What Women Want

Posted on September 8, 2008


Kristina Lloyd and I are launching a new blog on Thursday (come back then for details) and I think the reaction to it might be interesting. However I have decided to kill my career early by taking issue with Black Lace editor Adam Nevill’s choice of ‘The Private Undoing of a Public Servant’ as ‘one of the best erotic novels published in recent times’ over on Lust Bites. The book or its author get no less than three mentions in the interview. And the lukewarm reaction to the book is taken as evidence that women don’t really want to read stories where the female protangonist is dominant.

Adam says:
Fem dom is massive with male readers but seems to have passed female readers by. I’d say The Private Undoing of a Public Servant by Leonie Martell is one of the best erotic novels published in recent times – it’s a very vivid, intelligent and arousing story, as much as an investigation, into male submission and female dominance. But the reaction to it has underwhelmed me. I think it will endure and become a classic, but in its own time, it has had a normal reception. So group sex, and even extreme submission to the opposite sex, seem to be high on the agendas of male and female fantasy.

Now as I said in a comment over on Lust Bites, this is an extremely problematic assertion. Adam is a male editor of a line of books for women (something that is talked about in detail in the interview) and he cites this as a particularly good Black Lace book. Now it maybe a personal favourite of his – but good Blace Lace, it ain’t. In fact I was surprised this wasn’t published by BL’s brother Nexus ( a for-men imprint). And just look at the cover:

It maybe highly literary in style (or, at least written in second person – literariness is in the eye of the beholder) but is very much a male view of female dominant sexuality. The female protagonist is almost unreadably pompous, cool, aloof and inhuman, asserting that the hero (I’ll get to him) has never met anyone like her before because she is reading a Bataille novel (nothing screams ‘I’m interesting’ like surrealist porn).

And the hero, god, the hero of this book is a 53 year old politician (and, sorry, wasn’t a BL author recently not allowed to make her female cougar character older than 35). I love female domination. It’s my thing. I was excited when I bought this book that it would be an amazing story about my favourite subject. But I am not going to go for loving descriptions of a 53 year old man being foot-wanked by a beautiful aloof ice queen. That’s the first sex scene. Hello! Female pleasure? Hello!

(And it’s a small point I know – but both of the book’s Amazon reviews are from men clearly looking for a fix of hot dominatrix porn.)

And women not going for this book is meant to prove women would rather submit?

Maybe women would rather read about female pleasure would be more accurate. Submission will always be a popular fantasy. But I don’t think it’s the only way women enjoy sex and power.

I will be completely honest, Private/Public came out around the same time as my own Equal Opportunities – a book about a dominant women who likes men in wheelchairs and a male wheelchair user. Private/Public got a significantly larger media push than my own book, including an extract in men’s mag Arena (another question mark over just how aimed-at-women this book is).  But I’m not really bitter – not since I won that cock.

Most of my books deal with female dominance in some ways, just without those tired stereotypes and stereotypical lack of hard male bodies and hard male cock so often found in the male-reader-orientated femdom books. And I think female readers like what I do. It’s not as popular as snarling brutes – but it’s an interesting furrow nonetheless

From Tumperkin
The other thing about Madden’s heroes though, is that they are described as so very purely appealing to the eye in a way that – usually – only heroines are described. Like it’s their function to be pretty. This is most obvious in her Silver Werewolves trilogy. The hero, Alfie, is a pure sex-object. Although he’s all dominant and alpha-ish, he’s also just relentlessly used by everyone for sex. It’s weirdly hot and not a little subversive.

I actually think is it somewhat dangerous to take the reaction of female readers to a book like this (no matter how literary its stylings) as evidence that women do not want to read about women on top. Submission will always be popular – but I think it is a shame not to give female domination is due as a female fantasy as a result of the reaction to a book which is a highly problematic example of what women want.

Making female domination stories appeal to women means focussing on female pleasure and leaving the latex lingerie and the aging politician with his passion for a dominatrix back in the male fantasy it came from.