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On Reading Your Own Porn Out Loud in a Recording Studio

It was… unique.

Among many other things, of course. Entertaining. Bizarre. Weirdly hot. But when I think about the experience of reading my own dirty story collection out loud into a high-end microphone in a small soundproof booth in a professional recording studio, the word that leaps most quickly to mind is “unique.” I have never had another experience quite like it; unless I put together another collection of dirty stories, I probably never will again.

bending cover audibleSo I wrote this book, an erotic fiction collection, “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.” The audiobook version has just been released on Audible and Amazon (it’s also available in ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, and a print edition is in the works). I did the audio recording for it myself. And since doing this audio recording was such a… unique experience, I want to write a little bit about it.

Here’s the thing. Reading my own porn out loud is an undeniably erotic experience. My dirty stories almost always get their original inspiration from my masturbatory sex fantasies. They usually take twists and turns from the original fantasy, as I work to make the fantasies plausible, or to make the characters more interesting and human, or to find the backstory behind the sex scenes and figure out why these characters are having this sex and what it means to them and how their lives will be different because of it. But the germ of the story is almost always some sexual image that gets me off, and hard. (“The Unicorn and the Rainbow” is the exception. Long story.)

So reading my dirty stories out loud is almost always at least somewhat erotic for me. And in some ways, recording the audiobook of my dirty stories amplified that experience. I was working hard to immerse myself in the stories, to really experience them, to get deep inside my characters and feel what they were feeling… so I could get it across to my listeners. And because this was being recorded for posterity, because it wasn’t some random erotic reading that would disappear into the night forever once it was done, I felt more compelled to really do it right.

Yet at the same time, I had to stay completely professional throughout the process. I had to pay attention to things like the timbre of my voice, the pitch, whether I was starting to sound scratchy and needed to take a water break. I had to find the sweet spot between sounding sing-songy and sounding monotonous. I had to pay attention to rhythm and speed, reading slowly enough to be understood but quickly enough to keep the momentum and forward motion, and using rhythm and speed to convey different moods and sensations. And when I was reading dialogue, I had to find a way to convey the different characters speaking the words, without doing crappy voices and sounding dorky and “act”-y. (If I were a professional actor, that part probably would have been easier… but I’m not.)

I’ve been doing public speaking and erotic readings for years, so all of this was familiar and comfortable territory. But it was professional territory. I was deeply immersing myself in the deeply filthy content of my stories… while at the same time, keeping a professional distance from them, and viewing them with an analytical eye.

roller_coasterPlus… well, usually when I do an erotic reading, like at Perverts Put Out or the Godless Perverts Story Hour, I just read one story. Ten minutes, fifteen tops. Doing the audio recording for “Bending” took hours: multiple hours-long sessions over the course of two days. So it had a certain “erotic marathon” quality to it. And it had an “erotic rollercoaster” quality as well: I’d immerse myself in one story, in one set of intense and often deeply freaky sexual scenarios…. and then, immediately, as soon as it was done, I’d switch gears to the next one. I’d get completely engrossed by the intrepid young woman screwing dozens of strangers she found on Craig’s List… and on a dime, I had to switch to the tough dyke humiliating a strange woman in front of an open hotel window. I’d get completely engrossed by the college student and her professor, crossing the line between academic and sexual discipline without ever acknowledging it… and on a dime, I had to switch to the self-absorbed porn star, manipulating her innocent, baby-dyke lover into performing in spanking porn. It was like erotic whiplash. And to manage it, I had to have the emotional and sexual willingness to sink deeply into each story… and the professional willingness to detach from it, and move on immediately to the next one.

The physical setting played into this oddity as well, this bizarre juxtaposition of erotic intensity and professional detachment. A voice recording booth is small. It’s dark. It’s intimate. It’s private, carefully designed to be sealed off from the outside world. It’s just you, in a small dark room, and the recording engineer in a larger, brighter, but still hermetically sealed-off room, with just the one window between you. (In the space I was in, anyway: I don’t know how universal this setup is.) It’s just you, in a small, dark, private room, with the filthy images you spent years honing as vividly as you could, reverberating off the walls and surrounding you. (Not literally reverberating, obviously. Metaphorically.) In some ways, it reminded me of the “talk to a live nude girl” booth where I worked at the Lusty Lady peep show. At the same time, it’s an entirely professional setting: all techy and shit, super-clean, plush and slick, with dials and levers and readouts in the engineer’s room that looked like an airplane cockpit. And the relationship with the recording engineer was 100% professional… necessary, desirable, but in its own way, weird. I’ve never before read my dirty stories to someone who showed so little outward interest in their content. (To this day, I wonder what he thought about the stories. Especially the more seriously fucked-up ones. And especially the one about the unicorn and the rainbow.)

Also… I don’t know if you know this, if you don’t do public speaking yourself you might not, but public speaking is physically demanding. It’s not just emotionally draining: there are physiological reasons why it’s tiring, having to do with the way you breathe when you’re talking versus when you’re not (tl;dr: you don’t take in as much oxygen when you talk). Doing it for an hour is tiring: doing it for hours is exhausting. So it felt like an erotic marathon… but it also felt like the regular kind of marathon. Again reminding me, especially at the end of the recording day when I was fried, that this was work.

I guess in a lot of ways, it was like any other kind of sex work. When I worked as a stripper, I had to maintain a similar blend and balance of sexual engagement with professional detachment. And other sex workers I’ve known — at least, the ones who’ve liked their work and cared about it — have said much the same thing. I just hadn’t expected it here. And because this particular work was so very much my own — because I cared so much about these stories, because I’d put so much work and love into them, because it mattered so much to me to make the audio recordings as first-rate as I possibly could — the intensity, on the eroticism and the professionalism and the weird balance and blend between them, was dialed up to eleven.

I hope it paid off. I think it did.

The audiobook of “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” is available on Audible and Amazon. The ebook is available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. The print edition is in the works.

Comments

  1. says

    Three things:

    And when I was reading dialogue, I had to find a way to convey the different characters speaking the words, without doing crappy voices and sounding dorky and “act”-y. [emphasis added]

    I’m so glad you said that! This is why I mostly stick to nonfiction audiobooks. Too many readers fall into a kind of audio “uncanny valley” with dialogue: Not quite fully acting, but way beyond any sort of natural reading. Ideally, just the slightest change in rhythm or register will signal a new character; most attempts to “do” a voice just end up sounding cartoonish (or, when it’s a male reader doing a female voice, cringeworthily stereotypical).

    Also… I don’t know if you know this, if you don’t do public speaking yourself you might not, but public speaking is physically demanding.

    Word! This is what I tell all my office-worker friends who think teaching is a cushy job for lazy people. Aside from all the other ways teachers work hard, they spend large fractions of every workday effectively doing public speaking… and often to an at least partly hostile audience. Folks who think that’s easy haven’t tried it.

    I guess in a lot of ways, it was like any other kind of sex work.

    Huh. I never would’ve thought of this as sex work. Now that you mention it, it seems obvious that it is; it just wouldn’t have occurred to me that way if you hadn’t said so.

    Oh, wait, four things: Hooray! Bending is out on audio! I purchased it yesterday, and can’t wait to find some quiet time to listen to it. (Normally I listen to audiobooks while driving, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.)

  2. John Kruger says

    Heh. Now I find myself fixating on a meta erotica fiction of an erotica author and an inappropriately escalating relationship with a sound engineer. (Let me just emphasize, FICTION).

  3. Pieter B, FCD says

    OK, I’ve got it on the Kindle, now I’ll have to get it on the iPod too. Is “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” on Audible, too?

  4. says

    OK, I’ve got it on the Kindle, now I’ll have to get it on the iPod too. Is “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” on Audible, too?

    Yes, it is, I has it and it’s wonderful!

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