Erotica Cover Watch

// 10 January 2009

Erotica Cover Watch [NOT SAFE FOR WORK!] is a blog by two erotica authors who asked the question “why only women on the cover of erotic books, not men?”

As two erotica writers we’re very interested in how our product is packaged. And sometimes pretty annoyed about it. This is BICEPS, our bid to Banish Inequality on Covers in Erotica, Porn & Smut.

This is not about anyone’s fondness for a particular peachy bottom. This is about the bigger picture. This is about challenging the deeply-entrenched gender bias in erotica-marketing which ignores women as consumers and prefers to serve them up as objects to be ogled.

It reminded me a little of the Lad Mags blog [NSFW] (“Lads mags would be moved to the top shelf if they featured men in similar poses.”); pointing out a silly double standard in a fun lighthearted way. I think this kind of blogging is a really effective way to make a point.

In Erotica Cover Watch’s round up of the past three months [NSFW], they document how their campaign has had some successes. Interestingly they also say:

Our biggest surprise when we kicked off this campaign was the strength of the backlash. We simply hadn’t anticipated it. We thought people would mainly go, ‘Gosh, you’re right, how unfair,’ then Mat and I would run out of things to say (stop laughing) and we’d get back to writing our novels. Sure, we expected a few chumps to pop up and go, ‘But women are, like, more beautiful than men, innit?’ and ‘Wimmins is not visual because they have breasts and no eyeballs.’ And of course they did (sort of). Prior to starting the blog, we did our best to answer the usual arguments against men on erotica covers by writing But, but, but…

Nonetheless, the arguments and – ouch! – the vitriol came. People said stuff like, ‘This is just a bunch of haterade‘. We were described as militant, ungrateful, sexist and desperate. We were called ‘hard-headed feminists’ ‘do gooders’ and, um, ‘lesbians‘ (I still haven’t figured that one out). We were taken to task for not reading the books whose covers we were analysing. We were accused of ‘bathing in heated pools of hypocrisy’, ‘doing a hit job’ on fellow writers, giving feminism a bad name, hurting people’s feelings and wanting to do damage to erotica publishing.

Yeeouch. All that for simply wanting to make the prevailing sexual culture just a teensy bit more equal. The mind boggles.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 10 January 2009 at 4:34 pm

I’m not surprised these two enterprising young women received so much hate mail. Didn’t they know the male body is sacred and must on no account be shown totally naked. That is reserved for women’s and girls’ bodies.

I’ve heard it myself on numerous occasions when attempting to show how the male sexual double standard operates. Images of men showing their naked chests are I was told ‘sexist and degrading to men!’ But images of naked women such as in Nuts and co. are not ‘sexist’ or degrading!

It proves how the sexual double standard operates and why if men’s bodies were routinely depicted totally naked and yes showing their genitals then many if not most men would immediately understand how the sexual commodification and sexual exploitation of women operates. Running Scared by Peter Lehman (although an expensive book) shows exactly how male bodies are protected and why male sexual organs must always remain hidden. It is all about the myth of phallocentricism and male fears of realities of fragile masculinities.

Cara // Posted 10 January 2009 at 8:44 pm

Well said – to both Catherine Redfern and Jennifer Drew.

Exactly – even on my Equality & Diversity course at work, they had magazines showing men (with bare chests only, clearly one of the men’s health type mags) as an example of sexism! Yes OK displaying men’s bodies is sexist – yet women being sex objects is just ironic post-feminist fun, don’t you know, and if you don’t like it you are a prude. Grrrrrr.

Lyle // Posted 11 January 2009 at 1:48 am

As a man, I have to agree somewhat with Jennifer’s comments above, but not for precisely the same reasons. I do believe there is a double standard, but it seems to me to operate in the opposite direction. I perceive the general consensus to be not that images of male bodies are avoided because they are degrading to men, or because the male body is sacred, but rather that “naked men are icky”. There is an immense amount of body shame among young men, and it’s not because they want to preserve their exposure, it’s because they are afraid of being reviled.

Sarah // Posted 11 January 2009 at 3:49 pm

All the naked women, and the fact that only women shown naked, in media, fuels the massive amount of insecurity that I and my female friends have about their own bodies.

It is relentless, and the general feeling is that we must look like this (yes, I have been on dates where this is mentioned, or more frequently not gone on dates with men with unrealistic expectations)

I think it’s only right to start exposing mens bodies to the same scrutiny that we are. Maybe then their unrealistic expectations would change.

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