As a woman in a long-term relationship, it can be easy for sex to slip down the list of priorities. Once the day is done, the kids are happily tucked up in bed and the dishes cleared away, I often still have to complete a day’s worth of work, when all I really want to do is put my feet up in front of the box and get an early night. I then have my husband making obvious suggestions about coming to bed and feel bad that I have to push him away.
Finding the time, let alone the inclination, to have sex can be a challenge. Sometimes I wonder what happened to those two people who couldn’t get enough of each other, for whom ‘bedtime’ had a completely different meaning and, if I am honest, I miss them a little.
Being in our early 40s we’re still young and everything works as it should, but the thrill that ensured sex was at the top of our collective to-do list has waned. This is an experience shared by many of my girlfriends, and the subject of ‘spicing things up’ often comes up when we sit chatting over our G&Ts.
Recently we were having a conversation on the subject of erotica, namely: Fifty Shades of Grey. While the quality of the writing was not to everyone’s taste, all those in the group, who had read the book, agreed that reading it resulted in certain positive after-effects in the bedroom. Fifty Shades led to talk of other authors and the role erotica can play in long-term relationships.
It was interesting to see that the group fell in to three camps; those for whom E.L James had opened up a whole new genre of literature, which in turn had opened them up to a whole new sex life; those who had read the first book, to see what the fuss was about, then consigned such reading to the naughty pile; and the third group who hadn’t read it on principle.
It was the first group of ladies whose experiences we all wanted to hear. Somehow they felt like the enlightened ones, sexually liberated by the books they had read. We picked their brains to find out their favourite books or short stories, which authors they would recommend and what their partners thought about their reading material.
Their partners, it turned out, were in on it. Rather than hiding their books, my friends share the stories or summaries as a way of focussing their attention at bed time and bringing some heat to their foreplay.
Erotica, they suggest, is a form of sexual mindfulness. Flick the switch and it’s game on.
In recent years the number of female authors moving into this space has exploded and, with E. L James worth an estimated $95million; it’s easy to see why.
There is a lot of choice and a lot of free content available. Women’s lifestyle magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Refinery 29 are a great place to start. There is also a glut of fanfic or fanfiction, which is how Fifty Shades began, available online – some great, some less great, but all of it eye opening.
Another excellent starting point is to read a book of short stories. My Secret Garden, a collection of women’s fantasies by Nancy Friday, was written in 1973 but remains relevant to this day. Mariella Frostrup’s chosen stories in Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories is also one for the reading list.
Before discussing the subject with friends, I had always viewed erotic literature as something secretive. The notion conjured up pictures of busty maidens with long-haired Latino lovers, on the cover of a Mills & Boon, but I was, I am happy to report, quite wrong.
Even the simple act of talking about reading the stories together with my partner was incredibly intimate. Erotica has a way of fine tuning the brain, like a mental warm up before the main event. It also seems to have put ‘early nights’ back on the agenda – what’s not to love?