Since the explosion of 50 Shades of Grey, erotic literature seems to have divided public opinion. Two Exeter students discuss the pros and cons of these naughty paperbacks.
FOR- Katie Cregg
You know what, I don’t even read erotic novels that often, my defence of it will make it sound like that’s all I read. I am in fact studying English Literature so the majority of my time is spent ploughing through Hardy, Shakespeare, and thousands of critical essays. Erotic fiction is not the best example of well written prose but I find it is an antidote to this mountain of “proper literature”. The romantic plots are indulgent and nothing like real life.
“Erotic literature …is mainly written by women for women.”
But is this a bad thing? We all know that we aren’t going to meet a gorgeous, but troubled millionaire who will fall madly in love with us and want to have steamy mile high sex in his private plane (*sigh* if only). Romantic and erotic literature has been proved to be a great way to de stress as we escape into its happy ever after world, like fairy tales, for adults.
To further defend my guilty pleasure, I refer to the infinite wisdom that is, Friends. In The One With Rachel’s Book, when Joey finds such a novel underneath Rachel’s pillow, she defends herself from the accusation that it’s porn, saying, “There’s nothing wrong with a woman enjoying a little erotica. It’s just a healthy expression of female sexuality…”. Exactly, well said Rachel.
It’s an open secret that everyone looks at porn, most people have sexual desires, and yet the porn industry is dominated by men or the male point of view. Erotic literature however is mainly written by women for women. Maybe there is a reason for this, studies have suggested that women are turned on by emotional simulation, by what they feel, i.e. the romantic settings of erotic novels and their own imagination. Whereas men are turned on by what they see i.e images and videos.
Many articles have been written about the damaging effect of video porn but don’t worry that reading porn will affect your sex life, Psychology Today reports that women have sex with their partners 74% more when they read erotic fiction. This seems hardly surprising considering that the largest sexual organ is the brain. If you just don’t want to be seen reading a “dirty book”, remember the success of 50 Shades of Grey was down to the popularity of Ereaders. Try the kindle store or Apple iBooks, there are many free novels out there. But top tip, don’t use the account that sends email receipts to your mum (advice from a friend).
AGAINST: Gerard Murray
At the risk of provoking the wrath of readers that make up over 20% of the entire fiction market, I am going to be blunt: I have an issue with so called ‘erotic literature.’
I do not hold this view due to any special support of censorship. Fiction, having always reflected societal and cultural changes, is the perfect device for investigating taboos that may still pervade, amongst other things, sex.
The problem lies in the fact that erotic fiction as it exists today, born out of writers like EL James, Sylvia Day, and their ever growing assemblage of imitators, already has an older, more established name: porn.
“Badly written, virtually plot-less narratives cannot sit well with the rest of the books they try to associate with”
Sexually charged and controversial fiction existed long before the dawn of prolific writers like DH Lawrence and Edna O’Brien. From Chaucer to anonymous medieval authors writing erotically about being ‘nailed on the cross, fastened, transfixed within four walls,’ this use of literature is nothing new.
The modern cohort of romance emulators are, however, something altogether different. The most prominent example of ‘mummy porn,’ the book that brought the genre crashing into the mainstream, ’Fifty Shades of Grey,’ has its origins in Twilight forums. EL James, going by the reputable name ‘Snowqueens Icedragon,’ first published the story in the
form of serialized fan fiction called ‘Master of the Universe.’ These deep recesses of the internet are where this new branch of the romance genre came from – and where it should stay.
The statistics speak for themselves. Last year, 73% of all erotic and romance novels purchased in the UK were bought in ebook format. The vast majority of readers consumed these stories in private on their Kindles or on their Nooks, safe from prying eyes on the tube or on public buses. Concealment of books on such a vast scale is treatment not received by any other genre of fiction. Just as porn is something that is consumed in private, so is ‘erotic literature’ – because they are the same: stories with a purpose.
Badly written, virtually plot-less narratives cannot sit well with the rest of the books they try to associate with. This does not mean that they should not exist – just that they have their place, and should stay in it. Over recent decades there have been huge changes in fiction, but EL James and her cronies are not part of these changes. They belong in the shady depths of fan fiction archives on the web, and not on Waterstones bookshelves.