Rather catchy title, but I'm curious as to what everyone thinks. I have a series floating around in my head, and I'm seriously thinking of including some very steamy scenes. I know people say 'who cares what others think,' but after I read a review of SOULLESS and the reviewer didn't care for the steamy scenes (not that it was all that steamy, no pun intended) , I began having second thoughts.

What do you think of sexy scenes in Steampunk?


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Ms. Conteur,

This is Leslie Orton of The Aether Chronicle. As a publisher of an online Steampunk newspaper, I receive a lot of submissions from writers to be reviewed in my paper. I have had several people ask me what the 'qualifications' are to be submit material. My answer is always this: I will feature anything with a Steampunk theme, with a few exceptions. Mostly quality-control: nothing offensive (sexual or otherwise), overtly violent, prejudiced, or glorifying harming children, animals, etc. That being said, I certainly wouldn't refuse to publish something with violence, or sex scenes, so long as they were pertinent to the story. Too much of what is written (in books and for television) is sensationalism, and I find most of what is written could be told in roughly half the words, and very little actually furthers the plot. So, with regards to your question, I think sex in Steampunk could be very relevant, so long as it is done with the theme in mind (I agree with what many people have written here, that sex can appear too "modern" in a Steampunk novel, and therefore not be in keeping with the modesty and decorum of the times.)

Whew! That was a bit of a long explanation!

Leslie Orton

Modesty and decorum?

Are we talking about the same Victorian era? The Victorian era that produced "The Pearl" among other classes of erotic literature?

The Victorian era that produced Dante Rosetti and his coterie, who would trade wives, and who trawled the theaters and playhouses for the women they called "stunners", who would become artist models, mistresses and wives?

The Victorian era that produced Sir Richard Burton, who was actively a swinger (along with his wife Isabel), and who founded the Cannibal Club -- the meetings of which were described as orgies?

That Victorian era?

Ms. Schechter,

You see only what you want to see. The Victorian era certainly did have a racy underbelly, but all of it took place in the shadows, beneath a carefully cultivated mask of manners and protocols. Certain individuals made their mark upon the era, but they were the exception, not the rule. Just because a generation produces a Lady Godiva, it certainly doesn't mean that all women rode around on horses naked!


And just because an era is modest and decorous in the history books doesn't make it so. To say that sex in steampunk appears too modern is to deny that there was a heavily sexual aspect to the Victorian era.

The Pearl is still in print. Man with a Maid is still in print. So is Burton's translation of The Perfumed Garden. Sado-masochistic brothels were insanely popular, and visited by people such as Algernon Swinburne, who was openly bisexual (a dangerous thing to be in that time,) and who wrote about masochism and homosexuality in his poetry. 

The Victorian era is not all "Lie back and think of England."

Book recommendations:

Pleasure Bound, by Deborah Lutz

Sex in History, by Reay Tannahil(might have to hunt for this one. It's out of print)

Sexual History of Londonby Catherine Arnold.

Ms. Schechter,

You are passionately defending a point that no one is disputing. No one is claiming that sex didn't exist in the Victorian era. You are missing the point. The question that started this thread was whether sex scenes are acceptable in Steampunk literature today, will such scenes be well-received today, and people have given their differing opinions.

I do however want to point out that while you encourage people to disregard the history books, you select different written works and hold them up as valid evidence of prevailing attitudes of that time. So, the history books are all wrong, but these books you have selected, they are right? The point I wished to make via my response was that there was a tradition of courtly manners and a social standard of decorum in the Victorian era that people should take into account when writing for Steampunk literature. While you insist that since brothels and orgies existed back then, the entire Victorian era was defined by them. However, I find it very hard to believe that you would walk up to a lady and gentleman walking down the street through Victorian England, and invite them to your orgy. That would not have been acceptable behaviour, and claiming that orgies existed back then would not have made it acceptable.

I thank you for the recommendations, but I am actually not looking for any additional reading material at this point and time.


I never said the history books are wrong. They're just not telling you everything. A single source of history never tells the entire story. There simply isn't enough room! Likewise, you cannot base your learning of history on a single source, because you'll miss anything that was left out.

Oh, and I am not "claiming" that orgies existed. There is documentation of such. See the reference books.

Your point seems to be that sex doesn't belong in steampunk, because it is "too modern", I believe you said. However,  steampunk erotica is very popular. I've been published multiple times in the genre, and my own steampunk erotic novel is easily the most popular of my novels, and has been nominated for six separate awards. I assure you, I did my research on the era and on the socio-sexual mores of the time. It is my opinion that you can't write steampunk properly if you don't know and understand the Victorian era.

You may not want sex in your publication, and that is your choice. I'm not going to dispute that. I'm also not going to submit to your publication, because I don't agree. Not that I think you'd have me, since I seem to be tipping your sacred cow.



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