Reading and Writing Erotica as a Feminist Act

Recently, I followed a link to a fascinating-sounding blog post on erotica only to find that I had already read the post almost a year ago, and had in fact commented on it. I still stand by my comment, and decided I should post it in my blog.

I’m about to be all high-falutin’ about what I affectionately refer to as smut.

I think that demonstrating women’s sexuality in erotica, erotic romance, whatever, to a public audience verifies the existence of female sexuality (woman as actor rather than than object–think how many advertisements show a passive woman sexually displayed) and helps bring female sexuality into public discourse. Better dissed as “chick porn” than ignored and suppressed.

I also hope the mere existence of erotica aimed at women encourages women to think or write or talk about their own sexuality, thus validating that they have sexual identities to themselves, to their partners, and to society. And I hope stories about varying sexualities can subtly lead to more acceptance of difference in general.

At the same time, I think erotica should be fun and not preachy, and not grim. My route to that is genre; I’m happiest when reading erotica/erotic romance that’s been flavored with something else, like spaceships or crazy archaeological adventures or car chases. It shouldn’t be ashamed of itself. And we shouldn’t be ashamed of ourselves for reading it and liking it.

Related Posts: Why Writing Romance and Erotica Is Like Being Good in Bed, by Cecilia Tan.
Female/Female Romance.
Making It Good and Preliminary Thoughts on Two Types of Erotic Novels.
Erotic Journeys and Bodice Rippers.
Carol Queen quotes. Simon Sheppard quotes.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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4 Responses to Reading and Writing Erotica as a Feminist Act

  1. jennareynolds says:

    Hear, hear! Great post, Victoria!

    And I totally agree. I have a novella coming out from Ellora's Cave about a candy-store owner and, yes, an orthodontist and I had a ball (pun not intended, no, wait, pun intended) writing it. I think erotica should be fun and upbeat as well as dark and angsty. Both types appeal to me.

    I still believe that woman's sexuality is often used more as a means to an end than as an end in itself. Used to sell toothpaste and fast cars and not acknowledged for what it is. A powerful aspect of a woman's life.

    So, although I know that erotica is not everyone's cup of tea, I enjoy writing it and plan to keep on writing it! The fun, bright smut and the angsty, dark smut. *grin*

  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    I still believe that woman's sexuality is often used more as a means to an end than as an end in itself.

    Yes! You're so right.

  3. Jessica says:

    I agree with most of what you say, but I am going to push you slightly here: don't you think women's sexuality is already everywhere? Women's sexuality is used to sell virtually everything (think of the Go Daddy commercials with Danica Patrick out right now). Would you say selling Paris Hilton's sex tape is a feminist act? Or The Girl's Next Door? If not, what distinguishes what you write and read from these other examples?

  4. Victoria Janssen says:

    don't you think women's sexuality is already everywhere?

    Yes, definitely. I think, however, that there's a difference between what women choose for themselves, and what they claim as their own, and what is imposed upon them.

    An actress might claim for herself the right to be naked on screen, even if the director's intention is exploitation of her visual image as an object. I think to "claim" objectification of women's bodies and sexuality as a feminist act requires being active; not just being the subject of the male gaze, but interacting with those images and integrating them into our own lives, whether that means that we accept them or reject them. Saying "I dislike these ads from American Apparel because the women look like objects" is as much a claiming, an acknowledgment, as deciding you want to have your picture taken in lacy underwear for your own pleasure.

    I, personally, might not be comfortable with every woman's choices. But then, it's not my job to be comfortable with the choices of others, or impose my preferences on them.

    For another example, look at the phenomenon of slash fanfiction. A tv show might feature a gorgeous, scantily-clad woman and two male sidekicks who aren't particularly attractive. Female slash fans, instead of choosing the female sexuality presented to them, choose to imagine the two men as sexual partners instead for their own pleasure.

    Am I making any sense? I don't think women's choices are always wise, and in fact our choices are often warped by a lifetime of living in a patriarchy. But I think that's important that we allow ourselves to choose.

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