Kraxenberger, Maria; Knoop, Christine A.; Menninghaus, Winfried (2021):
"Who Reads Contemporary Erotic Novels and Why?." Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 8.196.
Journal Article

In the wake of EL James’s series Fifty Shades of Grey, the book market has seen a veritable surge of bestselling erotic novels over the past decade. The online study reported here pursued two questions: (1) Who reads these erotic novels? (2) What are the reasons underlying this preference? Most of the readers of erotic novels that responded to our survey are heterosexual women in committed relationships. They are highly educated, from a broad age span, describe themselves as avid readers and like to share their reading experiences with others. Distraction and feelings of ease were identified as prime rewards associated with reading erotic novels. The sexual explicitness of the novels and their potential to provide guidance in life also play a role, yet turned out to be less important than suggested in previous research. Contrary to critical opinion, our participants consider erotic novels––at least to a certain degree–to be emancipated, feminist, and progressive. We relate this finding primarily to the surveyed participants’ rather traditional beliefs regarding gender roles. Our study is the first to explore empirically the readership and the reading rewards underlying a current large-scale cultural phenomenon, emphasizing the need for future investigations off the literary canon.