Lack of sexual interest and desire is the most common sexual complaint women have in the doctor’s office. And even after the , women are still looking for fail-safe, scientifically proven ways to increase their libido and pleasure — whether playing solo or with a partner.

While some claim natural aphrodisiacs like chocolate and oysters have an effect on their sex hormone levels and bedroom behavior, there’s not much solid evidence that they make a dent in your day-to-day sex drive. But a recent study has shown that consuming sexy literature can help everything from your libido to the strength of your orgasm.

The 2016 study, which was published in the journal , recorded the sexual functioning of 27 women over six weeks. Half read self-help books, and the other half read erotic fiction. The result? Both groups made equal, statistically significant gains when it came to:

  • sexual desire
  • sexual arousal
  • lubrication
  • satisfaction
  • orgasms
  • pain reduction
  • overall sexual functioning

“Bibliotherapy,” as this study called it, never sounded so fun and rewarding.

Generally, erotica is defined as any type of art that’s meant to cause sexual thoughts or arousal. There’s a slight difference between erotica and plain ol’ pornography: Erotica is seen as art that has a sexual aspect, while pornography is seen as words and images that only exist to sexually excite, without much art to offer.

Today, the term erotica is often used specifically to describe written words that arouse and excite.

Commons forms of erotica

  • fiction, from short stories to novels
  • nonfiction essays and retellings of true experiences
  • romance novels
  • fan fiction
  • web content and e-books

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding erotica. Some of these myths are the result of sex-negative groups that aim to shame and control women. Others are simply based on stereotypes and misinformation. Let’s look at the biggest and most common three.

Myth 1: Women like erotica more than men

It’s a huge stereotype that men prefer visual images of sex (pornography), while women prefer reading “bodice-rippers” because of their quieter, more cerebral sex drive. have shown that men are equally turned on by the written word as women, and that . And way back in 1966, found that the general physiology of sexual arousal in men and women is pretty much the same.

Myth 2: Erotica hurts relationships

Some groups like to warn that erotica causes partners to escape to a fantasyland that spoils any hope that they can get aroused by their run-of-the-mill partner in their run-of-the-mill bed.

But studies have shown that reading erotica makes you more likely to get between the sheets with your partner or pleasure yourself in the 24 hours after you read it. Plus, the first study we mentioned above suggests that erotica can significantly increase the overall sex drive and sexual pleasure of a woman reading it.

Myth 3: Readers will want to act out their favorite far-out erotic stories

Newcomers to erotica may worry that they’re turned on by the BDSM depicted in “Fifty Shades of Grey” or by a homosexual relationship when they’ve never felt same-sex attraction. But Linda Garnets, PhD, a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, can put your concerns to rest. She says our , and that our sexual identities, sexual attractions, and sexual fantasies don’t all have to fit together seamlessly (and they also likely change over time).

For example, it’s perfectly normal to be turned on by a steamy same-sex scene even if you don’t identify as gay, or by any fantasy you can think of. That certainly solves the mystery of why some of the most popular erotica plots don’t end up being expressed in real life — they’re simply hot to read about and think about, nothing more.

Of course, erotica may also give you ideas for fun, new things to try in the bedroom, from new positions to role-playing.

If you’re interested in exploring erotica, getting started can be overwhelming. According to , the romance and erotica genres make $1.44 billion each year. And there’s a lot to choose from.

Here are a few tips on diving in:

  • Find what you like. It can be hard to know what turns you on until you’ve read it. One great place to start is with an anthology that contains a wide swath of writing styles, scenarios, and authors. Another approach is checking out e-books on Amazon. Many of them offer a sneak peak of a few pages for free.
  • Try one-handed reading. There’s no wrong way to read erotica. Some people like to enjoy it like any other book and then think about it later, while with a partner or masturbating. Others use it directly as a tool in the bedroom. Find out what’s right for you.
  • Try involving your partner. Just like pornography, erotica isn’t just for solo play. You can try reading it out loud to a partner, or have them read to you. Or you can ask your partner to read a story and then act it out with you.
  • Try writing a few pages yourself. Erotica isn’t just for reading. Millions of women and men enjoy writing it just as much (or more than) they like reading it. Write stories for yourself, try your hand at fan fiction, or even consider self-publishing your work.

Here are a few books and websites to get you started, from classics to anthologies:

  • “,” edited by Rose Caraway. This anthology has a little bit of lots of genres, from horror to romance to sci-fi, all by leading voices in the world of sexy writing.
  • “Delta of Venus,” by Anaïs Nin. This classic piece of erotica might’ve been written decades ago, but it’s still as steamy as ever. This is a great literary choice for someone with a fascination to sexy scenes.
  • “The Crossfire Series,” by Sylvia Day. This modern erotica/romance series follows a couple through their hot relationship, despite drama and buried demons.
  • Adult fan fiction. Websites abound with free fan fiction in thousands of forms, from “Harry Potter” to “L.A. Law.” There’s lots of original writing out there, plus opportunities to try out writing erotica yourself.

Once you get started, you can also follow books and to find storylines you enjoy. Erotica can get formulaic at times, but being able to expect the turn-ons that come your way is also one of the many blessings of the art.


Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer who lives in Missoula, Montana, with her husband and two daughters. Her writing has appeared in publications that include The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, National Lampoon, and Reductress.