Recently, Cosmopolitan.com came under fire for including Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov on a list of what the writer called “legitimately good erotic novels you must read.” As many readers pointed out, Dolores Haze, the obsession of protagonist Humbert Humbert, is only 12 years old and cannot consent to any sexual activity. The book was later removed from the roundup, and an editor’s note was added to the piece: “After hearing feedback and consideration, we decided to remove [Lolita] from the list.”

This led me to think about the broader role consent plays in modern erotica, and the demand for it from publishers. As the editor of Cleis Press’ Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series, among dozens of other anthologies (full disclosure: one of my anthologies was included on the Cosmopolitan.com list.), it is a subject I’m deeply familiar with. I’ve gone back to authors who’ve submitted stories where consent wasn’t clear and suggested ways they could finesse their writing to make affirmative consent consistent. I wanted to see if this was standard practice.

The editors I contacted for this article all emphasize that consent is crucial to their editorial process, though each has different processes for handling its portrayal. They all accept submissions from the general public, with guidelines that delineate what they’re looking for specifically from authors, including treatment of consent.

Ellen Clark, co-founder of the erotica app Sunsette, which launched in Jan. 2019, tells Bustle that “consent is included in all of our characters’ interactions.” In their writing guidelines, they list “non-demeaning/degrading scenarios” as a crucial component. Clark explains, “The litmus test for us as copyeditors is whether the consent is ‘strongly believable.'” Sometimes, this is nonverbal, if the context “strongly suggests consent,” but “if a character verbalizes consent but the context of the story suggests something contrary to that statement, it’s not believable, and the story wouldn’t be published.” Clark says the issue is so important to Sunsette, that lack of consent is the biggest reason stories are rejected from the platform.

Read the full article: 

How 4 Erotica editors establish consent in every single one of their stories by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Apri 18th, 2019