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The Boom of Erotic Literature
Looking for the Fairy Tale

by Geri Decheva

When writing about the boom of erotic novels I will be a bit biased and still it will be accurate from literally perspective. As a translator, I have translated over 30 erotic novels (most of them consisting of 3 to 5 volumes), so imagine the amount of work. Starting with “50 Shades of Gray”, I was astounded at the popularity the book gained and the hunger for it, the anticipation. The market was screaming and I was translating something which made me truly wonder whether I was on the wrong side of the literally genre. I can’t hold my sarcasm when writing about the topic simply because, as time and my experience have shown, all these books turned out to be basically the same. Sex was the same, plot was totally predictable, verbs, nouns, adjectives – same. It became so boring, but yeah, I have read all the bestsellers as part of my job.
Every generation has their erotic novels, but 50 years ago, and further back in time, they were read secretly. Women could not get over the shame of going to the bookstore and buying a copy of “Lady Chatterley's Lover”. With the advance of technology, women, sill ashamed to go to the bookstore, can download the books and read them on electronic devices and no one would know, right? This part is a mystery to me. Why not be open about your reading preferences? Men go and get their erotic magazines, watch porn openly, but most women are rather timid when it comes to this. Most of the erotic novels are not exactly erotica, but down-right porn, but you know, with words. Words have greater impact on a woman’s imagination. And then the plot.
What can I say about the plots… or the one plot, shall we say? There is the bad boy (usually with loads of money and power), the good girl (usually not rich and often a virgin and “I’m not that kind of girl.”), there is a childhood trauma, which he or she or both need to face, and there is the happy ending. The rest is just filling the pages – each chapter contains seven pages of sex, some meaningful, some meaningless conversations. The drama deepens and unfolds, but sexual attraction is there and they both are in denial till the L-word is said aloud. For years I was given these books because I somehow happened to be quite good at translating them. I was put off by two things – the repetitive sex, sometimes one writer copy-pasting from another, and by the poor writing, making women in these books look annoying, stupid even, whimsical, never knowing what they want. Some of the bestsellers were written way before “50 Shades of Gray”, but they were given a push by “Mr. Gray will see you now” and Anastasia, biting her lower lip throughout the four volumes (the one from Gray’s perspective had to be done).
In the meantime, I came upon some writers, with great plots and fascinating sense of humour, who I actually enjoyed working on. I understand why Emma Chase is not only one of the bestselling erotic writers, but also her books are ranked among the first 10 funnies books of all time. I found myself bursting in laughter all the time while translating and I never ever got bored. Sex was not that much, it was well balanced in the plot and written really well. So, anything by Emma Chase is worth reading by both men and women.
Then, there came “After” by Anna Todd. I have had many challenges in my life, but after 5 volumes of frustrating Tessa, I was ready to shave my head and go to live in a monastery for a few months. Based on the sick fascination of a housewife, Anna Todd, over Harry Styles of “One Direction”, Todd has managed to stretch a story which can be told in 300 pages into 5 volumes of 700-900 pages each. Extremely badly written and aimed at people lacking logical thinking. Yet, it was, still is a massive success, usually appealing to the “One Direction” fan club and girls in their teenage years. It was a traumatic experience because I was following the plot very closely, something most readers don’t do, and I was left with so many unanswered questions, but what was the point in asking?
Among my absolute favourites is Nalini Singh with her paranormal erotica. Her style is exquisite, rich and captivating, the plots differ almost shockingly form the clichéd stories mentioned above and her books are addictive. There is this erotic tension, building up to fewer erotic scenes, which again have nothing to do with the repetitive execution in more popular novels.
Vee Keeland has contributed with interesting dramatic plots and an actual story to be followed, but sex comes too much and too heavy on the whole read.
Cristna Loren (the name is a combination from the names of the two co-writers) offer a rather entertaining approach to erotic novels, again relying on great sense of humour and plots which can actually broaden the mind. No loose ends, no big drama, a happy end, no milking the plot till it bleeds dry.
That, however, cannot be said about Abbi Glines, whose Too Far series sometimes makes one wonder whether she read her own books a second time because if she had, she would have noticed the gaps in the plot and the lack of any logic in the development of something I can hardly call a plot.  
Meghan March, on the other hand, comes strong with a well-developed plot and not traditional sex, unusual characters, some criminal content and leaves a nice impression. It was interesting to read. Strong characters, well developed and meeting every expectation and beyond.
I could go on forever. The list is long. In general, there are good erotic books and there is total rubbish, but all is being sold out. The question is why. Some argue that most women feel deprived of sex or the sex with the husband or the partner has hit rock bottom. Every woman fantasizes of being loved and made love to like in those books. Experiencing the love and pleasure of a fictional character gives them hope that it will not always be the same run-down bed routine. Tired of being tired, angry with being angry, hopeless with being single, women find escapism in inspiring stories, as unrealistic and shallow some can be. Women read about other women fulfilling their sexual dreams and become braver and more open about their sexual desires when confronted by a husband with constant headaches. Erotic books encourage women to take better care of themselves, urge them towards buying that expensive dress (shoes, bags), paying for that confidence-boosting underwear, feeling better about themselves, coming to terms with what they need and stating those needs, even if they have to quote their famous or infamous heroines. The risk of adopting behavior patterns of a teen girl is high, but hey, who cares?
I must admit I had never heard of some of the toys used in these novels, so I had to google them and after that, Facebook kept directed me to the nearest sex shop and I was flooded with offers. I guess, erotic novels are also educational for young girls in their teens because, and don’t be disillusioned here, girls might not watch porn as often as adolescent boys, but they have the novels and they copy… well, methods. Some unrealistic expectations are bound to arise. Women with experience know that men, who can do it every day, several times a day and several times per night while excelling at their extremely powerful businesses, do not exist, but young girls don’t know that.
Yet, who doesn’t want a bit of a fairy tale? Can you blame us? What woman does not dream of being loved by a bad boy, of the challenge to cure his wounds, of being that oasis where he can rest for a bit and worship her. In my opinion, if I was deprived of my sarcastic view on everything, which is also my copying mechanism, I would be indulging in the same fantasies. Maybe because we are not adored enough, loved enough, recognized enough, payed enough attention. As strong and independent we think we’ve become, we need that unconditional connection. And here men will (partly rightfully) blame us for wanting to wear the pants in the house. Sexual fantasies? In all interviews so far, I’ve never managed to speak with a woman ready to openly confess her desires before the man she’s with. We still hide our erotic books from our partners, from our grown-up children like they are something dirty.
As long as sex is approached with shame and treated as something forbidden, disgusting and disgraceful, we will be offered a mass production of erotic novels, some of low quality and with very few names standing out.
Guys, if you see your partner reading an erotic book, you are not doing something right and I mean not only in bed. It means she is not living her fairy tale, she’s vulnerable and it’s time you rolled up the sleeves or… take the shirt off, do something about that belly because one thing is sure – abs are as important as love handles are. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. Probably we are all to blame – putting on a pedestal characters who cannot be role models, but are filling an enormous nook in our lives. Just like porn does for most men.
Remember – a woman has wild imagination and feels the power of words. That’s what she seeks in a novel. And to think you could be the one saying those words, making her smile, giving that pleasure. Loneliness is the most widespread disease on the planet and whatever way one finds to deal with it, it’s okay. The only thing that is not okay is that these are just ways, not actual people. We grow apart, even standing close to each other, even the two-meter safe distance feels like thousands of miles. That is why women will read their books – looking for the fairy tale.
Gergana Decheva
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