Saturday, August 9, 2014

Religious erotica (yes, that's what I said)

Wow. Here’s a topic that’s bound to get me into trouble. But you know me, always stepping in it and then trying to get it off my shoes.

So here goes.

Something came up the other day on my Facebook wall, as it is so apt to do, because that’s just how I roll. I made some comment about how I’m forever seeing books featuring Wicca, but never Baptists or Episcopalians. Apparently I left out a plethora of other denominations, which was pointed out to me quickly. Mea culpa. Unfortunately, I didn’t have room in that post to name them all. Matter of fact, I don’t think I could.

What did happen, however, is that it started quite a thread in which angels and Mormons were both mentioned. Oddly, nobody mentioned Judiasm. I was surprised at that. And it was assumed that a book like that would be very boring. It might indeed be, based on what I know. But whatever. So today, in a bold move that’s bound to get me unfriended on Facebook by hundreds of people, I’m diving into this headfirst for a little exposition on religion, sex, and, more specifically, erotica.

First off, let me start by saying that if none of the people in this country who profess to be morally upright and sexually pure had bought Fifty Shades of Gray, EL James would still be standing in her kitchen, baking cupcakes and wondering how she was going to pay her bills. Frankly, I’ve never seen so much sneaking around since my friend V started dating a Black guy (gasp!) in high school. (That was a long time ago, folks, long time.) They went in droves to the bookstores, hid them in the bottoms of baskets covered with Christianity Today magazines, bought them online and waited by the mailbox before anyone could ask what they’d bought, and read them in the shed out behind the garage out behind the neighbor’s house so no one would know. Before you say I’m judging, just let me say I know some of these women, and I’m not making this up, nor have I said they’re wrong for reading it. Sneaking around, wrong; reading it, not wrong. So before you get all up on your high horse about me pointing this out, know that I know first hand that it’s happening. Don’t argue this point with me. Like taking a shower in a raincoat, it’s futile.

Second, before you start spouting all your religious mumbo-jumbo, let me make a confession to all of you: As recently as thirteen years ago, I was estimated to be the best-trained Southern Baptist adult division Sunday school teacher in this area. Conferences. Workshops. Speaking engagements. I did it all. Traveled to St. Louis to train with the premiere speakers bureau in the United States, CLASServices (Christian Leaders, Authors, and Speakers Services), and got my certification, yes I did, in front of at least a thousand people. Worked for a pregnancy care center where I discovered that the other volunteers were putting the hard-sell on pregnant girls to become born-again Christians just so to get diapers and formula (not my style even back then). Yes – I was one of those people. I’m embarrassed now, but back then, I was very, very proud. Know anybody who could use a massive, expensive, comprehensive Judeo-Christian reference library? I’ve got one for sale.

Third, yes, there is religious erotica. Before you say it, I know what the term “religious” means. I’m using it in this for the purpose of this blog entry to reference a belief system, not a practice. Now you’re getting your hackles up; I can see them from here. I’ve got one thing to say about that:
Song of Solomon/Songs. Might as well concede now – I just won that argument.

If you argue with me that there is no such thing as religious erotica, you have obviously not read this book in the current version of the Christian Bible. Current version, you ask? Yeah, the one that’s being printed now, you know, the one that numerous books have been taken from and added to over the course of time? Yeah, that alpha and omega, the one that’s constantly in flux since it was compiled.

A lot of theologians will argue that the Song of Songs is merely metaphor. Poppycock. Read it. And before you start reading it again, remember that Solomon, in case you didn’t know, was the biggest, baddest sorcerer who ever lived. That’s also pretty much been proven through ancient texts not included in the Bible. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t accurate; that just means that they haven’t been embraced by a bunch of theologians who typically don’t embrace things they don’t understand.

The Song of Songs is erotica at its finest. If you want to write erotica, read it. Please. It’ll give you a perspective that you won’t get anywhere else, an ancient one. Makes the Kama Sutra look like a new book. And so, let me give you a key verse from that book while I have this Bible lying here on my lap (yes, I still have one and, surprisingly, it has not spontaneously combusted yet) and let you draw your own conclusions. It’s Song of Songs 6:3, New International Version: “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies.”

This supposedly takes place in the Shulammite woman’s garden. I don’t care. He ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no tiger lilies here, no he is not.

Here’s another passage, Song of Songs 4:1-7 (NIV): “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon, your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. Your neck is like the tower of David, built with elegance; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense. All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

Somehow, I think if someone told me that my teeth were like a flock of sheep shorn, I might take offense, but somehow apparently that was quite the compliment in those days. But having parts of my body compared to a “mountain of myrrh” and a “hill of incense?” Yeah. I could go with that.
But you see what I mean. Metaphor be damned – this is the real deal. And that’s one of the milder passages.

That leaves this question: Why are women all over this country who profess to be devoutly religious hiding to read erotica?

It’s because they’ve been taught that their bodies are shameful. Dirty and smelly. Unpleasant and unattractive. Kate Upton is an exception. And she brings up another question.

What does Victoria’s Secret use as its marketing symbol? Angels. Dream angels. Models with wings, wings of biblical proportions. My sister-in-law just mentioned that she’s reading a book where angels are having sex. My brain just screamed, “Whaaaa?” That was a shocker. But let me tell you that as I was cleaning out the remains of my inlaws’ estate, I went through their shed and what did I find? My sister-in-law’s Victoria’s Secret catalogs, all ferreted away by my father-in-law for his viewing pleasure while he was out in the shed. Made me a little afraid to touch anything else in there. We now call Victoria’s Secret catalogs “Southern Baptist deacon porn.” Makes me giggle.

Of curiosity is the fact that there’s a passage in Genesis where the “sons of God” coming down to mate with “the daughters of men” is mentioned. What does that mean? Angels? Aliens? I have no idea. Supposedly, their mating brought about the Nephilim, a super race of extremely large, strong people, or men at least. The women aren’t mentioned (surprising, right?). And if you question a conservative fundamentalist, they’ll tell you that Adam and Eve’s children obviously mated with each other, given that they were the only people in the world, or there wouldn’t be a human race now. I don’t know what they call that where you live, but in most of the country they call that incest. In Kentucky we still call it marriage, but whatever. You get my point.

And I was at a conference last year where a writer was talking about her books and the fact that she writes Christian romance. If I remember correctly (and she’s a FB friend of mine, so she can correct me if I’m wrong), she has trouble within the genre because, unlike the other Christian romance writers out there, she doesn’t see sex as something dirty, especially between a married couple. She tries to portray it realistically, and she gets into trouble with that sometimes. I think that’s a shame.

So where do I stand on religous erotica? Haven’t seen any except Song of Songs, but I’d love to read some. That would be interesting. I’d like to read some. I’d like to see some bold, brave, risk-taking writer say, “To hell with all of you! I’m writing religious erotica! Religoius people have sex too!” Well, they do. I did. Apparently a lot of religious people have.

Know what I think the problem is? In erotica, women actually enjoy sex. And that’s wrong. Sex is supposed to be for men to enjoy and women to endure. It’s for men to procreate, and for women to be the vessels for their procreation.

And if that’s true, choke on this: The clitoris is the only organ known to man that has no function except to provide pleasure. That’s its only use. So suck on that. No, I mean literally; suck on it. Works every time.

Get on it, writers. I know there are a bunch of you out there wondering what genre isn’t saturated and trying to find something new and creative. This is it. And I want to read it. Get in touch with me and let me take a look. I’ll see if I can crank up my conservative radar and give you a reading on how it’ll be received.

Because if it’s well received, it’ll mean you obviously did it wrong.


  1. You just cant help yourself can you? hehehe. You always have got to stir the pot that's why I love reading your post. :-)

  2. Hi Deanndra, I love this post and wondered about this myself. I once did a search for "spiritual erotica" and found a site where I described what I wrote. I was instantly chastised and banned for pushing pornography even though someone had set up the site. My point is, I write erotica with a non- religious but spiritual angle based on our real life views. In my first book, "Mr. and Mrs. Average Joe," the characters, one of whom is Japanese and from an entirely different culture, discuss this. They also take the Catholic church to task, not only for their intolerance of gays and such but also the hypocrisy concerning sex. The characters also discuss and share books and teachings that my wife and I have enjoyed through the years. Surprisingly, to me at least, no one has mentioned this in a review or seems to be turned off by it. In my fourth book, the two main female characters are going to write their own spiritual guide and we'll describe it between all the hot, steamy parts. It will be a "book within a book" situation and we're really looking forward to it. It's also going to include many of the things Joan Price's books address concerning sexuality and aging. I just want to let you know you're not the only erotic author thinking about these things. The discussion is long overdue in my mind and thanks for bringing it up!

  3. Great, great essay Deanndra. As a writer, it has also been a struggle to separate religion and the stuff that I write in my books. Yes, I also write erotica, not the hard-core but the very hot vanilla type. Sometimes, it just gets more hilarious because I forget that i just put God and fuck in one sentence or paragraph. And not to disrespect, too, just context. I do that during my unguarded moments of furious writing but when I edit, my delete button is put to good use. There's just this voice inside me that cautions me not to speak faith in the same breath with lust.

    Like you, I've read extensively on the evolution of the current bible and all those ancient gospels related to it. I think the old testament had no aversion to eroticism. In fact, it is one aspect of humanity that was not condemned strongly by God in those times. Solomon having 400 wives, 700 concubines and he was a favored son of God. That does make make him, a very very erotic or shall we say highly sexual character, right? David had mistresses and it was the least of his sins. Isaac had how 2 wives? And this happened after Adam and Eve was banished from the garden of Eden, too. They bit the apple and suddenly, they were ashamed of their naked bodies. I would think that after the banishment, sexual excesses would have been a very scary "sin" for mankind to commit. But it wasn't the case.

    I think it was only during the conception of the new testament that love for sexual pleasure and the honest display of it became a taboo. This is my opinion only based on my readings. I think, sex was designed strategically by some politically motivated people in those days to control mindset, perspectives. It was like brainwashing to a certain ideology and it stuck to this day. It was the most successful coup of mankind's free will I could ever think of. Nothing beats religious laws. People follow without question. The fear of going to hell is terrifying, of course.:)

    But going back to the main topic. Erotica vs religion. I think it's about time writers start exploring the religiosity of carnality. Modern Christianity is the most uptight of all the main religions. But i think Solomon and David were the original practitioners of Tantra. Remember David's dance? It had been described repeatedly as "uninhibited". In those days, uninhibited had no bad sexual connotation. Today, uninhibited has a whole new meaning and it is mostly attributed to sexual freedom. And that's just so sad.


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