Hot, Het, and Hated—How Lesbian Erotica Has Been Hijacked

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I sat down to write this blog and, for background, took a quick look at the Top Twenty Lesbian Erotica titles on Amazon that day. I’m not a prude (not by a long shot!) but even I was unpleasantly stunned by what was on display. The covers were lurid, to say the least, and three of them had men in the picture.

Er, excuse me, how is that lesbian?! Looking closer at the blurbs for each of the other seventeen, I discovered that nine of them are not even exclusively f/f, all featuring stories with men, either in m/m or m/f couplings.

You call that lesfic?

So out of twenty “lesbian” erotica books, only eight are actually f/f. And that’s just in the top twenty. Is it any wonder I see so many posts on social media bemoaning the lack of quality and choice in the lesbian erotica genre?

It also helps to explain, I think, some of the posts I see by women who say they will never read erotica—some have made it very clear they won’t read it “because it always features men or is written by them”. Judging by that Amazon list, they’re not far wrong.

Call me naive, but when I sat down to write an erotic novel, none of this occurred to me. I identify as lesbian, and I wanted to write a sexy book about and for lesbians and bisexual women that would be hot, yes, but would shy away from the “wham bam, thank you ma’am” straight erotica I’d read before my own personal enlightenment.

Straight kisses and diversity misses

When I went looking for hot lesbian stuff to read, to inspire, and to compare, I had my eyes opened, and not in a good way. Lots of it is written by men. Lots of it is lacking in plot. Lots of it is regurgitating the same old storyline (generally two, actually—“straight” girl seduced by experienced lesbian, or timid/new submissive being initiated by long-time dominant). And, usually, they’re the butch-femme dynamic too.

Now, obviously, there are exceptions, and some very good ones too. But it staggered me how hard I had to look, and how much dross I had to sift through, to get to the gems. I’m talking about the “proper” lesbian erotica that’s written by women, for women, and with our needs and desires in mind. The books or stories that have variety, and imagination, and humour. The ones that show true diversity of not only the sexual scenarios themselves, but the sexual identity and colour of the participants, and their needs and desires.

This lack of choice and diversity gives the genre a bad name and that saddens me. Lots of women in f/f relationships are sexual in those relationships. Lots of them enjoy a good, sexy love scene in a lesbian romance. Lots of them, judging by the comments on social media and in reviews, would like to see more sexy stuff that talks directly to them.

I’m not sure where this lack of diversity comes from. Is it publishers wanting to stay with what’s tried and tested, because it sells?

What makes racy gems so rare?

Is it writers, looking at the market, working out that’s what sells and so they are perpetuating the same old thing?

Is it the reputation of the genre working against itself, because it’s flooded with male-written stories, or stories aimed at the male market?

It’s almost as if it’s in a Catch-22 situation, repeating a cycle that doesn’t offer what lesbians or bi women want at all. I can’t believe the women who currently publish lesbian erotica are all white, all into the butch-femme dynamic, and all into sub-dom stories. Certainly the audience isn’t.

There are plenty of other voices to be heard in this genre, and it’s a real shame they’re not getting airtime.

I’m really looking forward to hosting a panel on this very subject at Lesvos Lesfic and I can’t wait to hear the participants’ views on a subject that’s very close to my heart.

 

A.L. Brooks currently resides in London, although over the years she has lived in places as far afield as Aberdeen and Australia. She has just published her second book Dark Horse with Ylva. At Lesvos Lesfic 2017 on June 9, A.L. Brooks will be doing a panel, Diversity in Lesbian Erotic Novels. See www.lesvoslesfic.com for more information. 


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9 Comments

  1. KD Williamson June 6, 2017 at 14:19 - Reply

    Hmmm, interesting read. I had no freakin idea. I not big into erotica. The only authors I’ve read in that genre are you and Meghan O’Brien which all just about set my kindle on fire! I can see erotica being written by men after all they are responsible for the bevy of lesbian porn as well (for the male gaze). That’s all so disappointing. However, those books seem to surround the ultimate male fantasy of threesomes and what not. It’s also poisonous for the community as a whole for them to use the vampire trope. You know, the more experienced lesbian seducing the straight women into becoming the ‘other.’ Roles eyes. Not to mention the stereotypes of bisexuality.

    • A. L. Brooks June 6, 2017 at 14:26 - Reply

      Yep, all of that! Frustrates the heck out of me (as you can probably tell from the blog!)

  2. C. W. D June 6, 2017 at 15:26 - Reply

    Oh I think I love you!
    Finally someone who sees it, and writes about it!

    I got so tired of read a mans view on lesbian intimacy that I just started writing myself, I’m not a writer and I’m not even sure that what I have written is any good, but at least it was better than having too keep reading about m/f or f/f/m.

    So thank you, for bringing on the subject!

    • A. L. Brooks June 6, 2017 at 15:30 - Reply

      *blushing* Why, thank you! And I’m glad I’m not the only one who was fed up with it all.

  3. Heather June 6, 2017 at 20:05 - Reply

    I recently judged/reviewed about 9-10 lesbian erotica books. Only one had a decent “hotness” factor to it.. One…
    It really shouldn’t take much to write a decent lesbian erotica book.
    Make it about lesbians. Don’t include men. Don’t make the sex so far fetched that it’s unbelievable.. And, think out the sex scenes.
    If I can’t ‘picture’ those sex scenes in my head as I’m reading them, or if they make no sense, I pretty much know, a man wrote it, or that author is just.. Tossing theories and never done it lol

    • A. L. Brooks June 6, 2017 at 23:34 - Reply

      Heather, those last few points you made – so very true. It has to be believable as well as hot, and lack of believability will kill it every time.

  4. Devlyn June 12, 2017 at 13:14 - Reply

    I would agree with everything you have said and it is very disappointing but not really surprising that the Amazon Top 20 would be so diverse. I avoid Amazon ‘Top’ anything when selecting my reading preferences. I would rather purchase from’known’ lesbian publishers who are up front with who their authors are and who their stories are about. While in the past, I have enjoyed some erotic stories written by men, I would much rather read stories about women by women.

  5. Trinity June 26, 2017 at 14:05 - Reply

    some lesbian fiction, including erotic lesbian fiction is written by straight women.

    and by the way, most gay male fiction, including erotic fiction is written by straight women. go figure.

  6. Jenn M September 13, 2017 at 12:50 - Reply

    Most of the lesbian erotica I’ve read has been fanfiction, and written by women. Some is a bit crap but some is absolutely fantastic!! Well written, interesting, brilliantly described. And that’s just Holby City – I expect other/different pairings have even more.

    Or I just write it myself and enjoy what I’ve written!

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