Book Club

Erotica for women: 6 books and films for your discretionary pleasure

In the introduction of Delta of Venus, Anaïs Nin prefaces that her collection of erotica for women was never intended to be published. She had mouths to feed and a family to support.

When these tales were originally written, they were simply created for someone she names only as ‘The Collector’ in order to bring in the money. There was no time for erotica or purpose that it could serve as a frivolity. Yet as the tales grew, she couldn't help but add her own storied approach. Nin's literary, fine-tuning of erotic fiction became synonymous with one of her greatest feats: turning her erotica into one that is attuned to the principles of femme pleasure.

The fantasy of accessing erotica for pure leisure is not lost on me. The lacking access to good erotica is also a contention point for the modern woman, Carrie Bradshaw'ed into a sex-forward outlook for the fiction we consume. Let's be very clear: the term woman here is a broad umbrella, an indivisible concept for all those who identify as femme, queer, anything in between.

Similarly, erotica by RUSSH's definition refers to any work of art that is intended to arouse feelings of desire. Women feel desire in prickles or one fell swoop. It is bogged down with societal judgement and yet it is the most natural state of being we know.

Conceptions of pleasure through the vessel of a woman have always been abortive. These webs of affect are in everything: the spaces, objects and performance of women all existing within this delicate dance. It always comes back to this: can we want outside of what others want from us? 

Below, we've rounded up some prime resources for every clandestine occasion. Lust, love, limerence – here is our shortlist of everything erotica for your discretionary pleasure.


1. Delta of Venus by Anais Nin

Miss Nin is right: "Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine". The anthology of erotic short stories is – pardon our french – a titillating one. A word to our more precautionary readers – there's a slew of content that would raise an eyebrow in today's world of content warnings. Expect the full spectrum of sexuality in all of its power asymmetries.


2. Showgirls (1994)

A lurid playground of sex, dance and seduction, Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls is classic erotica viewing. Krystal and Nomi's avaricious quest for power is spellbinding to watch when played out. Honourable mention given to the pool scene with Kyle MacLachlan, which left my cheeks tomato-red when I watched it for the first time at seventeen.


3. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

A collection of dark stories on the feminine form and its many associations: fruit, fabulism, sapphic displays and a slow-blooming desire.


4. Helter Skelter (2012)

Mika Ninagawa's feature film leaves you with the inarticulable: what is it we truly want from our bodies? What is our perception of self if not tied to the perception of beauty? And most of all, what can be done to pleasure the body? With arresting visuals and a deep-dive into the psyche of eros itself, Helter Skelter will leave you feeling mostly woozy.


5. Mildly Erotic Verse by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright (eds.)

As the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. But can the same thing be said for its title? Seeing the word ‘Mildly’ spearheading the title of a book about eroticism would usually leave me completely uninspired, but in the spirit of curiosity I gave this one a chance. So often we crave theatrics and romance to electrify the ordinary, but what if we were to lean into our (ordinary) present a bit more? It can be pretty hot in the here and now. Life itself is simply a collection of somewhat ‘mild’ moments, so what could be more erotic than the most real, mundane and insignificant of moments swept into a new dimension and set on fire?


6. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Two strapping young men and a beautifully wayward older woman are travelling deep through the Mexican town of Luisa together. What could possibly go awry? With plenty of imagery that leaves you flush under the collar, this film is a nostalgic lensing of love, life, and only minor shavings of machismo.


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Cover image from Showgirls, Carolco Pictures Chargeurs United Artists and MGM.