There are many!
I can hear you saying, wow, where has she been?
Thinking a lot about this lately (as I approach writing my 8th and 9th erotica stories), I began to see how far women have come in the past 40-odd years since Harlequin took off, Avon bought Rosemary Rogers and other publishers saw the value of developing their romance lines.
In the 70s, romances for women were known as "bodice-rippers" and some said they gained their shelf-prominence because the stockers were men. That is such a male-centered statement. Those of us who bought the books did not buy them because they sat so prominently on the shelves. No, the fact is that we bought them because we wanted sexual adventure, men who could love a woman and accept her for all that she was and could become. Remember, in the 70's many college-edcuated woman first went to wrok--even if they had babies! In the 70's, safe sex was a novel idea. Condom sales were not high. (Pharamcies still hid them behind the counter and men had to ask to buy them.) The Pill was still considered unsafe for your health (but we took them anyway). And btw, there was no such thing as equal pay for equal work, maternity leave with pay, family leave for illness-and in many cases, no one ever heard of time off for a death in the family.
So...again...why did we buy those books?
We bought them because, consciously or subconciously, we WANTED men to get a grip, see us, hear us for what we needed: equality in work and play, joy in the relationship, more than slam-bam-thank-you, ma'am in bed!
Romance in all its forms gave us that. Men saw us reading them. Laughed, at first. Read one or two themselves. Then something else happened: They saw that we had more courage to ask for what we were entitled to. Fair pay. Fair play. In the boardroom, kitchen and the bedroom.
I remember the comment/aka uproar in the industry when condoms were first used by men in books, first requested by women, when euphemisims for body parts became boooooring and more honesty in use of terms became more acceptable. But editors still sat on the erotica-meter and cut and slashed those racier parts. (I was one whose scenes were edited down in my historicals and who mourned the loss of exciting diversity in the bedroom!)
But as our children grew to young adults and acted responsibly as we had taught them to do, we saw that they read romances, too. Yep, even the males. Perhaps not as many volumes, but still. This meant we had another generation who understood the dynamics of sexual relations--and who not only read about it, but acted on it.
Enter Virgin Books' Black Lace in the 90's and their huge success in sales in English-speaking countries.
Enter Ellora's Cave at the turn of the century and their huge success in the market with their focus on electronic publishing and sales.
Enter so many other e-publishers into a market that grew by leaps and bounds along with the internet--AND the huge demand for erotica.
What has the latest surge in erotica and e-publishing done for women?
Let me count the benefits!
First, we have truth in packaging! (And what a delight it is to see that FLOWERs are no longer the preferred concept cover for a romance or an erotica!) Now we have, for the ladies, MEN. Men in delicious poses. Men in naked splendour. Men with women in scrumptious tangles that imply the novel's content. And we have naked women, posing with other women. Multiple naked bodies, where the story carries it.
Now we also have an easy, quick and safe method to buy the books we love to read without fear of censure. What is on your Sony Reader or your computer can be locked up, baby, and sequestered from those who might spy on you, your need for a little get-away time, and your need for an affirmation that you are strong, needy and entitled to great sex. On paper. In your bedroom. From a partner who cares.
More importantly, we now have the ability to "view" other means of sexual enjoyment. What was once taboo, unavailable to us by any delicate means is now out there. I remember going to an "art house" with my husband in the 80's and being the only woman in the theater. Urrr. I remember enjoying Debbie Does Dallas and Behind the Green Door and not being able to discuss it except with my husband...and later my writing collaborator who was an educated woman with an open mind. I remember, too, going into Adult Video stores and asking for different tapes. i was asked if I wanted videos "For a Bachlorette Party" or "For a Bridal Shower" and being shown to the large book, subdivided that way. No lie. The entries, yes, I tried them-- were not as good as Dallas or Green Door. And yes, the acting was truly terrible.
But the writing of most erotica fiction I have read in the past few years is absolutely mouth-wateringly LOVELY. DYNAMIC and thrilling! Gratifying beyond any video I ever saw. Including Door and Dallas.
So what else do we get for our freedoms to buy, read beautifully written fiction and enjoy the hell out of it?
We get a boldness to ask our sexual partners for what we want.
We get the ability to know what turns us on.
We get the variety, written out for us, by those with more experience or greater imaginations than ours.
We get to understand that there are many ways to enjoy our own bodies. And others'.
We get to understand that what some want--multiple partners, same sex partners, toys--might be something we want to try. Or not. Living vicariously does make you stronger and more intelligent.
We get to read, enjoy our own imaginations and then we get to decide what makes us happy.
What does reading erotica do for you?
Has it helped you grow out of shell, a habit? Has it brought you new ways to think about the human condition? Might it have improved your primary relationship?
I would love to hear.
Thanks for reading my pov on this wonderful genre.
And do read my newest, a menage, HER THREE-WAY MERGER from EC!