Identity

Writing Erotica Was the Surprising Antidote to My Anxiety

Writing erotic fiction helps poet Almaz Ohene feel more present in her own body—and deal with interesting challenges like describing a five-person orgy.

by Almaz Ohene; as told to Sirin Kale
Jan 17 2019, 10:28am

Illustration by Camilla Ru

My First Time is a column and podcast series exploring sexuality, gender, and kink with the wide-eyed curiosity of a virgin. We all know your "first time" is about a lot more than just popping your cherry. From experimenting with kink to just trying something new and wild, everyone experiences thousands of first times in the bedroom—that's how sex stays fun, right?

This week, we're talking to Kayleigh Daniels Dated founder Almaz Ohene about her experiences writing erotic fiction. You can listen to My First Time on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

I’ve always been a big reader, and I read a lot of stories with sexual content—like Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for instance—when I was relatively young. But I was brought up in a religious household, and taught that sex was something that good girls didn’t do. So there was a big disconnect between what I was taught that good girls do, and what happens in the books I was reading.

The first time I wrote erotic fiction, I was on a train back from a night out. I’d gone to visit a friend and ended up hooking up with someone while I was there. As I sat on the train, I remember thinking about how hot it was. I had a notebook with me, so I started writing those feelings down. I’d write a couple of sentences, and then giggle to myself and scribble them out and try something else. I’d written blogs about my life and things like that, but I’d never written anything erotic.

I don’t write erotic fiction to get turned on, although sometimes it can be arousing. I write it because I really, really enjoy it. After that experience on the train, I started writing erotic fiction more regularly, and posting it on my blog. Sometimes I’d go to parties and read it out loud! People found it quite raunchy: I don’t think they’re ever read anything like that written by a fellow student before.

After that, I started reading erotic poems at a few open mic nights: there used to be one in Shoreditch called Velvet Tongue that I took a couple of poems to on occasion. Everyone listened really attentively, which was nice. I'm not embarrassed of my work, but I do wonder if people sometimes think I'm a weirdo. I hope they don't think any less of me!

Generally, I try not to use words like penis or vagina in my work, because they sound quite medical and not that exciting. I prefer to leave that out, and put the sentence together in a way so that you know what’s happening to a body part, without having to name it.

Inspiration strikes in strange places. I’ll often write notes in my iPhone when I’m commuting to work. But I usually write at home: I actually have two poseable mannequins on my desk, because it’s so hard to choreograph realistic sex scenes! I used to shut my eyes and just imagine it, but sometimes it’s difficult to remember where all the different hands are. At the moment, I’m trying really hard to write a five-person sex party. It’s going to be wild.

1547641699022-Almaz-Ohene-wearing-Dirty-Thirty-dress-Image-credit-Adrianne-McKenzie
Almaz Ohene. Image by Adrianne McKenzie

I like to write really short pieces: the longest one I’ve ever written was around 800 words. The last piece I wrote had quite a lot of finger-banging in it, and lots of fluids too. I like to write about things that are often thought of as disgusting and inappropriate. I’m going to write one about period sex soon.

I started writing more prolifically in around 2006. I was having a hard time mentally and feeling very anxious about stuff, and writing erotica felt like a release. For me, it felt very grounding to write about bodies: too often, we forget that we’re physical beings. We don’t stop and think about how we’re feeling. Writing erotica has helped me to think about how bodies interact with each other.

At the moment, a lot of my stories go on a website called Kayleigh Daniels Dated. It’s about a fictional woman who owns her sexuality, and lives and dates in London. I wanted to launch the project because I felt like women of color aren’t really represented in erotica. Kayleigh herself is a dark-skinned Black woman, and her dates are all kinds of people. In my experience, there are hardly any portrayal of women of color owning their sexuality. I want people who aren't so sure of their sexuality to be able to read the stories and think, Oh there's no judgement and shame here. Maybe I can try out some of the stuff that's been written about in these stories.

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My tips for anyone thinking of writing erotica are: think about what you like, and don’t like, and then try and put it on the page in a few different ways. You can write it up positively, or negatively. Think about the emotions of the characters in the scene. Mine your own experiences, but also ask other people. Because other people are having sex, too! Try and ask them in a roundabout way what they’re doing in the bedroom, then get it down on the page.