Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: Tickle his Pickle: A Guide to Penis Pleasing by Sadie Allison

with 7 comments

pickleTickle his Pickle: A Guide to Penis Pleasing, by Sadie Allison, pub. Tickle Kitty Press

Watched by Mathilde Madden

Remember when smutty books were hard to come by? Ahem.

There was no internet anonymity, and dirty books meant dirty bookshops. Not nice.

So how did people get books about sex without feeling steeped in shame?

The answer came in the form of sex instruction manuals. Self help. Smutty thrills hidden behind education. 

Some people have vivid memories of finding an old pile of crumpled magazines in a wardrobe, but others had their eyes opened when they managed to reach the high shelf where a copy of The Joy of Sex lurked. 

Which is why the covers of sex instruction books today are interesting. They were past time’s respectable smut. Could we look to them to predict where erotica covers might go in the future? 

Cruising though a whole bunch of them produced a mixed bag of results. Broadly – and hearteningly – more couples on covers than you get in sexy fiction, although I know Kristina Lloyd would rightly complain about the ‘tampon advert’ pure, brilliant whiteness of the teeth and the sheets and the skin tones. And still a large number of lone women covers: still signifying the heterosexay – and no lone men, except on gay male guides. (Lesbian books almost always have two women – I guess because one woman means straight sex.)

The cover here shows off the worst of the worst. For a book that is clearly aimed at women  – and refers (if euphemistically) to cock in the title, would an actual cock owner be too much of an ask for the cover? I mean surely the target market for people who are going to buy a book on ‘penis pleasing’ (yes, ew, but not the point) are people who find men sexually attractive. Well, clearly, fuck that, as we get a porny, dated, wet-lips woman. And a pickle representing the guy. Because, ha ha, cocks are funny, not sexy, FUNNY. Which is pretty much a great attitude to take on the cover of a book about how to do nice things to cocks.

Of course that’s often the trick: make cocks and naked men and male sexuality funny, not sexy. Because then no one needs to be scared about men being objectified and it keeps the whole closed shop around women being the only real sex objects and signifiers of the sexy. (Witness this frightful piece of sexism, for example.)

cunnilingus2Other lazy and lame attitudes can also be found. Take this pair of titles. Funny how when you get a pair of linked books the sexism can be so much more obvious. (Who could forget…?) So here we have Violet Blue’s Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus and her Ultimate Guide to Fellatio . The cover of Cunnilingus features, oh yes, a woman. Well, fine, people who want to learn how to perform excellent cunnilingus are probably people who enjoy looking at women. Perfect sense so far.

Now, what happens on the other cover. Fair turn about?

Not quite. 

fellatioOn the cover of the fellatio book, well, yes, a man, but what’s that in the background? A woman. Er, why? Why? Just to say, oh yes, but, we don’t mean, like, gay fellatio or anything? Because no straight man would want his woman to learn how to suck his cock from a book that wasn’t strictly about teaching women how to suck cocks? No really? Really? Why is she there? Maybe there’s a simple (and non-sexist) explanation. But I’ve been sat here for ages and I just can’t think of one.

I did say these sex guides covers were a mixed bag, and I have picked out not-so-great examples here. And, yes, agreed, there were many more books featuring couples on the covers than you see on conventional straight erotica. Which was nice to see. And almost inspiring, considering that maybe erotic fiction will continue to follow the lead of those sex instruction guides as smut gets more normalised and accepted. I even found books where the male body was given more prominence than the woman’s (still a rarity even in erotica’s ‘couple’ covers).

touchTake a look at this. Whether he’s your kind of guy or not, you have to agree, this kind of representation of sexiness would be nice to see once in a while on an erotic fiction cover.

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Written by mat

March 5, 2009 at 9:06 am

7 Responses

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  1. Great post! And yes, the power of the comedy penis! One of the most effective and insidious ways our culture has of de-sexing men is by ridiculing them and their sexuality. It keeps women on the leaderboard as the sexy ones, makes het men reluctant to assert their sexual selves for fear they’ll get mocked, and encourages women to laugh at what’s being made laughable (and some of us to weep at the dearth of men who know how to do it).

    If you ever spend time on dating websites (everyone ought to suffer this at least once in their life), you’ll notice time and again that straight men make crass jokes about their ineptitude and undesirability; include ‘hilarious’ pictures of themselves clowning about; and generally utterly fail to present themselves as sexual beings. Gay men, on the other hand, do none of this and are hot!

    It’s not funny, it’s tragic.

    kristinalloyd

    March 5, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  2. I love the way cunnilingus is smouldering and sexy while fellatio is a good gung-ho chuckle-headed giggle all round.
    “You want to…?” murmurs Cunnilingus Girl.
    “Hee hee hee! Guess what I did!” shriggles Fellatio Girl.
    Fellatio Man, on the other hand, is smiling happily about his great dental treatment. I don’t think sex is really on his mind.

    Olivia Knight

    March 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  3. That Vanity Fair cover is so bloody ridiculous, isn’t? Ugg. And don’t even get me started on the whole pickle thing…

    *grumbles*

    Wintersinger

    March 5, 2009 at 1:46 pm

  4. Mathilde, your well-written point re: goofy guys in the media is spot on. I can’t stand the way men are portrayed as idiotic children, Yes, many of them do behave like idiotic children, I know that, but do we have to reward them for it? I think women got to needle guys a bit as feminism took hold, and I accept that as did most guys, but it’s OVER. Let’s work together to figure this difficult thing, relationship, out.

    As for ‘Tickle his Pickle’ I imagine it’s aimed at women who need a whole book to teach them how to give head. Chapter one is probably: Yes, I know he pees out of that thing, but still…

    Doncha just wish she’d take a big, juicy bite out of that Dill?

    Madeline Moore

    March 5, 2009 at 8:50 pm

  5. It’s a very small pickle. And green and knobbly. Plus they squirt vinegar when you bite into them. In total – not the best marketing for giving head I’ve ever seen… What’s it’s partner book going to be? A man tongueing a live oyster?

    Olivia Knight

    March 6, 2009 at 11:21 am

  6. The Tickle cover seems almost 50’s in layout and the teeth and lips. Very old school.

    Sarah

    March 7, 2009 at 11:01 pm

  7. Uuuummm,,you people need to lighten up.
    you know,,this goes back to my pops way of people not liking Hooters resturant, or someone not liking some song on the radio, Don’t go to the resturant,,and turn the station. Don’t look at the title or its pictures. Opinions are like buttholes,,everyone got one. But keep it to yourself sometimes.Not everyone thinks as you do. Oh,,by the way,,the book is AWESOME! and my GF is too,,if you know what I mean!

    james

    February 19, 2010 at 3:54 am


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