I began my romance/erotica writing journey three short years ago (I will literally fit a Mariah lyric in almost anything!). One of the first writers I connected with was the writer of today’s guest post. Phoenix Williams, a past Spotlighter, began her writing career in 2012 and has produced a plethora of novels filled with suspense, secrets, and sex. Her style of sensual writing gives her the space to speak on how readers – especially women – can find their strength through erotic prose…
Erotica. Smut. Paperback porn. It’s the genre that lonely housewives consume to escape the monotony of their everyday lives. The genre that the sexually deviant choose to chronicle their sexcapades. The genre that gives readers a predictable storyline featuring a meek, submissive, and virginal damsel in distress who is saved and swept into a life of luxury and undying love by a handsome—preferably wealthy—man after just a few life-changing encounters. These are common misconceptions of the genre that I love so dearly.
Well…all except the last one.
It is no secret that docile leading women are a staple in erotica. The idea of a man taking a pure and naïve girl, molding her into his ideal woman via manipulation disguised as love has been explored since the dawn of the genre. Readers ate this narrative up for decades, thanks to the effects of living in a misogynistic patriarchy. The question isn’t ‘Why aren’t there many strong female leads in erotica?’ Rather, we must ask ‘Why is it important to have strong yet beautifully flawed three-dimensional female leads in erotica?’
Let me clear something up: women are real. No, seriously. Women are one hundred percent real. They have feelings, issues, baggage, dreams, and fantasies. In erotica, these aspects are all explored but only when centering the man in the relationship. The leading lady is most depicted as half of a person, lacking in every area of her life, until she stumbles across a gazillionaire who is ready to pop the question after he trains her in the bedroom. The stronger and more resilient female characters are reserved for the spinster friend.
So, why is this important to unpack? Why is it vital to have a genre that is mainly focused on sex be a champion for the everyday woman?
Literature holds up a mirror to society and forces us to take a hard look at ourselves. Through subtle elaboration and fantasy, prose can show us who we are and force us to ask questions and seek enlightenment. With that knowledge comes sexual confidence (and what is more important when it comes to love and romantic relationships than that?).
I’ve learned so much about myself as a writer and as a woman from reading authors like Zane, Mary B. Morrison, Zuri Day, and Noire. I gained the courage to ask for what I want, that my needs and desires matter just as much as my partner’s. I’ve realized that submissive is not synonymous with weak, I am a complete a person by myself. I can be assertive and still be considered desirable. I say no without feeling guilty. I’m fearless, shameless, and unapologetically me. The lessons these writers taught me shaped both my personal and professional lives. The women writers gave me the courage to begin my journey as an author.
We live in a society whose first reflex is to condemn and persecute women for sexual freedom – the same gift it lavishes onto men without pause. Open and honest conversations about sex, kink, and fantasies between men and women are awkward at best and mortifying at worst. Women feel as if they can only find themselves once they find their mate. Yet, these women—daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, doctors, lawyers, factory workers, and, yes, housewives—are still reading. They are still looking to erotic authors to hold up that mirror and demand that readers answer the important questions. We look to these authors to teach the lessons that I learned from my favorite writers. And, hopefully, the authors of erotica, smut, and paperback porn will help create a generation of women that are strong, beautifully flawed, and unafraid to embrace their kink.
Phoenix Williams is an award nominated Urban Erotica author based out of Chicago. Her works consist of the Sex, Lies, and Friendship series, the Phoenix After Dark Collection, and the To Love A No Good Nigga series.