Voices Worth Hearing
Gwendolyn Kansen is going to be big news. Her thoughtful approach to writing about sex is a much needed oasis in the dry, sandy planes of modern erotic fiction. No more bland, whimpering heroines for us at Erotic Towers; we’ll take Gwendolyn any day.
When and why did you start writing about sex?
I had a lot of sex in college, some of it hilarious and some of it humiliating. I know that young female sex writers are common as dirt but I think I have some pretty unique material. I’m trying to make a name for myself as a writer based on it.
I started a sex humor website a couple of years ago on the People of Walmart network. I ran it for a year and I’m glad I got to reach a wide audience, but it was hard to sustain a post every day. (Example of post: A boyfriend once yelled at me: “It takes three months to build up semen and you took it all in three hours!”)
This time around I’m taking my stories more seriously. I think there’s more than enough glib writing out there about novelty sex with crazy people. I’d rather explore why such people behave in the way they do.
What aspects of sexuality interest you, and what do you prefer to write about?
Power. Sex can be used to accomplish pretty much any goal, and most of those goals revolve around gaining power. For example, I think that the obsession with people being good in bed implies that sex is not a shared experience in these situations; it’s more a performance that people use to impress each other in order to add brownie points to their overall level of desirability. People have sex with the most impressive people they can find in order to gain social power by bragging about it later. It’s sad, but I think Bertrand Russell was right when he said power is humanity’s primary desire.
I also tend to write about unstable people, who try to control others to compensate for being unable to control themselves. That makes the power struggle stand out even more. My other favorite topic is how people differentiate right and wrong.
Tell us about your novel-in-progress, Outcastes!
Outcastes is based on my time in college. I see college students and twentysomethings presented thoughtfully on blogs like Thought Catalog and on shows like Girls, but I don’t see my age group represented anywhere in a way that my friends and I can relate to. We went to a shitty college and a lot of us have real problems. Basically I want to give a voice to people who don’t really have one in the media. My characters have autism, cerebral palsy, low IQs, and other unfashionable conditions and are trying very hard to have sex and relationships like everyone else. I know a lot of gay men too, and while they’re seen on TV all the time they are presented pretty one-dimensionally. I want to show real people beyond that trope. I also included each character’s financial background, which a lot of mainstream writers are afraid to do.
I’m not interested in affirming or refuting any stereotype and I am not interested in any kind of politically correct agenda. I just want to show a group of unusual people as they are and show the reader that their battles are worth fighting. I hope that making it erotica is a statement in itself.
You’ve self-published on the Amazon kindle store; how do you feel about selfpublishing as a career move? Is it a road you intend to pursue, or are you planning to go down a more traditional publishing route?
I plan to keep writing erotic shorts on Kindle, but once I finish Outcastes I’m going to look for a literary agent. There’s so much erotica on Kindle already that it’s hard to get attention. Plus I’ll be taken more seriously as a writer if I have official approval.
I’m nervous about my marketability though. Erotica = sex to most people, so readers and publishers alike would have to get out of that box to enjoy reading a book with a social message that has a lot of sex scenes in it.
Many people have misconceptions about autism. Do you feel that autism affects your sexuality? If so, how so? Has having autism presented you with any difficulties in discovering/ expressing yourself sexually?
I’ve made it a point to write about autism because I want readers to see that autistic people are as multifaceted as neurotypical people. But keep in mind that I’m writing about very high-functioning autism here: all of the people I’m writing about can keep an introvert job or stay in school almost as well as most people.
I don’t know all the ways in which it affects my sexuality, because I don’t know what it’s like to not be autistic. But I have become pretty obsessed with sex in the same way other autistic people are obsessed with other things. One of my friends with autism is similarly obsessed with politics. I have way more fun than he does. (Even though he was a lot of fun in bed.)
I touch my partners’ face a lot if I like him. I’ll gaze intently at him and run my hand over his eyes and nose and lips. I had a very socially adept boyfriend who worked with autistic people. I didn’t tell him I had it for a while, but he said he knew because of how I touched his face. I played with his eyebrow ring a lot and he hated it.
I’ve slept with other autistic people, and they aren’t much different in bed than regular people. There’s no difference in eye contact, intimacy, or sexual ethics. The pissed-off ones are generally better in bed than the innocuous awkward ones though. Some of us are into BDSM, which is common for repressed people in general.
The social differences outside the bedroom, however, are more pronounced. I think it’s generally easier for autistic men because they can be the eccentric professor type and eventually find a woman who’s cool with that. Women can even be attracted to the aloofness and the intensity if it’s expressed the right way. It’s tougher for women because we are expected to be better at expressing our feelings and dealing with other people’s in a timely and appropriate manner. I tend to date guys who are either tremendously awkward themselves or who have excellent social skills; nothing in between. Once in a while I’ll meet a guy who wants to save me. I haven’t figured out if that makes for a sustainable relationship yet.
At Erotic Towers, we find a lot of online erotica isn’t always that erotic… What do you look for in a good erotica protagonist?
First off, I always write in the first person for any genre, because I think that adds an automatic window into the protagonist’s mind. I used myself as my protagonist in “20 Hours on the Greyhound” and in Outcastes. Most of my characters are like me or like people I know so they won’t come across as phony. I’m introspective and easily surprised, but I can be mouthy sometimes and I get off easily so I guess I make a pretty good lead.