Top '18 of 18: The Belladona's: "New Erotica for Feminists"

As usual, we'll share our most-read articles of the year on the Tendency between Xmas and NewYear's. Until then, we're offering Patreon-exclusive peeks at some of the pieces that have made the "Top 18 of '18," along with micro-interviews with their authors. This particular installment is free to patrons and non-patrons alike. For more bonus content like this, please consider becoming a patron!

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Title: "New Erotica for Feminists" 

Author: Brooke Preston, Caitlin Kunkel, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer 

Published: February 6, 2018

Where did you get the idea for the piece?

Like most normal days, we were making each other laugh in a Google chat as we bandied about potential monetization schemes for The Belladonna, the satire site for women and non-binary writers that we co-founded. One of us mentioned we should just try to become sponsored by a sparkling water company as we all imbibed it so frequently, but in our minds the makeup of a corporate sponsorship was murky and maybe just involved Tom Hardy driving over a box truck full of LaCroix and cash and playing with your rescue dog (after asking your consent)? That sounded to us like hilarious porn for Brooklyn women... and that felt like the rumblings of a satire piece. We immediately started riffing on the concept of erotica opening + feminist flip at the end, and it seemed like all four of us had endless ideas on how to write jokes on that premise. We expand on our inspiration in the “Foreplay” section of the book (come on, we had to call it that), but that’s the general gist.

How long did it take you to write it from start to finish? 

The piece came together pretty quickly over two days in January, and really would have been finished in a single day except there were some work scheduling challenges and we wanted to make sure all four of us had a chance to weigh in and add vignettes, polish the “erotic” language, and generally touch every one. Once the idea gelled, it was so fun to replicate the concept that it escalated quickly and we actually ended up writing more than we even needed to flesh out the initial piece. And if memory serves, you (Chris) quickly accepted it and had few to no edits, which made us feel like we must be on to something.

We write together using Google Docs so we can all be writing and editing together in real time from multiple locations (Carrie and Caitlin live in Brooklyn, Fiona in Queens, and Brooke in the suburbs of Columbus, OH). The main challenge was making sure each vignette had all three key aspects: the erotic set-up based in a classic erotica, romance or porn trope, the feminist, subversive twist, and, of course, the laughs. It turned out that some of us were quite gifted at the more sexual/suggestive language, while others were very good at the heightened, surprising comment on society in the second part. It let us generate and refine a lot of content quickly. 

Was there anything about the audience reaction to the piece that was surprising? 

Well, first off, how quickly and enthusiastically people seemed to be sharing the piece! Also that so many people noted that these scenarios legitimately turned them on (feminism is sexy, what can we say). The other interesting thing for us (four people who have written a decent amount of comedy pieces as individuals and together) was that people were picking out different vignettes and had unique reasons for sharing them. In a lot of the pieces that we write and those we edit on The Belladonna, usually there’s an audience consensus on the funniest/most savage lines, but here, all twelve of the initial vignettes seemed to be getting a lot of play. When it came to expanding the piece into a longer book, that feedback really helped us decide on the individual themes for the seven chapters that made up the 160-page humor gift book - NOW ON SALE! 

The piece came out on February 6, 2018. We had a book deal in the US and the UK by the end of March. We turned in the book manuscript in June, finished editing it at the end of August, and then turned to marketing and promoting. This has been a fantastic (and tiring!) whirlwind of a year, all sparked from a group cackle in a chat. Ya never know where life (or your short conceptual humor piece on McSweeney’s) is gonna take you, huh?