Why Do Women Like Erotic Novels?

Until recently, erotic novels were considered taboo by mainstream publishing. Then came the worldwide bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, which sent erotic literature sales skyrocketing.

But many questions remain. Why do women like erotic novels? Is it a gateway drug to hardcore pornography or is there a more wholesome reason?

1. They’re a distraction

Since the sexy success of Fifty Shades, there has been a veritable surge in erotic novels hitting the bestseller list. However, the literary pornography has been criticized for being vacuous and tasteless. But a study of female readers of the books challenges this view, as it shows that erotic fiction can also serve a purpose for its readership.

The authors of the study conducted an online survey among self-declared fans of erotic fiction. They identified 427 women who regularly read the genre. The respondents were heterosexual women in committed relationships who were highly educated and from a broad age range. They were also avid readers and liked to share their reading experience with others. The researchers found that most of the respondents reported enjoyment of erotic fiction as a way to distract themselves from stressful situations or feelings. They also noted that it gave them a feeling of ease.

In addition, the women who were interested in reading erotic fiction were more likely to be sexually satisfied than those who didn’t. The researchers speculate that this is because erotic fiction allows them to explore their own sexual desires in a safe space, and can help them to be better able to articulate those desires to their partners.

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Although erotic fiction gets a bad rap, it shouldn’t be treated as taboo. As long as the stories are not a smutty turn-on, there is nothing wrong with them.

2. They’re a way to escape

In a world that often has women feeling like they have to be “perfect” or like their sex lives need to meet certain standards, it’s nice to step back into a fictional world that’s a little more permissive. Those who read erotic novels, in particular, can use them to explore their own fantasies without fear of judgement or ridicule.

One of the biggest reasons why women like erotic novels is that it’s an escape from real life. When you’re reading about a hot, mysterious man showering his lover with rose petals and playing the flute until she gently moans for more, it gives your imagination a sexy, swept-off-your-feet fantasy to run wild.

This is something that can be difficult to achieve in real life, but it’s a benefit that’s made possible thanks to the internet and e-readers. It’s easier now more than ever to pick up a sexy romance or erotic novel and read it in the privacy of your home, on the bus or even while sitting in a waiting room.

Our study showed that most of our participants were heterosexual women in committed relationships, with a high level of education and an above-average number of books in their personal libraries. Despite their high preference for erotic novels, they also reported feelings of relaxation and contentment. The items that clustered on component 1—which reflected a perception of erotic novels as “hot” and “exciting”—can be conceptualized as a form of positive excitement, as suggested by Lawrence and Herold (1988).

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3. They’re a way to explore

The bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey has led to a veritable surge in erotic novels published by mainstream publishers. The book, its two sequels, and its upcoming third installment, have sold over $1.3 billion worth of books. The authors of a new study, however, argue that women who read such titles are not just distracted by the sexual content, but also seeking to explore their interests and proclivities in a safe space.

Our analyses reveal that most readers of erotic literature view this type of literature as “hot” or “exciting”, and that they consider it to be a way to feel positive excitement. This component is related to the notion that reading erotic novels provides sexual stimulation that is less risky than watching pornography, which is often viewed as a violation of moral boundaries and taboos.

In fact, a number of studies have found that women prefer reading romance and erotic fiction over watching porn, as the latter lacks emotional context and story, while the former is able to inspire sexual arousal without crossing the line into inappropriate behavior. Many women also report that reading erotic books can help them discover new sexual kinks and become more comfortable discussing them with their partners. Indeed, sex therapist and relationship coach Dr Stephanie Azri says that many of her clients have used erotic novels to explore their sexual desires and improve their bedroom skills.

4. They’re a way to connect with other women

As the sexy Fifty Shades trilogy by EL James has demonstrated, erotic novels are a major force on the book market. This surge has prompted researchers to examine its readers and the expectations, rewards and communicative practices they engage in with these books (Kraxenberger, 2019b).

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The majority of respondents in this study are heterosexual women in committed relationships. They are highly educated, across a broad age range and describe themselves as avid readers who like to share their reading experiences with other people.

Our analyses indicate that most participants consider erotic novels to provide positive excitement and pleasure. This is captured in the items that cluster on component 1 which includes the concepts “hot”, “exciting” and “good”. The findings contrast with those reported by Lawrence and Herold (1988), who suggest that erotic novels may enter women’s sexual scripts and violate moral boundaries and taboos.

However, the vast majority of participants also viewed erotic fiction as a form of entertainment, and many of these books are marketed as ‘light’ reading. This is supported by the fact that many of the sexy scenes in these novels are not explicitly described, but rather left to the reader’s imagination. This allows the reader to fill in the gaps based on their own knowledge and experience, leading to powerful visualizations that go far beyond what can be conveyed in words alone.

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