Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Erotica Cover Watch: Sex Fantasies by Women for Women, ed. Lisa Sussman

with 3 comments

Sex Fantasies by Women for Women, ed. Lisa Sussman, pub. Thorsons

Watched by Mathilde Madden


When Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden hit the shelves in 1973 it was breaking a lot of exciting (if obvious to us in our brave new liberated world) news to the world:

The fact that women masturbated and enjoyed sexual fantasy and the diverse nature of female sexual fantasy.

Nowadays, whilst female sexual fantasy, masturbation and orgasm are firm facts of our sexual landscape (and new frontiers like female ejaculation and G-spot orgasms are being conquered and claimed), volumes of female sexual fantasy crowd the shelves.

My Secret Garden has begat a hundred daughters. What are they here for? Who are they here for?

Surely they are aimed at women. I mean, could anything, any subject, be more about female desire than female sexual fantasy?

But take a look at this cover here. I don’t feel like this book is aimed at me.

Strange. I dug out a couple more.




Who are these books for? Are female sexual fantasies now like so much once authentic expressions of female desire now just another feminised sex product aimed at men?

Sometimes it seems like every time another stride is taken towards the liberation and acceptance of female desire, it gets gobbled up and made part of the male desire servicing machine as a pure commodity. These book covers make it look like in thirty five years female sex fantasy has transformed from a groundbreaking admission of women having sexual desire too into Hey guys, come look at these horny bitches. Or is that just me?

51RSKWXp6PL._SS500_In fact this taps right into the issues we raised in an earlier post  about the idea of books of sexual ‘confessions’ and the reasons why these books are always positioned as confessions made by women (and usually to men). Isn’t this endless commoditisation of female desire into a product for male consumption insulting and also really out of place in an industry that presents itself as egalitarian, welcoming of all kinds of sexual desire? (Which I think is the image erotica publishing likes to present.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, male fantasies seem to be far less of a thing. Maybe men don’t want to read other men’s fantasies. Scary. I found this ancient looking tome. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised about the cover. And I also found this (below left), which is a big favourite with us at Cover Watch, for the title alone.


In other book cover news, friend of Cover Watch, Alison Tyler, has a great post about the lack of man candy covers in her own prolific library. And she invites writers to pen some erotica inspired by images of men. I also hear the wonderful Charlotte Stein has just such a story in Black Lace’s Sexy Little Numbers so it’s well worth pre-ordering a copy of that if you haven’t yet.

And finally, Xcite books are running a poll about what readers want to see on book covers. You know we want you to go vote (bottom left). 


Written by mat

July 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. You’re right, it makes no sense to have women on the covers of ‘female fantasy’ books… it would make more sense to have images of what they’re fantasising about, i.e. men. Unless of course they’re lesbian fantasies, in which case…

    Lucy Felthouse

    July 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

  2. Oh, I did little gasp when you mentioned me at the end! Thank you, Mathilde- that was a lovely comment.

    All my stories – every single one of them, unfailingly – are about the sexiness of a man. I base my male characters on wide and varied inspiration, so much so that an editor once told me that it was very unusual to find a female writer who wrote about lots of different types of men. But I don’t think it’s a phenomena limited to me. Justine Elyot, Portia Da Costa, Megan Hart- all are writers I know who seem to enjoy basing a male character on some heady inspiration, and revelling in his gorgeousness, his maleness, everything that makes him a man.

    I think this feeling amongst female writers is definitely starting to take over- that it’s okay to love men and enjoy them and how they look. And if it keeps going, and sites like ECW keep chipping at the rockface, maybe the industry will follow.

    Charlotte Stein

    July 16, 2009 at 6:51 pm

  3. ‘My Secret Garden Shed’ – that is simply inspired!

    Charlotte, thank you for the mention – like you, I am interested in ‘what makes a man a man’ (as the song says). There are so many different versions of masculinity and such variety in the way it can be described and expressed. Men are sexy! Let’s look at them!

    Justine Elyot

    July 17, 2009 at 9:22 am

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: