LOS ANGELES — Although the hallmark of the Sexual Heath Expo (SHE) is bringing together the premiere professionals in nearly every area of sexual wellness so that consumers can learn about sex and relationships, the event is also about having some fun!
And professional erotica author and editor of more than 50 anthologies, Rachel Kramer Bussel will be one of the featured speakers on hand to not only educate, but entertain attendees at the event being held in New York City.
Bussel’s workshop will school aspiring writers at SHE in September — in the heart of the publishing world — on how to get their fantasies down on paper and possibly break into the erotica market that’s becoming more accepted by mainstream every day.
Some of Bussel’s outstanding achievements include penning the e-book “Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays” along with her regular column for Philadelphia City Paper and DAME, She’s also written for Cosmopolitan, Elle.com, Glamour, The New York Times, Salon, Slate, Time.com, and others.
XBIZ asked the wordsmith about how she’ll inform and entice SHE attendees and how she became an authority on one of the most intriguing and titillating topics in the world today.
XBIZ: How did you become an erotic author and instructor?
Bussel: I’ve always written in some form, and while I was in law school, my years of reading erotica inspired me to write my first story, a fictional lesbian story about Monica Lewinsky, for a book of celebrity-themed erotica called “Starf*cker.” I’ve been writing ever since, and went on to edit more than 50 erotica anthologies, such as “Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica,” my latest, and “The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories,” my favorite, both out from Cleis Press.
I’ve been teaching erotic writing for the past seven years because I believe it’s such a welcoming genre for new authors and that we need more points of view and voices to make it robust. So often, the people who take my classes have ideas in mind, either ones they’ve considered or ones right below the surface, and I consider it my job to help bring those ideas to the forefront.
XBIZ: What are your areas of specialty?
Bussel: I focus on erotic short stories and helping authors find their voice, explore the world around them through an erotic lens and learn about how to submit their work. I often hear from people who are interested in writing erotica but are nervous about it for various reasons, so I do my best to encourage them. Not everyone wants to be published, but many people do and aren’t sure where to look or get started, so I provide as much guidance as I can. The great thing about erotica is there’s no single way to write it; I’ve published stories where there’s no actual sex in them, but they’re still hot.
XBIZ: Do you draw from personal experiences or do you research?
Bussel: I’ve written erotica based on my personal fantasies and experiences as well as plenty based simply on ideas I had that I thought would make good stories. I do research when I need to, whether it’s about sex toys or positions or things like fire eating when I’m writing a piece that involves it.
XBIZ: What topics are trending most from your readers nowadays?
Bussel: BDSM erotica and erotic romance are big right now, and I believe will continue to be. I’m also seeing plenty of playful, fun erotica mixed in with some of the more serious, intense work. I’m also seeing a fair amount of stories told from alternating male and female points of views.
XBIZ: Are you seeing more acceptances of erotica and porn in the mainstream community?
Bussel: Yes, especially with the rise of "Fifty Shades of Grey." I know many authors who were inspired by E.L. James’ success to try their hand at erotica. It gave them a boost of confidence or simply introduced them to the vast world of erotic publishing, which is growing all the time. Porn also doesn’t seem to be as contested as it was 20 years ago; viewers are more discerning and willing to seek out the kinds of porn they want, rather than simply lump all porn together. The same goes for erotica; there’s been a proliferation of e-book imprints along with print and a flourishing audio book market. There’s truly something for everyone, both in terms of content, format and length.
XBIZ: What prompted you to get involved with the Sexual Health Expo (SHE)?
Bussel: I’d heard wonderful things about the previous SHE conferences and since my aim is to inspire people to write and be confident in their ideas, as well as explore various elements of sexuality, not just their own, in erotica, I was eager to be part of it. I would love it if people who don’t necessarily consider themselves writers took my workshop, because I think anyone who fantasizes about sex and has an open mind can write erotica.
XBIZ: Do you feel consumers are benefiting from these types of conferences? If so why?
Bussel: Definitely, because they get to explore all sorts of different areas of sexuality at once and connect with others who are interested in these topics without it being hush-hush. I’d say with erotica one of the main questions I get from potential writers is whether they can be anonymous; I’d estimate at least half, if not more, erotica writers use pseudonyms. But an event like SHE allows people to remain anonymous.
XBIZ: Why is it that women seem to be the largest purchasing segment of the new pleasure product and erotica marketplaces?
Bussel: I think it’s because women tend to talk about and obsess over our sex lives more than men, on the whole. Of course men have sexual hang-ups, issues and questions, but women are the ones by and large who are slut shamed and made to question whether our entire identity is predicated on our sexuality. So if we’re into spanking, does that mean we aren’t strong or powerful outside the bedroom (or inside it, for that matter?). Because of this, I think we tend to be more open to seeking out sex toys and erotic material and are open to experimenting with them.
XBIZ: How has the sexual landscape changed in the last decade in your estimation?
Bussel: People of various ages, sexualities and backgrounds are more open about discussing sex and more knowledgeable. I never get the question “what is erotica?” that I used to. You can access sexuality products pretty much everywhere, from online to your local drugstore, and consumers are more educated and confident in seeking out products to suit their specific needs.
XBIZ: What do you feel will be the “hot buttons” in sexuality in the next year?
Bussel: Sex education, sexual health and sex and aging
XBIZ: What will you be discussing at the upcoming SHE Conference in NYC?
Bussel: I’ll be teaching my erotic writing workshop, which involves numerous writing exercises (no experience required) that I hope students continue at home and possibly submit to publishers, an overview of the erotica market and a handout with more resources.