Female Desire in Literature
Updated: Jun 26
When it comes to female desire in literature, women have suffered through waves of repression, disdain, double standards, and obvious offense. They’ve navigated waters that men will never have to swim and managed to come out the other side with grace and a victory that has been hard-won and in some cases the war wages on.
Looking deeper into female desire and female desire in literature, we’ll explore how definitions and expressions of that desire have changed with the landscape of female empowerment and especially feminism and women’s suffrage.
Starting with the definition of female desire (especially concerning sexual desire) is this: sexual desire is an awareness of sexual desire irrespective of sexual activity. Basically, this just means that sexual desire can be sparked by just about anything, a thought, a memory, a picture, a whisper, an innuendo, etc. There doesn’t need to be something overtly sexual to get sexual desire flowing.
But now we want to dig deeper how female desire in literature is depicted and how it evolved over time.
Spinsters, Feminism and Empowerment
In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was uncommon for a woman to be unwed past the age of 17.
If she was, she was deemed a spinster and likely spent her remaining years teaching children or whiling away hours in the company of her parents.
By the time the 20th century loomed on the horizon, women were starting to assert that there was more to life for them than marriage and children.
Women started hearing new messages that inspired them to look past the altar and see a future they were proud of. But when it came to the intimacies of the bedroom, women were still classified into two main groups. If you didn’t fool around you were a ‘prude’ and if you engaged in premarital sex you were either a prostitute or ‘easy.’
As time rolled on and the 21st century came along, however, women have started to speak up about their sexual freedom. Sexual orientation, gender bias, and sexual and gender identity are taking center stage in a way that has been a long, long time coming for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.
So, where does female desire stand in literature with this new awakening?
It too is taking center stage and for all the right reasons.
Female Desire Won’t Stay Silent
When my parents were growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, women didn’t talk about sex, except in hush-hush whispers.
Mothers didn’t inform their daughters about topics like sexual violence, consent, and desire. Young girls were taught to ‘please’ their husbands, but not told what that meant or that it was okay to want a different life than marriage to a man and subsequent children.
Enter the 21st century and desire has become synonymous with sexual freedom, but what does that look like in the written word?
Even beyond the Woodstock festival in the 1970’s when ‘women’s lib’ was a big deal, women have continued to liberate their sexual freedom. We talk more openly about sex, sexual harassment and assault, sexual desire and are much more comfortable with equalizing sexual desire between men and women.
Gone are the days when only men were allowed to be sexually charged or feel any sort of satisfaction in the acts of sex.
Women are here to let everyone know that we like sex, in fact we love it, crave it and damn well desire it.
Remittance Girl, an online website for erotic fiction written and self-published by RG. She has this to say about the oppression that women have suffered under.
“As a woman, I have inherited the burden of thousands of years of social, religious and sexual oppression. My understanding of self, my agency, my language and my sexuality were born, molded and twisted by that oppression. I am happy to have a discussion on why I write what I write, but I will not tolerate being told what I can or cannot write about.”
Women are done hiding behind modesty or chastity, pretending as if we aren’t just as easily aroused as our male counterparts. And when it comes to literature, women are making massive strides in letting desire flow in the written word, bringing all those feelings, concepts, delights, and concerns to light.
As women began to express their own sexuality and embrace sexual freedom, it changed the way female desire was portrayed in literature.
Women blossomed from spinsters and unfeeling human objects into wondrous women who wanted and needed to feel the excitement and delight of sexual pleasure. That blossoming has only continued as humanity embraces fluid sexuality and the LGBTQ+ community.
As we begin to see each other as humans, deserving of every kindness and consideration. And as our passions continue on, women will further the cause of expressing female desire in literature for all the young women who will pick up those books to learn just how ecstasy inducing sex can be.
Photo by RedMorris
Women Speak for Themselves and Future Generations
Literature has evolved in describing sexual desire, especially where women are concerned. And while some topics are still taboo, like rape as titillation, for instance, there are so many avenues that celebrate expressing female desire and I would assume the list will only grow.
Some of the most influential books depicting sexual desire from a female lead are:
#1 Forever by Judy Blume
This coming-of-age story features first love and the first taste of sexual desire that comes with it.
Do you remember your first love or better yet, your first dip into the foray of sex?
If you do and maybe wish to relive some of these exciting feelings, Forever from Judy Blum should definitely be your choice!
#3 One Night: Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas
What would you do if someone asked you, nonchalantly, for one night of hot, bone-melting sex?
And just like kindergarten, they asked you with a note on a napkin?
That’s what happens to Alayna Withers, who’s waitressing one night when such a napkin crosses her path.
Does she turn and run, or stick around for the after show?
#3 Gabrielle’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard
Imagine being a graduate student and having a smoking hot professor approach you about a rendezvous that has nothing to do with class or your graduate studies, and everything to do with chemistry between the sheets.
In Sylvain Reynard’s novel Professor Gabrielle Emerson and graduate student, Julia Mitchell have some unfinished business outside the classroom, but will their elicit affair ruin everything, for both of them?
This book definitely shows how, as of today, women more and more openly tend to follow their desire, even when these go against social norms - and have to deal with the consequences...
#4 The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
What’s a girl to do when she’s expected to settle down and get married, but lives the daily life of someone on the Autism spectrum?
She hires an expert of course.
Stella Lane doesn’t want an arranged marriage, but her parents have expectations, and she needs help.
So, she hires Vietnamese relationship tutor, Michael Phan to help her out. Once he agrees, all bets are off as these two steam up the pages of this unforgettable and inclusive romance novel.
#5 Rush by Maya Banks
Female desire is front and center in this MMMF book.
Notorious playboys Gabe, Jace and Ash are known for their wealth as much as for their womanizing.
One woman they never expect to have, however, is Mia Crestwell.
Mia happens to be their best friend’s little sister, but what they don’t know is that she isn’t the little girl they used to know and when she crooks her finger, they’ll come running.
What can we learn from these books about Female Desire in Literature?
With the liberation of women over the last century, more and more female writers are turning up the heat level on erotic fiction.
While clean romances certainly have their place, dirty deeds are demanding a place on the shelf as well. And many of those ‘filthy books’ are penned by women who know a thing or two about sex, desire, longing, lust and everything sexy.
No longer do female leads sit primly while their husbands have all the fun.
Now women are gasping at the touch of their billionaire lover, moaning their way to climax with their new wife or experiencing their first orgasm after transitioning. Female desire in literature is here to stay and will continue to be seen and heard.
Female Desire: The End Result
It’s easy to read a romance and get hooked on the steamy sex scenes.
After all, sex scenes are the bread and butter of erotic romance and even clean romance hints at desire. The old adage “Men are like mircowaves and women are like ovens,” rings true for most women. We don’t ‘heat up’ as quickly as men and therefore it takes patience and a good bit of time for a woman to be on the same sexual plane as her male counterpart.
But what about the female initiate you ask?
Well, desire can be tricky. While we might not heat up with the flip of a switch, sometimes desire can simmer and then boil over in an instant. Women can go from cold to warm to raging inferno seemingly within minutes, but guaranteed we’ve been simmering for some time if it seems like a flashpoint.
Desire, especially in women, isn’t a concrete, rigid entity.
It ebbs and flows, sparked by everything from a memory to great conversation. It’s wholly dependent on the factors in the moment. The woman, the partner, conversation, common ground, mutual respect, passion, time between sexual episodes, need, etc. Any and all factors can be added, dismissed, mixed up and desire will still be the end result. Is it cut and dry? Hell no and who would want it to be? If we were robots it’d be so much less sexy and we women like sexy.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matter
If female desire was ever put in a neat little box, to be kept on a shelf until a man decided to take it down, those days are long gone. With the advancement of the LGBTQ+ community, same-sex marriage laws and laws to protect minority groups; we are slowly starting to see change.
And not just in the workplace, but in the minds of people in general. Companies are hiring DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) experts to help them hire people from those three sectors. And if we say we don’t discriminate, then we have to back our word with action.
This topic matters because women are often put into a box that for some inane reason sits below that of our male counterparts. As if having a penis somehow makes you a better employee or lover. I can love and desire and crave, just as intensely as any other human; so why am I made less than just because I’m a woman?
Why are LGBTQ+ persons less than just because of who they love or how they present themselves to the world?
If we’ve come this far, fought this hard, learned hard lessons, only to be blackballed by men whose egos can’t handle being demoted from their high horses we’ve really gotten nowhere.
Yes, diversity, equity and inclusion matter in hiring people, but it matters in life.
It’s not just about making your company or party look good. It’s about treating all people with dignity, kindness, respect, and love.
And that means also, understanding that women think about and desire sex just as often as men do. We might not go parading around, bragging about our one night stands or office romances, or when our last romp was, but we’re thinking about it just the same.
We here at Filthybooks seek to review and share that desire without judgement beyond a good critique, to share with the world the steamiest, sexiest, most erotic and elicit love affairs to ever grace the binding of a book or the screen as an ebook. We strive to be fair, honest and respectful to the subject matter of sex, erotic novels, novellas and short stories. And our recommendations come from the merit of the works we share, because they damn well earned them.
So if you are interested, head over to our Top Lists and discover the best books to read in a plethora of different steamy genres!
And do not forget to get your FREE E-Book only available on Filthybooks!
We at Filthybooks are passionate about passion.
Dump guilt and shame over your desires in the trash!
At Filthy Books, we celebrate our love of sexy stories by shouting from the rooftops.
Did this list of the best funny historical romance books for adults leave you wanting more?
Why not read a steamy story right now and for FREE?
Click here to subscribe to the Filthy Books newsletter, and get an exclusive free copy of Forbidden Complication - instantly.
Or, if that's not your vibe, explore some of our FREE Erotic Stories online here at Filthy Books.