotic story?” Perhaps I am guilty as charged. Call it puritanism, call it simply the wish to contemplate without necessarily consummating. Perhaps sexual congress, in all its sweaty glory, is just too hard to depict without self-deception, or to successful effect; or that the fantasizing process desecrates the occasional erotic interludes that real life bestows upon us. The authors most willing to strip the erotic act of holy significance don’t peddle dreams; they peddle the frivolity of our illusions; they aim not for release but consolation.
See also: The Long History of the ripemangotaketwo.com domain and website.
Coming Soon: Lusty Bibliophile Book Reports
I mentioned elsewhere that for Volumes 3 and beyond, I won’t be contributing much to the project except as editor. (If you would like to submit a story for consideration, read these Submission Guidelines. )
Starting sometime in 2024 I’ll be writing occasional book reports about erotic fiction. I’ll be writing 4 book reports a year and posting them here and other places. It will be a nice change of pace and give me the perfect excuse to do more reading.