Hermione Granger, a 19-year-old seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has retired to the lavish prefect’s bathroom for a relaxing bath. But ― uh oh ― just as she’s drying off, she hears someone else enter the marbled, gilded washroom. Someone smoldering. Someone romantic. Someone who’s about to rock her world sexually. Severus... Snape?
Allie LeFevere and Lyndsay Rush are aghast at the thought. “I hope this goes... it was Professor Snape, and he was just grabbing something and leaving,” Rush gasps, giggling. “God,” LeFevere adds, “I feel like this is going to get real aggressive.”
Snape is not just grabbing something and leaving, of course. This is “The Potterotica Podcast,” and the two cohosts have just begun the first season, in which they read a nine-episode erotic fanfic story aloud. The story: “In the Prefect’s Bathroom” by fanfic writer Mrs. Figg, which takes place after the seventh book. The pairing: Hermione and Snape, sometimes known as “Snermione.”
For those familiar with erotic fan fiction, the preceding three paragraphs probably won’t sound bizarre or disturbing; for more straight-laced Potterheads, they might be viscerally shocking. LeFevere, Rush and the third cohost Danny Chapman, who joined the podcast (now on its second season) more recently, fall into the second camp. Casual “Harry Potter” fans, they stumbled into the world of erotic fan fiction not long ago. But rather than being horrified by the vast world of Potter-based erotica, they embraced it ― and found the humor in it.
“It’s so fun and so silly, and sometimes it’s sexy, but mostly we’re just laughing,” Rush told HuffPost in a recent phone conversation. They framed “The Potterotica Podcast” as a comedy show ― and indeed, they spend much of each episode howling with laughter at the romantic speeches or descriptions of a male lead’s “slender, pale legs” that are “sparsely covered with black hair.” (Apparently some people don’t find that look to be arousing.)
Much of the comedy comes from juxtaposing these beloved children’s book characters ― none written by J.K. Rowling to be sex symbols, and some written as buffoonish, grotesque or evil ― with adult sexual situations and frankly expressed desire. “If it was out of a comedic context, I think it would be very difficult to talk about these characters in a sexual way,” LeFevere said, “but there’s something about layering on satire that makes it more digestible.”
“The Potterotica Podcast” isn’t the first erotica podcast played for laughs ― even some erotica and erotic fanfic is itself infused with absurd humor. (Remember A Gronking to Remember?) Before landing on Potterotica, LeFevere and Rush contemplated a romance novel podcast. Where does our urge to laugh at overtly sexual writing come from? Why might pornographic stories about Harry and Draco, or Hermione and Snape, seem hilarious rather than simply titillating or, alternately, disturbing?
“I almost wonder if it’s because there’s still so much taboo around sex,” LeFevere floated. “The defenses go down when you can laugh and also maybe talk about a topic that maybe feels uncomfortable.”
Rush agreed, adding that the humorous side to sex isn’t restricted to blowsy erotica. “Recording the podcast and discussing these things in this way feels like it would if I had a glass of wine with my friends and we were talking about sex,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily that laughter is you masking your vulnerability or if it’s just a shade of vulnerability. You’re looking at this intimate thing in a lighthearted way.”
The hosts ask authors for permission before sharing their work on the podcast, but they have received some pushback for making light of Potterotica. When they were promoting the podcast on fan communities, LeFevere ventured into a subreddit devoted to Potterotica enthusiasts, and found that the members were less than thrilled by their angle. For some fans, Chapman said, “this isn’t to be laughed at; this is serious business.” For these redditors, LeFevere said, “Us laughing at it and giggling and making jokes was very offensive,” she said. “They were just like, no, this isn’t our jam.”
The line between serious erotica consumer and comedy fan isn’t a bright one, however. Not only do the Potterotica podcasters receive story submissions from fanfic authors who want their works to be included in a comedy show, the three hosts have realized that sexual awakening can be found in unexpected places ― like a fanfic about Hermione receiving a “Magic Mike”-esque lap dance from Draco, the plot of a Facebook Live installment the podcast did. “I think that was the hottest one,” Rush admitted.
As for LeFevere, she’s a fan of another Dramione fic, the one they’re reading in the current season. “I love it because they’re both notorious in their class and were nemeses,” she told HuffPost. “They bring out a different side of each other in these stories: Hermione’s more risqué and edgy, and we’re starting to see the softer side of Draco.”
A certain gingerness surrounding the ages of the subjects also creeps in. In many fics, the characters are depicted in their adult lives, but others take place during the series timeframe. Some show relationships between professors and students ― before or after their graduation. “The one that I am shocked by is Snape and Harry,” said LeFevere. “That’s a really popular one, and I think more than anything the shock is because of the role he played in Harry’s life at the end of the books and movies… He almost to some degree becomes a mentor, a fatherly figure.”
The cohosts pointed out that, though they try to be very mindful of the ages of the characters, we’re naturally curious about what happened next to fictional people we watched grow up. That includes romance. If anything, they wish there were more explorations of canon relationships, in a Potterotica world packed with Dramione, Snarry and Drarry fics. “In my limited experience, no one’s writing about Hermione and Ron like I hoped they would,” Rush said. “It sounds very lame and old-school, but I would have loved to see more of them.”
The accessibility of adult entertainment offered by fanfic (or a fanfic podcast) makes it a welcoming avenue toward sexual exploration, the hosts pointed out. “Something that makes this erotic world approachable is that these are characters you feel you know so well and trust,” explained Rush. “So you feel like, Oh, I could sort of get into this.” As many erotic fanfiction readers have discovered in the past, interweaving explicit content into a familiar, nonsexual story allowed them to gradually explore more sexually charged narratives, whereas porn may have seemed too intimidating and romance novels too weighed down by character backstory. Even as they laugh at the Potterotica they read, they find excitement in it.
“This has been a big sexual awakening,” said LeFevere, who has rarely read romance novels in the past. “It’s been a fun way to explore our own sexuality, our experiences.”
Though they emphasize that they know many Potter fans have enjoyed erotic fan fiction for years, the podcasters have found much of their listener base is newer to the art form ― a perhaps still-more accessible way for novices to get comfortable with adult entertainment. “The podcast format is also so great for it, because as soon as you watch a video, it’s like, uh, that’s porn,” Chapman joked. Opening up an erotic romance novel in public might seem nearly as embarrassing. On a podcast, though, “You can bring it to life and close your eyes and sort of imagine it without, like, watching porn on a plane.”
Surely anything that encourages more people to get comfortable with their sexuality, without watching porn in public, is a good thing.
From June 1 to 30, HuffPost is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the very first “Harry Potter” book by reminiscing about all things Hogwarts. Accio childhood memories.