Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: Crossdressing, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel

with 16 comments

Crossdressing, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, pub. Cleis Press

Ooh, crossdressing. Don’t mind if I do. Bit of guy-liner does tend to turn my head. This sounds like a great idea for an erotica collection.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon, and I still like the sound of it: From femmes who channel Marlene Dietrich in the sexiest of suits to men who love nothing more than the feel silky panties stretched tight against their skin, these characters boldly indulge their fantasies of being a girl — or a guy — for a night. Drag queens get dolled up for a night on the town, a dyke packs a special surprise beneath her dress, and a devoted husband puts his dress-up skills to the ultimate test in this seductive new collection.

But, it would seem this subject matter was something of a tricky problem in the sexism department at Cleis Press. Crossdressing usually makes me think of a guy looking startlingly masculine whilst surrounded by frills. Your mileage may vary, but essentially I’m thinking the default image is a guy in women’s clothing- just type it into google image search.

But, obviously, we can’t have that on the cover.

A man? On the cover of an erotica book? No freaking way.

Okay, well, how about a woman cross dressed as a man. That can be kind of hot too.

But no say the suits in the sexism department. A woman in men’s clothing sounds far too enjoyable to straight woman – they might squint and manage to mistake it for man candy. How about this? A woman in woman’s underwear. Okay we’ll make it a sort of boyish looking woman – but clearly a woman.

Which is what we get. A woman wearing women’s clothes. It’s not actually crossdressing in any way, but at least there are no men or any men’s clothing on the cover of the book.

And, god, this is an erotica collection about crossdressing and even that panders to the unreconstructed straight male buyer who would piss his pants if he saw a man on the cover of his book. Or even a woman in a pair of men’s undies – which surely wouldn’t turn off lesbian consumers so I think we have pretty hard evidence right here that this bias is for the guys.

I am thinking of making this a regular feature. Erotica book covers where the sheer effort put into the sexism just makes me *headdesk*.

Mat x


Written by mat

October 23, 2008 at 6:59 am

16 Responses

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  1. I clicked on the RSS feed for this blog, saw the first picture and spat, out loud, ‘For Fuck’s sake!!!’ before gritting my teeth in fury.

    I’ve nothing else to add, really, bar saying that things like this really REALLY fucking piss me off.

    *will come back later when I am calmer. maybe*

    Girl with a one track mind

    October 23, 2008 at 9:42 am

  2. Oh I know, I know.

    Look at the picture of Brad instead. Lovely, lovely Brad. He’ll make it all better.

    And he knows what the word crossdressing means.


    October 23, 2008 at 9:49 am

  3. That’s just the most bizarre thing I have ever, ever seen. I thought the contrast (or lack of) between Yes Sir and Yes Ma’am was bad enough – girl for Yes Sir, and – erm – girl for Yes Ma’am. But this doesn’t even cater to the kink that it’s about. What the hell was Cleis Press thinking?

    Olivia Knight

    October 23, 2008 at 11:35 am

  4. This reminds me of those 70s car ads and photography mags which brazenly used pretty women in their scanties to sell the product. Completely gratuitous and irrelevant but said products were being aimed at men (because only men bought cars and cameras back then – much like now only men buy smut. Or did I miss something? Do women actually buy … oh god, do they? How shocking.)


    October 23, 2008 at 11:58 am

  5. Un-freaking-believable!

    It is gratuitous and irrelevant – just as Kristina said. Not to mention disappointing, frustrating and completely, utterly absurd.



    October 23, 2008 at 8:31 pm

  6. I don’t even know who the photographer is, but I always interpreted this photo as a man wearing women’s clothes. Otherwise it obviously wouldn’t make sense. I’m a little unclear on how everyone is so sure this is a woman. Could it not be a boyish man? Again, I have no idea who is actually in the photo, but I agree that if it were clearly a woman in women’s clothes, that wouldn’t make much sense (though it might, if it were a butch woman in femme clothes, which is one of the scenarios in this book).

    And while I have no true data, I’m pretty sure that it’ s the “unreconstructed straight male buyer” who is buying a book like this.

    Rachel Kramer Bussel

    October 24, 2008 at 7:33 am

  7. I too am confused — why do you assume this isn’t a man on the cover? I thought it was a lithe young man wearing ladies’ undies. Crossdressers come in all sizes and shapes — they don’t have to look like macho guys in frills.


    October 24, 2008 at 8:44 am

  8. I showed this cover to a bunch of people while I was writing this post and asked them if they thought this could be seen as an image of a man. No one thought it could. But, okay, say you’re right and it is a man. A man with no cock and access to excellent hair removal technology (not saying such men don’t exist), it is now a man that people can’t actually tell is a man (the blurring out of the hands being the most telling aspect). So even if it is a man on the cover no one can tell it is a man so still erotic books have no visible men on the covers.

    Look – here is a cover where the man is hiding behind the door frame. Hidden men on erotica covers – can you spot them?

    If it is a picture of a butch woman wearing femme clothing, which is more plausible, then I have to laugh. Because, sure, that scenario might well be in the book, and isn’t it funny, huh, how that scenario got to be the one on the cover, given everything else we have discussed on this blog?


    October 24, 2008 at 9:06 am

  9. *And while I have no true data, I’m pretty sure that it’ s the “unreconstructed straight male buyer” who is buying a book like this.*

    Well, yes. That’s like, um, the entire point of Erotica Cover Watch.


    October 24, 2008 at 9:27 am

  10. Maybe they should have seen Exterface’s post Orchid – those are definitely blokes and incredibly hot! They have another series that is called playgirl and it is gorgeous! Leather guy with a twist. God, not work safe either! Love their work!

    I think the chick in the photo has hips and *he* might have a small penis but there be no cock that I can discern.


    October 24, 2008 at 10:37 pm

  11. Wonderful link. Thank you.


    October 25, 2008 at 8:07 am

  12. […] Rachel Kramer Bussel seems to have been saddled with terrible covers yet again! She commented after my last post that she didn’t understand why I thought the book cover was sexist. Well maybe this is easier […]

  13. […] Because of that, because of the culture that surrounds it, this is just another insult. Another  case where the need to never ever show a man on the cover of an erotica book seems to just be going to desperate measures. […]

  14. […] not) invisible men on Cover Watch before and we’ve scoffed at claims a women in her skimpies could feasibly be a cross-dressing bloke (therefore rendering the man, if indeed he was one, invisible once […]

  15. […] falls into the idea of desire being solely represented by desire for women’s bodies meaning once again, we get a cover image of a woman, irrespective of the book’s content. Well, sort of a […]

  16. […] 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 […]

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