Men have yet to fully embrace erotic literature, but a growing number are writing it—using noms de plume.

Before Chance Carter, 36, wrote the best-selling book Bad Boy Daddy, he’d published erotic stories for two years under a female pseudonym—until a female erotica writer reportedly accused him on Facebook of misleading readers. She claimed that men working in the genre under women’s names were cowardly and immoral. So Carter adopted a new pseudonym, one undeniably male, and found stardom. According to Carter, he has regularly ranked among the top 100 self-published writers on Amazon ever since. Bad Boy Daddy boasts more than 2,500 reviews and spent a week on top of the online retailer’s list of best-selling selfpublished e-books.

It has been suggested that women prefer female authors when it comes to erotica because men don’t understand how to craft a good, sexually charged story. That theory is based, in part, on the fact that men don’t consume such writing. A 2014 Nielsen survey for Romance Writers of America, for example, found that only 18 percent of romance-book readers are male.

Ogi Ogas, a computational neuroscientist and co-author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships, believes this may be because of fundamental differences in the male and female brains. “One of the most basic differences is that the male brain responds to any single sexual stimulus. A nice chest, two girls kissing, older women,” Ogas told Time.com. “Female desire requires multiple stimuli.… For a guy, the most common form of [masturbation material] is a 60-second porn clip. For a woman, it can be a 250-page novel.… Stories have greater flexibility to offer a greater variety of stimuli.”

Carter’s reason for originally adopting a female name is akin to the reason J.K. Rowling’s abbreviated name appears on the cover of the Harry Potter books: Her publisher reportedly didn’t think young men would want to read a book about a boy wizard written by a woman. “For centuries, female writers in male-dominated genres had to take male pen names to get published,” says LN Bey, a male erotica author who publishes under a gender-neutral name. Bey thinks doing so is only fair, as do other male writers. Carter says he runs a 400-person group for romance and erotica writers that is an even split of men and women; the authors’ pen names are 99 percent female-sounding.

“This is still a socially risky and stigmatized business, perhaps even more so for men,” Bey says. “Many women won’t read male authors because of the perception that their work will be misogynistic, ‘get on your knees, bitch’ stories that lack a deeper psychological aspect.”

Gender aside, erotica writers tend to be hush-hush about their work for a variety of reasons. Robert Fleming, who describes himself as the first editor to compile an anthology of erotic short fiction by African American male writers (After Hours), adopted the pen name Cole Riley to distance his creative writing from his work as a journalist with bylines in The New York Times and Essence. Like many others, Fleming fell into erotica by chance: He says he got his first job in the genre after talking with the editor in chief of Oui, a magazine of nude photography (and former Playboy publication), in an elevator. “It introduced me to an entirely different world,” he says. “I was having the time of my life.”

M. Christian, who has been published in The Best American Erotica, writes in the genre to expand his palate. “I can experiment with all kinds of storytelling techniques,” he says. “I’ve learned that it’s essential to stretch yourself so you don’t get stale creatively—or personally.” Christian doesn’t use a pseudonym to protect his reputation; he uses one simply because he doesn’t like his real name.

According to Carter, fake names help create an author’s brand. “If I wanted to write a Western, I’d slap a name on it that sounds vaguely Western,” he says. “Without pen names, your entire writing career would be discoverable whenever someone looked you up. No one reading my erotica is interested in the law essays I wrote 10 years ago.”

For now at least, erotica is one of the very few industries in which men are at a disadvantage. “It’s hard putting a man’s name on a sexy novel when the charts are filled with books by women,” Carter says. “It’s like riding a bicycle to a Harley convention.”


A LONG STORY SHORT

These three passages will give you a rough sense of erotica’s quality spectrum.

THE GOOD New York Times best-selling novelist Alessandra Torre makes even us blush in her 2013 book Sex Love Repeat: “ ‘You are mine,’ he grunts out, pumping into me, the length and level of his arousal brutal.… He doesn’t slow the movement, giving me full, hard thrusts, my breasts bouncing from the top of my dress, the mirror above the sink giving me a full view of my slutdom. Paul, in worn jeans, a white T-shirt, light hair mussed, mouth open, intensity over his face.”

THE BAD Erri De Luca, author of The Day Before Happiness, won Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award thanks to this excerpt: “With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.”

THE WEIRD Chuck Tingle turns Bernie Sanders into a sex symbol named Bernie Sambers in Feeling the Bern in My Butt: “While most politicians craft messages that tug at my heartstring, these seem to go even farther. He’s tugging at my butt.… I have to admit, all of this political positivity is getting to me, the message of progress and social reform causing a pleasant tingle to slowly form around the trim of my anus. It’s a strange but welcome sensation, something of a burn, but in a warm and inviting way.”


Erotica’s CHECKERED PAST

Revisiting the form’s peaks and troughs throughout history.

ca. 1150 B.C. Egyptians create the Turin Erotic Papyrus, dubbed the “world’s first men’s mag,” long housed at Italy’s Museo Egizio.

1748 John Cleland publishes Fanny Hill, one of the earliest examples of a pornographic novel written in English.

1819 Merriam-Webster cites the earliest known use of the word erotica, derived from Eros, the Greek god of love.

1921 For its passage on masturbation, James Joyce’s Ulysses is banned in the United States for 12 years.

1992 Madonna releases Erotica alongside her book Sex. The album has sold some 6 million copies worldwide.

2015 Fifty Shades of Grey breaks records worldwide, ultimately raking in $571 million at the global box office.


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