Jill Sorenson Talks Sex Worker Heroines
by Kiersten Hallie Krum
I’m still mid-dive in my plunge down the rabbit hole of MC erotic romance novels. Along the way, I’ve gobbled up way too many (can there be too many?) Kristen Ashley books (to be fair, not all MC romances, but in for a penny…in for my entire book budget) along with the first two (but hopefully not the last) of Jill Sorenson’s Dirty Eleven MC series including Riding Dirty and Shooting Dirty.
Jill newest, Shooting Dirty, drops today but before that, she threw back a few shots of tequila here at Lady Smut and decided to share a bit about sex worker heroines and how they fit in with the Dirty Eleven series.
Be sure to check back next week for the Lady Smut Dirty Eleven review.
Welcome, Jill, to Lady Smut!
Hello Lady Smut! I’m so glad to be here, talking about sex-related stuff! Let’s do this.
Sex work isn’t the most popular profession for heroines in contemporary romance novels. We see a fair amount of paid mistresses and bought brides in traditional lines (Harlequin Presents) but the heroines of these books tend to be sweet and virginal, not seasoned hookers. They aren’t standing on a corner in the red light district. They’re whisked away in a jet by the billionaire hero. Street prostitutes, strippers, and porn stars are a hard sell in romance (no pun intended). So are promiscuous heroines, for that matter.
I recently spotted a review from a reader who didn’t like the fact that one of my heroines had been with multiple partners before the hero. She’d had flings with tourists, which made her seem “slutty.” No mention was made of the hero’s sexual history.
There is a double standard in the genre that is impossible to ignore. Katy Evans’ Manwhore is a New York Times bestseller, but I can’t imagine a runaway hit called Ladywhore or just Whore. Indiscriminate heroes are super hot and always in demand, while sexually forward female characters are relegated to the role of evil ex or psycho villain. Sluts aren’t fit to be heroines. They don’t deserve the hero.
A few months ago I picked up a popular self-published romance with a stripper heroine, thinking it would be edgy and sex-positive. I was immediately turned off by the portrayal of sex workers. The heroine was a sweet, innocent virgin who hated her trashy coworkers. Thumbs down.
I don’t think writers need to sugarcoat sex work or portray it in a positive-only light, but I’m not a fan of putting female purity on a pedestal or slut-shaming other women. When authors pit female characters against each other and portray sex workers as dirty skanks, I get a bad taste in my mouth. Tastes like misogyny. Not my favorite flavor.
Before I started writing Shooting Dirty, which features a topless dancer looking to get out of the business, I did my research. I read several autobiographies by professional strippers. I didn’t want to write my story from a place of ignorance. I also didn’t want to eroticize or glamorize the job. My goal was to develop a strong, well-rounded character who happens to take off her clothes for a living. Stripping has affected her life in many ways, but it’s what she does, not who she is.
My favorite nonfiction book about stripping was Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex and Power by Elisabeth Eaves. It’s a fascinating personal account written from a feminist, non-judgmental perspective.
I don’t have any recs for stripper heroines, but I’ve read some excellent romances featuring female sex workers. They are rare—especially those that deal with the more extreme end of the spectrum. Case in point, Solace Ames’s The Companion Contract, a beautiful, lyrical, erotic tale about a young porn star/escort who falls for a mature former rock star. Ames offers an unflinching look at an industry that can be a real meatgrinder, navigated by a business-minded heroine with warmth and depth who never loses sight of herself or her love for sex.
Soloplay by Miranda Baker has a lighter tone, and begins with a partner-free type of sex work: sex toy testing. The heroine transforms from a woman who’s never had an orgasm to a solo-pleasure expert. Then she agrees to help the hero try out his new line of couples’ toys. It’s fun stuff.
Also fun is Tiffany Reisz’s Misbehaving, a story about a sex blogger who needs to test out all of the positions in a new sex manual. She hooks up with a former flame and they jump into bed for some steamy techniques that you might want to try at home. No magic penises, magic vaginas, or fantastical contortions required.
Blue Angel by Logan Belle features a law student/burlesque dancer heroine. I’m not sure if this qualifies as sex work because it’s striptease rather than stripping. I really enjoyed the NYC social scene, the costume details, and the soapy drama of this erotic novel with romantic elements.
What do you think about sex worker heroines? Do you prefer innocent heroines or experienced ones? Can you name any sex-positive romances with stripper or burlesque dancer heroines?
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