By A. Charlotte Rose
Although erotic romance books have been around for a long time, they seem to have experienced an amazing resurgence since Fifty Shades of Grey. That book, which has been on the best seller list since last year, has certainly helped the genre go mainstream!
When I wrote my first erotic romance 20 years ago, it was sold in the secret back section of book stores, sex novelty shops, or by mail order, in a plain brown wrapper. How things have changed! Books are so much more accessible now due the advent of the e-reader, the convenience (and addictive nature) of technological wonders such as the Amazon “one click” buying method, and the explosion in self-published books in the erotic romance genre.
I remember being one of the most popular guests at cocktail parties in the nineties once the hostess revealed, “She writes erotic books.” It was rare for a woman to write erotic fiction back then. Guys would happily gather around me to ask if I got my story ideas from real life (wink-wink). But women just were not as open or interested in talking about sexy books… then.
Today, women are proud devotees of the erotic romance novel. From what I have witnessed, many have absolutely no problem talking about sex, publicly drooling over hot alpha male heroes they adore, or posting a comment in social media suggesting that reading a particular scene inspired them to, um, jump hubby’s bones. The Internet has made reading a social and community experience, where women connect to share their excitement. (They are very vocal about criticisms, too).
And they love the authors of these books—like sisters, and best friends. It is like a sorority, where the authors are very accessible, social, and have genuinely warm relationships with their fans. In the past year there has been an explosion of multiple-author book signings, bringing many best-selling authors together at once; and events like The Naughty Mafia in Las Vegas and Wicked Girls Book Night Out where fans can meet and party with their favorite authors.
The general consensus is that erotic romances are good for us — even if we temporarily get a little lost in them and lose sleep because we can’t put the book down without finding out what happens next.
I spoke to some of today’s best-selling authors — Jasinda Wilder, M. Leighton, and Michelle A. Valentine — and also asked several psychologists to chime in on the benefits of this trend. Here are some of the insights they shared:
They Help You Express Yourself
“I believe the steamy romance novel craze has helped women in expressing their own sexual desires to their partners in a healthy way. Reading these novels give them a sense of empowerment over their own physical needs and allow them to know they aren’t alone—that it’s okay to want a fulfilling sexual relationship. I can’t tell you how many times readers have told me that their husbands thank me. It’s nice to know that not only have my stories entertained them, but have improved their quality of life as well.”
-Michelle A. Valentine, best-selling author, The Black Falcon Series, Demon At My Door
They Help You Explore
“I have gotten loads of feedback from women telling me how much acting out the scenes from my books has enriched their love lives or how the material has encouraged them to be more creative. And too many times to count, I’ve gotten messages from women saying their husbands thank me. LOL While that is humorous, it seems that kick-starting the libido with sensual reading can end in some fun time between mates. Pleasurable reading followed by pleasurable exploration. I call that win-win!”
-M. Leighton, best-selling author, The Bad Boy Series, The Wild Ones Series
They Show You What a Good Relationship Can Be
“Why is erotic romance good for readers? It’s spice. People talk all the time about “spicing up their love life.” Usually this takes the form of pornography and sex toys. Now, there’s nothing wrong with those things, but if your love life with your partner is failing, those things are merely temporary solutions to a permanent problem. Reading erotic romance can be different. If the story is as much a true romance, where the love is as vital as the sex, then the couple can find a sense of renewal; they can see a different way of doing things. I’m not saying it is sex therapy, but it’s close. It’s new, it’s different, it’s titillating, and all this, with only words on a page. It’s an escape; it’s a fresh perspective on love, on sexuality. Erotic romance, at its best, shows what a good romantic relationship should be: a balanced, erotic partnership, wherein both people seek the pleasure and happiness of the other person as their primary focus.”
-Jasinda Wilder, best-selling author, Stripped, Falling into You, Big Girls Do It Better
This was originally published in my Hot Romance column on The Three Tomatoes.