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The truth about minotaur smut Monster love is deeply reactionary

'In these books, heroes exhibit meticulous tailoring to female desires.'

'In these books, heroes exhibit meticulous tailoring to female desires.'


July 2, 2024   6 mins

“This is the skin of a killer, Bella.” Edward’s adamantine pelt is illuminated by the sun in a gloomy forest clearing; a thousand preteen hearts boom. So beautiful, so dangerous, so mine. These immortal words from the vampire megalith Twilight will drag Kristen Stewart squinting and shrugging through a thousand trials, which include dying while giving birth to a parasitic monster baby before dutifully being reanimated by her hubby.

The message of Twilight is clear. Beyond this normie world is a brooding Byron-Darcy hybrid with a glut of green flags: he is universally desired, he doesn’t fancy anyone else and — oh! — he could kill you, but he won’t. Since 2005, Edward Cullen has been a comfort to teenage girls: the right man will not destroy you; he will instead choose to save you from mediocrity and give you all the trappings — marriage, baby, eternal life? — of conventional happiness. Not so scary after all.

Almost 20 years after the publication of Stephenie Meyer’s first novel, the Twilightgeneration has grown up. Little girls have become world-weary women, buffeted about by the Grimm realities of dating culture, resentfully growing older than Bella was ever allowed to. With them, their desires have ripened.

Now, Meyer’s disciples have worked up a thirst for darker material. The past couple of years have seen an explosion in fantasy “smut”, thanks to TikTok’s “BookTok” community. The bulging-biceped hero of Mills & Boon has been chased away by a horde of improbable new sex symbols, cheered on by “creators” telling their legions of breathless viewers “Guys — this is the spiciest book I’ve ever read!” The content of these books? I’m embarrassed to tell you. Let’s start with an example.

Glory Milking Farm is a wildly popular “sweet and steamy monster romance” from the Cambric Creek erotica series by C.M. Nascosta. The book has been dropping jaws across social media since its release in 2021, and concerns the love story of “typical Millennial” Violet, who decides to take up rather hands-on work at a farm for hunky minotaurs (the premise, something to do with manufacturing erectile dysfunction medication for human men, is interesting to nobody, least of all the author). One “out-of-her-league minotaur”, an immortal sentence in itself, takes a special interest and demands private “milking” sessions. Can Violet handle it?

I don’t know, I’m not going to read it. Nor will I link to Amazon, you perverts. But be assured that this is just one of hundreds of monster-porn works pumping life into the publishing industry; we have the Ice Planet Barbariansseries about aliens with sex-toy-like appendages, Ensnared (a spider-based porno) and endless iterations of The XYZ Bride (orcs, dragons, whatever you fancy). At the heart of each is the very Twilight-y premise of the beastly, sexy killer who just wants you, but with much more actual sex than we ever got from the Cullen clan.

In these books, heroes exhibit meticulous tailoring to female desires. They are loyal, have unquenchable libidos and boast anatomies which are designed to accommodate whatever acrobatic sexual act the heroine craves. Yes, tastes have become more extreme with readers’ ages — but there is a particular innovation to these monsters which says something about what women reallywant: in a lot of these books, the “men” can’t bloody speak. They can probe you, tear you open, batter you about — but never chastise, patronise or lead you on.

“They can probe you, tear you open, batter you about — but never chastise, patronise or lead you on.” 

The risk of slaughter is more essential with non-humans, and helpfully at one remove from the complex politics of the post-MeToo age. This was first and perhaps most notoriously explored in Marian Engel’s 1976 shocker Bear, in which an unfulfilled office worker strikes up a romantic and sexual rapport with an enormous, well, bear. In the end, it nearly kills her with a single stroke of its claw on her back (cute!) — and, having had a taste of the big cuddly bedrock of erotic risk, the protagonist trots back to her old life. These stories are a way for women to confront their desire for self-immolation outside of the oppressive framework of the real world. And, critically, all risk in these novels is purely physical — the emotional side of things is sewn up, guaranteed by what often amounts to a conventional fairytale monogamy arc.

Such monstrous tastes have invigorated female sexuality since long before Angela Carter’s electric — and, for me, world view-shaping — collection of refashioned fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber (1979). In these tales, heroines embark on Kill Bill-like rampages against their oppressors: the protagonist of The Erl King strangles her captor with his own hair, while the mother of the young bride in the titular story races in to gun down the Marquis as he prepares to behead her. The point of Carter’s work went far beyond the tiresome blurb of a “feminist retelling”; her twisted iterations of culturally endemic stories such as Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast interrogate their masculine hostility; they question what all who were once little girls have been whisperingly warned: avoid the woods; do not trust charm; some wolves will bleed you dry.

Some three decades after this gruesomely sensual evisceration of folk stories, Twilight arrived to put them back in their place; Edward and Bella are merely echoes of what Carter, Marina Warner and Carol Ann Duffy had sought to make ironic. The conventionality of modern romances — monstrous or not — may mark a turning away from the radical refashionings of second wave feminism; I could not blame those raised on a diet of Disney fluff feeling let down by the ostensibly liberated but miserable climate of modern dating.

But though as love stories they may be picket-fence conventional, monster romances are anything but when it comes to the action itself. Scanning through a couple of the big hitters, the content of which I will leave you to discover after your next divorce, it occurs to me how very different sex is in female literotica from the jackhammering sterility of male-marketed porn. There is a feminised tenderness to the men/beasts (even when they can but grunt, the grunt is always kind). There is so much emotional intimacy — to the extent that I find this somehow more mortifying than the actual “action”. Even the sex is much more complex: of course, written cues for arousal (swollen this, throbbing that) are almost as formulaic as the various escalating images that make up a video sex scene — but writers try to shake things up physically in a way that puts the variety of men’s porn in the shade (a perfunctory accessory such as a hair bow, quickly removed, is usually all that divides one inevitable pounding from another).

And, most distinctly of all, women actually bond over their shared erotic interests. Online forums and TikTok pages are dedicated to book-club-style discussions of characters and plots. Perhaps it is the (undeserved) literary veneer to this stuff that removes the shame of discussing frankly weird fantasies; perhaps it is the closed off nature of these virtual communities, the much-vaunted “safe space”. All that is clear is that you certainly do not find reams of analysis on equivalent male subreddits. For this, we must be grateful.

A proliferation of this material — much of it is self-published or simply posted to fanfic websites — has allowed women to explore extremely niche specialities. A glance at the r/RomanceBooks Reddit forum reveals the vast volume of requests: one reader wants a story that is “literally the movie Megamindas a romance novel”. Another desires “merman/water creature romance that DON’T gain magical human legs and ISN’T set underwater”. One can only imagine an erotic reimagining of a trawler net, limp haddock flipping about. Another daringly requests “spanking between the cheeks”. The less said about that, the better.

What would Angela Carter have to say about all this? In her brilliant 1978 interrogation of pornographic archetypes, The Sadeian Woman, she frames porn as “a satire on human pretensions” which “keeps sex in its place. That is, under the carpet.” For Carter, it is a way of reaffirming social mores through titillation — consolidating the myths of the supremacy of men and the vanishing emptiness of women. In a charmingly pre-internet way, she divides the sexes into those who buy dirty mags and videos and those who read “love stories for women’s magazines, that softest of all forms of pornography” which, she claims, are even lessgrounded in reality and therefore more noxious. A book about minotaur ejaculation may seem a million miles away from the blushing snippets at the back of a Seventies Cosmo, but they share the greatest fantasy of all: that of perfection in relationships, of easy, instant and sustainable passion. As shocking as the action might be, this framework always ensures that, in the end, sex is kept in its place: fenced in by the optimism and security of love. At least dirty mags never lied about that.

One theory of Carters still particularly stands up in the Information Age. She says that whereas violence between men is depicted at liberty in film, “erotic violence committed by men upon women cuts too near the bone”. This anxiety may explain the myriad monsters of modern smut: their beastliness renders the story a kind of pastiche, a way of addressing and enjoying poisonous truths about the physical jeopardy of being a woman without the depressing reality that human men will, sometimes, use their dominance to obliterate us.


Poppy Sowerby is an UnHerd columnist

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
17 days ago

One “out-of-her-league minotaur”, an immortal sentence in itself, takes a special interest and demands private “milking” sessions. Can Violet handle it?
Hey, she’s got one up on Pasiphae; at least her paramour is capable of standing upright.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
17 days ago

Ms. Sowerby’s articles are reliably entertaining. She certainly knows how to milk the poppyc*ck.

Rinse and repeat.

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

One “out-of-her-league minotaur”, an immortal sentence in itself, takes a special interest and demands private “milking” sessions. Can Violet handle it?

And yet we have the likes of ms bindel telling us about the weirdness and danger of male porn. Meanwhile, quite under my radar at least, truly sick minds are at work 🙂

Is anybody researching the terrible danger this stuff poses to men, to society and to women themselves, who may find it increasingly difficult to find satisfaction with non-monstrous sexual partners? Thought not. Why is that?

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

And, most distinctly of all, women actually bond over their shared erotic interests. 

There’s lots to think about here. Why is it that female sexuality is so accepted while male tastes are so surrounded with shame? It was the same years ago – tame girlie mags were hidden away on the top shelf, feminists protested them, men were made to feel embarrassed to buy them, male mast .. was looked on as a bit nasty – then all of a sudden Ann Summers opens right there on the high street, complete with sex toys. Vibrators feature in sex and the city etc.

For an oppressive patriarchy, it’s odd that male sexuality bears so much of the oppression, while women get open acceptance even when their fantasies are bizarre, and not a little daft.

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

She says that whereas violence between men is depicted at liberty in film, “erotic violence committed by men upon women cuts too near the bone”

A bit of a weak quasi feminist ending to an interesting piece. It’s more that men are seen as disposable whereas violence against women, though of course it happens, is massively taboo.

Indeed, the whole piece suggests that large numbers of women are craving something that most men find difficult to give, even in a safe sexual context. Even playing rough is something a lot of men struggle with. So the missus either finds someone who will, or starts wondering about Minotaurs.


Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
17 days ago

The Roman Schism and its consequences have been a disaster for European Civilisation.
Simplified timeline
Schism -> Scholasticism -> Renaissance humanism -> Reformation -> Enlightenment -> Romanticism -> Modernism -> Postmodernism -> Online essays about minotaur smut.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
16 days ago

As opposed to… ?

What do you suggest would’ve been the utopian alternative?

Apart from anything else, the level of ‘smut’ which appertained in the Roman empire pre-schism would be more than a match for anything Poppy Sowerby could transmit; enabled, of course, by a) the printing press and b) the internet.

I find her articles entertaining whilst it’s clear she’s about pushing perceptions which will no doubt cause a ‘harrumph’ or two.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
16 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Utopian alternatives? My dear lad, the whole thought of utopianism is part of the Western worldview that developed post-schism.
As for your point about Roman smut, the rise of Christianity helped keep that in check. Look to Byzantium, that glorious empire of the East. It retained the grandeur and might of Rome, but shed the horrors of the pagan gods (i.e. fallen angels) and acquired an Orthodox Christian sensibility. What a magnificent civilisation it was. The West has been running on those fumes for some time. Now that the tank is close to dry, we’re returning to a pornographic, pagan society. There’s nothing original about that, you’re right.
Such a shame that even the nominally Orthodox countries today – Greece, Russia, Serbia, and so on – have been thoroughly infected by the Western revolutionary outlook. But there is still hope for a revival. Just as in Rome, when people dead in their sin saw the Church as a hospital for souls, people may well turn back to Orthodoxy once the sickness of our civilisation leaves us blinder, deafer, and dumber than we already are.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
16 days ago

Mjy dear boy, even if Thomas More hadn’t come up with the concept, there’s nothing more utopian than the concept of ‘heaven’.

The wish-fulfilment with which you abnegate human history springs from the very same mindset displayed by ‘progressives’. Has that ever occurred to you? I suspect not.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
16 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

There’s such a clear difference between the Christian worldview and the revolutionary worldview.
The Orthodox perspective is that mankind is fallen and that the world will never be redeemed but by the grace of God. Man is totally dependent on God but ignores this fact in his pride, cooking up all sorts of Towers of Babel to counteract the effects of the Fall, when only Christ can save us from that.
The utopian revolutionary view is that man is perfectible and if we have the right political system, we can make paradise for ourselves.
One puts God at the centre, the other puts man there.
Also, Thomas More was a Renaissance humanist; he wanted theology to be more “progressive” than the scholastics did, who were themselves going against Orthodoxy. He was very far removed from a traditional Christian thinker. You won’t see Orthodox theologians sharing his views.

David Morley
David Morley
16 days ago

Thank god they are not fantasising about centaurs is all can say. You really would be upset.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
16 days ago

An interesting ‘take’. Shame that it’s ahistorical rubbish.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
16 days ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Are you sure? It might seem far-fetched to those with a Western mindset, but I see a clear intellectual development from 1) Roman theologians reinterpreting scripture and amending the Nicene Creed based on their own ‘rationalism’ to 2) Martin Luther reinterpreting scripture and breaking away from the Catholic Church based on his own ‘rationalism’ to 3) Enlightenment philosophers denouncing Protestant theology based on their own ‘rationalism’.
This rationalism then proceeds to eat itself, leading to the subsequent phases of Western intellectual development and, as mentioned, online essays about minotaur smut.
Can I hear your argument, as opposed to an assertion that what I said is ahistorical?

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
16 days ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

I’d be interested to hear your argument, as opposed to this assertion. Why is it ahistorical?

David Morley
David Morley
16 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Apart from anything else, the level of ‘smut’ which appertained in the Roman Empire

And let’s not forget the Minotaur’s parentage.

If the worst thing postmodernism led to was women fantasising about minotaurs I think we could all sit back and relax (with or without Minotaur mask from Ann Summers).

AC Harper
AC Harper
16 days ago

Or maybe the timeline could be:
Schism -> Scholasticism -> Renaissance humanism -> Reformation -> Enlightenment -> Romanticism -> Modernism -> Postmodernism -> Neo-Romanticism*.
*Where Neo-Romanticism is a rejection of the previous ‘rationality’ of the Enlightenment and treats ‘feelings’ as top priority. This could explain a great deal – the rise of the big state, Identity Politics, a proliferation of new age beliefs, and yes, online essays about minotaur smut.
It has been said that “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
16 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I respect your view, but I don’t think we’re seeing a betrayal of the Enlightenment. We’re seeing a fulfillment of its logic: that is, the privileging of the self above God. Whether one puts one’s rationality or feelings first, there’s a common denominator: putting oneself first.
That whole process started with putting the Pope first, i.e. Catholicism. After that, we get the Reformation, which effectively says, “Everyone gets to be their own Pope.” Then we get the Enlightenment, which says “Everyone gets to reject Christianity if they want.” Which leads to postmodernism, which says “Everyone gets to be a cat if they want.”
The common thread: rebellion against the Church, and ultimately, against Christ. Putting man first, defying the will of God.
As it is written in the Book of Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
All our problems (to be clear, including my own) come from that lack of trust.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
16 days ago

“All that is clear is that you certainly do not find reams of analysis on equivalent male subreddits. For this, we must be grateful.”

I don’t want to out myself too much here, but I think it’s clear that whomever wrote this has not actually looked all that much at male-targeted porn, at least not beyond the most surface-level analysis of the most vanilla of generic ‘Hustler’ type tripe. I can’t exactly blame her for not doing so, but she shouldn’t make such authoritative declarations like the ones that fill this article without some knowledge of the disturbing depths of male desire before declaring that it’s either different or more vile than the women’s equivalent. Then again she admits to not even reading the book this article is ostensibly *about*, so…

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
16 days ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

I think the medium is a vary important distinction here. Novels, even cliché-ridden ones, inherently contain a lot more to analyse than you are likely to find in audio-visual porn.
Let’s take the minotaur story she’s mentioned. I’ve not read it, but can imagine the sorts of things contained. Both main characters almost certainly have backstories. The minotaur probably has a traumatic past – maybe his minotaur parents experienced a turbulent relationship that left him with intimacy issues, maybe a previous human professed her love before running off with one of his minotaur brothers. And Violet, may have experienced the same, as well as having crippling self esteem issues from being called fat as a toddler or an eating disorder or untreated depression or PTSD.
Then when they meet, there’s probably pages of tension build-up, where readers are left uncertain as to the minotaur man’s intentions. And from there, there are probably miscommunications, as well as relationship disfunctions caused by the imperfections of one or both characters. There are probably also other love-interests/rivals on the side. This is all happening before, during and after the smut. It’s a necessary part of it – a smut story that’s 100% mechanistic sex scenes would not have much tension.
This leaves a lot to talk about between fans. Readers generally aren’t talking about how sexy a given scene was from a mechanical perspective, they’re usually analysing and critiquing the characters actions (i.e. Why oh why can’t Violet see she would be better with the Satyr from down the road instead?) or some aspect of the setting or backstory. Sexiness still matters, but its generally holistic narrative sexiness.
Can you really say that about male-targeted porn? Admittedly I’ve not watched much, but are male fans really watching full-length movie porn narratives? Do they care that much about whether the sexy MILF#1’s delirious exclamations of ‘you’re the best!’ are genuine, or an insidious manipulation tactic aimed to cause the male main characters eye to stray from his true soulmate, sexy MILF #2? Are they going to write essays about it?
It’s not so much about whether men or women are more depraved, it’s just one’s preferred form of smut leaves more to be discussed and bonded over.

David Morley
David Morley
16 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Well yes – but there is also a different moral attitude to male and female porn.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
15 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Maybe I’m the exception rather than the rule (this wouldn’t be the first time), but actually yes, I can say that about most of the kind of things I’ve seen. But than again, I’m not referring to the surface level, pornhub/onlyfans style of content where woman prance and jiggle about and earn more money in a month than I would in a decade, but instead the niche, ‘deep net’ kind that you’re unlikely to find unless you’re looking for it. Much of that is of the same medium, either written or illustrated, and the main difference is largely the focus on what’s happening *to* the characters, not how they feel about relationships past/present. And yes, men talk about these things, in conversations more complex than ‘man, that’s hot’ (usually, at least), discuss the themes, analyze plots (what little there is), and *gasp* occasionally bond over shared interests. Or at least as much as men can, especially anonymously over the internet.

As plenty of others have pointed out in these comments, there is certainly double standards and false assumptions a plenty when it comes to the difference between men and women, and I think one of the biggest is the false yet extremely pervasive belief that women are infinitely more deep and complex in there thoughts and emotions, even in as something as crass as pornographic habits. The whole ‘how often does your man think about the Roman Empire?’ Meme from a while ago should’ve put that idea to bed, but alas here we are.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
16 days ago

Oh, sure. Everything is fine.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
16 days ago

EDIT: and my original comment seems to be back. Odd. Disregard this, then.

Why is it that my comments on articles like this mysteriously disappear soon after posting?

Will K
Will K
14 days ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

I don’t know about Unherd, but the Guardian removes reader comments without notice, if they consider them to not meet ‘community guidelines’.

Thomas Donald
Thomas Donald
16 days ago

Great article! Ta.

Bird
Bird
16 days ago

Perhaps another thought – I found myself engaged in a very interesting conversation with an ex – hooker, dominatrix once and walked away with a whole different perspective of sexual fantasy than I had previously held. It was a lot of food for thought. She called it the poison and the antedote.
Sex requires us to be vulnerable. The ego requires a certain ‘thing’ to be able to let go and dissolve to fully engage. Call these barriers. Everyone has different scenarios although they bleed over I guess. The ‘fantasy’ is a psychology representation (note representation – not real) of what the ego needs for that part of you to let go. Depending on life experience, whats happening at the time, what and how you are feeling in the moment…..etc. etc. What one actually truly wants, which is an internal thing, what that represents – etc.
One should never try to actually fulfill the literal representation of one fantasy. That in and of itself can be very dangerous.
The same is true for women as men – however under those guidelines – it doesn’t take Einstein to figure this one out. The article and my comment about music lines up with this.
They have always said that we do not know ourselves – that is the true work of the ages. The truest coming-of-age. I attest, I believe, for the most part – we are clueless about ourselves and each other.
It was a truly interesting conversation – not one I would have previously expected to have had, but there you go.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
15 days ago

The publishing industry has become almost exclusively about fetish. This will likely spread into children’s fiction too where it has not already done so. Fantasy is a key locus as the Game of Thrones book, though beautifully written in parts, had a focus on a rather lurid fantasy sexuality.

Will K
Will K
14 days ago

I’m so thankful that my personal erotic desires are not illegal. Because they are so powerful, that if they were, I would probably be in prison by now.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago

Umberto Corazzi. It is strange how the Byron-Darcy hybrid mentioned above aroused something stuck in the back of my mind about the similarities of the Darcy Myth with the Donald Trump-Melanie (“The Beauty and Beast”) connection. Undoubtedly, Trump possesses a “will to power” large enough to make a Byronic hero out of him as per “the Byronic” in Austen, when Elizabeth realizes: “I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy.” [Pride & Prejudice (Chapter 33)].