Whoever would have guessed that a chaste Young Adult romance written by a sober, non-smoking Mormon housewife would ignite the erotic romance world and spawn the best-selling novel in literary history? The tale of a virginal high schooler who falls madly in love with a handsome and mysterious teen only to discover he is a vampire, ignited erotic literature, namely erotic romance. This popular literary sub-genre owes a great debt to Twilight, the virginal heroine and an alpha-male character named Edward Cullen.
While Twilight didn’t involve sex, its plotting and intense romantic elements have served as the template for several erotic best sellers that first saw the light of day on fan fiction boards; Sempre by J. M. Danhower, Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren, Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno, The Dark Heroine by Abigail Gibbs, and most famous of all, Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James’s publishing phenomenon.
Twilight won the hearts of countless teens primarily because of the male love interest. The author, Stephenie Meyer, created Edward Cullen, a monogamous Byronic alpha-male who becomes obsessed with the female protagonist from the moment he sees her. Bella, the protagonist, imprints her very being on Edward’s soul and he adores her to the point of not wanting to live without her. As therapist Sari Cooper noted in a 2012 series of lectures about Fifty Shades of Grey, “The experience of being desired is a huge erotic trigger for women. It’s the experience of being that special someone. There is no one else in his eyes. He only has eyes for her. She is the one he longs for. It combines the erotic with the sensual. Being desired is such a turn on for women.”
Being desired was the key component that made so many teens and adult women adore Twilight’s Edward Cullen, the troubled teen vampire and his relationship with the protagonist, Bella Swan. The author of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer made seventeen-year-old Edward outrageously handsome, powerful, brilliant, well-traveled and sophisticated. On the other hand, her protagonist, Bella Swan, was an ‘every girl,’ lacking in grace, charm or social skill. In the novels, Bella’s klutziness became an endearing trait, something that didn’t transfer to the screen, an average girl that many teens could identify with. Twilight gave real meaning to the phrase, he’s into you. Bella had a beautiful lover who adored her to the point of obsession and yet, she never had to put out. Teens adored the novels as well as their mothers, who gave thanks that Bella and Edward’s relationship, though passionate, was a non-sexual one.
However, the emergence of fan fiction, or be more specific, uber fan fiction changed the way some viewed Twilight’s chaste characters Writers define uber fan fiction or uber fic as a story that takes the essence of the characters and places them in another time, another place, or another reality. The uber characters do not have the same names and do not have to be mirror images of the canon characters. Sometimes they are descendants or reincarnations; usually they resemble the originals physically, and they share the same type of bond.
Of course uber fan fiction can be devoid of sex, but the most interesting married fan fiction with erotic fiction, a sometimes uneasy union. Erotic fiction embraces the forbidden. Works like The Sexual Life of Catherine M., The Story of O and Anne Rice’s infamous Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, which outsold her mainstream success, Interview With a Vampire, are filled what E.L. James called kinky fuckery: floggings, brandings, BDSM, multiple partners, rampant bisexuality, but without romance. Uber fan fiction changed that.
Though James was not the first to blend the story-structure of Twilight with the carnal, she was the most vocal about the debt she owed to Twilight. “Well, it all started way back in the day when I saw Twilight, the film, and I loved those books. I could not put them down, absolutely avidly read the books. This switch was flipped. I had to write, started writing, wrote a novel, then I discovered fan fiction. I wrote about Edward and Bella and then decided to write about Christian and Anastasia. I took the fan fiction, and a friend of mine re-wrote it and I thought, if he could do it, so could I, and now I am here.”
Indeed, James is here! Her work controversial work has sold over 70 million copies worldwide, made women everywhere, from student to soccer mom, examine their erotic lives and brought sexual experimentation to the mainstream. Writer, Charlotte Rose, attended a lecture that Cooper delivered at the Washing Square Institute in 2012. Cooper’s entitled her talk, “Fifty Shades of Grey: What You Can Learn about Sex Esteem from the Bestseller,” and noted ten erotic triggers written into Fifty Shade of Grey and incorporated into other erotic romances.
1. Powerful hero.
“He is dark, mysterious, and possibly dangerous – a total Alpha male. He’s wild, dangerous, and unpredictable. Being with him is like a rollercoaster ride.”
2. Awakened Heroine.
“She is innocent, the yin to the yang of Christian Grey. She is a young woman awakened by this man who knows a lot more. “
3. Christian Grey uses all the senses – taste, touch, sight, scent, auditory.
“For example, Ana is always talking about how he smells and he about her scent. He also consciously uses these different triggers to arouse her.”
4. Music is huge part of it.
The many musical moments in the book inspire erotic or emotionally charged encounters.
5. He appeals to her psychologically.
“He sends signals to throw her off balance, such as his first gift of the collector’s edition of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. He attaches a quote from the book that says there may be danger waiting. It creates more intrigue for.”
6. There is stimulation of all the erogenous zones and multisensory anticipation. “Christian does it with such expertise, and so much foreplay, with plenty of time to get Anastasia ready.”
A. Primary erogenous zones. Genitals and breasts.
B. Secondary erogenous zones: Earlobe, neck.
C. Tertiary erogenous zones: Feet, arms, scalp.
“The book has opened up the door into things people may not have considered before. In Fifty Shades, Ana has many fears about being hurt, but when she is in the red room of pain she is not just in pain—she is in a state of arousal beyond what she would normally feel. Sexual arousal sometimes involves working with negative emotions such as fear and anxiety. It’s the experience of being on a roller coaster that enhances the state of arousal.”
“Ana pushes for ‘more’ than being his submissive and he ‘tries’ because he will do anything to keep her. He’s only had subs [submissive female partners] before, women that he has controlled, and he is pushed to his hard limits by Ana who is demanding more. That’s what people love about the book. They want the romance, the emotional tension. Will it work out for them? They want to know!”
9. The experience of being desired.
“This is a huge erotic trigger for women. It’s the experience of being that special someone. There is no one else in his eyes. He only has eyes for her. She is the one he longs for. It combines the erotic with the sensual. Being desired is such a turn on for women.”
10. He’s loyal.
“At first we are not sure if we can trust him. She talks about his ‘stalker tendencies. ‘What wins Ana over, and wins the reader over, is he’s very loyal. And when she needs him, he’s there. I think it works because women can feel the fantasy of having that danger, with the security of having a good relationship.”
With the exception of items 6 and 7, we can find these same elements in Twilight, the book that started it all. Though I named a few fan-fiction titles, more pop up daily.