Smut University—Research, Research, Research by @GingerWombatkat

Research, Research, Research by GingerWombatkat

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Using the rules outlined in the lesson, research a position, fetish, or other sexual activity that you normally wouldn’t be interested in exploring. Keep an open mind. If you are comfortable, apply your research physically in a safe environment. Use the information you have obtained to write a scene. Remember that personal failure makes for good writing too.

Read the Homework Submissions

Research is the cornerstone to good writing. It’s especially important for the citrusy goodness that many of us seem to favor. While not everything has to be believable, at least a thread of truth is required in order to keep people reading. 

You can do whatever you want, so long as you have some of your facts right. For instance, Edward can get away with being a crazy, maniacal bastard hell bent on ruling the world, until he decides to go for anal with no lube and Bella really enjoys it the first time. Um, ouch… You have got to use some lube at least the first time around, and even then it’s usually an acquired taste for most. How do I know…? well… Do you really need to ask?

I put in some solid time doing research. Wink ;) wink

There are two types of research. There is theoretical research done in a purely abstract manner, and then there’s the more personal side of research, henceforth referred to as “research wink ;) wink.” I’m not saying that you have to do it to write it. However, sometimes you may want to consider it, and you should definitely put some time in learning at least in a theoretical sense.

If for some reason you can’t do research wink ;) wink due to feasibility of the act, moral issues, or lack of a willing partner, there are other options. There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, but there’s also a lot of good information out there. How do we tell a good source from a bad source?

  • Rule #1: If the source is solely narrative, you must treat it as fiction. While fiction is great for inspiration, it kind of sucks when you’re trying to figure out mechanics.
  • Rule #2: Is the source written by someone who seems to be able to string together a semi-grammatically correct sentence? You do not want to be taking sex advice from teenagers using textspeak. (Although that has worked out for me once in the past, it’s generally not a good idea.)
  • Rule #3: Porn is only marginally helpful. Why? At its heart, porn is fiction. I don’t use it as a research tool – ever. Some people do, and it works occasionally.
  • Rule #4: Any source with lots of blinky, flashy ads, is probably bad. You may also want to check your computer for viruses afterward, just sayin’. Safe surfing is as important as safe sex. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clean my neighbor’s hard drive after he’s visited sites that weren’t so reputable in the name of research.
  • Rule #5: Look for analyses and forums. You want to find someplace where people are discussing the topic not just storytelling.

Nine times out of ten books are awesome sources. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to go buy a sex book. That’s what the internet is for, baby. Well, the internet and pervy friends.

In the process of writing EnPointe, one of my notes back from Malficentknits pointed out that I’d kind of glazed over where Edward restrains Bella. I did it on purpose, because I didn’t really know what I was talking about. Mal called me on it.

Here’s the original section:

My panting changed to a fearful gasp when he brought out the rope from under the bed.  Rope was never good.  It meant that he anticipated a struggle.  I struggled to calm myself.  I pulled inward and focused on breathing steadily.“Bend your knees.” His tone was so casual that he could have been talking about the weather.  I drew my knees up just below my bottom.  Edward grabbed my ankles and forced them apart.  He tied the rope around one and then to the corresponding wrist.  I couldn’t move that side.  He pulled the rope under me to the other wrist and wrapped it before securing it to the other ankle.  I instinctively tried to move and found that I was completely helpless.Edward smirked as I writhed around a bit, trying to get more comfortable.

It’s not bad, but Mal was right. It could be better. This gave me a few choices. I could steal narrative from elsewhere and conveniently reword it enough to be unrecognizable, which would be totally unethical and just wrong (it’s called plagiarism and people – including me – will kick your ass for it). I could drop the rope bondage altogether, leaving the story wanting for something. The final option was research.

My husband happens to be an Eagle Scout, so we had rope lying around. However, I really had no clue where to look for reliable information on Japanese rope bondage. That is until I remembered that one of my childhood friends had a bondage book on her shelf the last time I helped her move. I sucked up my pride, channeled my inner badass who doesn’t care what people think, and asked my friend for book recommendations. She came through with not only the book, but some informational videos. We still don’t talk about it because she’s like my little sister, and I really don’t want to know about her sexual proclivities, but I got the necessary information to write a more convincing scene.

Here’s the final draft as it appears in the story:

My panting changed to a fearful gasp when he brought out rope from under the bed. Rope was never good. It meant that he anticipated a struggle, or planned on restraining me for an extended period of time. I battled to calm myself.I haven’t been bad, I sobbed.I pulled inward and focused on breathing steadily.

“Turn over,” His tone was so casual that he could have been talking about the weather. Meanwhile, I was struggling to find sanctuary in my head from the fear. My response to rope was a Pavlovian spike of fear. I would work past it and find a quiet space inside my head, but I had to get there first. I rolled carefully and crossed my arms behind my back. This was familiar territory.

He started his intricate work on my arms, sliding the rope smoothly over my skin as he worked from the middle of the first length. I could feel my heart pounding. Edward had said “play” earlier. “Play” meant that he was going to drink, and he always made that enjoyable. The rope on the other hand wasn’t for play. He always held me with his hands for that, because I was always a good pet while he was drinking.

I’m good. I can be good.

The rope continued to slide over my skin as he tied knots at strategic points. I concentrated on the feeling of the rope instead of what it meant for my body. Edward was working slowly, he wasn’t angry. If he had been angry I would have found myself already tied and suspended, gasping in shock, and trying to adjust to the situation. If it hadn’t been completely out of character for him, I would almost have thought that he was giving me time to get used to the rope. He never cared about that kind of thing.

With my arms secure, he turned me over. I turned my head to hide the evidence of tears rolling down my cheeks. I knew that the act was pointless. He always seemed to sense when I’d been crying. I wondered if he could smell the tears, or if there was some change in my body chemistry that alerted him to my mental state. Nevertheless, I hid from him.

“Bend your knees,” his voice was softer, like he was trying not to wake me. I drew my knees up just below my bottom. Edward grabbed my ankles and gently pushed them apart. He wrapped my legs in another series of carefully placed knots, forcing each leg to remain bent, and anchoring the ropes to the knots on my arms. I had almost found a calm state of mind by the time he finished. Edward pulled away and observed his work. He liked to look at me trussed up with the rope. Sometimes he would sit and watch as my muscles grew fatigued from being held in place. I instinctively tried to move and found that I was completely helpless. My state of mind slipped back to panic. I didn’t want to stay like that all day. I thought that the lesson and the clamps were my punishment. I wiggled and tried to find a way to relax. My arms were uncomfortable with my weight on them, I was able to slide them slightly closer to the small of my back before feeling more tension.

Edward smirked as I writhed around a bit, trying to get more comfortable.

It’s drastically different from the original version. Not only is it longer, it’s sexier and darker. It also sets up a bit more of their relationship. You wouldn’t have gotten that had I glossed it over, now would you? I didn’t really have to let my husband tie me up to get the information I needed for this. Everything in there was gleaned from the rather informative material that my friend sent me.

As for research of the wink ;) wink variety, I will admit to experimenting with certain sexual positions, and substances which shall not be named (coughcoughgingercoughcough). Why? I couldn’t get my head around how that would work or what it would do no matter how much reading I did on the subject, so I tried it.

Now, I didn’t just run out and obtain the necessary items and plunge headfirst into the deep end. That would be foolish. I found some reliable websites on the topic and read about it. Then I read some more. I read about technique, safety, handling, and what to expect. After my research was complete, I figured, “Hey, what’s fifteen minutes? It’s not like it’s oil based if this goes wrong I can always wash it off.” I ventured forward carefully after that, and found that I had the necessary information to describe how that would work with some authority.

Research wink ;) wink has some rules. These are mostly for your own safety.

  • Rule #1: Traditional research comes first. Do not just dive into the deep end. If you don’t know what you’re doing you could get hurt, or embarrassed. You really do not want to have to go to the hospital because something got stuck in an intimate area and you can’t get it out, or because you’ve done something wrong and hurt yourself.
  • Rule #2: Do not do anything that would be medically inadvisable. If your MD has told you “no sex,” she probably has a reason behind it.
  • Rule #3: Use some common sense, if you have sensitive skin, allergies, or any other complications to experimentation make sure that you’re being safe about research. Test items on less sensitive skin first, check labels, and observe proper safety precautions. It’s also prudent to wash anything that’s going to have intimate contact with you.
  • Rule #4: When possible it is advisable to experiment with help. There are some things that you just can’t do on your own. Additionally, there are things that you don’t want to do without the benefit of having someone else there to help you should you have a problem. Be smart about this. If something doesn’t work out, and let’s say a Ben Wa ball gets caught somewhere, don’t panic. If you have help, and you stay calm, you decrease your chances of becoming an ER anecdote.
  • Rule #5: Maintain your sense of humor. It comes in rather handy in the bedroom.

If you’ve had bad luck with finding what you need through traditional research, and research wink ;) wink isn’t an option, you can always ask around. I can guarantee you that whatever you’re looking for you can find someone in the fandom who’s done it. As it turns out, we’re a bunch of really kinky people. If you don’t know where to start, I’d advise you to ask “Nurse Kimpy” over at the PPSS blog. She’s kind of like our own fandom Dr. Ruth.

After doing your research, make sure that you apply it. This doesn’t mean that your characters have to be 100% responsible. However, you as an author should be. If your characters do something potentially dangerous, you should not assume that your readers aren’t going to try it. You may want to consider putting a disclaimer in your notes.

I am going to note that research should not stop with citrus. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve flounced on reading badly researched stories. There’s nothing worse than being knee deep in a fic and having to call “bullshit” because the author got something horribly wrong. I do this with pregnancy and medical situations in fic all the time. A lot of this information is easily found, there’s just no excuse for stupidity.

All in all, research is fun. You’re a writer, research exercises your brain and makes you better. Go forth and write some well-informed citrusy goodness.


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