I didn't actually intend to start writing porn, or fiction at all for that matter. A bunch of years ago, someone in IM asked me why on earth a person, especially a woman, might choose to be sexually submissive. The normal, prosaic answers that I post on my Web site didn't seem to help her, so I wrote a fiction story from the point of view of a submissive in a D/s relationship to see if that might do the trick. She liked the story quite a lot, told me I should keep writing, so I have.
Well, kind of. Sometimes years go by between writings.
Anyhow, one of the stories I've written is a sprawling (about 110,000 words and still counting) series called "Training," an unfinished first draft of which I've put on literotica and a finished, edited version which is available as an ebook. The story has proven to be extremely popular; Amazon sales of the story help pay my rent, in fact.
The series is not actually about BDSM per se. It's about non-consensual sex; it concerns a woman whose husband has decided, without permission, to turn her into a sex slave. And, interestingly, it's the most popular thing I've ever written.
I maintain an email address just for emails about Literotica stories, since Literotica has a system whereby people can send anonymous emails to story authors.
I get a lot of email about this story. A couple days back, I spent an afternoon going through the emails doing a statistical analysis of people's reaction to it. There's a lot of things about the emails that people semd me which I didn't really expect. This post is a breakdown of that analysis.
Part 1: Sex
From what I've read about Literotica, registered female users outnumber registered male users by about 4:1. (Take that, folks who think porn is just for men!)
When people send an email to a story author from Literotica, the email is anonymous, and does not reveal anything about the sender unless the sender specifically chooses to do so.
I have as of the time of this writing received a total of 222 emails about the "Training" series. A lot of the folks who send me anonymous emails tell me something about themselves. The first thing that I did was break down the emails into three categories: emails from people who specifically told me they were male, emails from people who specifically told me they were female, and emails from people where the sex of the sender wasn't revealed.
Unsurprisingly, email from women outnumbered email from men, at least among email where the senders revealed their sex:
Among people who chose to reveal their sex, women outnumbered men by almost exactly 4:1, which is consistent with the overall demographics on Literotica. This strongly suggests that women and men are almost perfectly equally likely to respond to a story on Literotica by emailing the author...at least if we disregard email from folks who choose not to reveal their sex.
There are a few potential caveats, of course. One might hypothesize that men are more likely to email than women but not to reveal their sex, if the number of emailers who don't reveal their sex is slanted toward men. It's possible the reverse is true, if the number of emailers who don't reveal their sex is slanted toward women. If women are more likely than men to email the author of a story, but also less likely than men to reveal their sex, for example, it could be that women outnumber men in the "unspecified" category by 8:1, and I wouldn't know.
Given how closely the demographics of folks who do reveal their sex matches the demographics of Literotica in general, I'm inclined to say that women who don't reveal their sex also outnumber men who don't reveal their sex by 4:1 as well...but of course, that's an inference, not something I can demonstrate.
What's really interesting to me, though, are the reactions to the story. I generally get a lot of positive response to the story and a handful of negative response, but the breakdown of positive to negative response is really interesting, and not at all what I expected.
Part 2: Reaction
None of the emails I have received about the story is neutral. This is about what I would expect; it seems unlikely that someone would take the time to email me in order to say "You know, I thought the story was kinda meh. I felt pretty neutral about the whole thing."
So it's not surprising that all of the emails were from people who either love the story or who hate it.
It's also not surprising that there are people who hate it. It's a story about non-consensual sex, a subject which is likely to be triggering for many folks.
What did surprise me was the reasons that people gave for not liking the story. Many people who disliked it thought that it was Bad And Wrong, but about two-thirds as many people didn't like the story because they felt it didn't go far enough; they believed the story needed to be more extreme.
Positive reactions to the story generally outnumbered negative reactions by about eight and a half to one:
The proportion of folks who don't like the story is likely artificially low, since it's posted in Literotica's non-consent section; to some extent, I'm a little surprised to get any negative emails at all, given that folks who read non-consent stories are a self-selecting group. It seems...unlikely that anyone would accidentally stumble onto it. "I was looking for a Sandra Bullock romantic comedy on Netflix, but somehow I found this, see, and..."
If folks are going to be upset by the story, though, I would have expected that the majority of them would have been women, given the subject matter.
But that's not actually the case at all. A breakdown of negative emails by reported sex paints just the opposite picture from what I expected.
Of the negative reactions of the "that is sick and twisted, you evil bastard" variety, the overwhelming majority (by 10 to 1 among folks who reveal their sex) are from men.
On the other hand, complaints from folks who thought the story wasn't extreme enough or didn't go far enough show the opposite, with all of the complaints coming from women, with one from a person who didn't reveal their sex:
Even if the "unknown" email is from a guy, women outnumber men by 8 to 1 in saying that they didn't like the story because they thought it should be more extreme.
Which surprised me.
Putting the negative emails together by sex, the distribution looks like this.
I'm a little surprised to see the majority of the "sick and twisted" comments coming from men, particularly when the majority of the comments at large (and presumably, the majority of the readers) are women.
Part 3: Wild-Ass Speculation
The bit I'm most surprised about is how cleanly the various negative emails I get break down by sex. I would have expected, given the subject matter, that complaints about the story's content would be more likely to come from women than from men.
It's possible, to chase one line of speculation, that many men (including, presumably, those who read stories on Literotica in the non-consent section) are strongly conditioned against demanding sex non-consensually, and that stories with that kind of theme are likely to press on that conditioning.
I've been told that the majority of women do have rape fantasies, so the fact that so many women like the story doesn't surprise me. The fact that women tell me the thing they dislike about the story is that it isn't extreme enough, on the other hand, does.
Most of the folks who complain that the story's not extreme enough are fairly specific about what they'd like to see more of. Of those, the most common request is much greater humiliation and/or involuntary public exposure; 5 of the 9 emails that complained the story sucked because it wasn't extreme enough specifically mentioned a desire for greater public humiliation of the female character by the male character. (This is a common theme in emails that are positive about the story as well, with five people who wrote to say they loved the story asking for the same thing.)
The fact that nobody who identified himself as male in the story complained that they didn't like the story because it didn't go far enough is interesting, though given the relative paucity of emails from men when compared to emails from women, it's hard to know how significant that is. It may also be that there are men who felt that way about the story, but felt it's socially unacceptable to say so.
I'm never quite sure how to respond to emails. About half the people who email me include an email address, but I rarely email back unless I'm specifically invited to do so. Of the 222 emails I've received about the story, I've probably responded directly to fewer than half a dozen.
And finally, I'm always a bit surprised when I get emails that are direct propositions or offers for sex. I've received a total of ten emails that include direct propositions, eight from people who said they were women and two from people who didn't say one way or the other. I'm a bit skeptical about someone who would think I'm a suitable partner based only on fiction that I've written, so I didn't respond to any of them.