The Effects of Repression

Since I’ve been writing romance and erotica, I’ve noticed a number of themes emerging in my stories. Some of these themes are intentional. There are certain elements I want to include in my story and the characters within those stories. However, I’ve noticed that some of those themes are a bit more indirect. I’ve also noticed similar themes in other stories as well. One theme that seems to creep up more than most is the concept of repression.

We all know what the dictionary definition of the word is. Repression is, “the act of not allowing a memory, feeling, or desire to be expressed.” It’s most commonly used as a political term or a psychoanalytical term. Anyone who has been in therapy is probably familiar with that concept. In writing romance and erotica, repression takes on a very different context and it happens to be one of the chief guiding forces of a story.

The struggle of any love story or any erotic tale is often built on repression. A character struggles to deal with romantic feelings towards someone. Another character struggles to deal with powerful sexual desires. Few forces instigate conflicts in passions more than repression. Prevent someone from feeling an emotion or experiencing intimacy and it causes conflict, both internally and externally.

I’ve dealt with both in my writings. In Skin Deep, Ben Prescott struggled to express the emotions he felt for his best friend, Mary Williams. He was basically forced to repress those feelings because she ran with a different crowd and left him behind. It showed in his jaded personality early in the story.

However, I took this concept to an extreme in my recent book, The Final Communion. This story focuses more on the suppression of erotic desires and this is where things get even messier, both literally and figuratively. Grace Maria Goodwin lived her whole life in an isolated compound, segregated from other boys and conditioned to repress her natural urges. Except she wasn’t alone. Men and women alike had to suppress all these urges throughout their youth. It’s the kind of extreme repression that has the greatest effect, but it’s a repression that occurs in the real world.

So what happens when repressed individuals like Grace are allowed to vent all this repressed desire? Well, The Final Communion shows just how much she vents in graphic detail. In many ways, it’s a sobering experience, writing about this kind of repression and how it affects someone. It’s also part of a real phenomenon.

It’s true. These themes of repression were inspired by things in the real world that interested me. I read a number of stories about young men and women in repressive countries like Iran who find ways to throw secret, decadent parties. It’s enough to make me wonder just how far the effects of repression can go.

It turns out I’m not the only one curious about this. An article in Psychology Today says it far better than I ever could:

Nothing inspires murderous mayhem in human beings more reliably than sexual repression. Denied food, water, or freedom of movement, people will get desperate and some may lash out at what they perceive as the source of their problems, albeit in a weakened state. But if expression of sexuality is thwarted, the human psyche tends to grow twisted into grotesque, enraged perversions of desire.

It’s a sobering thought and one that makes me worry just how much real-world repression inspires real-world problems. For now, it’s an interesting idea to explore in my writing. Some of the projects I have in the works will deal with this issue directly and others indirectly. However those stories turn out, I think it’s still clear that the forces of repression will continue to affect us all, whether we like it or not.

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