As long as humans have had horny little holes, they’ve had erotica. The ancient poetess Sappho walked so that dark academia queers could run; Pompeii was filled with decorative penises; the Marquis de Sade taught us quite a bit about kink and BDSM; and even James Joyce’s letters to his wife were filled with horny adoration for the “fat dirty farts [that] came spluttering out of [her] backside” during sex. People like to bone, but they also like to read about boning, from that first stolen glance, to the dropping of one’s kilt, and everything that happens afterwards. That’s what makes the ever-evolving yet timeless genre of erotic literature so titilating.
Erotic literature thrives in the gutter, but it’s just as at-home in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Some of the best pieces of erotic literature originated on platforms such as alt.sex.stories during the dawn of the internet, and the r/EroticWriting subreddit is always ripe with heaving bosoms and naughty cuckqueans. “I was absolutely obsessed with reading gay hobbit erotica,” explained one woman when interviewed by The New York Times about why millennial women have an affinity for the sensitive characters of Lord of the Rings. “I think that was a huge deal for me as far as my queer journey.” Erotica is by the people, for the people, and even the most lucrative of novels such as Fifty Shades of Grey often begin as fan fiction. (Side note: The Fifty Shades of Grey sex toy line is actually amazing.)
The category of erotic literature is often associated with the brassiere-busting romance novels of Danielle Steel, but branches out of the romance novel genre and into areas of pure BDSM, fantasy, and more. Saying you enjoy “erotic lit” these days is as broad a statement as telling someone you like food. Of course you do, but what kind? Erotic literature goes wherever it pleases, and we will follow it like the obedient little subs we are, from the comfort of our pillow-princess Casper mattresses, to the well-oiled dungeons of a Scottish laird. The following erotic titles are hardly an exhaustive list to the genre, but it’s a passion-curdling, schlong-throbbing place to start just before Valentine’s Day.
‘Best Bisexual Erotica’ by Carol Queen and Bill Brent
Dr. Carol Queen paved the way for LGBTQ+ erotica with her horny tales, which include stories of queer 18th-century French nuns, mischievous three-way encounters, and so much more. “From gays and lesbians coming to grips with their own bisexual natures, as well as many male-male-female situations,” writes one reviewer of the second volume of her Best Bisexual Erotica anthology, “[this collection] plus lots of unusual and diverse relationships and styles of relationships, I honestly have not seen such a diverse collection of erotica in one anthology.” The good doctor also has a PhD in human sexuality, so you know she knows her stuff.
‘Yargo’ by Jacqueline Susann
Yargo is a groovy and quick read, no question there. The horny science fiction classic chronicles the adventures of a woman from New Jersey named Janet who gets abducted by an alien from the planet of Yargo, whose inhabitants are basically all hot geniuses. The novel was penned at the height of America’s obsession with UFOs in the 1950s by none other than Jacqueline Susann—the author behind the iconic and bonkers The Valley of the Dolls, and a master of building up scandalous sexual tension—but wasn’t published until 1979, four years after Susann’s
abduction by flying saucer death. Since then, it’s become a cult classic, and we especially think it would look great beside this retro glass catch-all of a naked lady.
‘Bear Skin: Hot Gay Bear Erotica’ by Bill Brent
Do you prefer your erotic lit covered in chest hair and dirty Carhartt jeans? Then Bear Skin is for you. This book by Barry Lowe presents the stories of bears, clubs, otters, and the “hairless twinks” with “[asses] smooth as butter and as bubbly as a balloon” who love to roughhouse with them and their sweaty crevices. Who said grizzly bears were endangered?
‘Gettin' Buck Wild: Sex Chronicles II’ by Zane
“Like many Black women,” explains journalist Aliya S. King about Black authors in erotica, “it took a long time for me to accept the idea of being a sexual being [and] the one and only Zane was my introduction [to the genre].” Zane, whose real name is Kristina LaFerne Roberts, first gained fame in the 1990s for writing erotica with more depth than your average steamy novella, and by carving out a safe space for Black readers to explore their sexuality. “I want readers to understand who these characters are to each other,” she once said. “All this raunchy, freaky stuff—what is driving them to do that? Anyone can write the sex.” Zane has written a veritable vault of erotica, as well as non-fiction books such as Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk about Sex and Love. We suggest starting out with one of her first erotic short story collection, Gettin' Buck Wild, which is packed full of tales that “run the gamut from committed, monogamous couples looking to experiment to wild, single sisters who form a very unconventional sorority. You’ll meet a high-paid multitasking career woman who gets her groove back [and] a ride with an adventurous couple who try something new in ‘The Subway—A Quickie.’”
‘Best Bondage Erotica of the Year: Volume I’ Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Another way you can support Black folks in erotic industries is by shopping for your sublime spank rags through Black-owned sexual wellness sites. Overkink is one such vendor, and was founded to help normalize sex positivity within the Black community by providing a curated selection of the best vibrators, lubes, and sex-related literature out there. One of their stand-out titles is this anthology of some of the best recent bondage erotica, grouping together the BDSM stories of authors including Tiffany Reisz, Sommer Marsden, Valerie Alexander, and more.
‘Garden Gnome Sex Party’ by Fannie Tucker
Do you like gardens? How about gnomes? Then the four-star rated Garden Gnome Sex Party was made for you, traveler. Hang up your cloak and ready your staff for the story of a woman named Jenny and her magical garden gnomes, Fudwick, Loopwyn, and Bimpo, who come to life once the sun goes down and sure know how to turn out a few tricks with those pointy red hats. “These garden gnomes are deviants,” writes one satisfied reviewer. “Their only desire is to ravish your lady parts!!”
‘Delta of Venus’ and ‘Little Birds’ by Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin’s erotica is… not good—it’s amazing. The plots (which, at their most tame, cover everything from lurid Hungarian adventurers to Parisian hatmakers) feel like jaw-dropping lucid dreams. The late author reached the height of her global fame in the 1970s after publishing her autobiographical diaries, which chronicle her years galavanting around bohemian, early-20th-century Paris with Henry Miller. For many second-wave feminists, the sexcapades therein became the blueprint for celebrating a new era of horny and indipendent living, and for literature lovers interested in 20th-century France, her short erotic tales continue to provide a wild insight into some of the first pieces written by the author. Granted, these works were written purely for money, as Nin was commissioned by a mysterious man known only as “The Collector” for a dollar per page (a lot of money in the 1940s), but you can still see kernels of her budding interest in psychoanalysis, flowery prose, and surreal romance. Dark academics, come hither.
‘A Shade of Vampire’ by Bella Forrest
Finally, a book that gives the people what they’ve been lusting for. A Shade of Vampire might sound like it was written by a Magic 8-Ball, but it was penned by Bella Forrest and has sold over 10 million copies. Essentially, this erotic tale is what happens when between Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight drop their respective panties and start making out. “I love this book and the series,” writes one Amazon customer. “I'm at book four now of this 20 book ‘library.’ Just when I expect this series to get boring, I find that there are new and exciting things turning up to capture my attention.”
‘Best Transgender Erotica,’ Edited by Hanne Blank and Raven Kaldera
“I came to this book with few expectations, partly because it is the first of its kind,” writes one reviewer of this top-rated anthology, which was penned by a diverse array of 23 different writers of all genders. “What transgendered erotica exists is either somewhat rare and scattered around or exploitative and not very believable to those who actually are transgend or know those who are I [came] to it with many expectations and it still would have pleasantly surprised me.”
‘Never Seduce a Scot: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs’ by Maya Banks
“This book was a freaking fabulous morsel of highlander magic,” writes one reviewer of the best-selling Never Seduce a Scot: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs erotica. “I grinned with delight when Graeme skewered Ian, the reptile deserved much worse.” We have no idea who Graeme is (or what he got skewered with), but we dig the attention to detail and romantic tone that readers continue to praise in this series. “For those who are sensitive to triggers,” writes another reader, “this book has no rape scenes, cheating and abuse/torture. I can safely say this book has all the elements to satisfy a reader.” Consider our haggis stuffed.
Commission your own erotic lit on Etsy
Still not feeling hot and heavy? Well, for the humble price of $45 you can commission an erotica writer to create a 4,000 word piece of pure, hot steam for your eyes only. “This is equal to about 8 full length pages,” explains the author, who offers samples of their own work so you can get a feel for their style, and requests only the details of your fantasy before they begin writing (and sets some boundaries of non-negotiable and inappropriate content). “You can be as specific or vague about what you’d like to read about,” they explain. “You can request specific names and looks, the sexual content, plot points, [and more].” And, the turnaround time is just a week. “I could not be happier!” writes one customer, “It was exactly as I ordered it and incredible. In addition the seller answered some of my (No doubt dim, as I am new to Etsy) questions kindly and the service is like lightning. I would recommend, highly.”
Now then, go dump a bucket of ice water on your crotch and cool off.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.