When Literotica Gets Political

Tamara Chapman@btwtamara

DoubleTap is an interview series highlighting creatives whose work explores sex, body and identity.

 

There’s an app for everything these days — including erotica.

Enter Slide Stories. A new app “for the culture, by the culture” offering users a variety of sensual fiction, covering everything from love to ghosting. Despite only launching this past Spring, several stories have already amassed thousands of views. Although Literotica (erotic literature) has been around since the internet was born, any horny fan will tell you — the key is quality control. It can take hours to cypher through the hundreds of poorly-written, not to mention offensive erotic fiction on sites like Nifty.org before you land on a story that will finally get your rocks off.

However, Slide Stories is not interested in maintaining the status quo.

Turning the format on its head, every tale you peruse on the app is told via text thread. Reading a steamy text exchange on your phone is not only delightfully meta — it lends the fiction authenticity.

Geared towards POC consumers, readers of all backgrounds can enjoy stories like “Weekend Zaddy” and “Love and K Pop.” More than targeted marketing, Slide Stories centering of Black and Brown identities feels empowering. Most erotic fiction is written by white people under pen names, and much of the un-policed literotica currently on the web is laden with racial fetishization and stereotypes. By creating a safe space for all readers to enjoy the more imaginative alternative to porn, Slide Stories has tapped into not only something essential, but political, too.

We spoke with 25-year-old founder Keryce Chelsi Henry about her company’s inventive approach to pleasure.

 

What inspired your team to make an erotic app marketed towards POC consumers? 

Keryce: Our team loved the text message format as a new way and opportunity to create interesting stories — and we thought there was a big opportunity for us to create a storytelling platform focused on voices that would resonate more with millennial POC. The focus on romance and erotica was inspired by urban romance novels, like those written by Zane

 

A lot of erotica features highly fetishized and racist depictions of non-white characters. Slide ensures the authenticity of its content by sourcing it directly from the community it seeks to represent, correct? 

Yes. We crowdsource our material through our team’s personal networks and via social media, and specify that we’re looking for millennial WOC and/or LGBTQ writers. Contributors are encouraged to develop storylines that are authentic to their own experiences and relationships. I tell writers to write the dialogue the way they’d text their friends.

 

Did you always know you wanted the erotica to live on an app? 

Yes, the goal has always been to create an app where these stories could live.

 

Your interface is super creative — it really makes you feel privy to someone’s sexts. Can you speak to the thought process behind the text-thread approach? 

We knew the visual of a text thread would be immediately familiar to our target audience, especially considering the kind of content Slide Stories is publishing — so many of millennials’ conversations surrounding sex and relationships occur via text, like first getting to know a potential romantic parter or getting advice about a partner via group chat. That familiarity helps to engage users, giving them the experience of sending and receiving these texts themselves.  

 

It’s particularly effective for stories depicting ghosting. How important was it that Slide include narratives that weren’t solely centered on sex? 

Slide Stories is geared toward love, sex, and dating, so it definitely opens the floodgates to storylines that aren’t just centered on sex. But even more than that, it’s important to us to depict specific situations that our demographic can relate to, like ghosting or dealing with exes who still like your social media posts, for example.

 

I’m thinking specifically of the “More Than Bros?” series, which tackles homophobia, both societal and internalized. It was like social commentary meets erotica — the potential is endless. However, when Ty reveals he’s HIV positive and knowingly had unprotected sex with another man while drunk — did it occur to the writer this may be perpetuating harmful stereotypes about HIV positive individuals?

I can’t speak to the writer’s thought process, but I did work with the writer to soften the potentially harmful nature of how that narrative played out. 

Generally speaking, writers are encouraged to draw from real-life experiences to maintain the authenticity of the stories while I advise on voice and tone, but we do our best to be cognizant of how stories will be received by our audience and let the writers have the freedom to express what they want to say.

 

On the flip side, it can normalize sexual exploration. I’m imagining curious guys downloading the app for the straight stories, then stumbling upon this and feeling, maybe in some way, seen. How important was it for your staff to include queer narratives? 

Including queer narratives is extremely important for us. Our goal is to represent POC, and you simply can’t do so without including LGBTQ+ perspectives because they’re a part of the community. 

We’ve also recently launched Prism Stories, another chat fiction app that features solely LGBTQ+ characters. 

 

Overall, it doesn’t seem like Slide shies away from taboo topics. For example, “Locked-Up Lust” is a text exchange between an inmate and his partner. In the KAAST office, we often talk about how we struggle not to over-police our own sexual fantasies. Are there any topics your team would consider off-limits to explore? 

We’re definitely open-minded about the topics covered on Slide Stories, in an effort to allow users to both relate to the content and also explore their fantasies. We do avoid storylines that include non-consensual acts, however, so as not to trigger users.

 

Have you ever considered incorporating educational elements into your stories? Maybe something like ‘Slutty Nurse Teaches Patient About STI Prevention’? 

We haven’t gotten pitches for Slide Stories with educational elements, but that’s definitely a great idea! I’d love if users could get helpful takeaways from our stories. 

 

Ideally, how do you want users to feel after they’ve used [the app]?

We want Slide Stories users to feel entertained and seen. Stories can only be so compelling to the readers if they don’t relate to the characters — that’s why our stories include slang, cultural references, and images with a diversity of skin tones and hair textures, to represent a variety of identities.

As for users who are writers themselves, we want them to view Slide Stories as a trustworthy outlet where POC/LGBTQ creatives can write for an emerging format and be compensated for doing so.

 

 

You can download the Slide Stories app on your smartphone here. 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Alyse MazyckNikki Burnett, and Tamara Chapman.