I am thinking of writing a character that possesses the psychological phenomenon of erotophonophilia (or lust murder, or sexual sadism as it is more commonly known). I am making sure to do my research to represent it accurately and I believe it is an important part of this character's arc and the context they provide to the world.

However, I can see myself alienating audiences since it could be seen as a taboo subject, and I'm writing from the perspective of someone who has it (rather than describing this character from another's perspective) and the character is female while I am a male writer.

Can I continue to write this character this way, or would this have consequences on my image as a writer that are too destructive?

  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because wording asks a yes or no question with an obvious answer since taboo subjects often form the basis of great literature that bring their authors wide aclaim and promote social change. The real question I suspect the OP wants to know is how to go about it.
    – EDL
    Sep 19, 2020 at 21:38

5 Answers 5


I've certainly read books that feel like excuses for the author to luxuriate in his or her own private perversities. I'd ask the following questions: Do you linger on the taboo? Is it gratuitous? Are the consequences and negative aspects dealt with honestly and directly, or is this a fantasy version of it? Is there a compelling reason to include it? Is the book as a whole good enough to justify wading in these murky waters, or does the rest of it just feel like an pretext? Is it presented with an element of the pornographic? Would this book be sexually gratifying to someone who actually had this disorder?

It's always difficult for readers to separate the writer from the characters, especially with a first-person narrator. But the above questions are the ones that would tilt my own opinion about you, the writer, one direction or the other.


Respectfully, yes:

You aren't writing for Hallmark or the Lifetime Channel, are you?

I don't think anything is off the table if you do it right, but consider your audience. People aren't going to respond well to anything that glorifies evil, graphically portrays something deeply disrespectful in a way that doesn't emphasize humanity, and doesn't reach a conclusion that is either thoughtful or satisfying.

The storyline of The Messiah Stone ends with the amoral main character, after committing numerous murders, coming to a bad end. Most people who would want to read about graphic depictions of torture and rape are not people I would personally want as readers. I have a main character in a book who is a cannibal, a war criminal, and a child killer - and that is just the first three chapters. But you either get an explanation of why her behavior is culturally relevant, or she atones for it eventually when she realizes her mistakes.

People have complex demons driving them. Pretending they aren't there is not going to make them go away, and we need to be able to stare them in the face. But if we tell everyone what great guys the demons are, we risk being them.

Now I know people will disagree, but Dexter wouldn't exist if it were up to me. Even there, he's portrayed in a forgiving light - he kills only other serial killers. If you do glorify evil, make it clear there are trade-offs. Mad men suffer for their madness, and killers are themselves killed.

Doing your research is a good first step. Anything less leaves you open to legitimate criticisms. I'm not guaranteeing that you won't open yourself to criticism and condemnation, but I can't think that a writer who is afraid to write and risk is going to do anything terribly exciting or thought provoking.


First and foremost, the answer to your question is that it's for you to decide. I personally believe that regardless of how much tact you show, some people will be upset by such a taboo topic and respond in kind, even if their criticisms are unjustified. Thus, you have to decide for yourself if that backlash is worth the readers who appreciated your handling of the topic.

As for HOW you might go about it tactfully, I think tone and message are very important to this situation. In this case the tone essentially suggests the message to the reader, unless you're planning to outright tell the audience what they're supposed to think about this character.

You already said you're doing your research, and that really is the most important part. This avoids the Fifty Shades of Grey criticism. However, you're still not free of the 13 Reasons Why criticism. If you spend a great deal of time dwelling on the taboo topic and presenting it with an idealized tone, you could easily face criticisms of romanticizing the subject. (This is especially likely in your case as it deals with pleasure and death)

Now, it's technically not a crime to be aroused by death, but there are certain actions one might take which, if presented in the wrong way, could cause upset. For instance, if the character orchestrates the deaths she is aroused by, or does anything irreverent to the bodies. Those actions would somehow need to be clearly framed as immoral actions.

Without the proper context I don't think I can help any more than that. Best of luck to you.


different forms of literature have different audiences. what suits one audience will not suit another. write what you want to write. if you write well enough, you will find your audience.


Personally, I think it can be destructive. I won't read authors that seem to embrace and celebrate racism, or homophobia, or rape, or physically assaulting a spouse or child or stranger.

Especially as the POV character. I can certainly tolerate a great deal of evil in the villains. Murder, torture, rape, genocide, nuclear destruction -- But if the author lets them off the hook, or seems to revel in their evil, I am done. Not just with that book. With that author.

There are hundreds of other authors to read.

I can read the daily news if I want to see evil people getting away with horrors and laughing at the pain and misery of the innocents they have harmed.

I read fiction to escape reality, not revel in the reality of evil and evil people laughing at the pain and misery of others.

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