On radio last night I was asked if there was a stigma about writing erotic fiction. I gave an answer but I am very uncomfortable about it and need to think this through.
My answer was yes. I said that there is a term that is used; women's erotica which marginalises erotic writers as something that is just for women. I went on to say that it used to be a boys club of erotic writers and that it was only the intellectuals who were often male who wrote it and published it and distributed it in small print runs in an underground way.
My discomfort comes from the idea that erotic writing for and by women is somehow less than that kabal of male writers who used to be the kings of the form. This idea must be snuffed out. Firstly the idea that eros is a lesser form is insane. Erotic writing is such a powerful form - so powerful that it is often banned. Erotic writing is also a form that can and should be enjoyed by any gender. Just because you don't have a vagina does not mean you can't read work that describes vaginas. In fact doesn't it make vagina-centric work all the more titillating if you don't have one? You get to glimpse an area of life that you have little working knowledge of. Female arousal is something that many people have only a passing knowledge of. Even many females do not understand or even experience it. Why should 'women's erotica' be a term that lessens a work?
I don't use the term because it is often used to single out more escapist works and books that focus on romantic eros. I am not really that interested in romance. I like my sex separated from romantic entanglements for the most part. I like my sex pure.
Still I am both uncomfortable with the term 'women's erotica' and also uncomfortable with my discomfort about the term. Women's erotica should be a term that refers to some powerful, transgressive, challenging and smart writing. At this moment in our history it is used to differentiate erotic writing that tickles rather than punches. I prefer a full force punch of sexual pleasure that challenges the status quo. I wish that was a form that we called women's erotica but alas it is not. Please feel free to continue this conversation with me. I would love your thoughts.