Ever wonder why we consume so many romantic and erotic stories? There are many of types of fiction books, but the romance genre (which includes erotic stories) makes up the largest share of the market. Why?
The market is huge — at an estimated $1.4 billion in the US alone, with over one-third of women in the US having read one. Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t known for the quality of its prose, yet in just three short years over 100 million copies of that series were gobbled up around the globe. More so, it also became a much discussed aphrodisiac to women around the globe, especially to moms. Why?
Common Features in Erotic & Romance Stories
If you peel back the layers, romance and erotic books are pretty formulaic. The story usually includes an exceedingly handsome alpha male, an intensely desired female, a strong emotional connection, no worries about everyday life, monogamous relationship, strong commitment and a happy-ever-after ending.
Sound familiar? We’ve seen these elements repeated in popular romance novels, in chick flicks, and in erotic novels. And Fifty Shades of Grey is no exception. If the plots are so predictable, why do women eat this stuff up?
Why Do Women Love These Stories?
While there is certainly not one single simple answer to the "why" that applies to all women, here are some of the underlying beliefs and behaviors that help to answer the question:
We are programmed to love them. Thousands of years of evolution have pre-programmed women to seek out monogamous relationships with a strong alpha male to endure the protracted years of childrearing. And most current cultural norms perpetuate this idea. So the underlying plot of a committed relationship with a strong alpha male is something we can't help ourselves from wanting.
Stories provide an escape from real life. The everyday life of most moms is quite selfless and often consumed by taking care of everyone and everything family related. And too often this is just a one way street. To counter this, at least mentally, moms especially love stories where the woman is the one being taken care of, appreciated, and yes, even doted upon. Do we really want this? Not to the fantastical extremes in these romance stories, but seeing ourselves as, or identifying with the female characters in such stories, we receive a type of satisfaction and enjoyment that is missing from our everyday life.
Women in long term relationships want sexual variety. The recent book Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel discusses how women and men in long term relationships still desire unpredictability and novelty. Romance and erotic stories certainly fulfill the need by allowing us to live vicariously through the characters to experience that variety without cheating or expecting our partners to continually come up with new tricks!
Women want to want sex, but we often need a jumpstart. Busy moms generally don't have spontaneous sexual thoughts drifting through their heads (we're more likely to be thinking about clipping our toenails than sex). But most of us want to want it more. We know that having more sex would help our relationships, but we need a tool to help get us in the right frame of mind. So we use erotic and romance stories to replace the daily mental clutter in our heads with thoughts of love, commitment, being desired and sex to get us mentally in the mood. And being in the right frame of mind mentally makes all the difference in terms of our desire for sex, and perhaps more importantly, our enjoyment of it as well!
Romance stories come in many flavors or subgenres and even though at their core they are a bit formulaic, the sheer popularity of the category indicates that they fulfill a very important function for many of us. Whether satisfying our evolutionary desire for strong, committed relationships; or providing us an emotionally gratifying escape from everyday life; or enabling us to safely experience sexual variety; or as a tool to jumpstart our own sexual energy, romance and erotic stories truly are a form of fantasy that many of us count on to better our reality!
Suzanne Olds, Ph.D. is dedicated to helping couples reignite their passion. You can read more from her, or find her one-of-a-kind short films designed to quickly and tastefully get busy moms in the mood, at www.afterninetonight.com