Torn Shapes of Desire: Internet Erotica

Mary Anne Mohanraj

illustrated by Tracy Lee
Intangible Assets Manufacturing 1996
A book review by Danny Yee © 1997
Back in the Silver Age of the Net, when no one had yet dreamed of the Communications Decency Act and email spam was unknown, Tim Pierce edited rec.arts.erotica and Mary Anne Mohanraj was the most reliable contributor of quality writing to that newsgroup. So Torn Shapes of Desire, a collection of her short fiction and poetry, is classical Internet literature.

Mohanraj's works range from the romantic to the downright raunchy, and from the serious to the slapstick. She writes about the fantastic and the mundane, about gentleness and violence, about vanilla sex and about such taboo subjects as inter-racial sex, bondage, incest, and suicide. But her focus is always on people, the ties between them, and their complex emotional lives. An attractive complement to the text, Lee's photographs are suggestive but fairly tame (it is hard to believe the publisher's account of his difficulties finding a printer who would handle pictures of — shock! horror! — breasts).

Working under the threat of the CDA, the publisher, the author and the photographer of Torn Shapes of Desire all address the issue of censorship in their prefaces. Anti-censorship activists often say that the answer to bad speech is more, good speech rather than censorship. By that we don't mean handbooks advocating abstention or chastity, but the kind of writing in Torn Shapes, writing that faces the complexities and realities of human sexuality, of human relationships, with compassion, empathy, and understanding, and without prurience, wowserism, or repression. (The censors, of course, and their automated filtering software, can't make this sort of distinction, lumping all frank discussion of sex indiscriminately together as "pornography".)

Included along with the stories, the poems, and the photos is an interview with Mohanraj and several other writers of Internet erotica, discussing what drew them to the genre and the medium and some of their experiences. It was disappointing that Torn Shapes of Desire was so short (and I hope that there is another volume in the works), but the longest of its stories is just six pages long and an amazing amount is packed into its 120 pages. One could read it in a sitting, but that would be wasteful.

October 1997

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%T Torn Shapes of Desire
%S Internet Erotica
%A Mohanraj, Mary Anne
%Q Lee, Tracy
%I Intangible Assets Manufacturing
%D 1996
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1885876033
%P 128pp