Monday, 16 September 2013

Why We Love Reading Erotica

Jumping on a train the other day, I overheard two (male) station staff discussing Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James and pondering the reason why the book - and its spin-offs - had been so popular. Why liberated women, in fact, love to read erotica where a man is pictured as dominant.

I butted in - as you so often do when you're a writer - and told them I write erotica too. I explained my take that women lead such busy, complicated lives, sometimes they just want to be swept off into a world where they are desirable and adventurous, and where they no longer have to feel 'responsible' for everything.

We want to be heroines too ...
Modern women are 'responsible': for their everyday living, for their finances, for their careers, for their children, even for organising their love lives and contraception. And being the responsible one can weigh you down. We all love our independence, of course, and would never throw it away. Wishing to read erotica does not disguise some urge to return to the bad old days of the male head of the household, and the woman as silent partner.

But occasionally it feels fun and sexy to let go of our professional, business-like side, especially if we are 'in charge' in many areas of our life, including work. If our outer life is very structured, it can feel sexually energising to let our hair down, perhaps literally, and be the softer, less dominant partner for a few hours.

Some wrongly believe that reading erotica of the Fifty Shades variety means women want to be spanked, or tied up, or made to be submissive. Not necessarily!

Just because we love reading about the potential for such naughtiness does not mean we want the reality. We may be too stressed or too busy or too damn tired for hanky-panky in the bedroom. Some of us may not have a man willing to take charge, or have a man who would too readily take such kinky fun as a signal that we want to be dominated full-time.

By reading an erotic story, we can vicariously enjoy an insight into other people's sex lives, imagining how it would feel to be the heroine, bound to the bed, or bent over, awaiting a firm male hand on her upraised bottom ... but never have to do any of it ourselves, if we'd rather not.

WOLF BRIDE: Erotica meets the Tudors

Finally, the main thrust, if you'll pardon the expression, behind the sudden emergence of erotica as a popular genre for women has been the twin prongs of cover redesign and the e-reader. With generic covers, or a discreet e-reader in their bag, women need no longer feel embarrassed to be seen reading a sexy book. Though increasingly I see women on the train and in other public places thumbing merrily through EL James or Sylvia Day or any of the other erotic novels on the market, liberated from embarrassment by the knowledge that millions of other women are doing this too.

Maybe one day soon I'll see someone reading WOLF BRIDE by Elizabeth Moss. And carefully refrain from leaning across to ask, 'Any good?'

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