When we ask people our one simple little question – Why only women on the covers of erotic books? – we get all kinds of answers. Here are some of our favourite and most well-worn excuses used to justify this stupid sexism:
The publishers/book buyers/bookshops/publishing industry won’t stand for men on the covers of erotic books
And obviously this can never change. Just like no injustice has ever been overcome ever.
Women like looking at women
Because straight women are just straight men with vaginas
You are just jealous of the sexy models
Because the whole problem with women only being allowed to be sex objects is actually all about personal insecurities. It’s actually as trivial as that!
But there are men on the covers of erotic romance books?
So we’re allowed to look at naked men but only if we’re going to settle down with them and get married at the end. No, but really, erotic romance books have done some nice bicep thrusting covers – and certainly proved the point that women do like looking at hot men and will buy books with hot men on the cover. (Here’s a fun one.) But the only reason they’re allowed is because men don’t read romance. If men might be a potential audience for the book (as in standard erotica) woman are elbowed out the way so hard my ears are ringing right now writing about it.
People think men on covers are for the gay market
Yes, because you only put men on the covers of gay books!
If women wanted men on the covers that’s what publishers would supply
Because global capitalism is just that simple
Women can identify with female cover models
What and these would be the same ones I’m seethingly jealous of? Really, I find it hard to identify with any woman who spends her Saturday nights lying naked on a sofa fondling her titties. I have more interesting things to do.
Men on covers would put off the lesbians
And please, won’t somebody think of the lesbians!
Women are more beautiful than men
…and that’s not my opinion, that’s fact
You are prudish, illiberal and anti-sex
Hahahaha! Stop it, our sides hurt. Anti-sex? Us? OMG, hahahaha!
We are reclaiming the male gaze
And, dumbest of all: Oh, but I like it, I think she’s hot
Seriously? You like it? Well, get this: I (Kristina Lloyd) like the colour green, I like those sandals I bought for a tenner last summer, whisky no ice, hawthorn blossom in May, a man with a shaved head and my mum’s rhubarb crumble. But this isn’t about anyone’s personal preference. In fact, if anyone commenting on this blog attempts to use ‘oh but I like it’ as a line of defence, we will swoop down and award them A Big Glass of Hopeless.
A Hopeless is a cocktail which was invented for Mathilde in a cosy little bar on a night I was drinking margaritas. She loved it. It was basically a pudding in a glass, extravagantly trashy, the kind of cocktail she adores. I generally stick to margaritas: short, sharp and salty. We have very different tastes. But, you know what, we never argue about it. There is no point, see? Neither of us are ever going to change our minds.
In exploring the sexism in erotica covers, we’re not asking for anyone’s opinion on whether or not they like the lady. Individual preference is not, never will be, a valid counter-argument to a political point. This is not about anyone’s fondness for a particular peachy bottom. This is about the bigger picture. This is about challenging the deeply-entrenched gender bias in erotica-marketing which ignores women as consumers and prefers to serve them up as objects to be ogled.