The Rise of Digital Erotica and the Empowerment of Modern Women

BY JENNI COWBURN

You can’t help but have noticed the surge in popularity of digital erotica over the last few years. Perhaps beginning with the breakout success of E. L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, the popularity of digital erotic literature has skyrocketed. But what does this say about female empowerment? Is the marked rise in the use of such material evidence that women are breaking the shackles of conservatism, or rather is this simply a reveal of something that was already there?  To put it another way, have women always been empowered erotically, but in this modern age, the widespread availability of digital erotica has offered them the power to take ownership of this fact? Let’s find out.

Separating fact from fiction

Each of us knows the myth of female sexuality and the dichotomy that has always been prevalent between genders: women want sex less than men, have lower libidos and are less open about their sexuality. This belief was once the accepted truth, but as time has gone on, it’s become more and more clear that in fact sexuality is a much more open playing field. There are men with low libidos, there are women with high ones. So how does this relate to the topic of digital erotica? Well, common belief used to hold that any type of pornography was the sole domain of the male; however, erotica within literature has traditionally been more popular with women. The difference now is both availability and anonymity.

The power of digital

So what is the difference between a traditional ‘Mills & Boon’ style paperback and something purchased from the Amazon Kindle store? Well, the biggest factor is the ability to essentially hide what’s being read using an e-reader like the Kindle. Because e-books have no covers as such, other people usually do not know what a person is reading unless they actually look at the page. This change alone has resulted in huge sales for erotica via Amazon’s digital distribution network, with that category regularly topping the bestseller charts. When the 50 Shades of Grey books hit shelves in 2011, it was really the first book that women weren’t embarrassed to read in public. Copies of it could be seen on trains, buses and planes across the world. It broke a barrier which has been holding back some degree of empowerment from women, and now the levy is well and truly gone.

Read what you want, when you want

The taking back of the erotic self has been something of a hot topic amongst philosophical and feminist discussion for decades if not centuries. In this modern age, such discussions are not usually something you’ll see happening over a coffee or walking around a shopping mall. What this means for the reclaiming of the sexual self is that it occurs in much more subtle ways; and the popularity of digital erotica is the perfect example of this. In the past, women may have been frowned upon for indulging their sexual sides: perhaps there was a judgement about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) via promiscuity which men never suffered. However, in a world where female healthcare is more available than ever, the fear of STDs and STIs is greatly reduced. Not to mention the fact that digital erotica is often an escape for women, a moment of escapism and the temporary sexual empowerment of those who perhaps thought such facets were not even a part of their makeup.

So where do you stand on digital erotica and the ways in which it empowers the modern woman? If recent years are to be any yardstick, this revolution is sexual evolution for women is set to run and run – and we can’t wait.


Jenni Cowburn is a former teacher and youth worker who decided to take a career break to focus on bringing her family up, she decided to turn her talents to writing and now spends her time penning articles on the subjects she knows most about – and dreaming one day of bagging a Byronic Hero.


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