Men! We have men on sexy books! Doesn’t it make your heart sing? Got a Minute is a brand new cover on a hugely popular title by Alison Tyler (pub Cleis Press) while Abby Lee‘s memoir, Girl With a One Track Mind, Exposed, is the follow up to her 2006 bestseller, Girl With a One Track Mind. If you want ‘before and after’ shots, here’s how it used to be:
My, haven’t we grown? Followers of this blog will know, in the past, we’ve been highly critical of Cleis Press, progressive indie publishers, champions of marginalised sexualities and producers of top quality, seriously hot fiction who, paradoxically, have been responsible for creating some of the industry’s most sexist book covers. Our issues with Cleis have been compounded by the refusal of two of their top-name editors, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Violet Blue, to accept we have a valid a point when we say:
SEXY BOOK COVERS ONLY FEATURE SEXY WOMEN & NEVER SEXY MEN! THIS IMBALANCE IS SEXIST!
I view that statement as fact. I wrote it in big shouty letters to help the hard of thinking. Seriously, I fail to see how anyone can even consider arguing against our fundamental point. And anyone who claims Oh but, women like to identify, the book trade will never change, hot men are for teh gays etc is basically saying ‘sexism is OK’. Listen up: sexism is not OK. It must be challenged. We don’t know if the new cover of Got A Minute has anything to do with our campaign, nor if we were influential in Cleis’s choice of cover for Kristina Wright‘s forthcoming anthology, Fairy Tale Lust (right). But we do know we totally fucking love these designs, especially Got a Minute for its high male:female flesh ratio and its knee-quivering hotness!
Kristina, incidentally, was there at Erotica Cover Watch’s inception, prompting us to take action when she asked, ‘But, seriously, when are they going to put a hunky dude on the cover?‘ We really hope sales of these two Cleis books are sky-high and that Cleis will continue to broaden their remit as to what constitutes a suitable cover image for an erotic book. Because, along with many other female readers, we’ve seriously had it with T and A.
Zoe Margolis, aka Abby Lee, has been a staunch supporter of Erotica Cover Watch since the early days, commenting on our posts with intelligence, passion, wit and barefaced lechery; sending traffic our way with tweets and links; and being the unwitting inspiration behind LOLtits. We’re pretty damn sure Zoe’s publishers (Pan Macmillan) aren’t readers of ECW but it’s safe to say, the cover of Girl With a One Track Mind, Exposed, which officially hits the UK shops tomorrow (March 5th), wasn’t the first design Zoe was presented with. Or the second or the third …
Not all authors and editors get a say in the covers assigned to their books. But some do. And some people fight for what they believe in … and the upshot for Zoe is, a guy’s denim-clad butt appears in hundreds of bookshops and on 294 poster sites on the London Underground where, ordinarily, since this a sexy memoir, a woman’s eroticised body would have been the default representation (irrespective of the author’s gender).
And as Zoe has pointed out to us, you really need to check out the woman’s toes on that cover: yup, this is definitely about female pleasure for a change – toe-curling pleasure! And so, hurrah, the message spreads: the erotic does not have to be signified solely by the female form; authentic female desire is not rooted in the gratification of men; a woman with sexual appetite is not, as contemporary culture would have us believe, doomed to express this via pole dancing and burlesque. Women lust. Women want. Women like to look at men. Please shift the gaze from us.
The point is: change is possible! Small things lead to big things, and we can all play a part in creating a better world. Or at least, as far as our campaign goes, in creating better bookshelves – bookshelves crammed with deliciously sexy books whose covers acknowledge female desire.
This is the last Erotica Cover Watch post. After 18 wonderful months, we’re closing the blog in a spirit of hope and belief and with enormous pride at what we – and you – have achieved. Our reach and success has gone way beyond what we thought possible. Here’s some of our best bits:
1. Xcite Books, the UK’s leading publisher of erotic fiction, have started to feature guys on their covers, thanks to us and you.
2. Filament magazine, backed by us and you, ran a highly successful ‘erection campaign‘, enabling them to afford a printer who wasn’t too scared to print a pic of hard cock. Filament are going from strength to strength and have recently secured an international distribution deal, covering all major English-speaking countries (except the UK because this country is weird). Issue 4 is out now!
3. We’ve written articles for The Guardian pertaining to women’s erotica, female sexuality and porn (see Comment is Free in sidebar). On one memorable occasion, our article was illustrated by a guy’s torso up top on the front page of The Guardian website. Woo-hoo!
4. We’ve been heard by many of the major players in the business: editors, authors, publishers. Some have ignored us; some have engaged with the debate but refused to budge; some have listened and changed their way of thinking; some are changing their way of marketing. In nearly all cases, even when there’s been significant disagreement between us and others in the industry, we have continued to work together as professionals and, in some cases, as friends. Nearly all …
5. Um, I (Kristina) have been blacklisted by Violet Blue and won’t be appearing in her anthologies again, a sure sign we touched a nerve.
6. We’ve illustrated our posts and demonstrated our point with images of book covers: on het books, at least 125 covers featured solo women, 14 featured couples (including sex guides so I’m being generous) and 17 featured solo men (5 of those were from Xcite and a result of our campaign and most of the others are from erotic romance, so again, I’m being generous.) If anyone wants to check my counting, feel free!
7. We’ve had 72 Man Candy Mondays and your all time favourites, according to hit rates, line up like an increasingly randy strip show:
8. Twice, we’ve been called ’dykes’. This still hurts my brain. How, when there is so much cock about the place?
9. Mathilde fearlessly tackled Fleshbot head-on, criticising them for using ‘Straight’ and ‘Gay’ filters where straight = hot babes and gay = hot dudes.
10. We’ve received 890 comments and have only had to block 4 for being abusive. Thank you, all of you. The quality of debate and the level of support we’ve received has truly been outstanding, not to mention inspiring! We’re thrilled.
We’re closing Erotica Cover Watch because we think we’ve made our point. Much as we’d love to go on making this point in the hope of reaching an even wider audience, we both have other projects we want to work on. We hope, with this campaign, we’ve raised awareness and set something in motion within the erotica publishing industry. Please help us to carry this forward. Please keep the energy of Erotica Cover Watch alive. Keep the links and Man Candies coming, complain about sexism, celebrate sexy men and support publishers who are trying to break the mould.
Once again, huge thanks for your immense support and enthusiasm. We couldn’t have done this without you!
You must, must, must click that link to see the Redemption series. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and really quite moving.
Join us on Thursday for some good news and some bad.
(Nb. I’m still waiting to hear back from the photographer, Didio, so here’s hoping it’s cool for me to use one of his images.)
Well, someone needs to buy some moth balls.
This is a guy called Ricky D for Ajaxx. I’m not exactly sure what that means. But I’m pretty sure Homotrophy is a good website
I can’t decide which is sexiest, the front view or the back. Oh, wait! I don’t have to decide.
Please, Sir, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, pub. Cleis Press. Please, Ma’am, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, pub. Cleis Press
Watched by Mathilde Madden
What? No. Really? Really, Cleis Press? Really? Deja vu, anyone?
I mean, you do realise that it’s possible to take photographs of men, don’t you? You haven’t got them confused with, I dunno, vampires or something.
Well, I guess the best that can be said about this. And it’s accompanying book is that it is some kind of improvement on those last ones. Now instead of black rubber corsets we have coloured corsets. Plus, the women have heads: w00t! Women get to have heads, party! Except that we don’t count that on Cover Watch. Nah, see, we count trashy women on covers the same as sophisticated women with vaguely hip make up. Still women. Still covers featuring women and only women. This is an erotica book and in the erotica publishing industry only women can represent the erotic. No, strike that, it’s not quite true. Only the desires of straight men can represent the erotic.
Now, do I need to come right out and say it: this, men and women of the web, is sexism at it’s simplest.
Since these books are about sex and power, let’s talk about sexism and power. We live in a patriachy. Men have power; women have power only where men allow it. So, say, women get to have the “power” of sitting on a book cover looking sexy, but we don’t get to have the (real) power of having our desires represented on book covers. Can you see how different those levels of power are?
What’s particularly unfair is how much artistic energy women sink into the erotica publishing industry. Women make up the bulk of the writers and editors and reviewers for these books, often for very little financial rewards. Wouldn’t it be nice if the result of all this work and enthusiasm was a product that acknowledged their right to desire on the packaging? Instead of just presenting their labours as a delicious treat for straight men to pick up and enjoy?
Again and again we see this idea that women who want to be part of sexual culture have to become performers. Have to be on display. Only men get the privilege of watching from the shadows, comfortable that their desire will be presented for them without them having to offer anything of themselves in return.
That these books, like the previous two in the series, refuse to acknowledge female desire (the books are explicitly heterosexual) on the goddamn covers is shameful. It’s 2010, women have eyes and hearts and minds. Erotica publishing’s continued obstinate ignoring of that simple fact is sexist, nasty and, actually, in these tough economic times, probably downright dumb.
Sorry for the second helpings, but I just couldn’t help myself. I saw this picture over on Janine Ashbless’s blog yesterday and I fell in love. *happy sigh*.
Come back Thursday for a look at what erotica publishing has been slapping on its covers lately. *irritated sigh*.