Is my book really erotica?
Once I decided to self-publish ‘Samba, sex and self-loathing’ on Amazon I had to choose its classification. Read the first part of this blog ‘How not to self-publish an erotic novel’ here. This should be an easy task right? I mean I had been writing the goddamn thing for 5 years but it got me scratching my nugget. Nope, I’m not Derek Zoolander, I can tell the difference between a thriller and Sci-fi. I was 100% sure I’d written a Contemporary Romance which is depicted by it being set in the contemporary real world, with current moral and societal conundrums, plonked in the time of its writing. Unfortunately, this will inevitably date the book making it obsolete in future decades, if we are actually still reading by then as a result of living in trees due to the sea levels rising in sub-tropical temperatures.
I would argue that my novel is not Women’s Fiction because usually the female protagonist is portrayed as a virtuous woman, dealing with her own personal struggles which ultimately results in her growth and success. Whereas, my protagonist swears, drinks, loves sex and makes the same mistakes time and time again, the one thing she isn’t, is virtuous. Self-loathing is in the title for a reason.
Now here is the twenty stories high BUT… I was a little confused because of its adult content. I was forced to tick the erotica classification box because if I didn’t those pesky bots would drop kick me over the monopoly rugby goal posts of book-land (Amazon) into extinction, banning me for life. Just because there’s adult content in my book doesn’t mean I’m an erotica writer, does it? I am sure those who’ve read the book are sniggering away thinking- ‘is she off her rocker, of course it’s erotica, there’s sex everywhere, just open a page’ which is true BUT… The definition of erotica is ‘literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire’. I can honestly say hands held high that most of my sex scenes are quite often a comical shebacle. On one occasion Amy (my protagonist) forgets a roaming tampon up her noonie in the middle of some action. I protest- is that arousing?
More noteworthy, when researching into how to promote erotica online (even though it’s not) most advice suggested that I should write more erotic short stories to create traffic to my website thus encouraging women to buy my book. This is exactly how E.L James got “Fifty Shades of Grey” on the map. This is when the clogs started turning and I realised I wasn’t interested in writing short stories about sexy sex, that’s not what I write about. I want to write about travel and contemporary issues faced by women. Needing to learn a little more about the genre I’ve been forced into, I started to dig around the murky, muddy field of erotica.
Erotica- it’s a woman’s thing.
It’s kind of obvious that erotic novels to women are the equivalent of film pornography to men. Filmed pornography is aimed at and generally made by men, which doesn’t really cater for women. Just watch any gangbang with one woman and several men- all that gagging with copious amounts of spit and men fish hooking the girl’s mouth with their fingers- it certainly doesn’t look like she’s skipping over rainbows in delight. Generally, film pornography doesn’t empower women, unless you’re watching a whip bearing dominatrix in knee high leather boots, scolding a man in a nappy, of course. No wonder lesbian porn is so popular with women, at least they are actually having orgasms. Erotica is generally written by women for women about female’s sexual pleasure. It has strong sexual content, a gripping plot, captivating characters and a titillating build-up that appeals to women. Just the word titillating is getting me hot under the collar.
However, like myself, erotica writers have to write under pen names to keep their professional and personal lives separate, like a dirty little secret. Men can openly brag about watching porn whilst we whisper about reading sauce. Does this have anything to do with the patriarchal society we live in and the way in which men view women who like having sex? Absolutely it does, I scream in my ranty voice. How very dare I write about women enjoying sex. Despite the mammoth sales growth of erotic novels, there’s still a persistent stigma attached to the genre often scorned as shameful, amateur or not serious. There’s a huge gaping hole (excuse the pun) between differing sex stories such as ‘Mills and Boon’, written porn and red-hot erotica but these boundaries are blurred, often seen as the same thing by the media, politicians, publicists and the masses.
Learning the lingo (well acronyms)
Entering into the realm of erotica on social media was a huge eye opener which for an ‘alleged’ erotic writer should ring Big Ben type alarm bells. I started exploring Facebook pages such as Cliterature Book Group 18+ and B.A.N.G. Book club. My first stumbling block was that I had no idea what the hundreds of acronyms meant. I delved into the Cliterasaurus to find their meanings and here are some examples. ‘MF’: male/female intercourse, bog standard. ‘MFM’: male/female/male action but no sword crossing, also bog standard. ‘MMF’: male/male/female with swords crossing, my personal favourite. ‘MP’: magic pussy which can take a lot and never gets sore (if only), often found in ‘RH’. ‘RH’: reverse harem is one woman with a lot of men (if you hadn’t guessed that already). ‘RH’ is extremely popular with the ladies on these sites but I’m presuming they’re described slightly differently to the male version of gangbangs in porn mentioned above.
Then there’s ‘NSFW’: not safe for work, for those who are permanently horny and can’t get enough. ‘CJ’: clam jammer, similar to a cock blocker. ‘DDlg’: daddy dominance/little girl which I’m pretty sure we’ve all fantasied about at some point in our lives and the list goes on. My personal favourite goes to ‘alphahole’: alpha male protagonist who is an arsehole, this should be made into an actual word in the dictionary. Throughout my research I kept seeing ‘KU’ pop up multiple times and thinking what the hell is it? Kinky unleashed, kink unfathomable, kissing unrestrained. Took me a while to figure out it just meant ‘kindle unlimited’ which demonstrates how much I knew about MY so called genre.
The varying subcategories of erotica is immense: age-gap; captive/slavery; mafia; creature/monster; enemies to lovers; LGBTQ+, sci-fi; stalker; marriage of convenience/forced; grumpy vs sunshine (opposites attract). God only knows what’s in the ‘taboo’ subcategory if these are anything to go by. The more I indulged- PNR: paranormal romance appeared to be the top trumps of erotica. Fantasy romance, and vampire romps are the highest ranking. I mean I get the Dracula thing (young virgins and all that) and Viking dominance (six packs, beards and slightly rapie) but women constantly asking for recommendations for some werewolf loving was all starting to make me wonder if my book was actually erotica at all?
Some of the most popular erotica book titles include: ‘A court of thorns and roses’ series, ‘From Blood and ashes’ series, ‘The court of the Vampire Queen and the priest’, all paranormal romance. Should this not open a discussion about women’s ‘Twilight’ fantasies in itself? What does that say about sex with Mr Jo average? Is it really that bad/boring? Don’t get me wrong I’m not knocking a bit of shape-shifter rumpy-pumpy, it’s just my book really isn’t that.
A book of many things
As stated above, even though there’s a lot of fornication in my book it’s everyday sex, realistic, mostly comedy, some of it even mundane (or should I say bored to tears when you just want him to come already), therefore not really erotic at all. I’d written an honest account of living in Rio which involves sex because Brazilians are very sexual creatures and funnily enough ex-pat women have sex with them.
So here’s the thing, learning about erotica has made me discover that unfortunately my book doesn’t fit neatly into just one category or two for that matter. My book is many things: it’s travel fiction as its set in Rio and revolves around Brazilian culture. It’s about sexually liberated, strong independent women that travel and live abroad, endorsing female sexual empowerment. It deals with contemporary feminist issues such as; domestic abuse, women depending on sperm donors (who bring up their kids alone) because there are no men who want commitment and the pressure on women in our society to settle down and have kids. It also brings up the old age issue of women still having to apologise for wanting sex. Based on this mishmash of themes, my book is certainly not erotic. The powers at be have forced my hand to miscategorise my own book sending it hurtling into Amazon oblivion. Please can I have a new ‘Amazon book criteria’ entitled- ‘A contemporary romance with a lot of sexy time that’s not exactly romantic and not erotica either with a bit of travel thrown in’.
Why am I (a travel writer) and so many erotic writers caged in a dark Amazon dungeon and unsearchable on Amazon when it is so popular with women readers? An unseen and pretty much unregulated AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm has put us there. Not a female audience with a pulse and vagina but a computer system who also make decisions such as who can get a mortgage, to what prison sentence a criminal might serve or what dress to sell me on Instagram. The A9 algorithm is the system that Amazon uses to decide how products are ranked in search results (or not visible at all in my case). Not to get all Stephen Hawkins on you but remember that AI algorithms have been found to be biased, for example, AI systems are less accurate at face recognition of dark-skinned people, particularly women which has resulted in them getting lower credit ratings than their husbands for one thing. AI bias occurs because human beings are the inputters and we all know how flawed us humans are.
In 2018, Amazon shut down its own AI recruiting tool after discovering it discriminated against women. Not to bite off the hand that feeds me (very little btw after their enormous cut) but Amazon was disputing a Wall Street Journal report evidencing that Amazon adjusted its retail search algorithms to favour its own products and in Oct 2020 Amazon was facing a £900 million lawsuit that claims its ‘Buy Box’ algorithm breaks competition laws. Call me subjective but I’m pretty certain they are doing the same with erotica.
Naughty aunty Amazon
In March 2018 many romance and erotic authors found their books had been surreptitiously delisted or re-categorised overnight on Amazon, in spite of how well their books were selling. Amazon admitted to their algorithm mistakes and were rectified immediately but probably only because they were found out. Please understand I’m not blaming algorithms for my limited book sales but if I can’t advertise and my book is unsearchable on Amazon then how the hell am I going to market it and get it out there? Read my blog ‘how not to self-publish an erotic novel’ here. My book might as well be in the middle of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) which is the 160-mile stretch of barred fences and landmines between North and South Korea. That’s how difficult it is to find my book- unless you have the exact link, all depending on what country you’re in. However, if I do write a sequel I would still do exactly the same again, even with all the restrictions because I write about independent women who like sex which will continue to be comedy, realistic sex, not the werewolf copulation kind.
If you haven’t already read part 1 of this blog ‘How not to self-publish an erotic novel’ here.
Buy my book here https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BDG97KTQ
If you want to read more of my travel blogs links below
Or you can read excerpts from my book ‘Samba, sex and self-loathing’
Arty naked women- John Rocha
Writer with hands on her head- Andrea-Piacquadio
Robot- Lenin Estrada
Book bath- Cottonbro Studio
Erotic novel- Pixabay
Woman with wolf- Carmen Sanchez
Book cover- Roman Odintsov
Amazon building- Joshua Brown
Man wolf in garden- Lisa Fotios