Sunday, August 30, 2009

Erotica, a Chick Thing?

Thirty years ago written erotica was written almost exclusively by and for men. The shady recesses of the bookstore had a few books old enough to be somewhat acceptable as classics (Moll Flanders, The Story of O) and some extended sexual fantasies (although the hay day of the "sleaze" paperback novel had already passed). Writing erotica mainly involved writing for brown bag magazines also aimed primarily at men.

Twenty years ago the internet was beginning to slay most magazines and many of the rest had lost their reputation for printed good fiction. There was a great outpouring of amateur erotic fiction at newsgroups and eventually formalised in sites like Literoritca (1998). Erotica in the public eye started to include rather more than two genders and fetishes previously unimagined by most memebersof the public.

Ten years ago Black Lace (founded 1993) was beginning to make inroads in erotic novels written by and for women, as a viable alternative. Starting with Ellora's Cave, epublishers (crossing over into print-on-demand novels) brought highly erotic romance into the mainstream. Novels with explicit sex started to dominate the acres of romance fiction in chain stores. Female fetishes were catered to by increasing numbers of small presses, now numbering in scores.

Most recently Black Lace, which never got on the romance band-wagon) ceased to publish new work. Writers on forums have begun to ask if there is any market for romance that is not erotic, and if there is any market for erotica that is not romance. Barnes and Noble has acquired Fictionwise, the largest vendor of ebooks. New ebook vendor AllRomanceEbooks opened their new all genre site (Omnilit, 2009). And erotica is listed only as a sub-genre of romance.

Written erotica seems to have become over-whelmed by backflow from the much larger romance genre. Small presses focusing on erotica of all types struggled to find a loyal readership, and to find writers who can combine a readable plot with titillating sexual material. I suppose it is a swing of the pendulum, having one read erotica as a kind of uninvited voyeur, the female gaze has now seized centre stage and squeezed the men into the wings.

Perhaps the reason a balance eludes us is that the male readers enjoyed erotica, but predominantly as a guilty please--not to be discussed in mixed company. And many women read erotica only as justified as an ostensibly secondary aspect of romance--a genre almost no men will openly read. We have marked out genres based on gender boundaries, and erotica can jump the fence, but not straddle it.

So to speak.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WTF of the Week

"...the meeting was tempered with sadness as the family learned their smiling, blue-eyed, blonde ponytailed little girl had spent most of her life as a virtual slave." [Huffington Post]

Okay, so an eleven-year-old girl is abducted, imprisoned and raped over a period of eighteen years. That is not a virtual slave. That is an actual slave.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Gaze

[click on picture to emlarge]

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Food of Love

This blog is about things I like. It is about words, and language, and books. It is a female-ness, being a woman. (Being a man is, I am sure, pretty damn cool too--but it just wasn't how I came out this time around). It is about other things that are basically good things: food, music, television, pop culture and the occasional rant. Because ranting about things that are annoying or ludicrous, but essentially unimportant, is one of life's true pleasures.

But sometimes I come across something that is the pure and utter dark side of all of these things. Like a bill being passed into law in Afghanistan that removes all rights of custody from mothers, does not allow them to work without a husband's permission, and allows a husband to refuse to give his spouse food until she consents to sex. The selfish use of force can spoil anything. It says motherhood is unimportant, food is a weapon, a woman is a sexual amenity without free will, marriage is slavery and the law is a mechanism for the oppression of the vulnerable.

This is so saddening and perverse I cannot even enjoy complaining about it. Because it is not unimportant. It cuts to the heart of what we should be as people. Men and women. This law suggests not only a horrible role for women but a terrible identity for men and I do not see why either would tolerate such a law, let alone write, support, vote for or celebrate it.

I am grateful not to live under such a law which would make the independence I experience as a single professional woman literally impossible. But I should not blithely enjoy my status without aome gratitude, and some obligations. My pleasures are allowed to me as a virtue of my culture, not the birth right of every human being. It makes me realise that each of my pleasures (freedom from oppression, education and literacy, self-determination, ample food) is also a privilege, and not one to be taken for granted.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For the record: Baby Glutton

For the record, breast feeding is normal, natural and admirable. If a girl imitates breast-feeding with a doll after seeing it, that would be perfectly normal play.

But, at the danger of agreeing with the Daily Mail, designing a doll for the specific purpose of simulating breast feeding, complete with strap-on nipple, is ... odd. And "odd" is putting it mildly.

I don't know, maybe it is fine in the context of Spanish culture, but making this an export product was, IMHO, a mistake. Or maybe I am a throwback because it never bothered me that newborn dolls came with bottles. Not that I would consider, even for a second, giving a young girl a newborn doll unless she asked for it.

Oh well. It won't be the first time I was caught being a hypocrite.

But until people are ready to see actual breast-feeding in public without blinking, complaining or deleting it from facebook, I doubt it will be considered a fine recreation activity for the 5 to twelve set.

Sunday, August 2, 2009