In the November edition of their monthly column, author, activist, and porn star Liara Roux answers readers’ questions about everything from charismatic narcissists to erotic literature
I want to get more into reading smut, but I feel like so much of it is tacky, or just doesn’t jive with my, uh, aesthetic sensibilities. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to look for the more offbeat stuff. I think I am equally as invested in the literary merit as I am in being turned on, and I have a low cringe tolerance. I have fantasized lately about bringing new meaning to the idea of “pleasure reading.”
Do you have any recommendations for where to peruse?
While, sadly, I am not really a self-pleasure expert in general—I only really learned how to masturbate during the pandemic—I do love well-written erotica. Much of my favorite horny literature, though, has been embedded in larger books, so it’s probably not suitable for “pleasure reading.”
I would suggest starting with Anaïs Nin if you haven’t checked her out already. Her collection of erotic short stories, Delta of Venus, might just be what you’re looking for! Nin strikes the fine balance between poetry, earnest horniness, and good storytelling that, in my mind, makes for the best erotica.
If you’re into BDSM, the works of Marquis de Sade and Histoire d’O are true classics of the genre. In general, French writing seems to make less of a distinction between erotica, romance, and “literature”—very refreshing! You may find more luck looking for erotic stories that are translated from French. (It’s worth noting that Anaïs Nin was living in Paris when she wrote the stories collected in Delta of Venus!)
For contemporary erotica, Archive of Our Own might be a good place to start! It’s a massive collection of fan fiction, much of which is erotic. It’s helpfully sorted by tags, as well, so if there’s a particular type of content you’re looking for (or trying to avoid), you can do so more easily. Fan fiction is not particularly known for its prose, but I happen to know a few celebrated authors who anonymously posted back in the day. If you’re willing to dig, there is hidden gold.
“In general, French writing seems to make less of a distinction between erotica, romance, and ‘literature’—very refreshing!”
I am in the midst of a crisis of faith—of faith in life. A project I’ve been working on for the past 20 years seems doomed to failure. I’ve invested so much of myself in it—my money, my time. I’ve made sacrifices that perhaps I shouldn’t have made. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve considered suicide. I can’t think of a way out of the mess I’ve made for myself.
It’s when things feel most hopeless that we are really able to take stock of what matters to us. I’m not sure what this project represents to you, but clearly, it’s something of great importance. Failure may be humiliating and terrifying, but it is not the end.
I think you should meditate on the reasons behind your pursuit of this project. Did you think it would redeem you? I was raised in an extremely religious family. My mother told me from a very young age that I was horrible, terrible, sinful, destined for Hell—unless I trusted the saving grace of Christ.
While I don’t believe anyone—let alone a five-year-old child—is destined to Hell, I do think hearing this sort of talk gave me a very doomed and absolutist conception of the world. I still sometimes have an intrusive thought on repeat: I’m bad I’m bad I’m bad I’m bad. It’s tempting to try to look for redemption. To try to find something, anything I can do that will make me better and worthy of love.
But we are all worthy of love. We are all worthy of forgiveness. We are all worthy of patience and kindness. I don’t believe in the God of Abraham. I don’t like to think of things in terms of redemption; it feels so carceral, so black-and-white. I don’t believe in original sin. But I do believe in love.
Loving oneself isn’t easy, especially because we all make mistakes. But that doesn’t make us inherently flawed. It just makes us human. Alive. Kindness is a practice. It’s an action we take. We all make choices, and we live with the results. We move through them. Perhaps, sometimes, we need to apologize. Perhaps we need to take action to make things right. Perhaps we mess up in a way that results in others no longer wishing to be around us. We move through it. We change, we grow.
Growth is hard. It’s painful. It’s letting an old self die, or a conception of a self. Perhaps this project became very tied up with your sense of self-worth. But no project can ever determine our worthiness. Perhaps you need to let certain ideas you had about yourself die. Perhaps some part of you will change, but new growth will spring forth in its place.
You’re reaching out for help; this is because you want to live. You may feel great shame and fear. But I know you can find happiness, joy, and peace on the other side. This too shall pass.
Sending all my love,
“Sometimes, we do things we are fairly certain will hurt us to learn a lesson for good. That’s why most people who struggle with addiction relapse; it’s why kids touch the hot stovetop despite their parents’ warnings.”
I’ve been dating a man who is incredibly charismatic. It might not sound like a bad thing, but I’ve realized over the years that I seem to attract narcissists. He’s a great guy—very thoughtful and caring—but we’ve only been dating for two weeks and he’s already making jokes about getting married. I can’t tell if he’s just really into me, or if I’m being love bombed. Should I see it through or cut it off?
It’s always hard when our attraction seemingly works against us. It sounds like you tend to be attracted to charming men who may not actually live up to the glamor they cast around themselves. Now that you’ve recognized that pattern, you’re spotting it in this new relationship.
Joking about marriage two weeks in is a major red flag to me. How did you meet this man? Has he been a friend for some time, before you began dating? If he’s someone you’ve known for a while, and he’s not acted like this before in previous relationships, maybe he’s been holding a flame for some time, and does feel very intensely about you. But that doesn’t sound like what is happening at all.
I do not believe you can know whether you want to commit to something as intense as marriage after two weeks. So what is the point of him saying this? Either he is impulsive and lacks basic judgment (a red flag in and of itself), or he is manipulating you and thinks this is what you want to hear. And because you’ve described him as charismatic, I’d say it’s working.
You’ve identified a pattern you often find yourself in. You have a choice before you: You can continue to date this man you seemingly hardly know, with poor judgment and/or manipulative tendencies. This would perpetuate your pattern. Or, you can break it off and find out what happens when you do something outside of your regular routine.
There’s no value judgment on my part—sometimes, we do things we are fairly certain will hurt us to learn a lesson for good. That’s why most people who struggle with addiction relapse; it’s why kids touch the hot stovetop despite their parents’ warnings. I’ve made more than my fair share of errors in this way. There is no shame in learning from our experiences. It’s a part of life, of growing up. You know in your heart and in your gut what is best for you. I’m proud of you, for even just beginning to recognize this pattern you’re in.
All my love and strength,