“Spring of Mind” Interview with M.A. Mohanraj

Reprinted by permission, from “Spring of Mind” journal; an interview
conducted by a high school senior in Taiwan.

Student: Do you consider erotica as a form of art?

Mary Anne: Certainly. Erotica is an area of literature that focuses on
sexuality, but it’s still literature. It can be done well, or it can be
done badly, as any attempt at literature can. When it’s done well, it can
inspire, arouse, evoke great emotion, and make people think. These are
all important characteristics of serious art.

S: How would you differ your works from the works found on the more
commercialized sites with advertisements such as “5000 Sexy Stories

MA: Some of those sites do have good stories…but very few. For the
most part, the stories on those sites were quickly cranked out, often by
people who don’t even identify as writers. I find many of them painful to
read (and in fact, rarely bother, as it’s difficult getting past the
twenty spelling and grammar errors in the first paragraph).

S: How/Why did you start writing erotic literature?

MA: I started as a result of reading bad erotica, actually. I was
reading the newsgroup alt.sex.stories when I was a college student, and I
remember thinking, “I can do better than that!” My first attempt was
pretty bad, but the readers liked it a lot, and their reaction encouraged
me into continuing with my writing. The tremendous feedback you get as an
erotica writer is extremely helpful.

S: What effect does erotica have on its readers?

MA: It can turn you on, it can turn you off. Readers have written to me
telling me that my stories made them laugh (“Fleeing Gods”) or cry
(“Jinsong”). They can make you think — I’ve gotten several essays
written on the ethics implicit in “Diana”. They can make you angry —
occasionally readers send me very angry mail about my story “Chantal”, or
about the interracial relationships in “Radhika and Matthew” and “Season
of Marriage”. Erotica can also be a source of comfort at times when
you’re not expressing your sexuality physically; the body has needs, and
sometimes it can help to express them mentally, if not physically. I get
a lot of mail from soldiers overseas thanking my for my stories. Of
course, it can also frustrate you as well, depending on your

S: Although there is always an age verification, many teenagers still
sneak in to adult websites. What effect do you think erotica has on

MA: I generally believe that children and teens have a pretty good sense
of what literature is appropriate to their age. I read a lot of books
intended for an adult audience as a child, and until I was about fourteen,
I tended to just skip over the sex scenes — they weren’t interesting to
me. When I did develop an interest, scenes like the one in Alexei
Panshin’s _Rite of Passage_ were invaluable to me, giving me a true and
beautiful picture of adult sexuality, and one that was far healthier than
the misinformation spread on the playground.

My government requires that I post a warning on my pages that the content
is intended for adults, and I do so — but I believe that intelligent
teens can judge for themselves whether that literature is appropriate.

I’m only going to speak to text here, by the way. You would do better to
ask an artist/photographer about the effect of visual images on minors.

S: In general, do believe erotic literature to be a good thing or a bad

MA: Oh, outstandingly a good thing. How could we not talk about
sexuality, one of the major elements of being human? Outlawing erotica
would be like outlawing literature on death — sure, death is big and
powerful and kind of scary, just like sex, but nobody suggests not writing
about it.

S: How would you differ erotica from pornography?

MA: I don’t know that I think they’re that different. You can have good
erotica and good pornography; bad erotica and bad pornography. The
distinction I usually make is the pornography = sex stories, whereas
erotica = sex stories with characterization and style. Erotica tries to
do more than porn attempts.