The days of your mother’s romance novel—the ones with Fabio stoically gazing from the cover as a busty and scantily-clad woman hangs off his chiseled abs and pecs—are over. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t reading romance novels. In fact, they’re reading them more than ever!
Modern fiction allows people to not only explore their sexuality, it indulges their joy of reading for the fun of it. After all, what’s nicer than pretty people falling in love, kissing and enjoying a happily ever after (with clothing optional)? It begs the question: why do people love romance novels and erotic fiction?
Self-publishing is easier than ever
One thing technology has granted us is the ability to publish our fiction on the internet and get nearly instantaneous feedback. For those who are unable or unwilling to broach the traditional publishing gamut, self-publishing affords them a way to get their stories out into the world, so they can enjoy at least some readership.
In some cases, self-publishing is the key to astronomical publishing success. E.L. James, the author of the 50 Shades of Grey series, first self-published her writing (which was Twilight fanfiction) on the internet. As you probably know, the rest is history—her BDSM-influenced story caught the attention of publishing pros, and was even optioned into a film series starring Dakota Johnson.
For those who don’t want to brave the query trenches in traditional publishing, self-publishing erotic fanfic or standalone stories can be one way to explore the genre.
Erotic fan fiction is an exploding genre
Speaking of 50 Shades of Grey, erotic fanfiction is—and always has been—huge on the internet. It’s not hard to see why: when we fall in love with characters and want some hot-and-heavy action, or wish specific relationships (“ships”) happened, writing fanfiction is a great way to satisfy those particular character-driven longings. And, of course, as the old adage says, if it exists, there’s probably some sort of porn involving it.
The erotic fanfic genre is not just a way to extend relationships with the media we love, it’s also a very safe way to explore writing and even new sexualities.
It’s also a way to ensure that erotica is written with other cultures than the “white default” in mind—it’s important for people to see themselves in fiction, and traditionally-published erotica is often cis-gendered, white and heterosexual. As we now know, sexuality is a spectrum—but traditional publishing has not yet caught up.
If you’ve been finding yourself struggling to get through My Struggle but want to read for pleasure, erotic fanfiction online can be a low-cost, low-investment way to enjoy reading (and yourself, if you’re into that).
Reading for pleasure is back
Reading for pleasure doesn’t have to involve erotic fiction or romance novels, but those who read in the genre cite the sheer joy of reading something they already know they’ll love. While many people deride romance novels as tropey, fluffy or somehow shameful, the fact is that the romance novel genre makes serious money—which means there are a lot of people reading them. There are subgenres upon subgenres for this billion-dollar industry, including romances specifically directed toward older adults. Why? Because readers love a good love story.
It’s not just older adults who seek out romance while reading for pleasure. The industry targets women, and most of their readers are younger. In fact, millennials are reading more than previous generations—43% enjoy reading, and they average at least 10 books per year.
The benefits of reading for pleasure—specifically fiction, although everything counts—include increased empathy and overall well-being. Even if erotica or romance isn’t your favorite genre, think about it: when you read about different people from different walks of life and backgrounds, you’re exposed to more cultures in an incredibly sympathetic way. If you’ve ever identified with the hero or heroine of a story, fiction or non-fiction, you know what it’s like to walk in their shoes for at least a mile. For those who are unable to travel, live in a homogenous area or are just starting out in life, reading can expose us to new worlds at an extremely low cost.
No matter what you love to read—even if it’s something you’d be embarrassed to show your Mom—chances are that there are hundreds of thousands of people who feel the exact same way. Whether you love Christian Grey’s dungeon or aren’t ready to go down that particular rabbit hole, there is a community of fellow rabid readers ready to embrace you—and isn’t that part of the joy of reading?