Erotica, for those who don’t already partake, is any work of art with sex as a central focus—and the reason for consumption—that does not cross the line into pornography. This includes photography, literature, dance, sculpture, film, and really any medium that captures the human form and appetites in a compelling and sexy way. So yes, the definition is a bit vague. And pornography is hard to define as well, as the Supreme Court can attest; so erotica has, in some circles, garnered a reputation for being more sophisticated pornography, and in others, it’s just diet-porn. The recent SESTA/FOSTA acts further illustrate how difficult and problematic it is define pornography and other levels of sexual content.
However, erotica serves an important purpose for a great deal of the population, and can enhance your erotic ardor in ways that regular, garden-variety porn cannot (though porn can be great, too), because sometimes it’s fun to take a minimalist approach and leave the rest to your imagination. Exploring erotica can enrich your feminist sex life, partnered or not, so whether you’re new to erotica or an erotica diehard, read our recommendations for our favorite feminist erotica and some hands-free toys, too!
A Brief History of Erotica
Once upon a time, long before 50 Shades of Gray became a household name, dinosaurs roamed the earth. And soon after, dino-porn probably came along. Porn has likely existed as long as humans have. It’s a tale as old as time; with each new technological invention comes the aftermath of how it can be used for sexual purposes. The printing press was invented, and immediately came the list of books that were to be banned; with the daguerreotype came pictures of erotic acts for the first time (rather than drawings). Soon after, government officials around the world took to seizing any lewd photos they found. Erotica has a rich and varied history, and sex geeks or history buffs will definitely want to check out The Whores of Yore, a sex positive website that advocates on behalf of sex workers. Not only is there fascinating information on sex, sex work, and old-timey sex phrases, the NSFW photos dating back from the 1800s are beguiling on both intellectual and sexual levels. Typically, the pictures are geared toward people attracted to women, but it is fun for anyone to see how many activities that some might categorize as new and edgy are, in fact, old and traditional.
Why You May Want to Give Our Favorite Feminist Erotica a Try
Why should you branch out from your regularly-scheduled porn regimen? Lots of reasons! For instance, maybe your interests lie in more intense fantasies–fantasies you’re not sure you’d feel comfortable watching actually occur. Erotic literature can help get your creative juices flowing and be a good testing ground, without having an image in your head that you can’t un-see. Plus, your imagination is vast and often far more delectable than what can be conceivably performed by porn actors on a porn-flick budget.
Further, people of demisexual orientation may find a greater affinity toward erotic literature than porn. In a book, you can build a strong emotional tie to a character, something much more meaningful than a pizza deliverer bringing hot sausage and an order of buffalo wangs to your door. The sex scenes often have more depth, even if they are casual in nature. And, just like porn, erotica contains multitudes. If you can dream it, chances are, it already exists. Into BBW who are into shapeshifters? Yep, that’s a thing. Lesbian werewolves with penises? Goofy, pun-laden, Santa smut? Campy, absurdist tales of a gay dinosaur? Check, check, and check. On screen, these would all be totally ridiculous. But in your mind’s eye, there’s only a very good chance that they’ll be ridiculous. Yet, sex and desire as a whole could benefit from a bit less gravity, a bit more humor, and a lot more acceptance.
Also, as it can be hard to find porn that feels welcoming to people with vulvas, and erotica is not fundamentally different. Marquis de Sade, a French writer from the 1700s, wrote books so brutal that the term sadism was coined for them. So, it’s good to know going in what you like and what’s off the table. But now, there’s a lot more readily-available, femme-friendly reads.
If you’re looking for something academic, look no further than Anais Nin; in particular, Delta of Venus. Part memoir and part short-story anthology, this book pioneered the way for literary erotica to become mainstream. It is very ahead of its time as far as steering clear of slut-shaming and being sex positive. The Proof of the Honey by Salwa Al Neimi is a lightly erotic book that stars a young, Syrian academic who journeys through her own sensual self-realization. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters is an exquisite historical-fiction-style dive into gender roles, sexuality, and a lesbian relationship framed in the asphyxiating backdrop of Victorian-era England. More straightforward erotica, such as Curvy Girls: Erotica for Women and Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica are also some of our favorite feminist erotica titles. Lastly, Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden is a compilation of real women’s fantasies and reads as hot today as it did back in the 1970s when it was first published.
If you look for free online stories, the old adage “you get what you pay for” definitely applies here. Skip free sites like literotica.com, which don’t maintain editors or style guidelines and are often riddled with typos, plot holes, and even name changes – and those things can really wreck the mood. That caveat aside, the Sugarbutch Chronicles are a fun, queer, kinky ride. Bust has a great publication called one-handed reads. Whatever you do with your other hand while you read is your business.
Like too many other things in 2018, a lot of books in this genre don’t have appropriately labeled trigger warnings or blur the line of consent. It’s best to find an author you love and trust, and stick with them, if you’d prefer to avoid those waters.
Sometimes, reading non-fiction, “how-to” type books can be enough to get you in the mood. If you’re interested in learning how to top or learning how to bottom, these books provide admission into the kink scene and enough explicit details that you will likely know by the end whether or not you’d be into it. Or, read Sex for One by Betty Dodson, which is a turn on to all the ways you can explore self-pleasure and your body, with concrete techniques for you to try.
Spend some quality time with yourself, a good book, and a good toy – perhaps something hands-free. That way, there’s nothing between you and that next steamy chapter. Why not try the Stronic G Pulsator by Fun Factory? A totally unique vibrator that has the capacity to thrust, leaving your hands to your favorite book while it pulsates away. Both your g-spot and your brain will be stimulated.
Folks with penises could cuddle up with a good book and the Pocket Pulse by Hot Octopuss! This toy is a stroker that has hands-free capability once the user is erect.
People with vulvas can keep their nose in a book and an Eva II by Dame between their legs for hands-free clitoral stimulation. Also fun for partnered sex, this cute little vibrator has three vibration settings and is waterproof for those who like to read and play in the tub.
Vibrant Has All the Body Safe Toys (and Books) You Need
Vibrant has an array of body-safe sex toys for every body. Check out our curated collection of toys and books, too! Or, chat with us, and we can help recommend the product that’s perfect for you. We’re available 9am-9pm EST daily on our website chat (just push the purple button at the bottom right!) or call us at 866-316-VIBE(8423).