I’m Kristina Lloyd and I’m a hornymanoholic. My friend, Mathilde Madden, suffers from the same problem.
You wouldn’t believe some of the places we have to hang out to get a fix. It makes us feel weird and freakishly oversexed.
Imagine our plight: another late night of smut writing and we decide to take, um, a break from the words. So we google, say, ‘stud muffin’ or ‘david boreanaz naked’ or ‘army boy gang bang in a warehouse after they have all got in from the mud and are really really angry’.
And where do we end up? Yup, gawping at gay porn.
Many of us have heard the phrase ‘I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body’. It’s understandable where the confusion arises but what this assertion actually means is ‘I’m an ordinary woman living in a world which refuses to accept I love sex and frequently have the horn for men.’ Mainstream depictions of sexiness often bypass female desire entirely because they bypass the jaw-dropping, mouth-drying, knee-weakening sexiness of guys. Typically, sexiness equals curves, breasts, hips, lips and knickers. If you’re a straight woman and you want unashamed muscle and some sexiness your way, then you must make like a minority and go to gayland. Why, when women are over half the population? This surely ain’t fair.
It’s much the same in bookshops (although obviously there is a lot less cock) with sexy gay fiction being where it's at. Mathilde and I read and write smut. This gets us hot. But the covers of erotica leave us cold and frustrated. They feature near naked women and are aimed primarily at straight men.
Sure, if you’re a bi woman, you might like the picture too but presumably you’d be equally happy with a gorgeous guy. And it’s odd, isn’t it – suspicious even – that on erotica covers, the only aspects of female bisexuality represented are the ones that heterosexual men get off on quite majorly? How jolly convenient! Because the fact is the preponderance of the female form in erotica isn't an act of generosity towards women who like women, anymore than the plethora of hot-honeys-go-pussy-crazy porn is about lesbian consumer choice. It's just a side effect of what straight men like.
So Mathilde and I have been wondering why there are practically no men on erotica covers. And we realise it’s simple: as everyone knows, if a straight man looks at another man in an arena that could be construed as sexual, his penis falls off dead! And since nobody wants bookstore owners to be continually having to sweep up the penises in the erotica section (it’s bad enough there as it is), they put the hot-hunk covers out of harm’s way, in places where no self-respecting straight man would go ie. in gay fiction and erotic romance.
Erotica and erotic romance are different beasts (though both are making two backs). Erotic romance, as you probably know, is a smutty offshoot of the traditional romance genre. Broadly speaking, the narrative is driven by the development of potentially loving and long term relationship between a him and a her (with occasional twists, extras, spankings and even lashings of lube). Sex, or the hunger for it, is a hot horny part of that burgeoning relationship, and of other hook-ups the protagonist may have before she snags her main man.
In erotica, lust has the upper hand. Love may or may not be present but the story is driven primarily by sexual desire, often kinky, and the quest for its fulfilment. Of course, that doesn’t mean erotica lacks emotion, passion or empathetic characters. Negotiating the journey to sexual completion can be incredibly fraught, joyous, intense, and intellectually and emotionally-involving. Love and lust are both deeply profound and complex subjects.
Remember that old chestnut, ‘Girls use sex to get love; guys use love to get sex’? Sometimes it seems we’re still stuck there: erotic romance prioritises love therefore it’s for women; erotica prioritises lust therefore it’s for men.
The book covers say as much with their images of hot hunks on erotic romance, images of hot babes on erotica. The message seems to be it’s only legit for women to look at a bit of brawn with the safety net of love, sunsets and a happy ever after. Sure, these things are fine. That’s what romance is about. But haven’t we had enough of the notion that women only like sex with hearts, bows and violins? That we can only fuck with one eye on our future prospects? That lust is strictly for the boys and that women can’t go gooey over a beautiful male body sans sunset?
Why are there rarely any men on the covers of erotica? Why does the genre insist on fetishising only the female form?
The question becomes increasingly pressing when you look at the phenomenal growth in the numbers of women writing and consuming erotica. Erotica’s readership has changed hugely in recent years but the covers are still languishing in the past. They appeal directly to men while fobbing women off with the notion that they can identify with the half-dressed object of many a man’s desire. And if you don’t identify, then what? You can fuck off back to romance where you belong? Keep on trespassing on gay porn?
Hey! We’re women, we’re here! We like to look and lust just as much as guys do. And we reckon the objects of our desire ought to be getting a lot more cover space. We want more sexy guys in erotica, more muscles, more couples - more equality, goddammit!
Sure, some women like looking at other women and we’re not knocking that. But how come that's all we’re allowed to look at? What about those of us who are (oh God, the shame) straight? What can we feast our eyes on?
So Mathilde and I are launching our campaign to Banish Inequality on Covers in Erotica, Porn and Smut (BICEPS)! Please check out our brand new blog, Erotica Cover Watch. On Erotica Cover Watch, we’ll be highlighting the problem of erotica’s persistent sexism by bringing you regular doses of cover-snark, rigorous debate, rage, laughter, hope and dirty filthy photos of hot handsome men in teeny tiny pants. We really hope you’ll add your voice.
Head on over there now to have your say. Vote in our big BICEPS poll!
And if you want to beef up your blog, add this gobbledegook to your sidebar:
<p align=center><a href="http://eroticacoverwatch.wordpress.com/"> <img class="aligncenter" src="http://i391.photobucket.com/albums/oo359/biceps_photos/biceps%20branding/Banish.jpg" border="0"></a></p>
and you'll get this lovely link:
It’s easy for us all – readers, writers, editors, publishers, booksellers – to feel as if our hands are tied (cue bondage joke), as if we can’t affect the status quo because its values are too ingrained in our cultural psyche.
But we can change this. Bit by bit we can all have an impact. We can get rid of those weary ideas that erotica services only men, that women are objects to be looked at while those we lust after enjoy the power and privilege of looking. In content, erotica is increasingly wonderful. It’s imaginative, varied, arousing, stylish and daring, and it’s no longer the preserve of The Boys’ Club. It really is time the covers caught up.
Let's Banish Inequality on Covers in Erotica, Porn and Smut!