He Says, She Says: A Couple's Review Of Ellora's Cave's Male Erotica Line
Ellora’s Cave recently launched a new line of erotica for men, called EC for Men that offers very short, sex-driven reads that aim to satisfy an array of male fantasies. In their call for submissions for the new line, the publisher specified that submitted stories “should focus more on the sex than the romance,” should contain “realistic wording and dialogue for male characters (not the language women WISH men spoke),” and be centered on “more of what men want or need from women: sex, love, acceptance, admiration, dirty talk; less of what they don't need (judgment, drama, expectation of anticipating woman's needs).” We were intrigued by the idea of erotica for men, so we asked one of our female reviewers and her boyfriend to each read three of these new stories and give us their take on some of EC for Men’s launch books.
“Hard Day’s Reward” by Cara Carnes is the closest to erotic romance of the three. It is also the only story that involves a loving relationship. (However, the only real evidence of this is the “I love yous” the couple throws around.) Chad is a stressed-out businessman who has just finished the difficult task of firing a slew of people at work, and when he comes home his girlfriend Shelly surprises him with a ménage involving one of her old college friends, Marcy. The sex scenes are decent, and although Chad isn’t the most giving lover, Shelly is, comparatively, a fairly likable character. (She’s uncomfortable with the idea of having anal sex with Chad, and she knows Marcy will, so she’s gracious enough to let her man indulge, which I guess is nice … ) But, there’s a tension between Marcy and Shelly due to an unknown former conflict that is never explored, which left me unsatisfied at the story’s end.
In the opening scene, a sexy woman opens the door of Chad’s house and he becomes instantly aroused. He notices her hairstyle, her bust size and the color of her toenails, all before he notices that woman in front of him isn't his girlfriend. He then goes on to be serviced by this woman and his girlfriend, whose only priority in the story is to satisfy this slobbering dog of a man.
He literally does nothing to reciprocate. The female characters in Carnes' story live to serve. Things like cuddling and conversation are foreign concepts to Chad. He regards them as the tribulations he has to endure between ejaculations. As for whether this is a representation of a man's fantasy is kind of trivial. Sure, the idea of having sex with two women is alluring ... but not like this. This story portrays men as throbbing, mindless macho sex machines, dogs that somehow managed to walk upright.
“Take Me at the Ballgame” by Cassandra Carr is my favorite story from the group of novellas because it is the most realistic, although it is, at times, awkward. J.T. Lovejoy is a middle-aged single man who lives for his job as a sports journalist, writing about his local baseball team. He knows he’s past his prime, and is surprised when hot, young intern Sydney starts flirting with him. Soon their flirtation leads to more, and two begin “rounding the bases” together after each home game.
J.T. is genuinely baffled by why such an attractive younger woman would want anything to do with him. And although he’s kind of creepy and pathetic, it’s nice that he’s modest since I was expecting a more macho hero. Like the last story, this one ends without any sort of resolution, with Sydney making it clear that she doesn’t want any sort of commitment, and she’s just having fun. The man is the one being used here, which is an interesting twist, but what develops between Sydney and J.T. is never fleshed out, even for a casual arrangement.
The reason that sexual harassment policies exist is to protect young, female interns from men like J.T. Lovejoy. Sadly, I think that the male fantasy in this story is spot on. For a segment of aging men, the prospect of meeting a young woman is quite alluring, and growing old can be terrifying for some. But that doesn't make this story any less objectionable. The fact that the main character regularly takes advantage of someone that works under him makes this creepy story even creepier. Throw a fistfight into the mix, and this story covers all the bases for a complete, nearly accurate male fantasy for men over 40 (just not the type of male I’d like to become). Definitely aimed squarely at Baby Boomers ... “Take Me at the Ballgame” knocks it right out of the park.
“Nailing the Boss” by Katie Blu was my least favorite story. I’m one of those readers who have a problem with infidelity in romance. (Polyamory is A-OK when everyone is in agreement, but cheating is unsavory.) This story focuses on the fantasy of a male office employee dominating his female boss, who happens to be engaged and a week away from getting married. Billy, the employee (I don’t want to call this guy a hero, he’s horrible), feels triumphant because he is finally getting into his boss Tanya’s pants. The two switch usual roles when he decides to dominate her. The Dominant/submissive aspect of this story is incredibly forced and kind of amateur. (How much can a new D/s relationship develop over the course of a workday? Let me tell you, not very much.) Billy has absolutely no respect for Tanya, yet somehow feels like he’s being moral because although he refuses to have sex with a married woman. However, Tanya is engaged, so it’s totally fine until she actually ties the knot. (Can you sense me rolling my eyes right now?) Although the couple gets a little creative with their after-hours office rendezvous, the sex scenes were unmemorable. This story is not for this woman, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to any man.
Though in the story Billy’s overtures are met with staggering success, some of the real-world mechanics of a D/s relationship are omitted, or ignored completely. He just jumps right in, and she complies. In this case, the sub exists purely for the sake of the Dom. And though this may seem like a stereotypical male fantasy, I personally feel that it over-simplifies the relationship between Dom and sub. The most important aspect of which, in my opinion, is trust between the partners ... a mutualism that I feel is more tightly interwoven in the fabric of such a relationship than this story gives credit. Trust is sexy. BDSM isn't just about degrading or dominating a partner ... it's about mutual respect and the gift of trust given from one party to another. Blu’s disregard for that aspect of the lifestyle cheapens the narrative, and quite frankly, ensures that this story just doesn't do it for me.
Want to take these new short stories out for a test drive yourself? You can download them here. And for more genre coverage and all the latest news and reviews, be sure to check out RT’s Everything Erotica Page!