There’s something slightly depressing about labeling something as subjective as culture as being for women-only or for men-only, or any particular group for that matter.
Sure, there are certain aspects of certain forms of culture that more women might enjoy than men, or more men might enjoy than women. But to throw up the signs, even if it’s a marketing gimmick, is a little sad and surely a little backward.
The whole concept of ‘Erotica for men’ is as irritating as the label ‘Erotica for women’ has always been for me, though perhaps not quite so laughable as that particular tag on erotica ebooks in a genre that is so massively dominated by women anyway.
It’s exclusionary up front. “Erotica for Women” telling me ‘this isn’t for you, because you have a Y-chromosome’, even if it’s a perfectly good tale of thrilling sex. “Erotica for Men” is telling me: ‘you’re a man, this is what you like’. And also, you’re a man, this is what you are like’.
It’s dreadfully patronising and condescending.
Just give us the blurb, we’ll tell you whether it’s something we might enjoy by buying it or not.
EC for Men
Clearly 50 Shades has turned on the publishing industry – even the indy publishing industry – to the “mommy porn” potential of female erotica, leaving few male erotica writers around, apparently. One wonders if some of them are writing under female pseudonyms in an attempt for market presence.
But with the idea that male demand for erotica may have gone untapped, Ellora’s Cave has started a line of Erotica for Men, called “EC for Men” in an apparent attempt to find out.
I’m interested to see whether this does actually interest me as sub-genre, but I’m almost instantly disappointed. At the time of writing, there’s a grand choice of nine titles available and seven of them are ‘quickies’. Even the non-quickies are not too long, with the submissions guide asking for under 30,000 words only.
Men don’t have much of an attention span, it seems. Not bothered by getting to know characters.
Interestingly, the authors of all of these titles are female. So what are they telling me, as a man, about what I want to read?
The submissions guidelines for the EC for Men line are interesting for a start. I wouldn’t quibble with some of it – sure, as a man I want to see realistic dialogue, male characters that are not merely what women would wish them to be. Men apparently prefer ‘real women’ to those surgically enhanced ones. Weird you need to tell potential writers that.
But some of the suggestions are bound to disappoint. We men don’t like drama, apparently, we aren’t much interested in relationships, either. Who told you that?
Then there’s this line, which is inherently problematic:
“Remember that sex is largely visual and verbal for men (for women, it is mainly mental and emotional).”
First of all, if a man has bothered to pick up an erotica book (some of us even write them – imagine that!) rather than dialing up the porn, we are immediately demonstrating that we’re not just visually and verbally driven.
Okay, so guidelines are just that – guidelines. But these set precisely the wrong platform for those interested in writing for any readership, let along one labeled ‘male’ – because they suggest playing down the very elements of a story that makes it engaging – drama, relationships, emotion.
Women claiming those elements as their own is as laughable as men claiming the concepts of nudity, rude words and penetration, and suggesting maybe that Erotica for Women should avoid those particular aspects.
Review – Dance For Your Sex
The first was “Dance For Your Sex” by Robby Mills, a story about a hottie in a bank who is a secret stripper keen to avoid relationships (important point when it comes to the male reader, apparently), who inexplicably falls for a stupid yet supposedly manly farm boy.
It was, for this male reader, excruciatingly dull. I’m sorry, I’m sure a lot of effort went in to writing and producing it.
How can you make hot sex between beautiful people dull? Oh yes, see Erotica for Men guidelines above. No drama, no emotions, characters who avoid relationships and feel the need to tell us that’s what they’re doing as they are doing it, like it’s some kind of mantra. This is Erotica for Men, this is what men like.
The women in this story are all cattle, apparently to be herded and bred (only, not for reproduction purposes of course, which might involve a relationship). The dialogue is awful (if this has got past an editor following the EC for Men guidelines, does this mean they believe this dialogue is realistic male dialogue? Gawd I hope not), the supporting characters are awful.
And to avoid anything like emotional resonance, we’re not even offered much of an ending.
My second pick is Dessert, by Lily Harlem, which first of all makes me think “here we go again” as I find it is about a kind-of-strip-club, in the form of a restaurant where businessmen literally eat their food off the naked bodies of young women.
But the writing here is superior to my first read from this EC for Men, and – uh-oh! – the author has gone and put some emotion in there.
There’s suspense, arousal, anxiety. There’s also women treated as objects – in this case, as dinner plates, but at least it’s an interesting insight into a curious apparently real-life practice. This is so much better – well-formed characters, interesting and suspenseful build up as our protagonist pursues his beautiful dinner receptacle. It’s sweet, there’s a little depth, it’s sensual beyond the visual and the verbal – there’s feeling here.
Geographically, I’d quibble with a few things – Gloucester Cathedral doesn’t have a spire, for one – but this is fiction, and I’ve been put back in a good mood by Ms Harlem’s enjoyable and eloquent prose, so we’ll let that go.
Much as I did enjoy her book, despite its relative brevity, I feel it’s because if you hadn’t told me it was Erotica for Men, I wouldn’t have guessed. Ms Harlem stretched the boundaries of the EC for Men guidelines, and that was definitely a good thing.
So is there any value to the label “Erotica for Men”?
No. Not really in this writer’s opinion.