Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: Hot Women’s Erotica, ed Marilyn Jaye Lewis

with 8 comments

Hot Women’s Erotica, ed Marilyn Jaye Lewis, pub Blue Moon Books

Watched by Kristina Lloyd

What’s the one thing all women want in erotica? They want it hot and that’s what this book delivers.’

Um, then shouldn’t it be called Women’s Hot Erotica? So, you know, that all-important adjective – hot – is applied to the erotica rather than to the women.

If you’re uncertain about this, try using the structure on sentences of your own. How about ‘big men’s dicks‘? I think we can all agree that this refers to the penises of large men and tells us nothing about the size of those penises. ‘Men’s big dicks‘, however, means something entirely different: lots of happy women!

But, once again, let’s be generous for a moment. Let’s say ‘women’s erotica’ is such a commonly used phrase it practically functions as a noun, a single grammatical unit which ‘hot’ then modifies. You could just about justify the choice of title with this syntactical chicanery if it weren’t for one problem: the cover image. Because here we have a (hot) sexy woman dressed in red (hot) skimpies. There’s no two ways about it: ‘hot’ refers to the women. And since this book bills itself as ‘erotica for women, by women’, then hot is a description of its writers and readers.

This doubly pisses me off. As an author (although not one in this collection), I deeply resent the suggestion that my hotness, my sexual desirability is even relevant. Judge me by my work, my literary abilities, my skill at creating sexy fiction. Judge my writing. Leave me and my body out of it. Don’t demean me by rating my tits above my talent.

Now I’ve nothing against hot. It’s nice to enjoy looking good and to have that acknowledged and appreciated; and there are many different ways a person can do hot (and, to be honest, some straight men would do well to put a bit more effort in). Looking hot is not dependent on having legs to your armpits and lashings of mascara. We all have our styles. (And I think it’s safe to say when we’re talking about someone being hot, we’re talking about other people’s (primarily visual) perception of them; it’s different from that inner glow you might have of feeling sexy, irrespective of anyone else’s opinion.)

Is it hot in here or is it you?

Is it hot in here or is it you?

So, I am not anti-hot. However, let’s not turn hot into something bigger than it is. It’s fun. It’s lipstick and a good bra. It’s the way your hair looks so purty when it’s gunked up with come. It is nothing very much and, above all else, it is not, not, not female sexuality.

Hot Women’s Erotica, in title and cover image, implies that it is. And that’s the second reason I’m pissed off. Most erotica covers are guilty of equating female sexuality with being the object of male desire, although rarely do the titles make it so starkly obvious. But my sexuality is not about my desirability; it is not rooted in my physical appearance. It is active, not passive. It’s about me desiring, me lusting, me choosing, me looking and liking. In that sense, it’s much like male sexuality. The big difference is, male sexuality is constantly being offered the goodies to satisfy it while female sexuality is ignored. On erotica covers, my desire is corrupted and co-opted to such an extent that it actually becomes the goodies. Erotica – women’s erotica – which is supposedly talking to me, is actually talking right over my half-naked body and directly to men. It then has the brass neck to tell me I like it like this, that his desiring me is actually my desire.

In terms of the message of its cover, this book really ought to be called Men’s Hot Erotica.

We need more sexy guys on sexy books. As the publicity blurb for this anthology says, women want it hot. And that really ought to mean that sometimes we get to have the hot, not that we always are the hot.



Written by Kristina Lloyd

October 30, 2008 at 7:31 am

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hurrah! Couldn’t agree more.


    October 30, 2008 at 11:24 am

  2. Thanks Kay! I shall add you to our army of Extra Muscle!


    October 30, 2008 at 1:43 pm

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t find the photo hot in the slightest, but regardless of how hot the woman was, I’d rather read hot erotica than have to be hot to read this erotica. In fact, if I have to measure up to open the book, I’ll just as soon leave it closed.

    When will they realise this isn’t “marketing rules” but anti-marketing?

    Olivia Knight

    October 30, 2008 at 8:32 pm

  4. Anti-marketing is so true. What I find weird is that we hear chat about how fragile and niche erotica is, how various imprints (esp in the US) have folded, how smut doesn’t sell half as well as it used to … therefore we mustn’t change a thing, we mustn’t take any risks. Huh?

    I think an imprint prepared to take a stand, to market itself to women by taking the sexist out of sexy would do incredibly well.


    October 31, 2008 at 7:55 am

  5. Also, if you click on that pic of James Guardino, it gets bigger. And he has a cracking pair of thighs.


    October 31, 2008 at 8:05 am

  6. Marilyn Jaye Lewis could put together a book called DIRTY SMUT, and the cover could be a wrinkled brown paper bag, and I would be honored to read it. Her work is so classy and sexy. She is one of my all-time favorite writers and editors.

    So I feel a bit queasy if the goal of your posts is to make people not buy books by fellow writers. You know, as well as I do, that writers and editors hardly ever have cover approval. Or tag line approval. Or even title approval.

    That said, I have to add that you’re right, it’s going to require publishing companies to take a risk. If hot men on covers of erotica will sell a ton of books, everyone will become converts.

    I’ll let you know how HERS goes when we reprint. Hot guy. In a towel. On the cover.


    alison tyler

    October 31, 2008 at 2:35 pm

  7. You know, when I wrote this post, I thought shall I say that thing we always say – ‘I’m sure the contents of the book are wonderful and I have no problem with the fiction or the writers involved etc etc’ – and I thought, nah! Surely by now people know what we’re about – the covers! Cos it’s Erotica Cover Watch!

    So, for the record: I’m sure the contents of the book are wonderful and I have no problem with the fiction or the writers involved etc etc!

    And, yes, I know most editors and writers don’t get a say in cover design. I don’t think I pointed the finger of blame at the editor here in any way at all. This book is just another example (ah, there are so many!) of the seemingly inherent sexism in the way erotica is marketed. For all anyone knows, Marilyn may agree with that. She may not. But I’m not asking her to step up to the block. I’m looking at the packaging of a book she edited.

    And of course, our goal is not to discourage people from buying certain books. We’re trying to look at the bigger picture here. If anything, we’re trying to *expand* erotica’s catchment area, to make the books more appealing to women as opposed to mainly men. Because I’m with Olivia. This book – with its image and title – sadly leaves me cold (not to mention annoyed). And I think that does a huge disservice to someone as committed, sensitive, established and talented as MJL.

    Can’t wait for HERS reprint. I’m very happy that Pretty Things Press are doing their bit for gender equality. Power to ya!


    October 31, 2008 at 8:51 pm

  8. […] like to look at sexy images of men. And if enough people point that out, then maybe, oh god maybe, erotica books that are aimed at women might acknowledge that too. You know, maybe just once, or something. On my […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: