Romance Porn: More Women are Addicted Than You Think

Literary pornographers must be thrilled to pass under the radar as Jane Austen’s cousins

Women are less visual, and so less attracted to the internet pornography that is irresistible to men. For women, visual pornography should be considered a light beer while the emotionally charged “pornmance” novel is 70-proof liquor, hard-core pornography.

 

Every year, pornography tangles up millions of people in its sticky spider webs. It rolls them up like hapless flies, and sucks out their brains until they are pretty much the walking dead. Christians are not exempt. And we are finally starting to admit it and talk about it.

But there is still something missing in the discussion. Most of the time, articles about the negative effects of pornography focus on men. Women have set up lawn chairs on the sidelines, often as despairing wives who wonder how to deal with their porn-entangled husbands.

And this seems only right, because many of us believe that pornography is mostly a male problem. Although women are increasingly consuming pornography, the majority of users of internet porn are still men. For instance, CovenantEyes reports that “68 percent of young adult men and 18 percent of women use porn at least once every week,” “64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month,” and “Men are more than 543 percent more likely to look at porn than women.”

But what if these statistics are not giving us the whole picture? What if they are ignoring a huge segment of the pornography industry, a segment that affects millions of women just as powerfully and negatively as internet pornography affects men?

The Female Hugh Hefner
The other day, I was doing a bit of online research about successful self-published ebook authors, and I stumbled upon a New York Times article about Meredith Wild, a 33-year-old graphic designer-turned-author who now earns millions of dollars each year from her self-published fiction books.

Ms. Wild belongs to a very exclusive club. There are hundreds of thousands of self-published ebook authors, but according to Amazon, only 40 of these have managed to make a profit by selling over 1 million copies of their ebooks over the last five years. Ms. Wild happens to be one of them. What is her secret?

The New York Times portrays Ms. Wild as a regular all-American mom who struck it rich thanks largely to her talent at writing and marketing. Accompanying photos show her sitting on her stylish veranda, and working at the kitchen table together with her husband (a former firefighter who now works for Ms. Wild). It is mentioned that she has three kids.

Ms. Wild seems to be a respectable author-entrepreneur, the classic American success story. The article offers no hint of any ethical quandary with respect to her work (though perhaps there is unconscious shame from the author herself: Ms. Wild is a pen name, and the author requested that her real name not be published).

So let’s look at what Ms. Wild writes about in her novels. Her first novel, Hardwired, is about a young woman’s encounters with “an array of sexual kinks.” Her subsequent novels are along the same vein. At the end of the article, a writer for Ms. Wild’s new publishing house says she is happy to “focus on writing sex scenes” because: “I just want to write wicked hot books.”

And here the light begins to flicker onto the truth. Under the euphemism of “romance,” Ms. Wild peddles erotica, the literary equivalent of pornography. While her books are not filled with nude photographs or graphic video, they contain the same drug reconstituted into another form: words that translate into pornographic images which burn into the minds of their readers (to see for yourself, excerpts of her novels are available on her website).

Ms. Wild, it turns out, is the female equivalent of Hugh Hefner. She is a verbal drug pusher, shoving words as potent as cocaine at her own gender.

And droves of women are clearly addicted. In an industry that is insanely competitive, where most authors earn below the poverty line, Ms. Wild’s first novel, published in 2014, was making $500,000 in royalties per month soon after its release. Ms. Wild sold a total of 1.4 million copies of this book and agreed to a $6.25 million advance for five books. She also started a new publishing house, which has already sold more than a million copies and hit the New York Times Bestseller list with one of its first titles, Calendar Girl.

A Huge Market for “Romance” Porn
But Ms. Wild did not create her market. She is feeding meat to a huge crowd that is already hungry and shopping. Amazon’s successful ‘million club’ of 40 authors includes several other “romance” porn authors, such as:

  • Jasinda Wilder, whose website features a cartoon woman in lingerie, and whose books have titles like Big Girls Do It
  • Amanda Hocking, a “paranormal romance author who writes about anything from vampires to trolls to witches and zombies”
  • HP Mallory, an “urban fantasy and paranormal romance” author whose latest novel presents the following warning in its Amazon.com book description: “If you like your books steamy (this is an adult paranormal romance, not for kids or teens!) read on!”
  • Bella Andre, a romance writer who has “churned out more than 30 titles and sold 3.5 million books around the world, the majority in ebook format. Revenue for Oak Press LLC, the indie publishing house she created in 2011, has been in the “eight figures,” she says. In 2014, Publisher’s Weekly named it the “fastest growing independent publisher in the U.S.”

And these are just the ebook successes. Looking further, the full scale of the romance porn industry is staggering. In 2014, romance fiction was reported to be the fastest-growing segment of the ebook market as well as the highest earning book genre worldwide, with an estimated revenue of 1.44 billion U.S. dollars.

These numbers point to a huge gap in our understanding of how women interact with pornographic materials.

Statistics about pornography often seem to be testing for whether women are behaving like men. They focus on how much people are viewing or watching pornography, including over the internet. These statistics confirm that women are less attracted to visual materials. We conclude that pornography plagues mostly men, and women get a free pass.

But according to Laurie Kahn, producer of the documentary film Love Between the Covers: “More than 70 million people in the USA alone read at least one romance novel per year, and most of them read many more.”

The US Census for 2015 shows there are 100 million women between 18 and 64 years old living in the United States. If Kahn’s number is correct, and assuming that the majority of those “70 million people” are women, then up to 70 percent of American women are covertly consuming literary pornography.

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