More often than not, when Gen Z thinks about erotica, our mind wanders to our middle school bedrooms and late nights spent reading Wattpad stories under the blanket. Now, as people very much removed from middle school, we have to ask ourselves what our exposure to mature sexual content consists of and how it works to arouse us, if at all.
Writer and editor Carly Pifer has taken to answering this question through Aurore, a website dedicated to erotica with a twist. People are asked to submit nonfiction works, often through a queer and feminist lens, and Pifer works with them to elevate these stories of real life to immersive and sensual erotica. It’s not your every day 9 to 5, and I had a chance to talk to Pifer about Aurore and the allure of it all.
“Angst and curiosity” were some of the first words Pifer said to me, describing what it meant to be in her thirties but still feel like a 22-year-old at heart. As someone who just turned 22, she’s absolutely right. With a Scorpio moon and rising, her work with the passionate and intriguing is a perfect fit. “Aurore allows me to be more mysterious, more out of the spotlight,” says Pifer, who admitted to writing several stories for the site under an anonymous name.
Before creating Aurore, Pifer worked as a freelance writer, crafting multiple articles about sex, fashion, and feminism. “I think that I’ve always written from a place of just brutal honesty and kind of a confessional space, and that is very much what Aurora is as well,” Pifer tells Her Campus. “As I mentioned, that angst and curiosity, I think around relationships around intimacy, vulnerability, that’s always been kind of the driver behind a lot of my writing.”
Transitioning from writing and creative directing to founding a platform for other writers is an important step in a writer’s journey. It signifies a compassion and desire to foster a supportive environment, not only for seasoned writers but amateur ones, which Aurore encourages submissions from. “When it came to unpacking past relationships through an erotic lens, it was really helpful for me to process, but also get closure and kind of make a tribute almost to that relationship, but move forward in my life,” Pifer says. “I really did feel that that would be beneficial and attractive for other people as well —I think the process of writing a story is actually the biggest gift you can give yourself.”
But what does this intimate writing process look like, and what role does Pifer play in helping writers craft a sexy but authentic erotic story without overstepping? According to Pifer, it requires a lot of trust, and a willingness to go below the surface.“Most of my edits are asking people to go deeper: subtly suggesting more backstory, more character development, and asking for details like birthmarks, freckles, and scars.”
Additionally, Pifer encourages writers to embrace, highlight, and write about themselves as a fully-realized human, not a fantasy. “A challenge for writers is describing themselves,” Pifer says. “Describing your own body as sexy is a pivotal experience, and sometimes it takes several rounds [of edits].”
ICYMI: Erotica is in.
Reading erotica isn’t something commonly marketed towards Gen-Z (the closest thing we get to it is Colleen Hoover), but even that typically centers and is written for an older audience. But, Pifer believes Aurore is a special service for young people: “The majority of young people, their first experience with sex is through visual pornography. I know, mine was, and I remember more graphic images really sticking with me in a not-positive way.”
For this reason, Pifer has dedicated time to collecting stories that appeal to all types of people. “I think having stories that are sex-positive and female or queer-focused is a really powerful tool for sex education. The most rewarding part of it is getting feedback from people that say like, ‘I’ve never read a story that includes somebody like me,’” says Pifer.
It’s not only the queer community that can benefit from Aurore’s erotic stories, but straight cis men as well. “I think that Aurora is actually an amazing space for straight men to learn how to please great women, because it’s legit, from their point of view — what turns them on,” Pifer says.
Unfortunately, judgment is something erotica is familiar with, especially when it comes to the desire of women and queer people, often under attack. Aurore’s mission is to turn the stigmatized into the sexy, and embarrassment into empowerment. “Every platform that is for social sharing, I get stuff taken down, warnings put up, I’m not allowed to use tools. I’m definitely shadow-banned,” Pifer says. “And feeling like my brand, which is for women and queer people, is not allowed, makes this work feel more important — I hope that it’s reaching the right people. I hope that the people that need it can find it.”
If you’re interested in submitting to Aurore, check out the submission guidelines here.