When I first started writing erotica in 1999, I would often get the question, “What, exactly, is erotica?” Nowadays, in our post- Fifty Shades of Grey world, I rarely get that kind of confusion. Instead, there remains a bit of a misconception that all of modern erotica is somehow similar to Fifty Shades, with female submissives being the name of the game.
The truth: There’s a lot to discover about the genre beyond E.L. James’ massive bestseller. I should know; I’ve edited more than 60 erotica anthologies and have read hundreds of stories for the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series I curate. Writing erotica has irrevocably changed my life, and has given me new perspectives on my own sexuality as well as those of my fellow human beings.
The past decade has seen a boom in women turning to the page to detail sexy stories that would very likely make even Christian Grey blush. And for anyone who knocks erotica as anything less than an art form, it’s interesting to note that of the 130 erotic authors recently surveyed by writer Emmanuelle de Maupassant, roughly 30% of respondents said they have formally studied literature.
Women writers come to the world of erotica for different reasons: some as a business opportunity, some to safely explore sexual fantasies they can’t share in their real lives, and some simply to create hot stories that will arouse readers. While I’m firmly of the mindset that fiction is just that, fiction, and can’t be used to divine real-life trends in sexuality, I do think it’s a positive for women that erotic fiction has become more mainstream. Not having erotica tucked away into some dark corner sends the message that it’s okay to think about sex, to think about what turns you on. Erotica gives us permission, in case we didn’t have it already, to acknowledge ourselves as sexual, and sexy, beings, whose desires may be far more complicated than we’re often led to believe.
The fact that erotica, along with erotic romance — from blockbuster print bestsellers to upstart indie ebook publishers to websites and magazines like Congress — is now so widely available means that we are becoming more comfortable talking about sex, including some deeply kinky sex. Take a stroll through any given bookstore romance section and you’re just as likely to see handcuffs as you are Fabio-esque images. Female authors are writing about straight women, lesbian women, bisexual women, male-male erotica, and beyond, and in the process, giving their fellow readers access to all sorts of models of sexual fulfillment that don’t fit any kind of mold.
When Refinery29 asked me to curate a selection of what’s hot in erotica written by women, I wanted to bring you a sampling of that kind of variety. Ahead, you’ll find excerpts from some of today’s top erotic writers, with stories ranging from sweet to filthy, with just about everything in between. These authors have brought forth the heart of what makes sex such a delight by capturing the lusty, down-and- dirty moments right alongside the emotional nuances that make these stories worth reading — and re-reading. Prepare to be delighted, and surprised, because these writers don’t shy away from BDSM, erotic risk-taking, sex with strangers, male/male lust, historical erotic scenes, or anything else.
This time, we’re starting with a handful of steamy stories, but we’ll be featuring a new story every month. Even if you think erotica is not your cup of tea, I hope you’ll check the excerpts out in case something strikes your fancy. And if you have suggestions for authors our readers should know about, please leave a comment sharing your favorites!
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