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THE SURGE OF BLACK EROTICA

by

Maryann Reid

It is no surprise that for centuries the issue of Black erotica has been controversial. These days, black erotica has become popularized by authors who are taking it to mainstream. Authors like myself, Zane, Noire, and countless others have titillated our readers by our prose. Some may call it “literature”, some may not. One can find the erotic short stories of some of our best known writers like Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Terry McMillan in a collection called Erotique Noire: Black Erotica, published in 1992 by Doubleday. This artistic collection even mentions “the sexual subtext in the slave narratives of Frederick Douglas.” Black erotica did not begin with “ghetto lit” and is not exclusive to that genre. It is a form of sexual expression that can be found in the most literary text to the most “street.”

The realm of black fiction has finally caught up with the onset of rap music and the hypersexualization of American pop culture. If one complains about what is in the books, one must also look at television, film, and music. Throughout history the sexualization of the black male and female has been depicted through the eyes of others. I take great pride in writing my erotic scenes as I delve deep into the taste, smell, and even lewdness of a moment. To some it may be vulgar, to others it may be all they know.

The world of black erotica is for anyone who has made love and liked it. Young black men and women, deterred from having unsafe sex and warned of the AIDS epidemic, have been forced to go elsewhere for their sexual gratification and have turned to books and music to get their fix. The readers of black erotica and “street fiction” are mostly young females between the ages of 13-23. These young ladies are very similar to who read Judy Blume and her characters of wide-eyed, sexually curious and active teens. When I read Wifey and Forever, I hid the book like it was dirty man’s porn.

Black erotica has found its way to one of the most profitable markets in Black publishing: street fiction. The detailed, no frills, no fuss, descriptions of sex can be found on every other page. When I read these, I’ve found myself amused and sometimes relieved by the simplicity. There are times when one does not need five lines to describe a kiss and many readers can appreciate that. What one calls “smut” can be another’s fantasy.

Thanks to the spectrum of black writers from Octavia Butler to Tanarive Due to E. Lynn Harris to Eric Jerome Dickey to Zane and to Shannon Holmes, black readers are being fed a range of works from every genre. There is enough room in the publishing world for every reader and writer to get their tickle pickled. Black writers are finally defining their sexuality for themselves, and not crunched into other people's fantasies and eaten alive.

Maryann Reid obtained her Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Miami, has written for Glamour magazine, and her novella, Single Black Female, appeared on USAToday.com Mrs. Big is her fourth book. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her Web site at http://www.maryannreid.com

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