Erotica novels were considered to be obscene in the 15th century and arguably still are. Most literature of this kind had become secret and kept hidden with the various concerns of illuminating our deepest and darkest desires. Are we still living in Tudor times to the point where we keep what we read away from each other because of its sexually explicit content and taboo trademark?
“I remember the first time I saw Mills and Boon book. It was when I was 10 whilst at a friend’s sleep-over; she found her Mum’s secret stash of explicit books under her bed,” avid erotica reader Carlene* explains. “On the cover was a topless muscular man, with what seemed to be a distraught semi-clad woman in his arms. Back then we didn’t understand it, but we knew it was something our parents didn’t want us to see, which of course becomes very interesting to a curious child.”
[pullquote_left]“Sex and eroticism are part of everyday life and I’m a firm believer that if we spoke about such things more openly younger people would not feel the need to be so awkward about it.” [/pullquote_left]
As an author of erotica myself, I still feel uncomfortable telling people what I write about even though it is not in the category of the dark extreme fantasies. I give it the wider title of ‘adult fiction’ to calm the already increased tension the erotica title stirs.
Chrissie Manby, author of 15 chick-lit books and eight erotic novels under two pen names Olivia Darling and Stephanie Ash, shares a similar view: “I perfectly understand why someone wouldn’t want to have to deal with the stereotyping that comes with the territory.”
Manby wrote her first erotic novel as a dare, aged 23, when she met a science fiction writer who moonlighted as an erotic novelist. It was then published by the same imprint that he worked for.
In sit-com Friends, Joey discovers the erotic book Rachel is reading, taunting her to repeat paragraphs from the literature. Rachel becomes increasingly flustered and embarrassed by his childish nature. Do all women react this way when their guilty pleasure is unearthed? Ninfa Sferlazzo-Hayes from the Bookaholics Book Club does not agree. “Erotic fiction is a fixed fixture in my habits. I review books so I can identify erotic ones that aren’t just about the sex but that also have an interesting plot[...]”
“Sex and eroticism are part of everyday life and I’m a firm believer that if we spoke about such things more openly younger people would not feel the need to be so awkward about it,” she states.
Manby explains the style of writing she has conveyed. “I shied away from writing about the kind of sex that is explicit and degrading in my later books. I don’t want to be beaten with chains while wearing a Star Trek outfit for my kicks. Neither do I want to wear a dog-collar and Basque to the supermarket. So sue me and call me ‘vanilla’.”
Sex is used to sell everything, from watches to shampoo. Is it because these books are perceived to be seedy, dirty and about sexual fantasies of bondage and spanking that we choose to keep it as a taboo subject yet not all erotica stems from this stereotype.
“The first erotic book I bought was from Ann Summers when I was 18, the cover wasn’t graphic and neither was the title. Going into that kind of shop was a novelty to me and my friends. I read a few chapters but felt it was a bit too heavy going for me,” Carlene* recalls her first time as an erotica reader.
Author Sferlazzo-Hayes claims it has a bad reputation due to it’s misconstrued connection to pornography. “They are not the same thing and shouldn’t be confused just because of their sexual content,” she states.
Websites like Literotica.com and deviantart.com offer a plethora of erotica fiction samplings with categories ranging from Paranormal to Virginity. You may also discuss these topics in forums and submit your own stories for others to review and comment on.
Sferlazzo-Hayes has read it all: “You can find paranormal, erotic fiction based on everyday life, there is erotica aimed at different genders, different orientations in sexuality, there is erotica just for the sake of it with lots of hot graphic sex scenes, but there are also books that will feature a good and interesting storyline peppered with some heavy sexual content. It is simply a way to explore something that you wouldn’t normally do in real life, a good erotic story can offer that escape or fulfil needs that in reality are not within outreach[…] Let’s face it, vampires and werewolves aren’t exactly available sexual partners but they can be through a good fantasy.”
Even in all its oddities, erotica is just as any other fiction. So, should erotic literature be discussed in book clubs?
Sferlazzo-Hayes gives her take on it. “As long as the books is discussed amongst mature people, and by this I don’t just mean over 18’s as I can recall being 15,myself, and curious about such things, sneaking Mills and Boon novels in school to swap with friends, then I don’t see a problem in making erotica stories part of a book club activity.”
Author Manby claims, “It’s great that in the UK we have the freedom to read what we want but that should also imply the freedom to read erotica on your Kindle so no-one can see the cover, which are usually full of loaded-style tits directed at women. Sex is a very personal thing.”
Paperback books are becoming a dying breed. You can now enjoy a book anywhere on your mobile phone, iPod, and laptop and Kindle making it even easier to sneakily access erotic fiction without anyone knowing.
To find out more about the author Chrissie Manby go to www.chrismanby.co.uk
For book reviews visit Bookaholics Book Club Facebook page or their blog www.bookaholicsbkcl.blogspot.com
*Names have been changed