Most erotica today is written by and for women, and bestselling erotica is narrated from a female point of view. The "male pornographic gaze" that sexualizes the female body has been considered offensive by the predominant culture and mostly eradicated from contemporary mainstream literature. But men still lust over female physiology. Is it possible to narrate that experience of male sexual lust without offending female readers? How?

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    Male gaze and female gaze aren't inherently offensive, but the fact that the male gaze is ever-present and elevated in importance certainly is. But that has nothing to do with why erotic writing is from a female POV. It's because more women who like porn prefer it in written form (and don't call it porn) and more men prefer visuals. Not everyone obviously, but enough that the genres have developed accordingly.
    – Cyn
    Sep 5, 2019 at 20:28
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    @Cyn I assume there's also the importance of many women writing relationship fiction in general, not just erotic novels. The vast majority of fan-fiction is written by women too. Somehow, "casual" writing became a "girlish" thing to do, perhaps originally associated with personal diaries. Reading also had a bit of a decline that hit boys harder (I had my share of being bullied for enjoying reading and writing).
    – Luaan
    Sep 6, 2019 at 7:27
  • I'm unclear on whether your intended audience is women or men?
    – Weckar E.
    Sep 6, 2019 at 15:00
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    @user12011183 It does, but it does not make clear that that is your target audience or an incidental audience you worry about.
    – Weckar E.
    Sep 6, 2019 at 16:34
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    @user12011183 Okay. I suppose we will have to disagree on that. Thank you for the clarification.
    – Weckar E.
    Sep 6, 2019 at 16:48

3 Answers 3


Erotica is not a genre I read, but the lusting male gaze in some fantasy and sci-fi - I cannot say that I always find it offensive. On the contrary - I can find it quite pleasant. I want to be lusted after this way.

Which is, I think, the key to your question: consider how a woman would want to be wanted, and how she wouldn't want to be wanted.

What are some differences?

  • Heinlein's characters, for example, never consider that a woman might not be interested. Of course she is, or will be. Which is to say the woman has no character, no agency. She isn't a person, but an object with no will. That - I don't like.
  • A man might be attracted to a woman's appearance, but she has other character traits, doesn't she? A man might be drawn by a woman's wit, strength, the way she moves. Or he might be repulsed by her cruelty, no matter how pretty she is. When a woman is nothing but a chunk of meat or a barbie doll, it is disturbing.
  • There is the question of consent. Wanting to "do things to her" is objectifying. Wanting to do things with her, or have her do things to the guy is more interesting.

Which all boils down to: in the man's thoughts, treat the woman as a person, not an object. Men, for the most part, want women rather than sex dolls. Women want to be wanted as women, definitely not sex dolls. Win-win.

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    That last point about treating women like persons and not objects hits the nail on the head. Definitely, we're all human beings. And it sure boosts anyone's to know that they are being lusted after. And women are no different. But there's an art and a method of doing it. Anyone, regardless of their gender would not like to be objectified.
    – srini
    Sep 5, 2019 at 13:05
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    >Men, for the most part, want women rather than sex dolls - I strongly disagree. There is a strongly physical component to sex which is not in any way predicated upon non-physical traits. Often times sexual desire really is just about seeing someone else as a "piece of meat", and this goes for both men and women. No amount of sanitization of media will change this fundamental characteristic of human nature. OP should instead make an effort to understand the desires of his target audience, because in choosing not to be "offensive" he inevitably alienates other readers. Sep 5, 2019 at 15:46
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    True, @user2647513, but it might be argued that men who are after the "strongly physical" element aren't going to the written media for it. My husband pointed out that men are visual creatures, women more enamored of words. The reason erotic writing is more female oriented is that men usually are going to the visual media for their kicks. Women read romance novels, men watch porn. That isn't an absolute, of course, but a generalization. If you want to write romance/erotica, most of your readers will be women. If you produce porn, the larger portion of your audience is male. Sep 5, 2019 at 16:03
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    Lots of erotica is also about power fantasies - or rather, power-lessness fantasies. That doesn't mean that actual real women want to be actually really raped in real life; what you want in a fantasy and what you want in reality are two very different things. Women want to be treated as people, obviously - but sometimes they love to imagine being treated as objects :) In the end, it's nothing special about erotic fiction - most fiction that makes you fantasise about "being there" would quickly lose its appeal if you were actually there :D
    – Luaan
    Sep 6, 2019 at 7:33

The problem I see is the double standard in sexualization. It seems much more acceptable nowadays for women to a have a lusty look on (attractive) men than the other way around. The cause for this might be the still living cliché that men tend to only think this way while women 'just do it for fun'.

But this discussion is not the main point here. Personally I just strongly dislike sexualization of male or female in either way.

Describing the male view point I would make sure that lust is not the only thing the protagonist sees in his (physical) love interest. As long as he is not controlled by his sex drive there are plenty other things he recognizes on her and in her personality.

She always pins up her hair to a loose bun, revealing the skin of her neck. He tries not to constantly look, dissipating the thought of touching the soft skin behind her ear with his lips. But every time he regains control over his flittering thoughts, she smoothes some loose wisps back, catching his eyes with her secretive movements.

If you are able to show that his thoughts are more than

See woman, want sex

you should have no problem. It is indeed utterly impossible to not offend anyone. But if you write in a respectful manner, the only ones to be outraged will most probably be misandrics that aren't your target audience anyways.

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    It has been ok for women for a long time to lust after men while the reverse is dirty. Compare the public image of the Chippendales with that of any female strip show. This is not a new development.
    – Tom
    Sep 6, 2019 at 5:15
  • Yeah, you've got a point there. With 'nowadays' I was just referencing to the time I have lived so far and how I perceived it. Shouldn't have opened this discussion, it just distracts of the main point here. Glad @Galastel nailed it with her answer :-3 Sep 6, 2019 at 5:23
  • @Tom: Are you sure the difference is gender and not whether the lusted-after interest is someone who's sexualized themselves as a profession or as something they enjoy versus someone who's trying to go about their day or be treated equally as a professional in their (non-sexual) work environment? Chippendales are sex workers. I don't think it's considered dirty to take interest in sex workers, male or female, as long as you're acknowledging that it's their work and that they have boundaries like anyone else. What's diirty is doing that to your coworkers/classmates/etc. Sep 6, 2019 at 21:55

Borrow liberally from male-oriented (often Japanese) erotic literature.

It does exist, contrary to the assertion in the question; it's just heavily oriented towards nerds, as a result of its roots growing out from Japanese popular culture (e.g. manga, anime, and light novels). Many of the original Japanese works were even written by women - for instance, the ecchi harem manga Sekirei was written by a woman who was a fan of gay male romance stories, who ultimately decided that she wanted to make more money so she wrote a story about a guy who gets a harem of busty women.

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