Archive for the ‘Erotica Cover Watch’ Category
Men! We have men on sexy books! Doesn’t it make your heart sing? Got a Minute is a brand new cover on a hugely popular title by Alison Tyler (pub Cleis Press) while Abby Lee‘s memoir, Girl With a One Track Mind, Exposed, is the follow up to her 2006 bestseller, Girl With a One Track Mind. If you want ‘before and after’ shots, here’s how it used to be:
My, haven’t we grown? Followers of this blog will know, in the past, we’ve been highly critical of Cleis Press, progressive indie publishers, champions of marginalised sexualities and producers of top quality, seriously hot fiction who, paradoxically, have been responsible for creating some of the industry’s most sexist book covers. Our issues with Cleis have been compounded by the refusal of two of their top-name editors, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Violet Blue, to accept we have a valid a point when we say:
SEXY BOOK COVERS ONLY FEATURE SEXY WOMEN & NEVER SEXY MEN! THIS IMBALANCE IS SEXIST!
I view that statement as fact. I wrote it in big shouty letters to help the hard of thinking. Seriously, I fail to see how anyone can even consider arguing against our fundamental point. And anyone who claims Oh but, women like to identify, the book trade will never change, hot men are for teh gays etc is basically saying ‘sexism is OK’. Listen up: sexism is not OK. It must be challenged. We don’t know if the new cover of Got A Minute has anything to do with our campaign, nor if we were influential in Cleis’s choice of cover for Kristina Wright‘s forthcoming anthology, Fairy Tale Lust (right). But we do know we totally fucking love these designs, especially Got a Minute for its high male:female flesh ratio and its knee-quivering hotness!
Kristina, incidentally, was there at Erotica Cover Watch’s inception, prompting us to take action when she asked, ‘But, seriously, when are they going to put a hunky dude on the cover?‘ We really hope sales of these two Cleis books are sky-high and that Cleis will continue to broaden their remit as to what constitutes a suitable cover image for an erotic book. Because, along with many other female readers, we’ve seriously had it with T and A.
Zoe Margolis, aka Abby Lee, has been a staunch supporter of Erotica Cover Watch since the early days, commenting on our posts with intelligence, passion, wit and barefaced lechery; sending traffic our way with tweets and links; and being the unwitting inspiration behind LOLtits. We’re pretty damn sure Zoe’s publishers (Pan Macmillan) aren’t readers of ECW but it’s safe to say, the cover of Girl With a One Track Mind, Exposed, which officially hits the UK shops tomorrow (March 5th), wasn’t the first design Zoe was presented with. Or the second or the third …
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 poster sites on the London Underground where, ordinarily, since this a sexy memoir, a woman’s eroticised body would have been the default representation (irrespective of the author’s gender).
And as Zoe has pointed out to us, you really need to check out the woman’s toes on that cover: yup, this is definitely about female pleasure for a change – toe-curling pleasure! And so, hurrah, the message spreads: the erotic does not have to be signified solely by the female form; authentic female desire is not rooted in the gratification of men; a woman with sexual appetite is not, as contemporary culture would have us believe, doomed to express this via pole dancing and burlesque. Women lust. Women want. Women like to look at men. Please shift the gaze from us.
The point is: change is possible! Small things lead to big things, and we can all play a part in creating a better world. Or at least, as far as our campaign goes, in creating better bookshelves – bookshelves crammed with deliciously sexy books whose covers acknowledge female desire.
This is the last Erotica Cover Watch post. After 18 wonderful months, we’re closing the blog in a spirit of hope and belief and with enormous pride at what we – and you – have achieved. Our reach and success has gone way beyond what we thought possible. Here’s some of our best bits:
1. Xcite Books, the UK’s leading publisher of erotic fiction, have started to feature guys on their covers, thanks to us and you.
2. Filament magazine, backed by us and you, ran a highly successful ‘erection campaign‘, enabling them to afford a printer who wasn’t too scared to print a pic of hard cock. Filament are going from strength to strength and have recently secured an international distribution deal, covering all major English-speaking countries (except the UK because this country is weird). Issue 4 is out now!
3. We’ve written articles for The Guardian pertaining to women’s erotica, female sexuality and porn (see Comment is Free in sidebar). On one memorable occasion, our article was illustrated by a guy’s torso up top on the front page of The Guardian website. Woo-hoo!
4. We’ve been heard by many of the major players in the business: editors, authors, publishers. Some have ignored us; some have engaged with the debate but refused to budge; some have listened and changed their way of thinking; some are changing their way of marketing. In nearly all cases, even when there’s been significant disagreement between us and others in the industry, we have continued to work together as professionals and, in some cases, as friends. Nearly all …
5. Um, I (Kristina) have been blacklisted by Violet Blue and won’t be appearing in her anthologies again, a sure sign we touched a nerve.
6. We’ve illustrated our posts and demonstrated our point with images of book covers: on het books, at least 125 covers featured solo women, 14 featured couples (including sex guides so I’m being generous) and 17 featured solo men (5 of those were from Xcite and a result of our campaign and most of the others are from erotic romance, so again, I’m being generous.) If anyone wants to check my counting, feel free!
7. We’ve had 72 Man Candy Mondays and your all time favourites, according to hit rates, line up like an increasingly randy strip show:
8. Twice, we’ve been called ‘dykes’. This still hurts my brain. How, when there is so much cock about the place?
9. Mathilde fearlessly tackled Fleshbot head-on, criticising them for using ‘Straight’ and ‘Gay’ filters where straight = hot babes and gay = hot dudes.
10. We’ve received 890 comments and have only had to block 4 for being abusive. Thank you, all of you. The quality of debate and the level of support we’ve received has truly been outstanding, not to mention inspiring! We’re thrilled.
We’re closing Erotica Cover Watch because we think we’ve made our point. Much as we’d love to go on making this point in the hope of reaching an even wider audience, we both have other projects we want to work on. We hope, with this campaign, we’ve raised awareness and set something in motion within the erotica publishing industry. Please help us to carry this forward. Please keep the energy of Erotica Cover Watch alive. Keep the links and Man Candies coming, complain about sexism, celebrate sexy men and support publishers who are trying to break the mould.
Once again, huge thanks for your immense support and enthusiasm. We couldn’t have done this without you!
Please, Sir, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, pub. Cleis Press. Please, Ma’am, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, pub. Cleis Press
Watched by Mathilde Madden
What? No. Really? Really, Cleis Press? Really? Deja vu, anyone?
I mean, you do realise that it’s possible to take photographs of men, don’t you? You haven’t got them confused with, I dunno, vampires or something.
Well, I guess the best that can be said about this. And it’s accompanying book is that it is some kind of improvement on those last ones. Now instead of black rubber corsets we have coloured corsets. Plus, the women have heads: w00t! Women get to have heads, party! Except that we don’t count that on Cover Watch. Nah, see, we count trashy women on covers the same as sophisticated women with vaguely hip make up. Still women. Still covers featuring women and only women. This is an erotica book and in the erotica publishing industry only women can represent the erotic. No, strike that, it’s not quite true. Only the desires of straight men can represent the erotic.
Now, do I need to come right out and say it: this, men and women of the web, is sexism at it’s simplest.
Since these books are about sex and power, let’s talk about sexism and power. We live in a patriachy. Men have power; women have power only where men allow it. So, say, women get to have the “power” of sitting on a book cover looking sexy, but we don’t get to have the (real) power of having our desires represented on book covers. Can you see how different those levels of power are?
What’s particularly unfair is how much artistic energy women sink into the erotica publishing industry. Women make up the bulk of the writers and editors and reviewers for these books, often for very little financial rewards. Wouldn’t it be nice if the result of all this work and enthusiasm was a product that acknowledged their right to desire on the packaging? Instead of just presenting their labours as a delicious treat for straight men to pick up and enjoy?
Again and again we see this idea that women who want to be part of sexual culture have to become performers. Have to be on display. Only men get the privilege of watching from the shadows, comfortable that their desire will be presented for them without them having to offer anything of themselves in return.
That these books, like the previous two in the series, refuse to acknowledge female desire (the books are explicitly heterosexual) on the goddamn covers is shameful. It’s 2010, women have eyes and hearts and minds. Erotica publishing’s continued obstinate ignoring of that simple fact is sexist, nasty and, actually, in these tough economic times, probably downright dumb.
The Mile High Club, ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel, pub. Cleis Press
Watched by: Mathilde Madden
Here at Cover Watch we have a simple wish: Men on the covers of erotic books. To keep our dreams simple (and, you know, so damn basic it kind of makes me want to cry) we don’t worry too much about which men.
Oh, sure, there are debates to be had about trashiness. There are sticky questions about using imagery that is clearly primarily for gay men. We don’t have as strict a policy on this as some of our fellow warriors for equality. Man Candies are swiped from gay sites and blogs all the time, but we do understand why it’s important to say, hey, it is not okay to tell straight women that there is no problem because they can get their jollies from gay porn. Of course we can. (Of course we do.) But that doesn’t mean we don’t want our desires acknowledged . It’s not okay to ask straight women to dress up as gay men in order to see man-flesh.
Some people like to talk about what straight women really prefer. Our main position on this is that straight women’s tastes vary as much as straight men’s – and just take a look at a little thing called the internet to see just how wide ranging those tastes can be. Upshot of this – if you’re a straight woman and you see a single image of a sexy guy, chances are, it won’t be the exact image that does it for you. And this can be hugely frustrating in a world where such images are so scarce. But for us that means we cheer for all images of men on erotica book covers – and elsewhere – even if they are not our thing. Our reasoning: there’s a woman somewhere who is being made super happy by Mr Minotaur, Mr Hairy, Mr Elfin, Mr Piercings, etc.
Not that this policy is perfect. Of course some images proliferate unduly, but, for now, we welcome any attempt to get more guy-flesh on the outside of erotic books are well as the insides.
And, we don’t mind if the women want to stay on the covers too. We want equality not the moon on a stick (again, I pause and weep for how tiny and reasonable our request really is). Men pictured with women – yay! Okay, not the covers that features a huge amount of heaving bosom and a man’s hand off in the top corner, but a het couple where both get equal billing, sure. Nice.
Which is why we like this cover and cheer for it. And, god, sometimes, we feel like we are always complaining about Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Cleis covers – she has had some stinkers! So it’s really nice to see this.
So yay and yay again for this cover. And I will, at no point in this essay, mention the phrase ‘He looks like he’s hiding the body!’
Erotica Cover Watch: Temptations, ed. Miranda Forbes, pub. Xcite Books
Having a lovely
wank holiday. These men are The weather is seriously fucking hot. Been doing lots of sightseeing. Violet Blue Someone said our argument hotel was very 1970s but we think maybe her sunshades are too strong because as you can see, it’s excitingly fresh and modern around here. We’re loving all the cock …
tails. Luckily for us, they are called names like ‘Three’, ‘Two’ and ‘One’ so we don’t have to struggle with the usual stuff like ‘Screaming Multiple Outrage’ and ‘God Bollocks It’s Another Naked Babe on a Book for Women’!
Our biggest problem is deciding which one we like best! We’ve done lots of taste tests and I think ‘Three’ is my favourite. It reminds me of the many Cowboy Cocktails I’ve sampled. Last night when I asked Mat for her favourite, she couldn’t actually speak! I think she’d had a bit too much!!!
Hope you are all well and aren’t missing us too much!
Lots of love,
The Temptations series will be launched in November in the UK, each book costing only £2.99. Xcite say ‘The cover designs break with tradition but reflect a recent Xcite customers poll which revealed that 43% wanted to see a male on the cover, 30% a female and 27% a couple. The Temptations series deliver four mixed-theme erotic stories primarily aimed at female readers which feature a semi-naked man on each cover.’
And why did Xcite initially question the predominance of female models on erotica covers? Because they read our blog and they listened, giving Erotica Cover Watch its first glorious victory earlier in the year! It’s wonderful to see Xcite are continuing to feature hot guys on their covers. I truly love these images! And wonderful, too, to have a publisher who takes note and responds so positively instead of, ah, you know … not.
Erotica Cover Watch: Best of Best Women’s Erotica 2, ed. Violet Blue, pub. Cleis Press
Watched by Kristina Lloyd
Erotica Cover Watch is officially en vacances but clearly I’m a workaholic heading for a heart attack because there we were, Mat and I, sipping pina coladas by the pool, when I was struck by an overwhelming urge to call the office and yell, ‘What is it with all the women’s arses? Seriously, what the fucking fuck is wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right? I left a memo saying: HETEROSEXUAL WOMEN FIND MEN ATTRACTIVE. And what do you give those bitches to look at? More women’s butts! You’re FIRED!’
Best Women’s Erotica is, to quote the publishers ‘a legendary and groundbreaking yearly series, and is the best-selling women’s erotica collection, period. Every year BWE raises the bar for explicit erotica written by and for women.’
OK, now remember that part, ‘by and FOR women.’
Here’s more from the call for submissions: ‘The desired orientation within the main sexual element of the stories is primarily heterosexual.’
You got that? It’s het. So here we have an anthology aimed at women; its stories are primarily heterosexual, meaning its main target audience must be primarily het women too. In case you missed the memo: straight women fancy men. Seriously, they do! So what are you going to put on the cover of this book? An elephant, yes, that’s right! Or … or a car. What about a large pile of phone directories? Excellent! You’re hired. The important thing is, if you want to market erotica to women, choose an image which completely bypasses their desire; try to forget the fact they even have desire. Here’s two we made earlier:
These images are both for BWE 2010. The first image was a result of a regular marketing meeting; on the agenda: ‘another book of het erotica from Cleis. Cover suggestions?’ And everyone shrugged and said, ‘Woman’s arse, the usual.’ A few weeks later, management thought a BWE cover ought to be a bit different so they put a naked women in some trendy shoes on a chair and told her to look at the camera. This is a clever trick to fool people into thinking this represents an empowered woman expressing her sexuality. Cos she’s not just being looked at, she is looking right back. Cool! Equality! Also, add some hip consumer desirables to the pic of the chick and people can’t help thinking it’s a little bit more feminist cos, look, she has agency! She’s been shopping!
Cleis Press have been featured on ECW several times. We’ve written to Cleis’s editors. No reply. Nothing much has changed – although, hang on, the recently released The Mile High Club does include a guy so may be somebody is paying attention. It’s a little too early to tell.
I have a story in the forthcoming BWE 2010 which was then selected from the last five+ years of the series to be included in Best of Best. This was the first time I’d ever subbed a story to Violet Blue so I was thrilled with the double hit. And not so thrilled when I saw the covers. If you’re an author you may know how horrible it feels when work you’re proud of gets packaged in a cover which insults your writing.
Here’s two more of the latest images from Cleis Press, Best Lesbian Erotica and Best Gay Erotica.
Doesn’t that break your heart? Or make you hopping mad? Or both? Those are two gorgeous covers accurately representing the content and the sexualities of the books’ target readers. They feature couples expressing desire, affection, sexiness, lust, love. Kissing! There is some very beautiful kissing going on!
I want kissing too! Why, oh why, can’t BWE incorporate images of men to feature heterosexual couples on their covers? Just picture that image on Best Gay Erotica with a woman below the guy with the extraordinarily lovely arm. Sexy, no? But instead, Cleis Press are selling us yet another book in which a lone woman is objectified on the cover. Does that look like female heterosexual desire to you? No, me neither. Small wonder that last year’s Best Women’s Erotica is usually riding high in Amazon’s Gay and Lesbian charts. It is confusing.
It’s particularly baffling when these covers are coming from a progressive, liberal publishing house which prides itself on championing marginalised groups. It looks as if straight female sexuality is just a tad too radical for Cleis whose het erotica covers are peddling the same old sexist shit, perpetuating the notion that straight female desire is insignificant; that straight women are happy to identify with images of women and to be the ones who are looked at, never the ones who are looking and actively desiring.
Cleis Press describe the BWE series as ‘groundbreaking’. The content may well be but the claim is starting to look increasingly dubious and dated when the ideology underpinning Cleis’s marketing to women comes straight from mainstream culture’s sexism.
Since we started this campaign, the growth in support has been astronomical. We’ve caused a leading UK erotica publisher to rethink its covers; have had articles published in one of the UK’s top newspapers; and have been one of the driving forces behind Filament magazine’s successful bid to print erections for the female consumer. (We also have an exciting top sekrit project in the erotica publishing pipeline – sshh!). Meanwhile, across the pond, Cleis Press are simply looking the other way, acting as if we are not here, as if our voices – ours and yours – don’t count.
But we are here and our voices matter. And we are staying and we are fighting for change.
Pass the pina colada, Mat. Same book, same time next year?
Fleshbot, ed. Lux Alptraum, pub. Gawker Media
Watched by Mathilde Madden
(This is a bit of a departure, but bear with me.)
We have been following the coverage of Filament’s attempt to get it up as it has swept the net. It’s had a lot of support which has been great and very well deserved. I was delighted to see the campaign mentioned on Jezebel – a softly feminist women’s issues type blog which I am a big fan of. Jezebel is run by Gawker media who have a number of blogs that follow a very similar template. Io9 is another Gawker blog I love and there are a whole bunch more. All these blogs collect news from around the web that relate to whatever their particular thing is and run it with commentary. Sometimes, if an item is of interest to more than one Gawker blog the mini write up on the front page of one will link directly to the article on another. Which makes perfect sense. Which is why, when I saw the Filament campaign on Jezebel’s front page the link to read the whole story told me it would take me directly to Fleshbot Gay.
Fleshbot is another Gawker blog that collects news on all things sexy and porny. I don’t read Fleshbot but I knew about it. But, huh? Filament was on Fleshbot Gay?
I did some digging and it turns out that Fleshbot has two filters Straight and Gay. If you go to the home page here and click those tabs you can see how they work. Click Straight and all the guys vanish. Click Gay and all the girls are gone.
Click Straight to get girls and Gay to get guys?
Hands up if you can spot the sexism.
Which of course explains why Filament – a magazine for straight women – was filed under Gay. All the readers of this blog are assumed to be men. Penises are of interest to which kind of men? Oh, yes. Gay ones.
So, because I am a fearless warrior for equality, I then had this email conversation.
First I emailed Jezebel
From: Mathilde Madden
Re: Filament Mag and Fleshbot
I seriously hope this is not the only email you get about this. Yesterday you linked to a piece about Filament magazine’s struggle to be the first UK magazine to show erections in a mag aimed at women. It was covered on fellow Gawker media site Fleshbot. IN THE GAY SECTION!
This is outrageous. Filament magazine (and my own blog Erotica Cover Watch – which has covered a lot of Filament’s campaign) are precisely about the fact that women are never allowed to be the consumers of sexualised imagery. That all ‘straight’ imagery is of women and all ‘gay’ imagery is of men. I cannot believe such blatant sexism passed without comment on Jezebel and am seriously considering my position as a regular reader.
Jezebel passed my complaint to Fleshbot editor Lux Alptraum
To: Mathilde Madden
From: Lux Alptraum
Re: Filament Mag and Fleshbot
Fleshbot.com is a website that covers all sorts of erotica, for all sorts of people. Because we recognize that our readership appreciates the ability to filter out content that’s not to their liking, we offer the option to separate the site into two sections: one that primarily focuses on naked women, and one that primarily focuses on naked men. In the parlance of the larger porn industry, these distinctions are referred to as “straight” and “gay”–though we don’t always agree with that, we’ve adopted that parlance for the ease of our readers. However, it’s worth noting that many people–particularly straight women who look at the site–browse it in its entirety, without the filter.
When I received the request from Filament magazine about their fundraiser, I had to decide where to put it. After some debate, I opted for the gay section, knowing that a) the article would still appear on the front page of Fleshbot.com, and be viewable by any women who wanted to see it and b) gay men, who might be equally interested in providing funding to this noble cause, would be more likely to filter out straight posts, and thus less likely to see the post if I put it there. Frankly, I was merely trying to maximize the post’s audience–which, for the record, was also why I asked to splice it to Jezebel, where I felt it would reach even more people who might be interested in helping out.
That said, the post on Jezebel should have had [Fleshbot]. not [Fleshbot Gay] as the tag at the end–that’s a bug I’ve asked to have fixed.
However: had this not been the train of events that led to the post, one of my gay writers could very well have picked up the story, and decided to write about it themselves–and frankly, I fail to see how someone expressing an interest in helping women to see the kind of erotica they desire could be labeled “sexist.”
I appreciate your concerns, and hope that my explanation helps sort things out. As a woman who’s interested in creating a world where everyone has access to the type of erotic media that titillates them, Filament’s cause is important to me. It was not my intention to offend anyone by publicizing it the way I did, and I’m sorry to know that my actions gave you offense.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that being featured on Fleshbot – a very hight traffic blog – was a great thing for Filament. I really appreciate Lux writing about it and believe that she is committed to featuring material that engages with female desire. Sadly I think having something so basic and nuts and bolts as the filters on the site so explicitly erasing women as potential viewers of erotic material undermines what she’s doing.
Anyway, I wrote back.
To: Lux Alptraum
From: Mathilde Madden
Re: Filament Mag and Fleshbot
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I hope this email will provoke some interesting conversations. I write erotica and am a huge supporter of erotic materials for women. I would love to see Fleshbot embrace women as consumers of erotica. Some women will find their way to sites like yours and be happy to ignore obvious exclusion. But others won’t.
If you don’t agree with the larger porn industry (you are a part of that industry, btw) labeling naked women as ‘straight’ and naked men as ‘gay’ why on earth do you reinforce it? Would it be so hard to call your sections something like ‘men’ and ‘women’. Where do you file the lesbian porn? (Don’t answer that). Perhaps straight women use your site without filters it is because you ask them to mindfuckeringly call themselves ‘gay’ in order to see naked men.
Support for Filament aside, what you are doing is sexist as you are erasing women as viewers, whilst no doubt being more than happy for them to be the viewed, by basing your categories only on the orientation of a perceived male viewer. If it’s about erections file it under GAY! If you are truly for everyone perhaps you should reconsider how you present your erotica rather than simply asking Jezebel to hide the problem by changing the tag – maybe it runs a little deeper.
Thanks again for listening. I don’t mean to bug the hell out of you – but I feel very strongly about this subject.
This is Lux’s reply (last email, promise).
The straight/gay divide long predates me (Fleshbot is almost six years old, I’ve been writing for the site for two years, and have served as an editor less than one). Whatever issues I may have with it, it is not within my power to remove or replace it–that is a decision made at a much higher level than the one that I work at. What is within my power, however, is the ability to promote good content that’s feminist and appeals to women–which I do on a regular basis (much of which is not marked gay: http://fleshbot.com/5034452/you-asked-for-it-hot-straight-men–and-the-women-who-fuck-them).
Frankly, any attempt to filter/divide content would offend someone. If I labeled posts “men” and “women,” I would run into issues with trans and genderqueer performers. I would prefer to eliminate any distinction at all, and just force everyone to wade skim through every post, but that would likely alienate even more of my readership.
Just an aside but I looked at the post mentioned above and it does feature men under the straight section. But every one of them is pictured with a woman and the introduction to the post features a bit of ‘calm down guys, there are women here too’ phrasing along with the charming detail for female viewers that the women need to be in these pictures or how else could we tell these guys were straight. Um, what?
To me it seems clear that the problem here is exactly the same as the one we write about over and over on Cover Watch. Straight Men must be saved from the peen! I don’t know how I missed it but straight men are made of damp tissue paper. So of course they need a special filter, as do gay guys, to keep them safe from sexy images of their non-preferred gender. Women don’t get a filter. They probably don’t ask for one. Hey, we’re still struggling to be allowed to look at a picture of a man who’s pleased to see us. And, sure, women do look at sites like these without any filter, but, really, what choice do they have?
I think it’s interesting that Lux says that the Gay/Straight filters long predate her and are something that are porn industry wide. Because, the thing is, erotica and porn and sexy stuff used to be exclusively for the boys. Stuff like these filters used to make sense – but they don’t anymore. Or, they don’t if sites like Fleshbot want to welcome female viewers.
And it’s the same with erotica book covers.The endless girlie covers used to make sense when only men bought them. But now women are part of the target market (and the authors are often actual women – not men using female pseudonyms), it’s unfair, dated and sexist to keep on marketing as if all readers are men. Especially when you get a parade of cheesecake every year on the cover of Best Women’s Erotica.
Some people only like one gender. I’m one of them. It’s great to be able to filter a site like Fleshbot and get what I want. It’s horrible that to use a site like this I would have to do some kind of reverse engineering insanity. I like men. If I were a man who liked men I’d be gay. Therefore I click gay. Seriously, filters like this tell female viewers they need to imagine their preferences from the point of view of a man to enjoy the site. That’s fucked up.
Really, I do not see why these filters couldn’t be renamed ‘men’ and ‘women’. Because I still can’t figure out what they do with the lesbian porn.
Things like this (and the erotica book cover situation) make me feel like, as a woman, I am allowed through the door of the erotica and porn industry to have a look around and even get turned on, but only because straight men like the idea of me being there and being turned on. Not because anyone cares about me as a human being with desires. Because when acknowledging me as a viewer means making even the tiniest concession that might affect the default male viewer there’s no budging.
*NEWSFLASH! We have a piece about Filament’s battle in today’s Guardian: check it out! Join in comments!
Erotica Cover Watch: Young Studs, ed. Cecilia Tan, pub. Ravenous Romance
Okay, so we’re in a recession and you can only afford to buy one of these two books. I know, life sucks. But which one will you go for? Think carefully! Money’s tight, remember. And this is a tough call. On the one hand, you’ve got …
Oh, so you all just bought Young Studs and a copy for your friend. I see.
But here’s a thing: there was no need to choose. I fooled ya! MILF Fantasies and Young Studs are the exact same book – well, on the inside at least. Now, this isn’t a publisher trying to trick you into buying the same thing twice; this is a publisher responding to its readers.
Cecilia Tan, editor of the anthology, got in touch with Erotica Cover Watch to tell about this ‘victory for the female gaze’. When MILF Fantasies was first released as an ebook early in 2009, it barely sold. Cecilia was informed it was one of Ravenous Romance’s worst selling anthologies. Then the book was repackaged, the pretty woman on the cover vanished and along came three young dudes baring their rock hard abs – result! Within days, the book shot into RR’s top ten.
Ravenous Romance are primarily an erotic romance publisher. As we know, there’s beefcake aplenty on romance covers because, in catering explicitly to women, the genre doesn’t have to worry about deterring male consumers. But RR are also publishing straight erotica such as Young Studs (contributors include names familiar to anyone who reads smut: Rachel Kramer Bussel, Elizabeth Coldwell, Andrea Dale, Sage Vivant) and, because these are ebooks, again the publisher needn’t fret about passing guys going all weird at the sight of another guy with his kit off. As Cecilia wrote: ‘What [RR] have found is that the ebook audience is so overwhelmingly female that the “normal” rules of erotica publishing (you know the ones, the ones that say a woman has to be on the cover) Do Not Apply.‘
I think this is progress. Sure, we want to see men and couples on covers that exist in spaces other than those reserved for women. We want men to be sexualised in the way women are sexualised. We want het erotica for men and women to be represented by men and women on the covers. It’s called equality. And if ebooks can nudge erotica publishing in that direction, I’m happy.
I’m currently working with Alison Tyler and Pretty Things Press and had my first epublication a couple of weeks ago. Yay me! One of the great joys has been discussing covers with Alison who’s more than happy to experiment with a range of styles. And I can promise you, in anthologies to come, there will be smokin’ hot guys on our e-covers!
What’s particularly interesting in the redesign of Tan’s book is the title change and shift in emphasis from the woman who is fantasising to what she’s fantasising about. Erotica, still lingering in the wake of being a male-aimed genre, frequently focuses on women. It’s preference is not just for women on its covers but also for the female voice; the female revelation and confession; the authentic female experience. Erotica (like porno) often wants evidence of women having a good time and could be accused of prioritising that rather than actually offering them a good time.
It’s well known that lots of women are hot for M/M but in, for example, Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica series, the writers’ call for submissions state:
The desired orientation within the main sexual element of the stories is primarily heterosexual, yet bisexuality and lesbian encounters are also encouraged. The primary focus of sexual activity must be on the female experience; female pleasure is the main element.
MILF Fantasies seems to be following in that tradition as do numerous other erotica books with titles such as Dirty Girls, Kinky Girls, Hot Women’s Erotica, Ultimate Curves etc. Women aren’t just looked at on the covers; they’re looked at in the titles and the text. And what women are looking at (in their heads, in their fantasies) is downplayed or discounted.
As MILF to Young Studs illustrates, the content of a book can stay the same but how it’s marketed and who it’s aimed at can differ greatly. And Ravenous Romance are boldly targeting their erotica at women – and the strategy is clearly successful.
Look what’s riding high in their charts right now: The DILF Anthology.
I mean, no one would dream of designing a book like that to market to straight men, would they?
Instant gratification: go here to download Cecilia Tan’s
The MILF Anthology Young Studs.