Wouldn’t it be great if all those sexist, icky moments that women experience every day could be subverted and transformed into what women actually want to hear? In their book New Erotica for Feminists, that’s exactly what authors Caitlin Kunkel, Carrie Wittmer, Brooke Preston, and Fiona Taylor do.
The book originated from a McSweeney’s piece of the same name published in February, featuring short vignettes of “feminist erotica.” It quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views online, and landed the four writers a book deal for an expanded version of the piece.
Prior to the publication of the book, the co-authors had their individual work published everywhere from Huffington Post and Refinery29, to Reductress and New Yorker’s “Shouts and Murmurs.”
I get catcalled on the street by a construction worker. He says that he can see I’m smart because I have enormous books. He tells me he’s reading the latest Zadie Smith novel. I invite him to join my book club, and spend all night fantasizing about his insightful commentary surrounding non-linear plot structure.
The book is for feminists and everyone who supports feminists, but mostly, “it’s for Mike Pence,” the co-authors told Shondaland.
For better or worse, much of the material found in the original article and eventually the book was inspired by real-life scenarios, co-author Caitlin Kunkel says. For the historical and literary vignettes, the writers pulled from countless instances of female characters being present solely to service a male character.
“Juliet walks away from Romeo and lives to be 98 in our version,” Kunkel, who also teaches satire at the famed Chicago comedy institution Second City, said.
Kunkel said her favorite vignette touches on Nick Carraway dating professional golfer Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby. Here’s how the New Erotica for Feminists version of the story goes:
“I stared into her eyes. My gaze lingered on her gorgeous face, her chest, down to her powerful, toned arms and her sun-kissed legs as she lay on the chaise in the day room. It’s almost sunset.
For a moment, I thought I loved her.
But then the moment passed, because I know that I am dull and selfish. She is tough, confident, and the most successful person I have ever known. All I do is party with my friend Jay, who has a pool.
I now realize that I, Nick Carraway, certainly do not deserve Jordan Baker, professional lady golfer. From now on, I will stop hitting on her, no matter how drunk we are at Jay Gatsby’s house.”
In reality, however, Kunkel noted how many responses she has received when asking for someone’s own “feminist fantasy” has been regarding personal safety.
“Women talk or write about a guy coming up to them at the bus station at night and the erotic twist is that they see they are making them nervous and keep moving,” Kunkel said. “That’s actually somewhat sad, that our “fantasies” tend to focus on bodily autonomy and the right to feel safe.”
The book was published concurrently in the U.S. and the U.K., and as the authors embarked on a book tour, Kunkel said that British audiences seemed to understand satire slightly more instinctively than Americans.
“In the U.S., our editors wanted to be very clear this wasn’t real erotica,” Kunkel said. “In the U.S. the subtitle is: “Satirical Fantasies of Love, Lust, and Equal Pay,” and in the U.K. its: “Get what you deserve, again, and again, and again.”
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What a perfect night. Packed to the gills, so much so that several DOZEN people were reportedly turned away at the door (if that was you we’re so sorry!) An unbelievably wonderful launch party, thank you all so much for coming out and celebrating with us!! Special thanks to Books are Magic (@booksaremagicbk) for hosting such an amazing event.
Kunkel and her three co-authors also run and edit a humor site by women and non-binary writers, Belladonna Comedy, that they started after seeing a lack of humor publications that gave marginalized genders a platform, which Kunkel says has been the most rewarding part of running it.
“To date, we’ve published well over 200 writers on the site— ranging from some of satire’s top names like Riane Konc (The New Yorker) and Kimberly Harrington (author of Amateur Hour) to many who earned their first-ever byline with us,” Kunkel said. “We regularly get emails from submitters who thank us for sending them the nicest rejection letters they’ve ever received, which spurred us to keep going.”
In the political predicament that is 2018, running a humor site can be a challenge. “We’re all sort of figuring out the best way to parody the never-ending dumpster fire in which we’re now forced to live our daily lives,” Kunkel notes.
Still, some good old-fashioned feminist erotica can never hurt.
Cover image via Carpe Diem.
Also published on Medium.