The lovely @PosyChurchgate asked me for my thoughts on taboo in erotic fiction so I’ve had a go. Excuse me if I ramble, it’s been a long week.
The very concept of taboo is a nebulous one. Defined as something that is “Prohibited or restricted by social custom”, taboo is almost by definition a moving target that depends on the reader as much as the writer: Our current taboos are derived from our history, surroundings, culture, upbringing and a multitude of other factors. They are unique to us. Some are enshrined in law, others are merely accepted conventions in our culture at this time in history. I can guarantee that what is considered taboo today will not be the same in the future.
Erotic fiction and taboo have always gone hand in hand, and I believe there are several reasons for this. First and foremost fiction is exactly that - made up stories. Yes, it works best when it is realistic (or at least plausible) but it doesn’t have to slavishly follow the constraints of reality and because of that we can push the boundaries of what is possible or acceptable. We can venture into the uncharted territories of taboo. There is already a huge array of erotic writing outside the mainstream definitions of normal. Did you know there is a whole branch (tendril?) of tentacle porn in erotica that features alien creatures? Humans and terrestrial animals are clearly a taboo topic, not to mention illegal in most countries, but do aliens fit this criteria? Remember that what you consider an impossible and unacceptable activity today may not be so tomorrow and by the same token what is acceptable today may be utterly taboo tomorrow. In fiction I believe we should explore beyond the boundaries of acceptable and follow the stories and characters we create, let them roam wherever they need to go and do whatever the story demands they need to do. If the tale is compelling, the things those characters do along the way, and who or what they do them with, become part of their history and do not have to conform to our own morality. There is absolutely no reason to restrict erotic fiction to the legal and social conventions that we live our lives by or it risks becoming non-fiction.
To back that up I would point at a different genre, that of horror, where the most brutal and vicious acts are repeatedly described. These are not only illegal but frequently immoral (taboo) too yet no one says this is wrong. We actually expect horror stories to be full of the extraordinary and to regularly stray into deviant behaviour so why shouldn’t erotica follow the same rules? After all horror outsells erotica massively so maybe we need to follow their example.
I say we should get out there and push the boundaries in our fiction. Lets have more kink, more extremes and yes, more tentacles in our erotica.