Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: The End

with 23 comments

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).

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicShare photos on twitter with Twitpic

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:

3 2 1

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!

Kristina and Mathilde x

Written by Kristina Lloyd

March 4, 2010 at 9:14 am

23 Responses

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  1. Kudos, Kristina and Mathilde.

    It is undeniable that you have done what you set out to do. The shift has been perceptible. I’m proud that I was along for the ride and could contribute in a small way.

    Thank you!

    Craig Sorensen

    March 4, 2010 at 10:46 am

  2. WHAT?

    So sad it’s over! But you ladies did some great work. I’ll miss the man candy.

    Sky

    March 4, 2010 at 11:01 am

  3. I’m very sad to see Erotica Cover Watch close. You guys have been so pivotal in helping Filament make baby steps towards success, so thanks for that.

    Suraya

    March 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

  4. Congratulations, Kristina and Mathilde, and thanks!

    When you’ve written the last page of a blog and write ‘The End’, the contents are there, available to the public, to be opened and read any time. Like a book.

    I’ve enjoyed your reports and insights, your handsome Mr Man Candy selections, and your writing style.

    Ranai

    March 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm

  5. I agree — so sad, but so delighted at the same time to see such progress in such a short time. May erotica books continue to be sexy, sensual and include both sexes!

    Hurrah!

    SG

    March 4, 2010 at 4:22 pm

  6. Kudos, for your courage and your energy and for making the debate public. You’ve done brilliant things.

    And bloody well done to Zoe!

    Janine Ashbless

    March 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm

  7. Three cheers to both of you! You opened eyes, pushed buttons, forged a new path and burned a bridge or two, all in the name of equality. You made a difference and there are fabulous, sexy book covers to prove it. You should be immensely proud for starting this open dialogue.

    I am thrilled that my question about something that’s bugged me for years prompted you to take action and I am truly honored to be included in your farewell post.

    Best of luck to you and Mathilde. Long live Man Candy Monday!!

    Kristina Wright

    March 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

  8. Thanks everybody for your kind words. It’s great to hear you say we’ve made a difference.

    kristinalloyd

    March 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

  9. Wow, what a long strange trip it’s been, eh?

    I’m not a writer, or publisher, or any kind of industry insider, but even I can see the change ECW has induced just by looking at the erotica shelves in my local bookstore. True, it may have seemed a small and insignificant complaint to some, but to those of us who are passionate about the genre (and understand it), it’s a change that was long over due.

    I’m still a die hard erotica fan and I’ll continue to spend my hard earned money supporting the publishers and writers that were receptive, understanding and honest about the BICEPS cause. I’ll also be encouraging my erotica reading cohorts to do the same.

    So long and thanks for all the Man Candy!
    :D

    Wintersinger

    March 4, 2010 at 7:54 pm

  10. Gone so soon? You will be missed, but I think the work of monitoring covers will go on – the message is out there now, and it isn’t going to go away.

    Congratulations on the difference you have made!

    Justine Elyot

    March 4, 2010 at 8:28 pm

  11. I’ll miss you-and the men :)

    Kate Pearce

    March 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm

  12. NO!! Please don’t go! It has been an amazing ride. So glad to be a part of it. And, fear not. I shall carry on Man Candy Mondays in your honor. How could I stop now?

    Heidi

    March 4, 2010 at 10:12 pm

  13. Thank you, Matthilde and Kristina for your great BICEPS campaign, and for bringing us the hotness every Monday! I shall miss all of the great man candy, and am glad others are carrying on the tradition.
    I also wish Rachel Kramer Bussel and Violet Blue would have embraced the BICEPS message. I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the fact that neither of them identify as heterosexual? As a heterosexual woman myself who has been a long-time advocate LGBTIQ rights, I think their radar screens may be more tuned to recognize and decry our ‘hetero-normative’ culture. Nothing wrong with that, but it would sure be nice if non-hetero women would also recognize and decry our ‘naked-chic normative’ culture! Just thinking out loud here…not trying to be critical of anyone.
    I have truly appreciated all of the brilliant and perceptive sentiments I have read on Erotica Cover Watch, a site I have been happy to recommend to others.
    Let us shout it from the rooftops:
    “Women lust. Women want. Women like to look at men.”!

    Maureen

    March 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

  14. Thanks for entertaining me with man candy. I never agreed with your cause because I think women’s bodies are also beautiful and I love to see them on erotica covers. Sorry! Best wishes.

    jill sorenson

    March 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm

  15. what you did was brilliant and i think has had an impact.

    well done and congrats.

    you made me think – and that is always good.

    best wishes for new projects.

    bel
    x

    bel

    March 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm

  16. So sorry to see you go. I’ve really enjoyed this blog and your energy and commitment to your views, which I agree with whole-heartedly. Big congrats on what ECW has achieved. I’ll be keeping the mancandy warm for you, stop by anytime!

    http://www.friskbiskit.com/2010/03/man-candy-monday-1.html

    Jessica Freely

    March 9, 2010 at 12:51 am

  17. Once again, thanks everyone for leaving such positive comments (and, um, Jill, your key word is ‘also’ … we would *also* like to see sexy men on covers. What’s to disagree with?)

    People have been commenting not just here but on Twitter and Facebook, and in private email. Adam Nevill, ex Black Lace editor and current Xcite ed, said ‘publishers took note.’ Maymay of Male Submission Art said he learned lots from us. And Kristina Wright wrote a truly wonderful tribute to us on her blog. And she gave us some candy!

    Thanks all!

    kristinalloyd

    March 9, 2010 at 7:56 am

  18. [...] Erotica Cover Watch: The End. [...]

    Links « Stuff

    March 10, 2010 at 9:11 am

  19. Thank you!
    And good night!

    Madeline Moore

    March 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm

  20. Thanks for your website – I used to be vaguely annoyed by erotica covers but couldn’t pinpoint why. Mainly because you can’t pinpoint the obvious, too.
    Anyway, the two last paragraphs of this article will make you laugh, if you haven’t read it already. Bitterly, perhaps:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/books/31covers.html

    f

    April 4, 2010 at 12:26 am

  21. Hi Kristina,

    I followed your link from Out-of-Print and haven’t been able to find an email address here or on your home blog, so I only hope this spot works for a comment.

    While only skimming the site here, one thing jumped out at me in the discrimination against putting men on covers. That’s not only what it says about women’s tastes/desires, but what it says about men’s sexiness. Apparently we’re not sexy enough to go on the cover of heterosexual erotica. ;-)

    I’m sure someone commented on that somewhere during your run at this project, but it was what jumped out at me when I looked at your example covers.

    Big Ed Magusson

    June 1, 2010 at 1:07 am

  22. [...] As a final couple of thoughts before I go to a much-deserved bed, the first from the last post at Erotica Cover Watch: “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.” [...]

  23. On number 7., the picture of first dude (one all the way to the right), who took that photo? It’s hot!

    Miss Bravo

    September 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm


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