What is Female Friendly Erotica?
In these times of sexual openness and honesty, more and more women are revealing that they are not satisfied sexually. This dissatisfaction has opened up a whole new industry for treating what we now call sexual dysfunction. Women in huge numbers are coming forward with a wide range of sexual problems, and there are all kinds of statistics being gathered in relation to what this means. I read somewhere that possibly as many as 70% of women suffer with some kind of sexual dysfunction. Not surprisingly, to me at least, was the discovery that these dysfunctions manifest themselves most often in the form of lack of desire.
This new wave of sexual dysfunction awareness is particularly interesting to me. I have always puzzled over the supposed indifference women appear to have towards the media’s presentation of sex and sexual material, because it so blatantly appeals to men. Women are recognized only as far as their capacity to enhance the experience for men. This preoccupation with appealing to men goes beyond merely ignoring women. It goes so far as to exploit and misuse women in its overzealous effort to appeal to men, effectively turning women off in the process. Visual stimuli, for example, are preferred by men. Not only does the media use this kind of stimulation almost exclusively, but they do it in a way that actually offends women, like when they distinguish as superior a stereotypical female image that is contrary to what a real female looks or acts like. This intimidates women even as it fascinates and intrigues men. This would be fine if these images were marketed solely to men, say, as in an advertisement for men’s underwear. The problem is that they are even more prevalent in women’s underwear commercials. Even when the media is marketing to women they appeal to men!
What does all this have to do with women’s sexual dysfunction? Officially, no definitive connection has been made between women’s sexual dysfunction and our culture’s presentation of sexual material, although I am seeing more and more discussion about it from sex experts. From my research I have no doubt that there is a connection between women’s lack of desire and the way sex is presented in our media. It is a natural deduction once you put together what we do know. We know, for example, that women and men are sexually stimulated by different things. And it also generally agreed that women need to feel sexy in order to enjoy sex. With just these two factors in mind, how is it possible that a woman wouldn’t be turned off by the constant barrage of images and ideas that disregard her, stereotype her, intimidate her, and insult her?
The irony here is that men are actually far less discerning than women in regards to sexual material. They’re just as likely to find one sexual stimulant as effective as another. In appealing to women, the media would have a wonderful opportunity to double their audience and attract both genders at once. Women could encourage the media to do this by being more discriminating in their buying. If the advertisement for a product makes a woman feel bad about her self, why would she buy it?
Part of the problem is one of habit, but the other part is ignorance and laziness. Most advertisers and writers appeal to men because it is simpler. They don’t know how to appeal to women. Women are more challenging as an audience. For one thing, they are more distinct in amongst themselves than men—what appeals to one may not appeal to the next. For another, women tend to require more stimuli to become excited. It takes more finesse and sensitivity.
In my first book, Enchanted; Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women, I decided to take all of the things I had learned in my research and combine them to create erotica for women. I wasn’t certain it could be done. Everything I had read, from men’s porn to women’s romance focused on visual images of a perfectly unrealistic female stereotype. I conducted an experiment in my book by leaving out physical descriptions of the female characters altogether. This may seem extreme, but I did it for several reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to focus on erotic behaviors and sexual fantasies—not on appearances, especially stereotypes. Besides this, I wanted my readers, who I anticipated would be women, to be able to imagine themselves in the staring role.
As it turns out, most women who read my book are surprised when I mention this lack of imagery. They never even missed it. Their strongest recollections are the erotic adventures in the stories. Even more surprising is that male readers have responded similarly. I found this remarkable.
A simpler but equally important element for erotica that is written for women is that the subject matter appeals to and interests women. That is why in Enchanted; Erotic Bedtime Stories for Women each fairy tale is re-written around a popular women’s sexual fantasy. In my second book, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, each princess overcomes a sexual dysfunction that is common among women. In addition, they find the solution to their troubles without looking outside the relationship. Many writers think they have to re-invent the wheel, so to speak, by creating over the top characters and unrealistic erotic stories. This is great if you’re writing fantasy or paranormal, but if you’re writing contemporary erotica for women it ought to be something they can relate to on some level. By incorporating women’s interests, fantasies and problems into the stories, it helps the reader relate to the characters and become more involved in the story.
It takes a thoughtful, careful hand to write erotica for women, but it is an irresistible challenge in our era, where there exists such a deficiency and need for it. Psychologists are already suggesting that erotica can help treat lack of desire in women. The idea that this kind of writing could have such an impact is exciting.
One last word about sexual dysfunction; I personally feel that the term “sexual dysfunction,” when used to describe lack of desire in women is, in and of itself, a misunderstanding of women. Once again, we are expecting women to react like men. Women don’t become aroused as easily men tend to do. Even under the best of circumstances women often require mental stimulation of some kind to get in the mood; let alone in our society where women are constantly under stress. If you think about it, it is really more normal for a woman to not be in the mood than otherwise. It should be expected that women would need to encourage the mood to achieve it.