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3.15.2012

Katharine Rosman: Women Can Read! Isn't That Cute?

A while ago (okay, 2 years ago), I wrote a blog post, pointing out that with e-readers, erotica will flourish:
However, romance titles still make up the largest share of the book market. With romance comes erotica. With the privacy of e-reader (no covers visible:), and the ease of e-publishing, erotica will thrive. It will be the golden age of smut...
In the future, half the people standing around you reading on e-readers will have boners, you just won't know it.

Of course I had this picture:



The picture wasn't made to be sexist; it was made from experience as someone who has read erotica on the train (that could be a blog post by itself), as someone who reads and smiles generally. (Also, that lady's smile is kinda creepy)

What is sexist however is this:

If that woman next to you on the train seems unusually engrossed in her e-reader, there may be a good reason.
Electronic readers, and the reading privacy they provide, are fueling a boom in sales of sexy romance novels, or "romantica," as the genre is called in the book industry.
The author of the piece, reporter Katherine Rosman, concludes that with the e-book age, women can now read! And of course the only thing they read is *insert girlish giggle here* sex. Within the first two paragraphs, this is assumed!

While the article attempts to explore trends of the flourishing erotica publishing industry, it pegs women as the only consumers of erotica, and women as only readers of erotica. (Men don't read such things, we read seriously!) But it's not just erotica--it's romantica.
As with romance novels, romantica features an old-fashioned love story and pop-culture references like those found in "chick lit." Plus, there is sex—a lot of it. Yet unlike traditional erotica, romantica always includes what's known as "HEA"—"happily ever after"....Fans of romantica say they like the heroines—educated, professionally successful, morally centered characters who are swept up by unexpected, intense sexual desire. Readers also are drawn to the love stories.
The way Rosman, in the video, describes it, women's sexuality is immature and not serious. "Mommy's naughty reader," she quotes.




But sighting trends, quoting industry professionals, hard numbers (women in general read more, and romance is a women's genre because no self respecting man would go into it, except Leigh Greenwood [the perception of romance writing as degrading work is also worth exploring, though not here]) does it exempt the article from being sexist? No, not really. The framework here is sexist: an assumption that women's sexuality is something purely consumable, giggle worthy, sensational. (The newest literary sensation is Fifty Shades of Gray, would it be different if a man wrote it, if it was about a man?) That women's writing and sexuality is not important--except to sell things. (Also, read this)

It just continues the trend of degrading women's work, women's writing, women's reading, women's literature--both literary and popular.

Happy Women's History Month!

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