On the Value of an Image

Photo by & courtesy of Chintz Curtain

“Behind the Lens” by Chintz Curtain

This week I had the enviable task of choosing the Sinful Sunday Weekly Round Up. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the meme, Sinful Sunday is a project started and curated by Molly Moore of Molly’s Daily Kiss. To find out more about Sinful Sunday, click here.

Unlike other memes, Sinful Sunday is “all about the image,” which is the biggest reason I’ve been drawn back to it week after week for months. The images that made up week 188 of the project were hard to narrow down – there was a ton of sexiness, sure, but there was vulnerability too, and elegance and art. There were happy people, reveling in their bodies or the bodies of their partners; there were images that were unapologetically and joyfully pornographic, and photographs that implied more than they showed. Here are the images I ultimately picked, though I could have happily chosen more.

The meme is incredibly popular among sex bloggers, a group of writers that I love for their frank approach to sex, kink, body image and relationships, but I would especially encourage erotica writers to check it out too.

A great deal of erotica writing is the spinning of fantasy. Fantasy sells, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that from the perspective of either the producer or the consumer, it does mean that erotica is generously populated by chiseled Doms and slinky, latex-coated nymphs. Again, that’s fine and fun and grand. God knows that I’ve written my fair share of idealized bodies – women who gush with arousal when faced with a devilish smile, and men who saunter around comfortably at a muscular 6’3. They are fantasy people, Hollywood people, people that allow us to slip into a fantasy and escape our mundane lives. But… they aren’t representative of what’s real.

What’s real are breasts that are small enough to palm, or bellies that are soft and comfortable. Real is the blissed out smile on a sub’s mottled, tear stained face, or the plump, dimpled wrist peeking out from under a worn leather cuff. It’s the woman with mascara running down her face as she sucks off her man, or the guy lying in bed, idly stroking his flaccid cock. The bodies aren’t always rock hard. Sometimes there is pubic hair, sometimes there isn’t. The images capture moments that are, at times, more vulnerable, or irreverent, than overtly sexy. But that is real. And it’s beautiful. And there are real, valuable stories in every one of those pictures.

I’ve been writing from paintings and photographs for as long as I can remember. The very first story I ever wrote, a vicious little cautionary tale called, “Object Lesson,” was inspired by an Edward Gorey illustration, and I recently wrote a piece for Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. I’ve even written from a Sinful Sunday image before, and I have to say that, objectively speaking, the story that resulted may be my best.

As an erotica writer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in creating fantastic ideals. Honestly, I enjoy creating fantasies. But fantasies can also be based on reality, on slices of humanity that touch us in some way. Fantasies can star men and women of all shapes and sizes, at all stages or life. Fantasies can become more than just an escape, they can give you a peek into someone else’s life. Sinful Sunday reminds me of that. Outside of the aesthetics, beyond the sexiness of  the meme, that’s why I look for it every week, because it is all about the image, and the image is all about a person. Ultimately, that’s the kind of erotica I love to write.

Have I participated in Sinful Sunday? No – not yet. But honestly, out of a sense of fair play, I very likely will.

PS – Exhibit A is currently running his second Sinful Stories competition, and it’s exactly in the spirit of what I’m talking about. The contest is open until Monday, November 24th. Click here for the rules. I’ll be posting my own entry, based on this photograph by Happy Come Lucky later this weekend. Please do have a look at the images from Week 187 and possibly consider entering. There are so many stories to be had out of an image if you look.

NOTE: It’s important to mention that if you do decide to write a piece of fiction based on a Sinful Sunday image, (or indeed any image not in the public domain), ethics and good manners require you to get the creator’s permission first.

 

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