Jul 14 2017 12:00pm

Female Sexuality and the Role of Erotic Romance

Killing June by May Bridges

Today we're thrilled to welcome May Bridges (Killing June) to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Society's view on female sexuality has changed a lot over the years, but in other ways things have stayed the same. May is here today to talk about society's expectations and how romance places a role in it all. Thanks, May!

Wild Women Do And They Don’t Regret It…

Yes, I do have Natalie Cole lyrics and visions of scenes from Pretty Woman running through my head right now—but on to books! I love when I find pieces of myself in the books I read. Finding something that connects you to a character, something that is fiction imitating reality, pulls you into a book that much more. Over the many years of reading romance I’ve found a common theme in many of them, one that is growing in popularity. It’s the idea of a woman finding a man she can express herself with in a sexual way, a way that perhaps only that man would understand. It’s the journey of her getting to live out her deepest, darkest fantasies, and finding a partner who loves and accepts her for those desires, not despite them. It has opened the door to more books with BDSM and S&M themes. As I look around our society, it doesn’t surprise me this has become a popular book trend. The amazing thing about books are that they can strip away social expectations and misconceptions, and allow us to look at the lives the characters live with fresh eyes.

SEE ALSO: Everybody Hurts: Sadists in Romance

The idea of how our society expects women to approach the subject of sexuality in public, versus behind closed doors, has nagged at me for a long time. I grew up in a home, a culture, where I was taught to be conservative. Women didn’t dress provocatively, make jokes about sex, or do ridiculous things like ogle men. I grew up with the idea that women didn’t watch porn, go to strip clubs, or hang out in groups having dirty conversations about the things we had done, or would do. Sex wasn’t something women pursued or admitted much about. On the other hand, it’s common place for men, and not many people bat an eye at it. I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that sex is a boy’s club thing.

Where it gets very confusing, is when you add in the expectations for women behind closed doors. Outwardly it’s dicey to express your thoughts, wants, desires, and overt sexuality. When the lights go out, however, it’s not the ice queen you portrayed in day to day life your partner is likely to want. When is it okay for a woman to be a sexual being? In private, behind locked doors, in dark rooms. At least that’s how our society makes it seem.

The reality of it is that women can be as sexual as men. And like men, how we express that side of ourselves varies from woman to woman. If you’ve ever doubted that many outwardly wholesome women have a wild side, go to a Facebook romance book party. It’s a great time and usually consists of plenty of eye candy posts, and women shamelessly talking, laughing, and sharing about our fantasy men and the things we’d do to them.

As I read through my Kindle packed full of contemporary romance, I see many authors placing their heroine in a roll that’s particularly interesting to me—the submissive. It’s even more intriguing as I’ve talked to other women readers and find that they don’t identify the woman in their favorite steamy romance as being a submissive. In many female circles, being a submissive is seen as a bad thing. She’s a doormat, a powerless woman that lets her partner oppress her, right? But when you take the sexual life of a submissive and the roll of a dominant man, and put them in a novel without the labels, it’s an irresistible combination. I think the emerging role of the submissive in books, along with many negative views of them when labeled outside of books, both come from unfortunate social misconceptions.

It’s easy to see how the misconception women have might stem from the name: Submissive. I’ll admit, it isn’t a verb I’d want attached to me outside of knowing what the role of one truly is. I’m strong, I’m bullheaded, and independent. That doesn’t seem to line up with the definition of the submissive. In truth, a submissive holds all of the power. She is a brave and adventurously sexual woman. She sets limits, and then says anything else goes! She’s a true wild woman. Not to mention how gratifying it can be emotionally to know you’ve found a partner you trust that much. Someone who wants to know you, learn your likes and dislikes, what your limits are, and explore them all with you. It’s the true nature of a sexual submissive I've found readers fall in love with in books. And removing the title gives them the ability to see all of those things.

The submissive’s rising popularity in books might have much to do with the loophole she’s found. She gets to live out her dirty wild woman fantasies, and her partner doesn’t view her as less than a proper woman because of what she is willing, even wanting to do between the sheets. He sees her as someone who is open, trusting, and willing. In a society where it’s not widely acceptable for a woman to openly want things that are too kinky, or could be considered dirty, there’s freedom in giving those choices over to your partner. In a way, you get to have your cake and eat it too. With predefined limits and the understanding that you can jump ship at any time, letting your partner steer the direction of your sexual activities, knowing that there is no pressure on you to be hesitant or think about if you ‘should or shouldn’t’ be doing something—it’s freeing. Especially considering our reservations about what we should or shouldn’t want in the bedroom come from unrealistic social expectations.

Whether you love them or hate them, inside or outside of books, the truth is that as our society grows and becomes more understanding of female sexuality, the need for the labels will disappear. Ladies, stay fabulously you. Be crazy, love what you love, and feel no shame. Be kind when wanting to pass judgment on others for their brand of sexuality. We have enough pressure from the rest of the world. Men, know that we really aren’t that much different from you when it comes to sex, just better looking, and better at hiding it!


Learn more about or order a copy of Killing June by May Bridges, available now:

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May Bridges is a misplaced Southerner. Having spent a decade on the West Coast, she still tries to order grits at every breakfast restaurant and is on a personal mission to spread the popularity of fried okra. Rainy days in Oregon are spent inside writing dark, gritty romance, or drawing and covered in charcoal. Sunny days are almost always spent on the softball field or fishing. And truth be told, you can probably find her on a softball field on rainy days too. It’s the best excuse to play in the mud. She is the author of the Saved by Sin series.

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1 comment
1. BenidormBabe
Bit of a strange article. The author sounds surprised that women can be as sexual as men. Also, and I think I've alluded to this on a previous poist, where are all the novels where the female is dominant?
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