Writing and Your Moral Code #2 – Erotica or No?

picture-41A few days ago I wrote about the dilemma writers face when it comes to taking part in a particularly juicy story that would guarentee hits and Google juice, but could add to the  sensationalism of the story or contributing focus on the real issues at hand.

One comment stood out and got me thinking on a whole other level. Bobbi C wrote:

Terreece,
When I first looked at your article, I thought you’d be discussing things further down the moral code scale like reviewing adult videos, writing erotica, or writing for a term paper mill.

This is an important area to cover because the jobs in these fields are plentiful and writers have to decide what works for them. Some say work is work and it doesn’t matter the client or the work as long as you put a professional face on it and complete your job, and they have a point. On the other hand, a lot of your success in writing will be tied to how you feel about the work you produce. When you’re passionate about something you tend to excel at what you’re doing. When you’re working because it’s work, people tend to go through the motions.

It is important to realize that the adult writing market has a wide spectrum of work available. Writers could be asked to write anything from ladies lingerie descriptions for catalogs, reviews for products, movies or books to writing content for web sites offering a wider selection of adult entertainment. I’ve done a little catalog work and it can be fun to write little cheeky puns, but you need to be aware of what may affect your other works down the line.

One of the side benefits of freelance work is the accumulation of clips. You will have to be selective in using clips from your adult writing to gain, say magazine gigs. You wouldn’t want to use your article on the best ouch-free nipple clamps to get a gig writing a belly button care article for a parenting magazine. Some future work may be more sensitive to your past work including corporate clients. Some writers choose to use pen names for this type of work.

Paper mills are another matter entirely. Normally I leave it up to the writer to decide, but I’m telling you in no uncertain terms – don’t do it. You’re setting up some poor kid for failure, not because your paper sucks, but because you’re helping them to learn how to take the easy, dishonest way out. They are bound to get caught or your paper might be their gateway drug to further cheating. Do you want that on your conscience?

Spill FWJ – have you written about dirty bits before?



Comments

  1. Haven’t yet. I’ve got an idea for a short story that will probably end up being rather dirty, and I have no intentions on sugar coating it at all.

  2. I have written an adult short story before. I wrote it for a contest. It didn’t win the contest, but it was published by a couple of erotica sites. It was more fun to write than an SEO article about barbeque grills!

    Agree about the term paper mills. I worked hard on my term papers in college. Everyone else should too.

  3. Short answer….not yet. I think it would depend on the project and whether I thought that I could do the work up to the client’s standards and whether I felt knowledgeable enough about the specific subject matter.

  4. Somewhat. My first contribution on my current gig was a primer on polyamory from a semi-personal standpoint. As I’m writing for the Sex&Love section, my future articles may focus on naughtier things. I chose to go with a pen name because I have to weigh my work as an aspiring writer against my academic goals as well.

  5. I won’t write term papers for writers at any level (I’ve seen ads for people to write PhD dissertations …). I will work with students as a writing coach – it’s a different thing.

    Since I’m a specialist (writing about data, trends, market research, business, finance) I haven’t considered writing on “adult videos” and the like. I must admit I was tempted to respond to a recent CL ad placed by a male looking for a female to partner with him in writing about female supremacy! lol

  6. Yep, I have! In fact, it’s become my niche, which is weird. I’ve written for several lingerie and sex toy blogs, as well as described porn videos, and even written on behalf of a made up sexy lesbian. I’ve also written and edited escort reviews.

    I find it two parts horrifying and hilarious. It’s important to know your limits because frankly, you will get asked to write about the most disgusting things. I’ve had to turn down stuff because it made me horribly uncomfortable.

    On the other hand, it can be really funny. I think especially since I’m a woman and women view porn diffrently then men. Sometimes the things I come up with are beyond hilarious.

    I think the most important thing is being comfortable. If you aren’t fully comfortable, don’t attempt it.

  7. The PR professional in me looks at it this way: if you wouldn’t want it associated with you publicly, don’t do it at all.

    What you write for one client can severely impact your professional image among others. When you go into business, image management is a natural part of the game.

    That’s not to say something like erotica is wrong for everyone. Maybe that’s their target market. Maybe that’s the type of image they want to build a career around. And that’s fine. But if that type of work would cost you business if others found out, you should steer clear. For example, it’s probably not something a Christian writer or parent blogger would want to touch, for any reason.

    A lot of people who take anything that comes along do it in ghostwritten form, so they assume they’re safe. But you would be surprised at what can get around. Clients are always referring writers and other contractors to other people they know. Your name might suddenly “get around” in the adult Web industry if people like your work, and you’d be even more surprised by how many people in that area run other businesses where word spreads as well.

    Just keep your reputation in mind. It doesn’t mean you have to do what everyone else things is “right” all the time, but you should always evaluate how certain projects could reflect on you before agreeing to take them on.

  8. I risked a lucrative and solid writing gig by refusing to write about an issue that is against both my religion and my moral code. Although I could have tackled the subject from my own slant, I knew that wasn’t what the venue wanted. I swallowed hard, contact my editor, and politely and professionally told her I could not complete that particular assignment (but that I’d be more than happy to take another in its place). Thankfully, the editor shared my view and reassigned the piece and I am still working for this publication. But it was scary all the same. I have had vendors from industries I refuse to work with (pornography, etc) approach me through my website seeking my services for public relations and marketing and I have turned them away. I think every writer must decide for himself what line he will draw in the sand. For myself, I cannot separate my religious and moral code of ethics from my work.

    When I worked in corporate America as a marketing manager, I chose to work in a field I’m passionate about – education – rather than in other industries that paid better, but lacked moral fiber.

    We all make choices. If we make them in congruence with our value system, I believe we will be happier and more productive in the long run. Turning down an immediate assignment is hard, particularly when there are bills to be paid and it’s a lean month, but in the long run, things tend to work out for the best when you stick to your values.

  9. Term papers I will not write under any circumstance, nor will I write anything that promotes a position I find unfavorable. However, I do write some erotica under a pen name.

  10. I think a lot of people avoid any writing assignments that are even remotely risqué. My editor contacted me a while back asking if I would do some sexual how-to articles that no one else wanted to touch. While I wouldn`t write this sort of thing on my blog, I`m not uncomfortable working on articles like this, so I said yes and promptly got a month`s worth of work, even though it was a slow time.

    Everyone has to choose according to their own beliefs and morals, but for me, writing some how to articles is not a big deal and it pays the bills. And no, my name was not on it. But of course, I`m admitting it here, so potential employers COULD find out. :)

  11. There’s a quote from a song that I love “you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” You have to know where your line is and then refuse to cross it. This goes for everything from content to pay. Once you start giving in then you will eventually collapse under the pressure.

    As for the paper mills – cheating is cheating no matter how you describe it.

  12. I can’t do it–write erotica, that is. I just…um…well…it…I…look–I’m no prude, but I have to do it my way. I can NOT take it seriously when I see erotica. It makes me laugh. If there were some kind of lighthearted erotic writing, I would probably try it…but not serious stuff. Now, product descriptions are a different story. I’ve done…um…personal…uh…lubri…uh…you know–product descriptions–before. It’s a little awkward, but it’s not so bad. At least I don’t have to get graphic about what you do with them. Oh, I did do a How-to article on kissing too. That was…weird–but not objectionable. Plus I had to practice a LOT to make sure I had the steps right. Hubby didn’t seem to mind :)

  13. In a creative fiction class I wrote a Christmas erotica story that went over hugely well, had the entire class laughing in tears, and ended up being passed around the campus. People I didn’t even know would come up to me and tell me they loved my story.

    Obviously the tone is different than straight erotica (no pun intended), but it was one of the best responses I’ve ever gotten. I think part of the equation has to be your desire or willingness to connect with that particular audience as well.

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