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So, I occasionally write porn. Sometimes, when I write porn, I post the stories on Literotica.

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.


( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 12th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
Wild. I would suspect that there are lots of women who simply aren't into the non-consent, and thus not reading. I'm surprised by the men who bother to send negative e-mail. Is it clear from the content of their mail that they read your story, or is it possible a drive-by condemnation?
Dec. 13th, 2010 06:47 am (UTC)
It's possible either way. Some of the emails are little more than "That's sick and disgusting," so who knows?
Dec. 12th, 2010 08:14 am (UTC)

a form of personality theory suggests a dominant-submissive continuum of personality. i believe that theory goes on to determine that men tend toward dominant personality, and women tend toward submissive personality. if all that's true, then it would make sense that women who responded were turned on by the text, and the men who responded were also turned on, but were conditioned to self-loathe that impulse.
Dec. 12th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
that's not actually true at all, and when it does work out that way, there's very little way to separate out how much is because men and women are conditioned to be dominant/submissive, although the preliminary studies are showing a strong conditioning element and not "nature" at all.
(no subject) - mcfnord - Dec. 12th, 2010 10:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 12th, 2010 09:09 am (UTC)
This so appeals to my inner geek.

Thanks for sharing this.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 12th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
It just seems weird that the average homophobic male would be masturbating to a story that another guy wrote.

Penthouse Letters anyone? ;)
(no subject) - red_girl_42 - Dec. 13th, 2010 05:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - red_girl_42 - Dec. 13th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - doctor_drone - Dec. 14th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 12th, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
1) Mad Scientist <3

2) Props to joreth for making a very important point.
*Thumbs Up*
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 12th, 2010 12:15 pm (UTC)
Yes! I get that "shift" too. (I'm also female.)

And I can think of a particular instance with a guy where he really really wanted me to do something... until his orgasm, and then he really really didn't want it.

It is still just rather odd that people would bother responding negatively, though, if they went in search of such a story, even if they didn't like it anymore once their appetites were satisfied.
(no subject) - tacit - Dec. 13th, 2010 06:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - devianttouch - Dec. 12th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 12th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
Look at it a bit further. 26 men responded, and 10 men responded negatively. Discarding those that didn't reveal their gender, that makes over 38% of men that responded giving negative feedback that it went too far.

That's a lot. By comparison, 8 of the 116 women think it didn't go far enough, which works out to just under 7% of women responding saying it didn't go far enough, and less than 1% saying it went too far.
Dec. 12th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
Been reading the OKTrends blog, have you?

Not that I mind. Very interesting post.
Dec. 13th, 2010 06:57 am (UTC)
Actually, I haven't. I've pretty much abandoned OKC across the board, to be honest.
Dec. 12th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
Holy cats. You wrote that? The number of stories I can actually remember from Literotica and occasionally reread I can count on one hand, but yours is among them. I am somehow flabbergasted and amused to learn that I also read your LJ, even though one would think I'd have learned that the internet is a surprisingly small world by now.

Good work, hon, and thank you. :)
Dec. 13th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
Thanks! :)
Dec. 12th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
Lots of people choose sex partners based solely on appearance, which seems way weirder and less accurate than choosing based on erotica they've written, to me. At least this way you have some idea that they like what you like.
Dec. 12th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
Agreed -- frankly, I'd be MORE likely to approach a stranger who wrote/told a story that I thought was sizzling hot, vs. just approaching a stranger who just LOOKED hot. It's sexy to get a glimpse into someone's mind, and if they can write convincingly about something that turns me on, because it makes it MUCH more likely that we'd be compatible/have shared kinks.

It's not a coincidence that my three relationships of longest duration started through correspondence! :D

-- A <3
(no subject) - tacit - Dec. 13th, 2010 07:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Dec. 13th, 2010 06:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - freyaw - Dec. 14th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 12th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I had a similar revelation at a BDSM event in a class covering non-consent. When the presenter asked the D's in the class to raise a hand for one of three choices, the vast majority (male and female) feared going too far. Virtually every submissive in the room felt their Dominant didn't go far enough.

It was pretty eye opening overall, but that result stuck with me.
Dec. 13th, 2010 05:23 am (UTC)
Ah...perhaps this is the key to all of this.

If the story is written about a dominant male and a submissive female, then it follows that tacit's male readers will likely be dominant, while the females will be submissive. Perhaps the responses he has gotten aren't simply representing male vs. female points of view, but dominant vs. submissive.

This actually makes a lot of sense to me. Frankly, I think it's *good* that the men who have dominated me have been worried about hurting me, and have erred on the side of caution even when at times I wanted them to push things further. A dom who doesn't go far enough might disappoint me, but one who goes too far could traumatize me, which is far, far worse.
(no subject) - said_wednesday - Dec. 13th, 2010 09:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 13th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
Of course!
Dec. 12th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
A bunch of thoughts presented in a scattered manner, because I'm in a bit of a rush -- but if I wait until I can present "collected" thoughts ... ummm ... I won't.

First, I am not at all surprised there are more women subscribing than men, if you're talking about written porn. For visual representation of the story line, comic book-style, I'd expect there to be more men than women, or at least a more equal distribution. This is probably a mix of brain wiring and conditioning, or possibly even a touch of urban myth, but men just seem to respond faster to visual stimulation, whereas women just seem to respond faster to verbal stimulation.

And then, there's the conditioning that's been happening with the "No means No" message over the past couple of decades. Men are being taught to respect the "No", and women are being taught to use their "No". There's also been an effort to stop the placement of blame, or judgments, on the person who was attached/assaulted/raped/harassed (e.g., "she was asking for it").

Now, think about how a man is going to respond with this conditioning. His role in this fantasy is still the active "I'm the one who's doing it" role, not the passive "this is happening to me" role. So, if he gets hot-n-bothered by the thoughts of doing non-consensual things to someone, it comes with the burden of judgments.

Whereas, a woman's admitting she gets hot-n-bothered by the thoughts doesn't -- or not in the same way. After all, she could be doing what she's been taught (using her "No"), but to no avail, and she wasn't asking for it, so it's not her fault.

Not to say women don't have their own form of guilt evoked by admitting they want to be dominated by a man.
But for a woman outside the BDSM community, having the desire for dominance fulfilled by a story which presents it in a non-consensual way helps her explore that desire in a way which eliminates the "asking for it" part, at least. (There are, admittedly, some women who see male dominance and a patriarchal society as the natural way of things, so none of this would register the same way for them.)

Finally, a thought about rape vs. rape fantasy. Real rape is about the rapist's invoking physical power over the person he attacks, expressed in a a sexual manner, rather than about sex itself. Rape fantasy, on the other hand, is often more about the sexual power of the "victim" over the rapist -- e.g., he was so overpowered by attraction that he just had to have his way with her. I'm not saying that's what it is for everyone, but that is, after all, the formula that works for the bodice-ripper industry.

OK, I've lost track of my rambles, so it's time to hit post and go do stuff.
Dec. 12th, 2010 10:10 pm (UTC)
*fans self* Sorry, I need to go take a shower now. That story was freaking HAWT (not to mention your compelling use of statistics, which just confirms your "sexy geek" status).
Dec. 13th, 2010 04:15 am (UTC)
Franklin, I have to question a couple of things in this, just because of my long experience with Lit feedback & having spent time talking to the editors & such there.

First off, with this:
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..."

You'd THINK so, but there's plenty of proof on Lit it's not true.
As a for-instance, the Loving Wives section is primarily cuckold, cheating, or wife swapping/swinging stories. Always has been.
Yet there's a HUGE cadre of guys who troll that section constantly looking for any such stories SOLELY to bash the authors about how sick, disgusting, and wrong such stories are, how they don't belong there, etc.
Even tho they KNOW the section's full of those stories, they choose to spend time there.

I don't know how it plays in to the overall points about gender, either, but some of those same sorts of guys seem to haunt sections of Lit being "white knights" and defending women, attacking any story they feel is "wrong."
Dunno why you see more of that than you do of women condemning things.
Dec. 13th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC)
cuckold, cheating, or wife swapping/swinging
The problem is, those aren't remotely the same thing. Swinging and exhibitionism are great, but the humiliation-oriented cuckold fantasies creep me right the hell out.

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( 35 comments — Leave a comment )