My Sex Positive Story: Rachel Kramer Bussel

Our sex positive interview series features mavericks from the worlds of sex tech and erotic writing. This is part one of an interview with Best Women’s Erotica editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Erotica editor Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel is a prolific writer, editor, and advocate for erotica. She has been published in over 100 erotica anthologies as well as editing over 60 of her own, including The Big Book of Orgasms, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, as well as the Best Bondage Erotica of the year and Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series. Her books have won 8 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book) Awards.

Carol Battle talked to Rachel in the lead up to the publication of Best Women’s Erotica Volume Six about insights gleaned from over 20 years writing and editing erotica.

CB: We’d love to hear your story. How did you come to do what you do?

RKB: I’ve been writing for erotica for almost half my life! I feel like I really fell into it because I was never a fiction writer. I was always a writer from when I was little, but I was a non-fiction writer. I wrote articles and essays and letters to the editor. I started reading erotica when I was in college and I just was really taken with it.

I thought it was very exciting, both sexually exciting and it was also a whole new world of writing different from the fiction that I had read before.

I wrote one short story and it got published in a book called Star Fucker.  I will never forget when I saw it in a bookstore before I even got my copy in the mail. I started crying because it was so exciting.

It didn’t occur to me to use a pseudonym.

I think that story came out in 2000, and since then I’ve written a whole bunch more stories.

Then I started editing my own erotica books, and through that, I started teaching erotica, writing classes, some in-person some online and now I feel like erotica is a big part of my life. I also read other things, but I try to, you know, follow what’s happening in erotica and I always say to myself that if I ever get bored by it, I’ll stop.

But I don’t think I ever will, because one thing I think is really wonderful about erotica is that there’s always something new.

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Even if the sex acts you’re reading about are the same, you know, even if you’ve read a story about a threesome or a story about spanking or whatever it is, someone could always write one that is different than what you’ve read before that captivates you.

And I think finding that next person who’s telling that story, that’s intriguing or talking about something I’ve never thought about before. I love getting swept up in that, like I’m reading erotica for the first time.

I’m also super interested in the psychology of sex and erotica.  I like to understand what is turning this person on—how the the emotional and mental side of it mixes with the physical.

I think both in real life and in writing, a person could do something physical to you, or you could touch yourself in one physical way and it might turn you on one day and not turn you on the next day. And why is that?

And I think that’s the same for characters or people we change, maybe not day-to-day, but over time. Or maybe like something that turns you on with one partner, doesn’t turn you on with another partner. Why is that? I think there are authors who can explore that really well and it’s why I haven’t reached a boredom state. I’m always intrigued! I think erotica is very democratic. For those who have desires, I think that feels very personal and different to everyone.

Rachel has been writing and editing erotica for over 20 years and has published 6 volumes of Best Women’s Erotica.

Rachel has been writing and editing erotica for over 20 years and has published 6 volumes of Best Women’s Erotica.

Even if the thing you’re fantasizing about is similar to what someone else is thinking about it, it’s specific to you. When you bring that out in writing and really get into why something turns you on and it might be something very minute or super hyper specific, like I knew someone who was turned on or intrigued by women who would leave their office and change out of their high heels into sneakers.

It wasn’t just a foot fetish or a high heels fetish or a sneaker fetish, or it was about that transformation. To me, that it’s just that those kinds of ways of looking at the world and eroticism will always fascinate me because that is just endlessly intriguing.

I think most of us have something very personal and specific, and I think anyone could enjoy that if it’s done in the right way.

You don’t have to share that fetish to enjoy reading about it or listening to a story about it. Because you’re getting swept up in the poetry of it the same way you would any other type of story.

It’s an interesting assumption with erotica that your imagination needs to be something you actually want.

It can’t just be something that you are entertained by imagining, that someone else might want. It’s sad to me that people, even now, feel like they can only read a book if they are interested in a particular act as opposed to just getting into the fantasy of it. I think we should all be able to enjoy the space of fantasizing without the pressure of what it means.  Maybe it just means that a thing can transport you from your everyday life to somewhere different.

Maybe you want to try that today or a year from now or 20 years from now, but maybe you don’t, you don’t have to.

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I think it’s the other thing that I’m intrigued and curious about too, in terms of perspective and imagination is writing from the other perspective. Whether it’s a woman writing from the man’s perspective, a man writing from the woman, a straight person, writing from a gay, whatever it is, it’s really challenging.

I’ve pushed myself to do it. And when I teach erotica writing and I push my students to at least try it.  I think for a lot of us, myself included, our first entry into erotica is writing either autobiographical stories or stories that stem from something in our lives. Maybe we change the setting or the characters, but the initial spark of an idea is from our lives.

CB: What’s your view on writing from the perspective of “the other”?

RKB: I think writing about people who are different from you forces you to step out of that way of looking at the world.  Maybe you’re still writing about something that happened to you, but from a different perspective, from a person who is not you. And I think that’s a good challenge.

You learn a lot about your assumptions, about other people, about other groups and your own group through the process of writing from a different perspective.  I think there is a common humanity to all of us.

I don’t think we’re as different as we may like to think.

I think sometimes when you set out to write a story you might fall back on stereotypes and then it’s on you to kind of investigate: Where did this come from? Is this based on the stereotype about this group? Is it about this specific character? Why did you write it this way? Let’s say you’re a straight woman and you’re writing about a gay man or a cis-gender person wrigint about a transgender person — maybe you have more in common than you think.

I think the trick is really to write it about a person or people about characters. I’m now going to write about all of the sex experience, because you can’t.  Any group is full of lots of individual people who are all different.

So maybe two people who both have foot fetishes have way more in common, even though they’re different genders or different ages or whatever it is, than two people who share sexual orientation or gender, have very different approaches to their fantasy life.

Begging for more? Our interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel continues next week. You can buy Best Women’s Erotica Volume 6 here, and sign up to our newsletter to make sure you never miss a story.