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Confession of a Female Pornographer

Erotic fiction may get the audience hot and heavy, but one female pornographer confesses that the same isn't always true for the author.

By Florence KingPublished 8 years ago 14 min read

Writing pornography required (in the past) a sturdy typewriter, but today, a trusty laptop, a reasonable familiarity with the English language, and a nodding acquaintance with copulation. In my hayday, I published 32 paperback pornographic novels in four years. When I started, the shift key on my typewriter broke over 16 times, because orgasmic groans are always written in the upper case. Today, you just hit caps lock as you make your way around your MacBook Pro’s home row. I started spelling come c-u-m, and decided to make myself an anchorite.

My career as a pornographer started one gloomy December day in New York when was working for the American Can Company, where I spent the day typing things like, “Send the Snap-Pak flap back and advise that it won't.” I decided there must be more money in a more accommodating sort of can, so I visited a dirty bookstore conveniently located next to Grand Central Station so that Park Avenue executives could stop by on their way to Connecticut.

The store smelled like leather from expensive attaché cases, Brooks Brothers' own Heather after-shave lotion, and fresh-cut lumber which had been used to throw up the unpainted shelves that lined the walls. There was an old-country-store bell on the door that tinkled merrily when l entered.

"Can I help you look for something specific?” the woman behind the counter asked kindly.

I said, "Oh, no thank you. I'm just studying the market." It is a convenient phrase that covers a multitude of writers' sins.

I bought Two Thighs to the Wind, put out by Sword & Scabbard publishing company. I spent the evening reading 200 pages of al fresco canoodling.

At that time, the Supreme Court had just done something or other to liberalize the sex-book field, but Two Thighs had been on the stands for a while and still had a certain subdued, curtain-of-charity approach to the nitty-gritty. It contained things like "he entered her," "sank into her lubricious warmth," and "her thighs acquiesced." It was full of ellipses, particularly in the cunnilingus scenes, which trailed off into space like the hero's feet over the end of the bed. “His mouth went lower, lower, lower..." End of chapter.

I didn't think it was particularly dirty and was certain that I could write something just as acceptable, so I did. I called it Box Lunch and invented a story about a girl who goes on a picnic only to become the entrée. I sent three chapters and an outline to Sword & Scabbard, who replied with the speed of sound—much to my astonishment, since I had once been a slush-pile reader myself. They offered to buy the book for $750, one third payable immediately and the rest on completion of the manuscript. They asked me to make it 45,000 words long, which is about 160 manuscript pages, and said that it would be published in a double volume with a work of similar length by another author. I later met the other writer—a very sweet and rather shy young college student who convulsed when blurted out, "It's so nice to meet you front-to-front after being back-to-back."

Sword & Scabbard asked me if I would do one book a month for them, so of course I said yes and promptly quit my job at American Can. I finished Box Lunch in two weeks and then sent in another partial and outline called Ripe for Plucking, about a girl in a migrant-labor camp who drew plump, ripe, illegal strawberries into her mouth in a way that drove men mad.

Searching for Synonyms

Sword & Scabbard called me up and told me that they wanted more sex, a lot more sex—or, as the editor put it, S-E-X. I got the point and wrote a book called She Got the Point. Before that I had referred to the male organ as "his sex," "his manly pride," and occasionally even "his penis." Now that I was writing S-E-X instead of sex, I had to pull out the entire penile arsenal—cock, prick, pecker, rod, wang (which, being a purist, I spelled whang), battering ram, hammer, stick, and gun. I used the latter out of desperation to keep from repeating myself, remembering a verse that a boyfriend had once recited to me to explain what the Army liked things to be called:

This is a rifle, this is a gun.One is for war, one is for fun.

For the female characters, my euphemistic flowers, dewy petals, and triangles went out the window. In flew all the succubislits, slots, slices, boxes, gashes, cunts, and pussies. I favored the latter because it's the only one that does not sound like hostile surgery, but my editor called, told me that my pussy was overdone, mailed me a book put out by a competitor, and suggested I go through it and improve my vocabulary. By the time finished reading it, I was on the verge of going into the bathroom with a hand mirror. All the women characters possessed "stiff quivering flanges," and I had no idea what they were. I called my editor and told him that I had never heard of them; that they sounded like something thrown in the sale barrel in a hardware store.

"It is," he said, "It's like a hinge."

"Hinge?" I repeated.

"Yeah, the inner lips. You know—the labia minora?"

He read from a dictionary: “From flanch, a curving charge on a heraldic shield; A rim for strength, for guiding, or for attachment to another object."

All I could think of were those nuts and bolts carpenters call "male" and "female." I started using flanges because I was desperate for any synonym, but neither my editor nor any of my competitors could help me out with a synonym for clitoris.

To the best of my scatological knowledge, which is now encyclopedic, there is no other word for it in either medical terminology (which is what clitoris is) or slang. The British call it the man in the boat, but that's a phrase, not a word, and a particularly awkward and tedious one. This dearth of nomenclature only goes to prove how much men have ignored the clitoris down through the centuries. Words for the vulva and vagina are legion, but the clitoris, which is every woman's blessing, is every pornographer's curse.

A man I used to have sex with had a space between his front teeth which he called his "clit slot" and refused to let his dentist fix. I started using "clit," but that's hardly a synonym. In desperation, I asked this man if he knew anything else I could call it. He looked at me blankly for a moment, then mumbled, "man in the boat." He thought hard, but he got nowhere. Finally, since I was the professional, he asked me if I knew any other terms for it, apparently thinking that I was challenging him while I held in abeyance some choice terms known only to dirty-book writers. When he realized I was serious, we sat looking at each other in a moment of truth.

I used "clit slot" in a book called Taste Me and then lapsed into my old bind again. I tried foreign-language dictionaries to no avail and was in the middle of searching through an Arab dictionary when it dawned on me that they would hardly have a word for something they were in the practice of amputating. I gave up and made do with "fleshy nail," "sex rod," "girl prick," and "love bud," all of which are labored and faintly disgusting. Finally, in a fit of temper, I called it "the poppy of flanges fields," which I told my editor was eminently suited to such an unknown soldier.

I had almost as much trouble with testicles. As men ignore the clitoris, women avoid the balls, because our mothers raised us with dire advice about how to "kick a man where it hurts." I am thirty-seven fairly interesting years old, but I have yet to understand how a man can manage to sit down without crippling himself. This puzzles even the most experienced of women; The mere thought that men walk around with something so fragile in such a vulnerable spot whips us into such a state of terror that it's almost impossible for us to even write about the things.

However, the genital area must be described in minute detail, so my editor called, and we had one of our peerless chats.

"You left out the balls again," he sighed.

"What can you say about them?" I asked. "They don't do anything."

"Oh, yes they do," he said with a smug air of cachet that made me wonder if his could tap-dance. "They slap against the girl's rump, don't they? That's supposed to feel good."

"Is it?"

"Get them slapping around, and call them something besides balls."


"Oh nuts, stones, sack, family jewels," he recited.

He sent me another competitor's novel, about a man nicknamed Stones because he had such big ones. In one scene, he lifted them up to show everybody.

" 'See? Some stones, huh? That's why they call me Stones,' he chuckled. 'Some stones, huh?' said Stones."

I felt better after that, because I knew that I had never written anything quite that awful. It sounded like elephantiasis.

Photo via Tumblr user 70's Aesthetic

It's All in the Name

In pornography it is necessary to give the hero a very stud-like name, something that sounds hard, like his penis. In real life, the Harolds and Willards among us may well be able to hump like bunnies, but in pornography they must have erect names like Brad, Rock, Jake, Ben. I had exhausted all these and was contemplating using Thud, when a marvelously virile name came to me. I called my hero Drek. His introductory scene ran something like this:

"Drek was brown and hard from long days in the sun. There was a power, almost an essence about Drek that women could sense as soon as they entered a room where he was."

This page from my manuscript remained on the bulletin board at Sword & Scabbard for months, along with the list of office birthdays and the W-2 form for the proofreader who went to lunch one day and never came back. My editor told me that my nickname among the staff had become "The Angel of Death."

Names are extremely important in pornography. They serve as a shortcut to characterization, which tends to get short shrift, because readers don't want to plow through long analyses of personality and family background. It's terribly difficult to characterize anyone really well in porn, because even the most complex individuals tend to get very one-sided when they're waving their feet in the air and screaming, "Fuck me!" It's a good idea to let the names work for you as much as possible.

Each name must ring a bell for the reader and immediately tell him a great deal about the character. A bitchy, frigid wife always makes it as Celia or Emily; Allie and Rachel are blonde virgins, Elle and Grace are brunette virgins. For a superb brunette bitch on wheels with a strong personality, there is nothing better than Valerie or Alex. For the lady-to-her-fingertips rich bitch, I favor Lydia; and for the doped-up, spaced out hippie, Samantha and Sabrina are unsurpassed. If anybody besides the author happens to go insane she should be named Chloe, Zoe or, of course, Eulalie, which means to wail.

Sword & Scabbard had a thing against the name Regina, because they were afraid of printer's errors. Whatever you do, don't name a lesbian Leslie, because you'll end up with a 200-page poem. Once the characters are named, the pornographer has to think up a name for himself. No writer with a government job or intentions of writing anything better someday wants his name on a porn—unless, like me, he makes $50 bets with friends that he will let his real name stand. My name has appeared twice, once for the sake of $50 and once by error.

When a book seemed to warrant a male name, as my gay-boy books did, they gave me a male pen name. I was Nicklos Stavros once, in keeping with the á la grecque sex I described. I never went in for the I.M. Stud or Pussy Galore kind of pen names; nor the obviously labored ones like Dallas or Kells, which you find on so many bang books. The latter two appeared in Gone With the Wind, and I would feel sacrilegious making use of them.

My real name appeared by error when I acquired a new publisher, Plug & Socket. I was so used to Sword & Scabbard inventing names for me that I forgot to tell my new editor to do so.

Photo by Mikamatto

Follow the Rules

Like most enterprises today, Plug & Socket had guidelines. Suggestions to pornographers read like a cross between salacious tone poems and a typical government memorandum:

  1. To lessen readers' confusion and reduce instances of unconscious humor, kindly avoid such figures of speech as Pandora's box, right up her (his) alley, a lick and a promise, blowhard, prickly heat, and the interrogatory, Come again?
  2. When referring to characters who are or have been in prison, watch your spelling of "penal." It is not penile.
  3. Flights of metaphorical prose are not desirable. The phrase "her oleaginous Mountain of Venus" only perplexes many of our readers. We were recently distressed to receive a letter from a man who angrily asked, "What's that statue doing up on the hill with butter all over it?" Wet pussy is preferred.
  4. The following have been declared obsolete by The Dictionary of American Slang: guiff, hair pie, muff (the noun), and knockers.
  5. 5. To avoid alliteration, onomatopoeia, and unfortunate rhyme, do not name any characters Peter, Dick, or Rod.
  6. The word "vector" is a physics term pertaining to a straight line and is not generally known. Call your penis something else.
  7. As you know, printing errors cost money. Using the British expression "John Thomas" for penis recently resulted in a regrettable incident in final page proofs when we discovered this example of anthropomorphism: "'Gimme a cigarette, baby,' said John Thomas." Remember that we are all Americans here.
  8. When writing lesbian sex scenes, total chaos often results from the plethora of female pronouns that must of necessity be employed. To wit: "She tickled her clitoris, and with a scream she threw her legs around her hips and dragged her down on top of her." We suggest that lesbian lovers be of different coloring, one with blonde pubic hair and the other brunette.
  9. Our proofreader is required to read the galleys and page proofs of 12 books a month. Please do not make her burden heavier with tricky sentences. We refer to a recent description of a musician hero who had learned "to master Beethoven." The proofreader automatically changed this to read "to masturbate often." Remember that we think along certain lines here.

The female masturbation scene is derigueur in porn. I always make diddling damsels rich, because it requires a full-time maid to clean up afterward. I am neat by nature, and I always fear that my heroine may float out the door on the crest of her copious lubrication, so I usually put my lonely ladies in the bathtub instead of the bed. But then I worry about all the water on the floor after they finish thrashing around. They always go to bed and drift peacefully to sleep in blissful, post-digital relaxation, but I am always tempted to add: "She thrust the long, thick, powerful mop into the glistening lubricious pool of warm, sudsy, sweet-smelling water and cleaned it the hell up."

It is usually possible to tell from female masturbation scenes whether the author is a man or woman. Male authors tend toward vaginal masturbation; Female authors know better and usually have the girl tickle herself. I have written a few vaginal masturbation scenes when desperate to fill a page, but unless I'm about to cave in under deadline pressure, I avoid them. A woman writer realizes that vaginal masturbation is more trouble than it's worth. You can't really use your hand unless you're double-jointed, so you must use equipment and props, most of them dangerous. By the time they're all assembled, the itch is gone anyway.

The advent of vibrators has made things a little easier. I have written vibrator scenes and taken care to point out that the heroine keeps her vibrator beside the bed somewhere. But when she takes it out of its color coordinated case and starts to insert it, I always stop typing and think: "She really ought to sterilize it first." Pornographic heroines are notably lacking in forethought, and the least of their worries is germs, so vibrators throw me into awful conflict.

Photo by Hector Pozuelo

Twin Peaks are Twin Pitfalls

The twin pitfalls in the path of every pornographer are nipples. They present another problem of synonyms, you can't very well say "teat," because that's too bovine, and "tit" refers to the entire breast. I used "points" and "tips," which led me to my now famous pencil analogy. Somewhere in each of my books I have claimed that "her erect nipples thrust forward like the erasers on pencils." If I'm really at a loss for words, I say, "Her nipples felt like hot nails against his palms."

The pink part that surrounds the nipple always throws me into a lady-or-the-tiger dilemma. Areola means the ring around the nipple, and aureole means halo, and I never can remember which is which. So I take turns. Whatever they're called, they are invariably described in monetary terms: They're either as big as silver dollars or as tiny as nickels, depending on the lady's age, sex experience, and lactational history. Good pornography and paperback books, in general, are anachronistic about certain things, such as garter belts. The covers of spy stories often show a girl dressed in nothing but an olive-green bandolier and a black garter belt, even if she wears panty hose inside the book.

By the time I had written 24 books in as many months, the thrill of money and of freedom from the 9-to-5 grind had worn off, and I was exhausted. I was also frigid, which I had never been before, and given to murmuring such sweet nothings as, "Never mind, it doesn't matter, go ahead." My friend couldn't understand what was wrong; he thought the books kept me perpetually steamed into erotic frenzy. Nothing could have been less true.


About the Creator

Florence King

Wrote several erotic and pulp fiction novels. Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, details a bisexual relationship that she later recanted. (1936-2016).

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