When sex is the subject of leisurely reading, that genre of literature is commonly called erotica. Literary erotica describes human sexual relations in explicit terms and is meant to stimulate arousal in the reader.
Whether based on real life accounts or totally fictional, the characters and scenes in erotic books provide intimate insight into the human sex act, often with an element of romance. But like any material of a deeply sexual nature, erotic books are often considered taboo by the wider society.
Today, that taboo is lifting, and erotic literature is finding mainstream success with an increasingly bold audience that is excited to explore the annals of erotic content. As such, this growing genre is no longer relegated to the dark shadows of the back shelf of a tawdry bookstore, but has taken its place as a legitimate force in retail book sales, and in some cases outselling other less salacious genres.
The Fifty Shades Effect
E.L. James’ titillating 2011 novel Fifty Shades of Grey (The Fifty Shades Trilogy) is often credited with the current surge in popularity of erotic books, particularly the BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Sadism/Masochism) subgenre. The novel chronicles the sexual and romantic relationship between a college girl and a wealthy young businessman with explicit erotic scenes that have captivated its readers and introduced them to the exciting world of literary erotica – and they like it!
The first Fifty Shades novel would eventually set off two successful sequels and drive public interest in erotic literature as an outlet for exploring one’s deepest, most intimate fantasies, all within the private confines of your own imagination. This would also help drive the success of existing and newer erotic books, for example Crossfire, by Sylvia Day, and Tiffany Reisz’s The Gift (Original Sinners series).
This current commercial success of the genre as a whole is largely accredited to E.L. James’ sexy BDSM trilogy, which whet readers’ appetites for that kind of material and stirred up a voracious hunger for erotic literature.
Majority Female Audience
The genre would soon be dubbed “mommy porn” to indicate that mature women are the major consumers of this type of literature. Men indulge in erotic books too, but reader surveys have found that women, in general, comprise the majority of readership of erotic literature.
It’s a curious phenomenon that can be easily explained by the intrinsic sexual nature of women. Women experience arousal in different ways from men. While men are visual creatures who become aroused by what they see, women are emotional creatures who become aroused by what they feel. It is this emotional quality that makes women more drawn to erotic literature than men.
Reading an erotic story allows the reader to paint a picture in their mind, tap into their emotions to relate to the characters, and live out their fantasies through the story. That intimate unfolding of a sexual encounter appeals to women. Plus the romance factor is attractive to women too.
A man on the other hand would much rather watch a “porno” and get it over with, which, quite frankly, is not very intimate.
Generally, reading an erotic story and having each scene play out in your mind is far more intimate than watching live sex on video. That is why the female audience is much more drawn to erotic literature than men. It’s just how their brains are wired.
Element of Discretion
Erotic books are also appealing because they afford the reader a level of privacy in their naughty habit. Essentially, a woman can appear to be a lady in the streets, but a “freak” in what she reads. The polished lady sitting next to you in the bus with her nose buried deep in a book could very well be reading a highly explicit novel, and you wouldn’t have a clue about the contents. So every time she crosses and uncrosses her legs might very well be a clue to the saucy nature of the novel, but without close inspection of her reading material, you’d be totally oblivious. That element of discretion draws the eyes of women towards erotic literature. If the same person were to indulge in observing a pornographic film, their habit could be easily be discovered by a casual glance.
This discreet feature has also blossomed with the advent of e-readers where not even the cover title of the book will be visible to anyone nearby. No longer would the reader have to slip on a fake paperback over the true cover to hide the title of their chosen reading material. Nor will they have to walk into a bookstore and suffer potential embarrassment when buying an erotic book. Instead, they can easily purchase and enjoy any erotic title of their choice all with the ease and convenience provided by e-readers, tablets and smartphones.
Nonetheless, human sexual activity is quite taboo in society, despite sex being a basic human function, erotic literature finding its way into the mainstream. Many people are still uncomfortable with the consumption of erotic art of the literary kind, and frankly, that’s their loss! There is a growing audience who enjoy exploring their sexual fantasies and the fantasies of others within the private confines of written material. And that’s no shady secret!