#GoDeeperLife: One Fine Day, We Decided to Start an Erotic Press

As we sat in that bed of ours, trying to come up with a name for our press, we’d only been dating one another for a matter of months.

“Why not?” I asked Jake, as we were sitting in bed one Saturday. “I mean, you’ve got oodles of editing and design experience, and I’ve been publishing sex writing for a while.”

Jake, who, by the way, looks wonderfully tousled post-sex, thought about what I was saying. “All right,” he said. “What would we call it?”

For a while, this was an issue.

We knew we felt that erotica and porn were genres we wanted to take seriously. Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus had pretty much saved my life when I was younger, and one of Jake’s heroes was Dennis Cooper, who wrote about taboo sex with courage and candor. Too often, I’d been asked at literary events, “So what do you write?” And my reply of, “Erotica and romance,” was rarely greeted without a smirk. But I didn’t find my reply the slightest bit funny. In response, I used to smile and shrug. But then, that got old. You see, neither Jake nor I saw why erotica and porn should be smirked at. We knew — as we always have — that erotica and porn, be they edgy and thought-provoking, cute and romantic, or gleefully pornographic, are worth taking seriously.

Our sexuality is deep.

Anyway, I digress.

As we sat in that bed of ours, trying to come up with a name for our press, we’d only been dating one another for a matter of months. We’d met while I was teaching a literary writing class, and Jake was one of the students. He made me feel warm inside, just looking at him. Even before he opened his mouth and proved that he really, really, really knew his stuff, I felt like I’d known him for years. But that’s how it was with Jake. Happiness at first sight. We just knew we were meant to be together.

And I think it was the same with Go Deeper.

A couple of weeks after we’d first started talking about launching a press, a fortune-teller at Mystic Moon in Provincetown gave me a tarot reading using ordinary playing cards. It was an extraordinarily accurate and detailed reading, and at the end, I was able to ask a few questions. “Should we start this erotic press we’ve been talking about?” I asked.

The psychic, who, appropriately, was dressed in gender-blending attire, turned over a few cards and said, “Oh, it’s going to be successful. Not huge like Penguin. But successful — and fun. And it’s going to mean a lot to people.”

The psychic, who, appropriately, was dressed in gender-blending attire, turned over a few cards and said, “Oh, it’s going to be successful. Not huge like Penguin. But successful — and fun. And it’s going to mean a lot to people.”

Then, when I asked about a difficult relative, he pulled the “bitch card.”

But again, I digress.

So. We launched. We published an anthology called Femme Fatale: Erotic Tales of Dangerous Women, in which the majority of authors weren’t new to writing, but were knew to publishing erotica. That anthology did well, especially considering it was our first. We didn’t even realize at the time that we’d published a book most erotic presses would never even consider, due to its sex-and-murder vibe. Witness that the super-smart and wonderful Ella Dawson reviewed it, saying, “I’ll be blunt. This anthology fucked me up.”

I guess we were born to break rules.

We grappled for a while, even after we’d launched, to work out who we were exactly. We used the word “transformational” for a while to describe what we were doing, but it proved a little misleading — our published works didn’t have to transform anything. They just needed to be believed in. We had a hell of a lot to learn, not only about publishing erotica, but also about the politics of sex and gender. (I recently had to redraft my story in Femme Fatale because of a snafu I’d made in my treatment of a character’s gender and genitals. Sometimes, the lessons become clear just through living.) Jake wasn’t yet out as transgender, and I hadn’t yet healed from the dissociation I’d started to experience when I was a child. But one thing we did learn was that we’d always be learning. I don’t think you can aim to publish inclusive erotica without making mistakes.

But one thing we did learn was that we’d always be learning. I don’t think you can aim to publish inclusive erotica without making mistakes.

You just have to learn from them.

In the weeks, months, and years that followed our idea of starting a press, we’d learned that we were very different to the majority of other publishers: We weren’t only publishing taboo work — we also adored it, and felt it played a vital societal role. We were — and always will be — passionately anti-censorship. We were open in our definitions of erotica and porn. We wanted to be edgy. We wanted to rebel. We wanted to be queer and open to all sexualities. We wanted to publish work that shattered boundaries and made political statements just by being out there.

We wanted the dialogue around erotica and porn to go deeper and deeper, to never stop teaching us, to never stop exploding. Perhaps that’s why I called an erotic writing class I’d taught one Saturday, “Go Deeper, Baby: Writing Meaningful Erotica.” The class started with a discussion of what “meaningful” means for each of us when we write about sex and sexuality.

“What about Go Deeper Press?” said Jake one day, when we were sitting in his living room, brainstorming names.

I paused for a moment. Go Deeper.

“You know,” I said, “I think I like it.”

–Lana Fox & Jacob Louder

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