The erotica industry has become a powerhouse, especially over the last year. Enforced lockdowns during the pandemic has meant more consumers than ever have been in search of steamy content to whet their appetites. Sadly, however, queer content is still lacking.
In a time when erotica is said to cover many avenues of pleasure, there’s still a considerable gap in the market when it comes to non-binary and trans representation. Even female owned erotica platforms, who champion themselves on being inclusive, still fall short, with most of their queer representation being limited to bicurious threesomes.
This isn’t to say that exploration and curiosity of one’s sexuality isn’t a part of erotica — it is, and rightly should be — but rather that this representation is extremely limited. Although there’s plenty of bicurious and bisexual individuals who want threesomes, there’s many who don’t. Furthermore, there’s more than bisexuality within the LGBTQIA+ community; queerness is being shrunk down, once again, to make it more marketable. Not ignoring the fact that this kind of selective representation helps reinforce harmful stereotypes.
As someone who’s worked as a creative within the erotica industry, I’ve witnessed this first hand. Most of the content that’s created is focused on traditional erotica standards, e.g. dominant male, virginal female, hardly any queer interactions. Even the companies which claim inclusivity, which again, I have experience of, are anxious about incorporating anything other than cis threesomes when it comes to queer fantasies.
In fact, when I was once on a call with one of the up and coming audio erotica sites, the owner expressed how non-binary and trans stories are difficult to get right. Essentially, his main fear was offending listeners. This is something they’d already done when they released a questionnaire that asked about sexual preferences and they’d listed trans as an option.
They reasoned that they meant no harm, that the intent was to gather information in a manner they could easily use to better understand their audience. But for me, these answers didn’t, and still don’t, feel an adequate enough reason for this behaviour towards marginalised genders.
To see if others had noticed and/or experienced similar within the erotica industry, I reached out to the queer community. I found that many deemed mainstream erotica in a similar way to myself, that it only serves to further a lot of inaccurate ideas about queerness. Whereas queer created erotica offers more authenticity and variation.
“It’s because trans and non-binary folks are seen as too confusing and complicated! I’ve literally had someone comment on a friend’s piece of erotica and say that it was good but they were “confused by female pronouns being used with male anatomy”! […] it’s this lack of understanding that means that cishet audiences see trans erotica as “difficult”.” Comments Quinn Rhodes, the trans sex blogger behind On Queer Street.
He continues that erotica, especially stories written and consumed by women, while allowing exploration of sexuality without engaging with their bodies, runs the risk of creating fetishism of queerness. “They can write and read and enjoy this super hot sex without having to be too conscious of their own desires – which can be great, but can also slip into fetishistic territory!”
Given the almost overzealous use of threesomes and promiscuous bisexuals, fetishism definitely seems to play a part in mainstream erotica. But what of queer run erotica?
To gain better insight into this, I spoke with Sinclair Sexsmith, the editor of sugarbutch.net. This website, which predominately focuses on lesbian erotica, is extremely inclusive in both its content and creators.
However, this in itself hasn’t been without challenges, as Sinclair explains, “It’s been a challenge to find writers to contribute gender-diverse stories for the Best Lesbian Erotica series. […] For one, I think just the name can put people off — but I am stretching the word “lesbian” as far as I can, and including all kinds of women, particularly trans women, and nonbinary folks.”
As you can see, old stereotypes, which are largely kept in circulation by the mainstream, still impact queer creators. They fear being misrepresented and/or excluded, which is why continued efforts to push for inclusion become even more important; these LGBTQIA+ erotica platforms become sanctuaries for true sexual expression. The problem with this is that these sanctuaries are forced to remain more obscure because of the overwhelming dominance of ignorance within mainstream erotica.
Currently, a lot of queer erotica is regarded as “niche” — it’s not mainstream and therefore it’s boxed in when compared with cishet counterparts. Nevertheless, there is hope for the future as those within the non-binary and trans community, including myself, keep demanding to be seen, heard, and acknowledged.
Nobody is saying you have to be queer to write erotica that includes us, but we know when you’re writing about stories you have no experience of. So ask us. Talk to us. We want to be included, we should be included, so please allow our voices to help you tell our fantasies in the right way.