Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: Group Hug!

with 15 comments

Erotica Cover Watch: Group Hug!

080522bryanthomasby Kristina Lloyd

We launched Erotica Cover Watch on September 11th, a little over three months ago, and since then, My, haven’t we’ve grown? With the holidays approaching, we thought it timely to give ourselves a group hug (C’mere, you!) and take a look at our achievements so far. We also thought it appropriate to reward ourselves – and our supporters – with one or two early Christmas presents. (Eyes left!)

Our biggest surprise when we kicked off this campaign was the strength of the backlash. We simply hadn’t anticipated it. We thought people would mainly go, ‘Gosh, you’re right, how unfair,’ then Mat and I would run out of things to say (stop laughing) and we’d get back to writing our novels. Sure, we expected a few chumps to pop up and go, ‘But women are, like, more beautiful than men, innit?’ and ‘Wimmins is not visual because they have breasts and no eyeballs.’ And of course they did (sort of). Prior to starting the blog, we did our best to answer the usual arguments against men on erotica covers by writing But, but, but

Nonetheless, the arguments and – ouch! – the vitriol came. People said stuff like, ‘This is just a bunch of haterade‘. We were described as militant, ungrateful, sexist and desperate. We were called ‘hard-headed feminists’ ‘do gooders’ and, um, ‘lesbians‘ (I still haven’t figured that one out). We were taken to task for not reading the books whose covers we were analysing. We were accused of ‘bathing in heated pools of hypocrisy’, ‘doing a hit job’ on fellow writers, giving feminism a bad name, hurting people’s feelings and wanting to do damage to erotica publishing.

Thankfully, there were many people prepared to engage with the issue, to support our cause and discuss the difficulties we faced. Some sent us private messages of support and we appreciated this as well. Ours is a small industry and it’s understandable some writers might not want their views aired in front of the editors who pick their fiction. While we’d all like to think editors make choices based only on the merit and suitability of the submitted pieces of work, we know the decision-making process isn’t so straightforward and that power moves in mysterious ways. But one thing is clear: Mat and I made no claim to be able to change erotica’s sexism overnight, so we were warmed and encouraged by early comments such as ‘I hope this blog generates some much needed conversation in the industry’ (Kristina Wright) and ‘It’s a great blog and a useful debate’ (Maxim Jakubowski). More recently, Craig Sorensen said, ‘I don’t have the answers, but I enjoy being part of the questioning.’

ecw_grab_arse2This has been Erotica Cover Watch’s great success: we have got people talking. We’ve raised awareness about a problem so deeply entrenched, many people hadn’t even noticed it. Plenty of people, however, had noticed it and were quick to support us. Olivia Knight became a tireless ally, offering many wonderful observations; Janine Ashbless was the first to put our BICEPS logo on her own blog; Helen E H Madden (no relation) was the first to blog about us; and Girl With a One Track Mind was soon on our side as well. The few names in our list of ‘Extra Muscle’ (see sidebar) grew and grew as people discovered our site and gave us a great big thumbs up. Everything counted, from quick comments saying ‘well done’ or ‘couldn’t agree more’ to high-profile names such as bloggers Ms Naughty and Figleaf or bestselling romance author, Robin Schone, writing intelligently about our aims and spreading the word.

Our Man Candy Mondays have proved popular too, with several people beefing up their blogs and starting the week in fine style. Wintersinger has been Mancandying with us from the off and hasn’t missed a single date.

So thank you all! When Mat and I were brainstorming ideas for ECW, we agreed we’d try to steer clear of images suggesting man-on-man action because we were keen to put out the visual message that sexy men needn’t equal gay desire (ah, we are so subliminal!). We wanted to convey that women found men hot too and we’d like some of it sent our way, thanks, to save us having to go sneaking among gay porn wearing moustaches and chaps. But fuck it! It’s Christmas. Take off your ‘taches! Women know gay is hot! (It’s much like straight men kink for lesbians – double of what pushes your buttons). So here, have another present:
But has anything happened apart from a lot of political chat and some nekkid men? Have we actually had any impact on the erotica industry? Well, yes, more than we dared hope. We’ve had major-league erotica editors stopping by and, while it’s frequently pointed out that freelance editors have no say in the covers of their books, we know that’s not quite the full picture, so we’re glad to have their ears. In-house editors do have more say than freelancers when it comes to covers and Adam Nevill, editor with our main publisher, Black Lace Books, said, ‘you can always suggest a good photographer of men and couples to me’.

So far, so small, but small is good; small is how change usually happens. Then along came the wonderfully named Bookkake, an indie publisher ‘dedicated to new and classic works of transgressive literature’. Bookkake publish books with stunning covers, and while the images are rendered subtle and oblique, the emphasis to date has been on women’s bodies. So we got in touch (are we sounding like the Mafia here?). Bookkake took our point, responded positively and enthusiastically, and said, ‘we’ll certainly try harder‘.

Score! I think it’s time for another present.

jamesguardinos2Xcite books and their newish range of titles aimed at women came under our scrutiny. Mat wrote: ‘Xcite books, how did you miss refreshing the clunkiest cliché of all? Every cover is a picture of a woman! When you went for that women’s erotica market did you never think of us poor straight women?

Well, score again! Because Miranda Forbes, editor at Xcite, recently dropped by to say ‘Great to read how people feel about our covers … Promise we’ll get some men’s bums on to some covers very soon‘.

So we have much to look forward to! And I’ll be first in the queue for one of those man-candy covers – oh, OK, joint first. All in all, setting up this blog has been fantastically encouraging and rewarding. Thanks to everyone who’s helped move this debate forward. Your support makes us feel guardedly optimistic – and that rocks!

Erotica Cover Watch is taking a semi-break for the holidays. We’ll still be bringing you regular Man Candy Mondays but we’re putting our feet up on the word front for a while. We’ll be back in the New Year when, among other things, we’ll be bringing you – ohmygollygosh – an interview with pioneering sex-positive feminist and erotica hero, Susie Bright. Until then, our very best wishes to you all and enjoy the holidays!

Kristina and Mat


Written by Kristina Lloyd

December 11, 2008 at 8:30 am

15 Responses

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  1. Well done guys! Your integrity and your ability to carry on even in the face of insult and offense should be apparent and inspirational to everyone, even those who aren’t your natural supporters.

    And I like Mr Sandy-Bum.

    Janine Ashbless

    December 11, 2008 at 9:02 am

  2. Hey! You found my weary footballer taking a break on an armchar – I could have sworn I left him on the sofa! I’m dismayed you’re taking a break just in alignment with Lust Bites ending – I was consoling myself that at least Mondays and Thursdays might not rest in that sepulchral silence. Damn.

    Olivia Knight

    December 11, 2008 at 10:39 am

  3. Hugs in reply. Your blog is refreshing and well worth the effort you’ve put in. So good to see you making some progress with attitudes and even if you have encountered some negativity, not to worry. Keep it up.

    And the pics are hot too!

    Ooh, and I’ve never been called a “high profile name” before, I feel so flattered!

    Ms Naughty

    December 11, 2008 at 10:49 am

  4. Keep up the great work, Mat and Kristina. Your blogs are always thought provoking.

    I’m proud that I was one of the first to be included in your “extra muscle” column and look forward to more lively discussions. The interview with Susie Bright should be a great catalyst!

    Craig Sorensen

    December 11, 2008 at 10:53 am

  5. Mmm, man candy. Well, I’m doing my best to send people your way, but I don’t have a blog or anything, so it makes it a bit harder.

    Glad you are doing it though. While I like the occasional headless girl, I’d also like to see the boys, all of them, and you actually found a bunch that really get my juices going.


    December 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

  6. Thank you

    – for saying what so many of us feel
    – for challenging the sexist status quo
    – for speaking up, against the antagonism and backlash
    – for giving women a much-needed voice
    – and for all the hot men, God how I thank you.

    Keep up the excellent work, it’ll be worth it I am sure of it: you’ve shown that we can make a difference.

    Girl with a one track mind

    December 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  7. Hubba hubba. I’m imagining coming home and seeing my hottie, spread-legged on the sofa, wiping his brow. I tease him about how good looking he thinks he is and he gives me that insolent ‘Yeah what about it,’ look and…
    but I digress…
    yeah, BICEPS is a good thing. It’s thought-provoking, and your posts are so wonderfully well-written. This is good for the erotica biz, whether people agree with you or not. So, long live BICEPS.

    …and I say, ‘C’mere gorgeous and I’ll wipe that smirk off your face,’ and he says ‘Make me’ and I say…

    Madeline Moore

    December 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm

  8. My appetite for sexy stories has always been voracious, but I’ve always steered clear of the erotica genre for these exact reasons. There’s always been such a conflicting message to be found on the covers of erotica books and I always assumed that if I didn’t find the packaging appealing then I wasn’t going to find the stories inside to be appealing either. Which is a shame really, isn’t it? ‘Cause that’s not the case at all.

    Anyways, congratulations on ECW’s success so far. Each small victory is a step towards change and I’m glad to be a part of it in whatever small way I can.

    Enjoy your holiday break ladies. It’s well deserved.



    December 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm

  9. gorgeous photo as usual. i’ve always supported the idea of having men on covers of erotic books. i’m not always in agreement with your opinions; however, i will defend and support your right to speak your mind. anyone who doesn’t should get a wedgy or ten.

    keep up the good work and especially those yummy photos. they are a reason to get up in the morning, particularly in these grey numbing winter days.


    December 11, 2008 at 4:56 pm

  10. I am happy to lend my support to BICEPS and Man Candy Mondays. At the very least, whatever comes of this, you’ve gotten people to talk about the issue and that is important.

    Plus, we’ve gotten to look at some hot men. That is a good thing too. I’m proud to be a tiny part of this whole thing. Man Candy Monday is my new favorite day.


    December 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm

  11. I just finished up a massive Twitter debate with someone who tweeted “Women are more flexible in their sexual tastes than men” (i.e. it’s okay for women to be bi and attracted to other women, while men must remain straight). I posted a link to here after “espousing” my views on the subject.

    I’m so glad you guys are here, and that this blog is doing so well. I’m clearing work off my plate so that next year I can do more artwork for myself. Maybe I’ll be able to produce more images of male nudes so I can join up with Man Candy Monday every so often.

    Helen Madden

    December 11, 2008 at 9:02 pm

  12. Thanks all of you for the hugs! Really appreciated. Starting ECW has been incredibly satisfying and the amount of people who’ve backed us and are prepared to do their bit is wonderful.

    Heidi, I keep meaning to say: I love the song refs on your blog and your nod to the Pixies’ Here Comes Your Man was the best! Thanks for being a regular MCMer. You too, Madeline!

    And Helen, thanks for the Twitter muscle. All this stuff is part of BICEPS because it’s about challenging those stereotypical and sexist perceptions of women. Confession: I have a small wikipedia habit and a few weeks ago I went into wiki’s ‘Women’s Erotica’ page and deleted 3 paragraphs of absolute guff. Among the nonsense were gems such as: Since a woman’s sexual organs are held internally [Mat said: What, like lungs?] it is correspondingly difficult to capture and convey a sexual message to females by means of visual representation. [Huh, like the whole of the porn industry isn’t about pictures of cunt. And all we want to do is look at ourselves anyway.] And also: Whereas men can be satisfied with visual images that cross a spectrum of explicitness, women cannot receive visual gratification so easily.

    We must never forget that there are creeps out there who think like this. I did try to add ECW to wiki’s page – a feminist response to the marketing of women’s erotica – but got challenged since, apparently, wiki doesn’t link to blogs (really?) and it was deemed ‘spammy’. But, you know, I wasn’t at all annoyed about that. Not at all.



    December 11, 2008 at 9:42 pm

  13. Wow, just read the wiki article you linked to. I love this line:

    “It can therefore be seen that women’s erotica can (at least in visual form) be expected to take a less explicit direction than is generally the case for men.”

    Uh, did the person who wrote this happen to take a look at my artwork? Last I checked, I was a woman and the stuff I do is, well gee, what would you call it? Explicit? Man, was this wiki article a load of horse crap!

    Helen E. H. Madden

    December 12, 2008 at 2:58 am

  14. Reading this makes me so happy (and not just ’cause the pictures give me a happy). I am so, so glad we finally did this and it is amazing to feel like a real, tangible difference has already been made.

    Thank you, thank you, to everyone who has supported and encouraged us.


    December 12, 2008 at 10:06 am

  15. Well I appreciate you making me think-and all the pictures as well! Happy Holidays Kate x

    Kate Pearce

    December 24, 2008 at 10:57 pm

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