Sex stories: why erotic fiction is such a turn on for women, where to find it and how to write your own

Sex stories are more popular than ever right now. Here's everything you need to know...

Sex stories book with heart
(Image credit: Getty Images / Daniela Simona Temneanu / EyeEm)

Enjoy reading sex stories or would like to try erotic fiction to spice up your relationship? You're not the only one. It's never been more in demand than ever. And, if you add one of the best vibrators into the mix, things can get even more steamy!

"Erotic fiction has never been more popular," says erotic fiction author Jessica Leoni, who is a sex and relationship expert with dating site IllicitEncounters.com. "Romance publisher Mills & Boon reports that erotic fiction outsells sci-fi, mystery and literary novels, with a readership that is 84% female."

Here's everything you should know about sex stories...

What are sex stories?

Also known as erotic fiction, erotica or adult fiction, you're not alone if you love reading sex stories. But what exactly is it?

"Erotic fiction is stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction," says Jessica. "The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline."

And it shouldn't be confused with porn. 

"Erotic fiction is different from porn which are stories written for the sole purpose of sexual gratification," says Jessica. "Plot, character development, and romance are NOT primary to these stories. They are designed to incite the reader to orgasm and nothing else."

But things do get steamy! "While sex does play a key role in erotica, the sex itself is secondary to the development of the characters and plot," says Jessica. "A good erotica writer knows that, no matter how great the sex is, there still needs to be a good, solid story if one wants to hold a reader’s interest."

Why are sex stories such a turn on for women?

Feel yourself getting hot and steamy when reading (or even thinking!) about sex stories? Then you're perfectly normal – that's because erotica has been scientifically proven to boost libido. Fact!

"According to a scientific study by researcher Harold Leitenberg of The Journal of Sex Research, women who read romance or erotic novels have 74% more sex with their partners than those who don't," says Jessica.

Why? "This, Dr Leitenberg says, is because women fantasise more frequently and have more intense and realistic fantasies when they read suggestive content," explains Jessica. "He concludes that not only were women readers having more sex, they were having better sex because they and their partners were more adventurous and playful."

Where's safe to look for sex stories online?

You may think finding a steamy read will be hard – and that you'll end up with porn ads popping up on your work computer for weeks afterwards. But, rest assured, it's a lot easier to find good quality sex stories than you think.

"Accessing erotic fiction is easy – there are so many fantastic books for you to enjoy," says Jessica. "Amazon is as good a place to start as anywhere. It has a fantastic erotic fiction section with most of the best writers featured."

And, just like reading standard books, once you find an author you enjoy, you should go back for more. "The key to enjoyment is finding an author you like and then going through their back catalogue," says Jessica. "Most good erotic authors have dozens of titles to their names because erotic novels tend to be shorter than conventional novels. Once you find a writer you like, they should lead you to others who write in a similar way."

Still not sure what to look for? "You can pick up new recommendations through reading reviews which often highlight other writers who explore similar themes," says Jessica. "Plus, adults sites such as Lovehoney have a good range of erotic books and feature best-selling erotic authors, such as Annabelle Knight, who has a loyal readership."

Do you have to pay to read sex stories?

The good news is, if you don't want to part with your cash to read sex stories, then you don't have to. 

"There's a lot of excellent free erotic fiction online. Sites such as Inkitt.com have dozens of free stories. It will enable you to dip your toe into the erotic fiction water and decide if it is for you," says Jessica. 

And if you want to pay for more, then you shouldn't feel ashamed or dirty. "Erotic fiction is like most things you enjoy: you get what you pay for," says Jessica. "The best writers protect their work and charge for their books to be read online. All good book shops have erotic fiction sections featuring the best authors. Titles tend to be in paperback and can be picked up for as little as £5. Big book chains such as Waterstones have a fantastic selection of erotic titles, both in-store and online."

Why sex stories are a great way to empower women

Worried about gender equality in sex stories? While it's not quite equal yet, there is the potential to be in the near future.

"When most people think of erotic literature today, the first thing that likely springs to mind is Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG), a series that has been criticised for its depiction of the main female character Anastasia Steele," says Jessica. "While FSOG has certainly encouraged conversation about sex, kink, and sexuality, the image it presents – of a shy, “fragile” woman who must meet a dominating, unstable, and more sexually experienced man – is ultimately not empowering."

But it won't be that way forever. "That said, it’s clear that women can be – and are – empowered by erotic literature," says Jessica. "In polls, high percentages of women report feeling sexually empowered by reading erotica."

"In fact, there are lots of erotic books that can be quite sexy and sexual without demeaning women, and can even empower women. You need to look for books with a central female character who is both sexually active and in charge of her own life and desires."

How sex stories can spice up your love life

Sex stories can do more than just turn you on, they can turn your partner on, too. Here's why, says Jessica...

  1. Enjoying it together
    "Reading aloud can be a great way of talking 'dirty' without actually having to come up with your own text. Select a page, paragraph or sequence within a book that resonates with you, place a bookmark at that page and keep it on your bedside table. The next time you and your other half are about to hop into bed, ask them if you can read them an X-rated excerpt from the book you've got on the go. You might be surprised at how interested they'll be. Just remember to take it seriously and leave the giggling aside."
  2. Getting in the mood
    "
    For women, the excitement and readiness for sex doesn't always happen instantly. Reading erotic fiction is a great way to get in the mood. It turns your mind and body on, which is great for foreplay."
  3. Introducing you to the world of sex toys
    "
    It's no coincidence that sales of sex toys have drastically increased along with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, and adult sites such as Lovehoney have developed a range of official products with the trilogy’s author E L James. Erotica opens up people's minds to all the toys that are out there and introduces readers to new ideas when it comes to sex."
  4. Encouraging experimentation
    "
    By reading erotic fiction, you not only get new ideas, but these ideas become normalised and comfortable. It's as if you've gone through the experience already through reading, so turning an idea into reality no longer seems so out of the box or embarrassing."

How to write your own erotic fiction

Want to unleash your inner sex writer? We don't blame you. "The best fiction is rooted in fact so if you're thinking of trying your hand at erotic fiction it is worth revisiting some of the most exciting sexual encounters you have enjoyed in your life," says Jessica. 

Worried the only exciting thing that happens with your partner is finding a parking space close to the shops? Don't worry. "These can obviously be tweaked to add more spice when you are writing them down," says Jessica. "And by all means explore your own fantasies – if these fantasies turn you on, such as sex in the shower, chances are they will appeal to other women, too."

Jessica's other top tips to write the best erotic fiction are:

  • Respect the reader
    "You want to move people between the ears as much as between the legs. That means applying the same attention and regard to writing about sex as you anything else you would write. Assume that the reader wants something more than just a vehicle for jerking off. That means character development, a good plot and great dialogue."
  • Avoid cliches
    "Don’t say that he pounded her like a jackhammer or that she lay back, spent. Tell the reader something they have never heard before."
  • Less is more
    "Don’t overdo the adjectives and flowery language. The emotional dynamics of the lead characters are as important as the sex."
  • Read and read again
    "Focus on the very best erotic fiction that you enjoy and adopt the very best practices that these writers use."
  • Keep it real
    "If all the sex is “mind-blowing” and “blows the socks off" the main protagonists, the reader will soon get tired of the characters and the plot development."