As the editor of the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series, I’m sometimes asked, What does “women’s erotica” mean? My answer? I don’t have a tidy one, because I’ve discovered that what turns women on varies so much. This version of “women’s erotica” contains multitudes.
I want readers to be turned on, of course, by these stories, but also surprised, intrigued, curious and perhaps empowered. Some are more on the erotic romance side and are by noted authors in the genre, including Tiffany Reisz, Charlotte Stein, L. Marie Adeline, Abigail Barnette and Annabel Joseph. Some are clearly in the realm of fantasy, while some, while remaining sexy, also deal with real-life topics, such as illness, disability, homelessness, overcoming abuse, breakups and more. The characters in this series range from heterosexual to bisexual to lesbian to not having a label. Some are in long-term relationships, some have erotic encounters with total strangers. Some of the women are shy, and some are bold as can be.
As an anthology editor, what I look for primarily is variety. I don’t just want the best or hottest stories, but ones that play well next to and complement each other. So in Volume 3, we start out with a couple in an open relationship, then segue to a woman getting over a breakup by flirting with a long-time friend. We later hear about saucy seniors, a woman with a book fetish, the allure of an erotic photo shoot, a drag king who plays with gender and more. These stories aren’t necessarily “about” those subjects in a formal, serious way, but they touch on what those things mean in an erotic context. They bring them to life with characters who, even in the short story format, speak to us about deeper longings.
I know some readers have very specific types of stories they gravitate towards, whether that’s ménage stories or kink or historicals. I know my books can’t please every reader, but what I hope they do is offer a glimpse into some other types of sexy tales that just might intrigue even a dedicated subgenre fan. In Volume 3, the latest release, there’s everything from cosplay to anniversary dates to a woman who hires a hot dom to come over to her house. You don’t have to know a thing about cosplay or BDSM to feel what these characters feel, to care about what happens next.
When I’m selecting stories for this series (I’m currently accepting submissions for Volume 4 now), I go for stories that surprise me. I look for passion, not just in the erotic sense, but passion that takes over a woman’s life, that turns her inside out. There’s that kind of passion in “The Skin of Someone Else” by Charlotte Stein, in which a woman who works in a bar stares at the same customer every time he comes in, lusting after him while he flirts with her coworker. I think everyone’s had that type of crush—the one that’s so vivid, so real, but feels so unattainable…yet, at some point, he does become attainable. Yet there’s more beneath the surface, because this woman doesn’t believe herself to truly be worthy of his attention. She’s sure he doesn’t really want her, because how could he? It’s not just her passion, but his, that changes the course of her life. So whether it’s a sexy romance or a sizzling romp, I aim to deliver that kind of passion, which I hope stays with you even after you’re done.
Link to an excerpt: https://ravishly.com/steamy-bondage-threesome-best-womens-erotica
Rachel Kramer Bussel is the editor of the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series as well as over 60 other anthologies, including Fast Girls, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica and The Big Book of Orgasms. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture, and teaches erotica writing workshops online and offline. Follow her on Twitter @raquelita and find out more about her teaching and consulting services at EroticaWriting101.com.