Since I started editing the erotic stories in the Cleis Press Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series with Volume 1 in 2015, I’ve often been asked who exactly the series is for. In other words, what does “women’s erotica” mean? Can men read and enjoy it too? It’s a timely question considering the swirl of current events over inappropriate behavior. While promoting our live erotic readings of these tantalizing adult stories, I’ve received numerous emails from men asking if they were welcome.
Our Sex Stories are for Everyone
I’ll be up front and say that I’m a feminist, and for me, part of that means advocating for sexual freedom for everyone, not just women. The Best Women’s Erotica series has included work by women authors since its inception (the first edition was Best Women’s Erotica, followed by Best Women’s Erotica 2000 and then numbered volumes under previous editors until I took over). But the real gift of these sexy tales is that while they star and feature women, not only are men often involved in the action, men as readers also get to vicariously experience what turns women on. While these are fictional stories, not meant to be taken as documentary truth, they are insights into the minds of their authors and into the fantasies that women enjoy.
The Sex Women Find Erotic
Continuing on that theme, in the erotic short stories the series publishes, women engage in all sorts of sexual acts and fantasies that there’s no real way to categorize them. They enjoy bondage and BDSM, both as submissives and dominants (and sometimes Dommes). They have threesomes, go to nude resorts, take younger and older lovers, have sex on vacation and while traveling for work. They pick up strangers and sleep with them during one night stands and they also have love affairs. They make sex tapes…and show them to their partners. They are polyamorous and happy with their multiple partners. They love oral sex, and anal sex, and outdoor sex. They take chances, not sure if their passions will be matched or rewarded. As editor, to me what makes these sexy stories so arousing isn’t necessarily the type of sex the women and their lovers are having, but why they enjoy it.
Some are coming out of repressive relationships or family situations, where they’ve been made to feel ashamed of their sexual desires. Some are simply just discovering what it’s like to have a fetish or erotic interest and to go after it, no matter how much that may clash with what society tells them is the right thing to do. They may grapple with their own identity and try to figure out what it means if, as in “Making It Feel Right” by Annabel Joseph, they’d once thought of themselves as submissive but discover they actually have a femdom side that likes to order men around.
What it means to be an Erotic Woman
I don't necessarily have the answer to what it means to be an erotic woman, or what the word “erotic” means to every character or author featured in this series. But what I’ve done my best to do is make sure that there’s no slut-shaming or judgment around the actions these women take. In these erotic fantasies, it’s truly anything goes. Which brings me back to the idea of the main audience for these books. Based on the emails I’ve received, there’s something in these bedtime stories for adults for all types of readers. Yes, the stories are from the point of view of women, but men also can get aroused by reading them and also gain insight into how women think about sex and desire. These erotic women don’t always have all the answers—sometimes they are nervous or uncertain about making the first move, or saying the dirty words that have been floating in their head, or taking off all their clothes to get truly naked in every sense of the word.
Sexy erotic books for men and women
What I’ve strived to do as the editor of this series, with the books themselves, which are available in print as well as ebook and audiobook options for more privacy, is to offer up as wide a range of women’s sexual voices as possible. Some of these characters have limited erotic experiences, while others are proud sluts. Some are newbies of one type or another to a given sex act, while others proudly try a little of everything. They have sex with their husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, bosses, coworkers, strangers and friends. They enjoy erotic bondage and roleplay (as sexy cheerleaders and much more). They have fetishes for everything from leather to books to spanking. What I’ve strived to do is offer as much variety as possible in each book so you can see what turns you on, regardless of your preconceived notions about what you like or don’t like, or what you should like. There are no “should”s in these adult sex stories. There’s only curiosity, daring and desire.