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Smut Books Are Taking Over TikTok And It’s As Sexy As It Sounds


It’s easy to recall the chokehold E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” had on women everywhere a decade ago. A book centered on an average girl swept up in a forbidden romance, supplemented with explicit passages that touched on the world of kink? Moms, housewives, grandmothers and teens were all racing to add it to their Amazon shopping carts (along with a pair of handcuffs).

Since then, the popularity surrounding similar books has continued to grow and evolve beyond the “Fifty Shades” universe. The erotic-romance genre happily found a viewership of over 4.8 billion users on TikTok under the #smut, #smutbooks and #spicybooktok hashtags.

The reason for this enduring fandom probably has something to do with the fact that it’s beneficial to women. According to Dr. Somi Javaid, a sexual heath specialist and board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, erotic stories have been proved to have a “profound and positive impact on women’s sexuality.”

“In a survey study of Rosy, a mobile app designed to enhance women’s sexual health, researchers found that over 600 women who regularly used the app to review erotic short stories reported an improvement in sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasm,” Javaid said. The results of the study, authored in part by Rosy’s CEO, were published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Tishni S. Weerasinghe, a “book-Tok” content creator that goes by the handle @thebookthief28, told HuffPost that there would be no Christian Grey without an ’80s-era, bare-chested Fabio emblazoned on the covers of paperback novels. In other words, “smut” is nothing new — however, the way female readers have begun to embrace the genre and harness it as a tool, is.

“As someone who grew up in a household where sexuality is not talked about, this form of literature was a way of education,” Weerasinghe said. “The influence is simple: It’s OK to explore your fantasies, it’s OK to embrace your sexuality, it’s OK to open up to a book and relate to the characters and their kinks.”

Donna Jennings, a sex therapist and erotica editor for Rosy, underscored this when she told HuffPost that “a lack of general sex education and no focus on sexuality causes women to struggle with permission to explore and voice their sexual desires.”

She explained that by its very nature, storytelling is an empathetic venture that requires the reader to process the erotic descriptions, verbs and feelings that they are taking in. Intentional or not, the work of James and her contemporaries may have ushered in an era of literature that has allowed women to indulge in their sexual desires, free from shame.

“I think the media and the general population feels uncomfortable with women enjoying and expressing her sexuality,” said @smutbooksarelife, a TikTok content creator who preferred to be identified by her handle. “For so long, women have been seen as merely sexual objects to be used, instead of sexual beings that also crave and enjoy sex.”

Generally speaking, the idea of erotic-romance novels might be wholly misunderstood by men, simply because they might not experience the same kind of pleasure as women do when consuming them.

“When we’re talking about a woman’s sexuality, the approach is complex, with the biopsychosocial model examining several, interrelated disciplines,” Javaid said. “The approach to men’s sexuality, however, is primarily reliant upon biology. Research has shown that men are visual beings who are more responsive to visual, sexual stimuli than women are.”

To put it succinctly, @smutbooksarelife blames, in her words, “the patriarchy” for any of the sneers that smut books might garner, even though sex is a completely natural component of any romantic relationship.

“Smut books are mostly written and consumed by women; we dominate the industry. Like many other things women enjoy, it has been disregarded and viewed as less than,” she said.

Eager to read some steamy smut content yourself? Both @smutbooksarelife and Weerasinghe list some of their favorite erotic books and authors below, as well as discuss the varying sub-sects that exist in the smut genre.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Barnes & Noble

“Hate” by Tate James

For @smutbooksarelife, this was the introductory novel that made her fall in love with the reverse harem genre, an offshoot of smut that involves more than one romantic partner, with the female protagonist at its center.

This particular reverse harem story is first in line to the Madison Kate series and features a touch of sexually fueled anger and revenge. It follows Kate after she has been charged with a string of offenses, made an example of by her corrupt father, and released back into society to live in a house that’s being occupied by three hunky men.

Amazon

“Midnight Mass” by Sierra Simone

“Sierra Simone is an author who I consider the queen of erotica, just because I don’t think any of her books have ever left me not in shock,” Weerasinghe said.

Simone’s popular “Midnight Mass” (not to be confused with the limited series on Netflix) is a novella-esque story in the author’s “Priest” series and gives a whole meaning to the phrase, “forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” Its plot tells of the forbidden relations between a priest and his parishioner, told through the tempted perspective of Father Tyler Bell.

Amazon

“Faking With Benefits” by Lily Gold

A contemporary approach to reverse harem romance, “Faking With Benefits” by Lily Gold came recommended by @smutbooksarelife. It tells of Layla Thompson, an inexperienced woman with a bad dating record who has reached her limit with men. A steamy and tension-filled love affair begins when three of Layla’s best guy friends volunteer to be her practice boyfriends, each one intent on helping Layla hone her dating skills.

Amazon

“Lola and the Millionaires: Part One” by Kathryn Moon

If you want to venture even further into the reverse harem subgenre, into something a little more fantastical, @smutbooksarelife suggests omegaverse romance books, like “Lola and the Millionaires” by Kathryn Moon.

“[Omegaverse books] take elements from paranormal shifter romance books and put those traits into normal humans,” @smutbooksarelife said.

Paranormal shifter romances typically feature love interests, either one or both of the main pair, that have the ability to shift into another form, be it an animal or mythological creature. Moon applies that concept by infusing her characters with animalistic alpha, beta and omega traits in a sexy cat-and-mouse game-like plot.

Amazon

“Lessons in Corruption” by Giana Darling

“The ‘Fallen Men’ series by Giana Darling is something I always tell my [followers] to read because it pushes the limits. It’s a forbidden goodness and there is so much appreciation for the women in the novels,” Weerasinghe told HuffPost.

“Lessons in Corruption,” the first installment of the “Fallen Men” series, tells of a woman who finally decides to leave her loveless marriage and becomes involved with a man who should be off-limits.

Amazon

“Wait For It” by Mariana Zapata

“I also tell readers to read Mariana Zapata,” Weerasinghe said. “She isn’t what you consider to be erotic, but the build-up to her scenes are truly sensational.”

In Zapata’s “Wait For It,” our protagonist, an accidental single mother, seemingly has everything she could ask for, except a romantic partner. That quickly changes when she meets her attractive neighbor and an overwhelming sexual tension builds between them.





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