Breaking “Rule 23”: A (Not So) Recent Sexual (Mis)Adventure!

Define “recent.”

I could certainly make one up. I once volunteered to run an Adult Writing Workshop. I had no idea what I was signing up for – and when I realized that “Adult Writing Workshop” was a euphemism for “Erotica” or “Porn,” I just gamely carried on – I’d agreed to do it and didn’t want to admit I was young, naive, and had never read anything racier than PlayBoy’s Jokes page, circa 1972.

So what does any neophyte writer of steamy sex stories do in order to come across as sensually savvy and sophisticated? Research, of course.

I had never been to an “Adult Bookstore” in my life. I knew where one was, though – not far from the university I attended. I’d had sex. I was young, married, and had a toddler. But I was modest and easily embarrassed. I didn’t want to be caught dead doing something perfectly normal and legal like walking into a…porn shop. In broad daylight. Where people might see me. So naturally, on a bright, warm, sunny day, I donned a trenchcoat, headscarf, and dark sunglasses and drove across town. I looked around to see if there was anyone who might recognize me before exiting the car. I opened the door to the dimly lit shop, slipped in as surreptitiously as I could, and proceeded to knock over an entire display case of Harley-Davidson jewelry.

“Can I help you?” asked a nice, middle-aged woman while her husband picked up the display case and quietly put things to right.

“I am so sorry…” I muttered, trying to figure out the nearest escape route.

“It’s fine. Can I help you find anything?”

I opened and closed my mouth like a dying fish. “I, er, um–well. I volunteered to run this writing workshop–for erotica–but, um–I’ve never, um–read any. Maybe you could help me pick out some representative publications?”

WTF. “Representative publications”?

“Sure, let’s take a look.” She led me to several volumes of “Hot Letters,” a couple of laughable novels, the usual Playboy and Penthouse, and some magazines whose covers were too hard-core to contemplate. I left the store with a brown paper bag full of books and a steely resolve that the workshop would focus on nothing steamier than what Playboy would publish. Besides, Playboy paid well.

I didn’t take off the “disguise” until I got home. I’m pretty sure my husband just laughed and shook his head when I described my misadventures.

I read the “representative publications” like a woman on a mission. I laughed my way through the “Hot Letters” – seriously, they paid people to write these? It was an obvious formula. I tried my hand at it and churned out about five in two hours. The only problem with mine was that they were all comedy. That’s right – I apparently invented a whole new sub-genre of erotica: sex comedy. A male reader and friend explained, as gently as he could, that while the writing was good and he’d howled with laughter from start to finish, most people read erotica to get their rocks off one-handed, not to laugh their heads off.

I gamely carried on. The workshop, I think, went reasonably well. It turned out, unfortunately, that most sex-oriented magazines were getting enough unsolicited freebies for their “hot letters” department that they’d stopped paying real writers to invent stories for them. This was too bad – it could have been lucrative. Then again, I’d had second thoughts about the whole thing, anyway, realizing that in order to be paid, I’d have to also divulge my real name and social security number.

I was still a prude at heart. 

Years later, I posted an erotic short story on It was well-rated – and it was popular enough that I was able to look at aggregated, anonymous reader demographics. I was momentarily shocked and horrified to learn that the majority of my readers were between the ages of 14 and 17. I immediately took the story down and would have burned it if it had been printed on paper. But then, rational thought prevailed: I considered this information as a mother and as a former child who was also a precocious and avid reader. How old was I when I’d pulled my grandfather’s Playboys off the shelf and read all the jokes? Don’t think for a moment I didn’t also look at the centerfolds to see how I “stacked up” or that I didn’t read more than the articles. I was twelve.

And so, knowing that you can’t stop a determined child from tasting forbidden fruit, I wrote a new short, erotic story worthy of Penthouse. But there was a tiny, little knife twist at the end: the oh-so-naughty main characters were also happily married. To each other.

I figured one of two things would happen: Either the young readers would be so immediately grossed out to realize older, married people still “did it” that they’d never dip into my X-rated folder again, or they’d realize there was still fun to be had, even after marriage. Either way, it was a message I could live with.


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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14 thoughts on “Breaking “Rule 23”: A (Not So) Recent Sexual (Mis)Adventure!”

  1. I am so turned off by the fake sex in novels, movies, and TV that I added some to my debut novel (everything I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across by accident illustrated the perils), and think that my description of how they are filmed was not only good, but adequate. If that makes any sense.

    No one has made a peep about the results, which are located in Ch. 15 of Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, and a couple of other places. (Mainstream fiction, people.) As Bianca thinks, ‘It would be easier to film porn.’

    I prefer not to watch the sweaty results I know to be false – it will mess with the perfectly acceptable pictures already in my head.

    I admire your commitment to ‘research.’ I tried very hard NOT to write comedy, but I know what you mean.
    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…The new impostor syndrome: redefining the literary genreMy Profile

  2. Still thinking of an author I otherwise enjoy who writes nice alternate history books. Well, some of them are nice. But why he tries to insert steamy scenes in them I have no idea. I wish he would. Just. Stop. (And I do like the category of sex comedy, for those who would read that stuff for the comedy.)
    Alana recently posted…Skywatch Friday – A Lake SunsetMy Profile

    1. I think of an author whose books I enjoyed – at first. I bought all seventeen (gazillion?) of them in one of her series, only to realize that after about 4, the sex was no longer shockingly kinky, fun, and sometimes amusing – it was repetitive and boring. When kinky sex (we’re talking about supernatural and preternatural and interspecies sex, here, people!) is just DULL AS DISHWATER, there’s a problem. I wished she’d go back to writing character-and-plot-driven stories and just SKIP the sex. By the last book of hers I read, there wasn’t much there BUT bodily fluids.

  3. That was hilarious, Holly! 🙂 I can just picture you sneaking into the bookstore. Growing up in Germany, where sex ed starts young, gave me an open attitude about it. I remember reading serialized excerpts from The Marquis de Sade in a weekly magazine (complete with illustrations) at the age of twelve and being amused by them. I bet there’s a market out there for sexual comedy if it’s promoted as such and not straight erotica. How clever of you to write a moral into your story.
    Debbie D. recently posted…AS SHE LAY DYINGMy Profile

    1. Oh, I remember a funny one from Germany – I was 9 or 10 when we went the first time, and in Frankfurt there were sex clubs. HERE? They’d have been hidden behind blacked out windows or solid walls, right? But there – well, all that was keeping people from seeing the show inside was posters of naked women! I mean Playboy centerfold type posters, and nothing left to the imagination! We were all a bit shocked – but understood it was a revenue thing, not a censorship thing. LOL There were also these flyers in Copenhagen – OMG. The adults would not let me pick one up (street hawkers were handing them out in the morning, and by afternoon they littered the sidewalk). Years later, I discovered one my grandfather had saved as a souvenir, and OMG!!!! These were apparently “audience participation” type sex shows… that’s about all my teenaged brain could grasp. I think you could rent a premium inflatable mattress at an extra charge. It might even have been wiped down with Purell…

      1. Many North Americans are shocked by the unrepressed European attitudes about nudity and sexuality. Personally, I think they’re healthier. Plus, children are educated from a young age. Prostitution is legal, regulated and taxed. You might find these statistics interesting. Sexual repression can lead to all kinds of trouble. Here’s another interesting article. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go on at length, but this is a pet topic.
        Debbie D. recently posted…AS SHE LAY DYINGMy Profile

      2. Perhaps we could replace it with “sexual ethics.” We’re all human. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about the human body. Sexual ethics – like “no always means no” and “no one has a right to rent out a body but the one inhabiting it” and “if your partner believes the relationship to be monogamous, end it before engaging in sex with someone else” and “if you’re capable of procreating, prevent it if you don’t want children BUT take responsibility for them if you have them and choose your sex partners accordingly” – those things would be good things to teach. Even legal prostitution is problematic; but if you could assume all involved were consenting ADULTS, and responsible ones when it came to their healthcare and the safety of their clients, I wouldn’t have strong objections. Unfortunately, those assumptions are not accurate and exploitation happens even where it’s “legal, regulated, and taxed.” (And taxation is a bit weird – does that make the State a pimp?)

  4. I’m all for “sexual ethics”. That should be a required course in schools, don’t you think? As for prostitution, I can only speak for what happens in Germany. It is a legal business and therefore taxed like any other. There are strict regulations about where they can set up shop (specified Red Light Districts) and the prostitutes are required by law to get regular medical checkups. There likely still is a “seedy underbelly” to it. I’ve read that exploitation of eastern European women is an ongoing issue.
    Debbie D. recently posted…THE GREAT UNVEILING: PRESENTING THE DOGLADY’S DEN 2.0!My Profile

    1. People always point to Amsterdam when they speak of legalized prostitution. There are limited parts of Nevada, too, where it’s legal and regulated and no doubt taxed (any income is taxed; in this case, I kind of think the WHOLE tax burden should be on the patron, like a sales tax). But so long as people will exploit people, and so long as women and children and illegal immigrants are so EASILY exploited, human trafficking and prostitution – “legal” or not – will remain a problem. I’m not sure legalizing it makes it any worse. I just don’t know that it makes it significantly better.

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