There is an unfortunate prevailing idea out there that lesbian erotica is only for lesbians, or for men looking for a literary version of girl-on-girl videos. This honestly breaks my heart. Not because I'm an author of lesbian fiction...I write romance, erotica and genre fiction with characters of all orientations and sexual personalities, so if my lady love stories don't catch the reader's eye, I have plenty of other stories that can appeal. What saddens me about this idea, that lesbian fiction is only for lesbians, is that so many readers miss out on truly gorgeous works.
If you are one of these readers, and you feel it won't appeal to you because women aren't your particular pleasure preference, hear me out. Forget for a moment the gal-to-guy ratio and whose genitalia goes where. Let's talk about connection.
Be it a story about deep, abiding love, one of lustful conquest, or one of sexual experimentation, what's loveliest about lesbian erotica is the power of connection. Stories or women pleasuring women delve into deep, aesthetic eroticism of not just the body, but of psychology and emotion of womanhood. In featuring a love match between women, lesbian erotica provides a setting to reflect on femininity and female-ness: characters who are expressively feminine can be highlighted like illuminated works of art, mirrored in another woman’s eyes. “Tom” and “butch” lesbians—less feminine—are given a unique stage where their own brand of beauty and identity is examined and celebrated. I think of Boo, a self-proclaimed dyke from Orange is the New Black, who couldn’t be less feminine if she tried. Her journey to be recognized and respected, despite her refusal to put on a feminine mien, brings out her beauty in such a way that viewers can appreciate her as her own, wonderful creation. Boo is utterly lovely, in her utterly proud, non-feminine expression. Pairing women together, whether both parties be femme or both be butch, or be they a combination of expression and identity, makes for a unique opportunity for women to reflect on women, and how our sexuality is articulated.
Now, I realize lesbian erotica is not the only sub-genre to do this. It is, however, disproportionately visited by readers. At the most accessible level—early budding erotic writers—it is so often fetishized, relying on a perceived 'kink' of girl-on-girl action. It seems much more acceptable for gay erotica, to focus on the emotional needs and complications of the characters, finding eroticism though the emotional as well as the physical interactions. Most authors who set out to write male gay fiction understand this as part of the genre. If not taken seriously, lesbian fiction can easily miss the mark and be reduced merely to pornographic renditions of two women screwing.
It's so easy to sacrifice the honesty of personality and character in favor of unabashed porn. It’s such a shame. Lesbian erotica is beautiful. It can be moving and literary. It can be deeply gripping. Affinity, an erotic novel by Sarah Waters, left me shaken for days. It can be fun and funny. I've enjoyed stories about fem domme cupcake bakers and island visitors sharing a relaxing evening with a stranger who becomes a new friend.
Whatever lesbian erotica is, it isn't what many people seem to think: an exclusive members-only club. I challenge readers of erotica and erotic romance, if you've never given lesbian romance a chance, to seek out at least one good title. Make it one you'd readily pick up if it were a traditional male/female romance; no sense in picking up something you wouldn't choose in other circumstances. Give yourself a chance to find a new pleasure in the plethora of attractive erotic sub-genres. I think most folks will find that there's more to it than meets the eye.