Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m really pleased how many people have commented, and how wide the views are on this – I figure a blog is a place for discussion, and am always thrilled when that happens! I did begin to write this post as a reply, but when it hit five hundred words I concluded the time had come to move it into a post of its own, and hope that debate continues!
Secondly, a point which I didn’t develop in the first post about erotic fiction, but which I figure I oughta actually expand on – not in any way as a counter-argument, merely as another issue which I think ought to be covered – is a very woman-specific one, towit, I am concerned that the trend in both erotic fiction, and to a degree other genres as well, is that women are often written as little better than sexual objects. I hasten to add that I trust there are books out there which don’t, but certainly to a casual eye the role of a lot of women is to be classified by their beauty and their sensual appeal above all else, and to be pursued for these qualities by powerful and imposing men. (For any men out there, feel free to wade in on this one, as I’m sure you too are as bored of tales of overly-muscled men with jaws of steel, as I am of sensual women with silken skin. Just saying; the argument that follows cuts both ways.)
I am all in favour of women taking control of their sexuality, understanding it and engaging with it. However, I question whether it’s an entirely productive trend in our society for women to be cast in fiction – and there are many genres where this happen, including my own – primarily as objects of sexual interest, and only secondarily as fully fledged characters in their own right. There seems a lot of fiction out there where women ‘simply can’t say no’ – not in a sexually abusive way per se, but because their desire for sex out-weighs their good judgment, up to and including getting off with Satan, because sure, that’s a great idea. Charming as this is as an occasional narrative blip, as an overall trend it alarms me.
I fully accept that tales of wonderfully beautiful women falling into the arms of strong yet dangerous men are as old as time, and fulfill both the desires and financial inclination of a readership, and that’s completely fine and valid. However, society exists to evolve, and with women around the world still battling to break out of their traditional wife-mother-mistress roles from the last two thousand years, I question whether society’s willingness to pay for stories which reinforce old cliches of sexuality, isn’t in fact a slightly dubious reflection on society as a whole. Throughout the Victorian era, and for millenia before, women were judged entirely as sexual objects, and great efforts were made by society to restrain women, bind them up behind societal laws and corsets. In the twentieth century, women at last began to push free of this, and certainly, a part of this push was reclaiming our sexuality back for ourselves. You could argue that erotic fiction is part of this reclamation, a celebration of the emancipation of women, and perhaps some of it is – were it not for the fact that so much of it seems to involve women who haven’t claimed their sexuality for themselves, who aren’t masters of their own fate, but rather have their bodies and their independence claimed by men around them.
Erotic tales have, do and always will persist in society and as I said, I have no great objection to that – rather I question whether writers, including those within my genre, shouldn’t take a greater responsibility for how they portray the women in their tales. Let people buy erotic fiction, absolutely – it is their right and their pleasure and I have no objection to this – but let therefore the genre itself stand up and write women worthy of the twenty first century, who are in charge of their own sexuality, their own free will and their own desires, rather than women who are merely bodies. I am sure that there are books out there which both try and achieve this, but they appear to be in the minority and this, more than the rise of erotica itself, alarms me.