Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: Gigolo by Golden

with 7 comments

Erotica Cover Watch: Gigolo by Golden, pub. Hodder Paperbacks

Watched by Mathilde Madden


Books about hookers. Because nothing reveals more truth about female sexuality than the true confessions of women who do what men want them to do for money. But the political corkscrew of that aside for a moment (I could be here all night but feel free to kick that debate off in the comments if you are in the mood) – what does this all mean for cover watch?

Well here’s what it means. Here’s a book about a male prostitute and the cover is emblazoned with a woman in her pants. Grand. No really, doesn’t that just say it all? Oh there is a man in the picture – he’s there. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Well, no, not really.

I mean, for a start, why does she look more hooker-chic than him? And can I just say, if I were paying a male prostitute, the first thing good about that would be not having to wear dumb shoes to get him interested. And I’m sure that can’t be just me. 

And he’s the one who gets to have a head. We’ve talked about the headless woman epidemic on erotica covers before, but it’s never more noticeable than when she only gets to be a body and he gets to be, well, gets to be staring at her ass. 

Sorry, what is this book about again?

And just to be clear what the problem is here, I’ve dug up some examples (you probably don’t need them – you’ve probably seen a million of these things) of the kind of covers that books about female prostitutes get. (Or, well, books about prostitutes, seeing as how this is one of the rare places where women are actually the default.)

In fact I’ve added in a few strippers – it’s all the same heaving and samey bookshop shelf.


Strangely when the books are about female hookers, the covers don’t feature a woman smirking at a headless man in his pants. Nope, just lingerie and female flesh will do.

035234001001_ss500_sclzzzzzzz_Incidentally, I wrote a Black Lace book once – Mad About the Boy – about a woman getting obsessed with a male prostitute. I’m very fond of it. But, sadly- and ironically in this context – it suffered from cover-of-death with this horror that is not only weird looking, but features two women when there is only one in the novel (and two guys, ‘cause, duh, I wrote it.)

But enough promo, back to Gigolo and why such an obvious discrepancy here with what gets offered up over and over and over on lady-prozzie books.

I think the most obvious reason for Gigolo having a woman on the cover (other than just the usual old sexist shit that a book cannot actually be about sex unless it has a woman on the cover) is that most people might assume that a book about a male prostitute would be about him servicing guys. And, really, who are the people who are going to be put off by a book being about servicing guys? Yep, straight men. So really, it is the same old shit, this woman is there just to reassure straight men that this book will not make them gay.

Yet again sexiness and products about sex have to be feminised for the straight guy appeal even when the book is actually about a man making himself a sexual product. 

Oh, erotica publishing.. You guys! You kill me.


Written by mat

April 2, 2009 at 8:04 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Maybe we just need a labelling system, a bit like the Parental Advisory label – “THIS BOOK WILL NOT MAKE YOU GAY”.

    I can understand including women on a book called Gigolo to indicate the content is heterosexual. But why the hell would she be paying to strut her stuff while he leans back at his ease on the sofa to watch? Christ on a bike. And surely even blokes with fantasies of being paid for sex by authoritative women wouldn’t find that cover appealing?

    As far as your argument goes, this cover is kinda one of those classic clinchers.

    Olivia Knight

    April 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm

  2. I’ve nothing to add, except to say: FFS – over and over again.


    As an aside, I’d be interested in ECW looking at the similarities in covers between female sex memoirs and female sex-worker memoirs. I would imagine there’s not much difference between them, given how all of female sexuality is clearly the same as selling one’s body for money. Funny, that.


    April 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

  3. Excellent post!

    And we get the woman’s arse twice on the cover, presumably because she’s narcissistic. And we get the guy once because, to judge by the angle of mirror and reflection, we *are* the guy! It’s a classic (almost embarrassingly obvious) example of how we’re all made to see things via the male gaze.



    April 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

  4. Okay, that one’s just daft. Daft daft daft. Some covers with women on the covers- you can still get the gist of the book. It still makes some kind of sense, even if a few more hunky men would be nice.

    But this one…even with the title on the cover, it still makes you wonder if the book is actually going to be about gigolos. He doesn’t look like a male prostitute for luminy’s sake! She’s the prossie! Why on earth would you be dancing around in sexy underwear and stupid heels for a man *you’d* hired?

    And okay. Maybe that’s somebody’s stripper fantasy. But it’s waaaayyy too specific for the cover of a book that should really have a cover that represents a more general gigolo fantasy. Would a man standing over a woman, unbuttoning his shirt or summat, have been too much to ask for? It could still have been non-threatening and featured naked girl bums!

    *rant rant ranty rant sorry*

    Charlotte Stein

    April 2, 2009 at 10:58 pm

  5. For fuck’s sake, here’s another.


  6. Great post. Nothing to add that hasn’t been said already. I think Kristina’s comment wraps it up quite succinctly.

    Jessica Freely

    April 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm

  7. […] 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 London Underground stations where, ordinarily, since this a sexy memoir, a woman’s eroticised body would have been the default representation (irrespective of the author’s gender). […]

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: