Lindsay Wynn; Ryan McVay/Getty Images
- Readers are craving more romance and sexual intimacy from the stories they read and watch.
- Carly Pifer, founder of online erotica site Aurore, edits erotica stories professionally.
- She shared the biggest cliches she’s seen and her tips for making stories hotter and more realistic.
If the colossal popularity of novels like “The End of Us” by Colleen Hoover and Emily Henry’s “Book Lovers” tells us anything, it’s that readers are craving more literature about romance and sexual intimacy.
Carly Pifer, a content strategist and writer, felt there wasn’t a space for intimate stories that involved in-depth conversations and realistic characters, as well as hot sex scenes. It was one of the reasons she started Aurore, an online erotica community where women and LGBTQ+ writers can submit confessional-style true stories.
A written alternative to high-budget porn giants like Pornhub, Aurore boasts over 18,000 followers on Instagram and users pay $5.75 a month to access its collection of about 200 stories.
As the site’s editor, Pifer is keen on giving readers something they can’t usually find in mainstream porn: Tension, seduction, and a genuine reason to care about the people having sex.
“I want something slow, meandering, I want something that’s like a tease…you’re not going get straight to sex,” Pifer told Insider. “I want them to seduce me. I want to feel this kind of unraveling of the people involved.”
Pifer, who helps writers fine-tune their submissions and hosts writing workshops, shared some of the ways anyone — whether they’re a professional writer, aspiring romance novelist, or someone who wants to dabble in erotica — can create hotter sex stories.
Put an end to cliches like “endless moans” or red lipstick
As an editor, Pifer is used to flagging all kinds of cliches and has amassed some pet peeves.
“A lot of women describe the men they’re hooking up with as having green eyes,” she said. “How many people do you actually know with green eyes? What color are they really? That’s brown, not green.”
She also said that writers can sometimes subconsciously lean into stereotypical “sexy” outfit choices, like “red lips, red manicure, black stilettos with the peep toe.”
“I don’t really care what color lipstick you’re wearing and like how often as women do we really wear red lips?” she said. “Especially when you’re like about to hook up with somebody, that is such a mess!”
Her advice is for writers to “describe their own bodies and their own appearance as well as their lover’s in just really minute detail, like the shape and curve of their ear.”
The same goes for cliché and over-the-top sexual descriptions, like “endless moans.” Instead, she encourages people to get as creative as they can, and even get playful. She recently changed a banal moaning description to “A high, keening noise escapes me and dazedly I think of baby eagles leaving the nest.”
Include the “imperfect” moments
Mainstream depictions of sex can often make it look frictionless, which isn’t aligned with most people’s experiences.
In some Aurore stories, characters will quickly go through their sexual history before penetrative sex, or feel complicated emotions during the act — much like many people do in real life. In one story, a woman briefly regrets not choosing prettier underwear. As her sexual encounter continues, she almost feels embarrassed by how turned on she is.
According to Pifer, a male commenter on Instagram thought the “almost embarrassed” part felt unreal, but it’s why she kept it in. “I had to let him know that, unfortunately, women are often embarrassed by normal bodily functions,” she said.
Add details to make the characters feel like real people
While many traditional porn videos start and end with sex (with maybe a loose plotline thrown in), Pifer thinks the key to being seduced by a story is to flesh the characters out as people.
In one story on the site, two characters exchange phone numbers by tearing out a page from a Patricia Highsmith novel. “They’re reading a psychological thriller, this is the author of the ‘Talented of Mr. Ripley,” Pifer said. “There’s so much just baked into that one little moment.”
Similarly, it helps to know what the characters care about. “Give us some background on how this has been building up: What are the obstacles in the relationship?” Pifer said. “I think it makes an interesting story when you have to get through something.”
Building up to sex is one of the most important parts of erotica, according to Pifer — and of intimacy itself.
“Reading erotica can be an aspect of foreplay as well — even before you begin any kind of touching, just getting your mind in a space to be thinking this way, I think that’s so important,” she said. “The more that we can kind of turn ourselves on in these unexpected ways, I think we’re getting to a more heightened pleasure when we are actually engaging in intimacy.”