Monday, August 27, 2012

Making Adult Visual Novels -- for Women

Making Adult Visual Novels
for Women.

----- Original Message------
... [female] fans want more than just some below-average Visual Novels that resembles the worst 1970s romance novels.
 -- Frustrated VN Fan

Yes, they do want more. I have seen my share of Adult visual novels and I can tell you from the hard experience of working for a porn video corporation, that the Adult JVNs currently out on the market do NOT appeal to us Western Females at all, and I doubt they appeal to women in the East either -- for the Same Reasons: the way SEX is portrayed. 

"But Romance is Romance, right?
Porn is Porn?"

Not quite...
-- The Adult book publishing industry in the West (Europe too, not just the Americas,) recently had a huge cultural revolution over:

Sex Positive vs. Sex Negative:  
Sex that makes the reader feel good about themselves, 
Sex that makes the reader feel like perverted freaks

In short, the erotic plots and the characters engaging in erotic activities had a huge overhaul to make Sex a Good thing, instead of a dirty little secret you didn't talk about to anyone, not even your lover or your spouse. 

  • Female characters are no longer written as sex-crazed Sluts or Passive Victims who like sex in spite of themselves.
  • Male characters are no longer written as Rapists, (though they did keep the aggressive Seducer.)
But most importantly....
  • Sex makes everything Better, especially Love.

Well that's just books, right?

It's not just Books. 
This shift in attitude has bled into the Porn industry too.

You can actually buy/rent xXx porn movies that are sex positive: where the characters are Not treated like freaks for liking sex. Adam and Eve in particular has made a huge killing selling this type of movie (in every genre flavor you can think of) to almost exclusively female buyers. Just to put things in perspective, 20 years ago Women buying porn for themselves was Unheard Of because "women didn't buy porn." They do now! And a lot of it.

In the meantime, Sex-Negative porn is dying off.

You can still find it, but the porn Producers that don't make sex-negative movies drastically out-number the ones that still do.

These days, Sex Negative sells to only a small niche of people and this small niche is who JVN eroge generally appeals to.

This shift in attitude about sex from Negative: Sex is Bad, to Positive: Sex is Good, hasn't happened in Japan -- yet, and it shows in their work. Worse, this sex-negative attitude shows in their Romances too.

So... No, Sex-Negative/Rapist Porn is Not Sex-Positive/Seducer Porn, and Sex-Negative/Bodice-Ripper Romance is Not Sex-Positive Erotic Romance.

The #1 reason why the two top-selling genres of JVN:
Porn and Romance
Are Not selling well in the West?
Adult JVNs are Sex-Negative.

So, what changed the Western Adult Book market so radically?

The Black Lace phenomena.

Black Lace, an imprint of Virgin Books, based in London, was the first publishing house to not only put out adult books specifically targeting women readers, but to Require that their authors be Female. They point-blank refused to take male authors because, according to their submission guidelines, "Only a woman truly understands what women find erotic."

However, most importantly: "Stories must be Sex Positive."

The Black Lace books proved so popular, they took over the entire adult book market. I have 19 of their books currently on my shelf, and only a handful of the 'other kind', the kind put out before Black Lace came along.

The sheer overwhelming number of books that Black Lace sold forcibly brought to the attention of all those other adult book publishers three important --and overlooked-- facts:
Fact 1:
Women DO like adult stories when they're Sex-Positive.

When the first books soon to be known as Erotic Romances first appeared on the market, the publishing industry had been claiming for over a century that "women did Not like Sex in their stories." (Pretty much the same way all those JVN companies are currently insisting that only Men buy adult games.)

The truth was: women did not like Sex-Negative in their stories.

The #1 largest market of readers among English-speaking countries are Romance readers. Once they started buying Sex-Positive Adult books, the adult book market changed --almost overnight-- simply from the sheer number of the books they bought.

Fact 2:
When women find something they Like, 
They Buy them as fast as they Find them,  
and go through them like toilet paper.
Women weren't buying these books one or two at a time. They were buying the entire series in one shot simply because Erotica has a habit of being banned in stores. The simple possibility that they might not get another chance to buy these books prompted these women into buying everything they could get their hands on all at once

(I would buy them five or six at a time myself because I didn't know if the store I bought them from would be able to carry them later.)

They were able to do this because Adult Women have Disposable Income especially those with a working spouse.

Fact 3:
Female readers vastly Out-Number male readers. 
The vast and voracious market of Romance readers, made up of almost exclusively Female (housewife) book buyers, were the direct cause behind the birth of the EBook market. (The traditional publishers simply couldn't keep up with the demand.) These readers were also directly responsible for the creation of a whole new genre of adult books never seen before: the Erotic Romance, AKA: Women's Adult Adventure Fiction.

Today, Erotic Romance is still one of the largest and most prolifically producing book markets in the US -- even more so than ordinary (little to no sex) Romance. Mainly because those Romance readers are buying Erotic Romances.

Where is Black Lace Now?
DEFUNCT. They changed their line of stories from "Women's Adult Adventure Fiction" to 'Ladette' fiction, AKA: "Do them and Lose them" stories with female protagonists instead of males -- and cut their own throat.

Women don't like Sex-Negative stories. However, when the protagonist is Female they utterly despise them. This is because women are far more critical of the actions of their own gender than they are of men.

In short:
How do you make Adult Games
Sell to Women?

Change the Stories to
Make the player Feel GOOD about Sex, 
and you will change the Sales.

I can guarantee that right now in Japan there are far more bored housewives sitting at home at the computer then there are shut-in, jobless, otaku men still living at home with mommy.

Can you say: Vast Un-Tapped Potential Sales?

How do You the Game-Maker
Tap all that Potential?

Make what Female Players Want: Sex-Positive.
Stories that make the player feel Good about liking sex,

AVOID what they Don't Like: Sex Negative
Stories where liking sex is Shameful.

AVOID these Four specific 
Sex-Negative plots:

Plot 1: "Do them and Lose them."
Where the main character pursues, catches, screws, then abandons as many characters as possible to get to Good One (The Keeper) at the very end.

This is a MALE-SLUT plot line.

It appeals to men because they love the idea of being able to screw as many women as they can. It does not appeal to women because women are brought up to look for One Special Man. In fact, one of the worst things you can call a woman is a Slut.

Plot 2: "Gotta Get'em All"
Where the main character pursues, catches, and screws as many characters as possible then Shames them into helping him get to Good One at the very end.

This is a CHEATING MALE-SLUT plot line.

A double-whammy BAD plot to market toward women because women hate Cheaters even more than they do Sluts! The last thing any female wants is a guy that might be sleeping with her friend too. (Unless she's in the bed with them both, and even then the situation is rife with jealousy and self-esteem issues.)

Plot 3: "Rape means Love"
Where the main character Stalks the character of their choice, Rapes them then shames them for liking it to isolate them from all the other characters. Then they use guilt to bully that character into being raped again, and again until the chosen character gets "Stockholm Syndrome" and says, "I love you".

This is your basic STALKER-RAPIST plot-line, or more accurately, "I SPIT on it and NOW It's MINE!" plot.

This is one of the most immature and childish plots there are. Think in terms of a child licking a candy, or taking a bite out of a cake, just to make sure no one else will eat it before they get to it.

The worst part is how the author makes all the support characters AGREE with the rapist and shun the victimized character for Allowing themselves to be Victimized.

This is point-blank Unrealistic among modern society. In the USA, and most European countries, blaming the victim for a rape can get you sued for 'Defamation of Character.' That's after the rapist is sent to prison for a long, long time.

However, certain third-world countries and Middle Eastern religious regimes, STILL believe that Stalking = Love and will indeed blame the victim for 'allowing themselves to be a raped' to the point of insisting that the victim marry their Rapist to make the Victim an "honest woman."

Plot 4: "Rape the One that Got Away"
Where the main character Stalks and Rapes a character already in a legitimate relationship with someone else, such as: a friend's lover, a friend's spouse, or a sibling with a boyfriend. However, in this case they prefer the victim to remain in their relationship so they can use it for blackmail sex until they successfully break the victim's mind. Also known as "Netorare" or "Cuckolding."

This is the BACK-STABBING STALKER-RAPIST plot-line, or more accurately, "If It's Not Mine, I Will Take It and Break It!" plot.

This is even more immature than the previous. Think in terms of a child jealously stealing then breaking another child's toy simply because it wasn't theirs.

AVOID Female Rapists
Sadly, you see just as many Female rapists as Male rapists in VNs and anime. In fact, I believe it's actually more common to see a Female rapist in anime than a male, AKA: The Fan-Girl. However, in the East a man being raped by a woman is still considered Funny. (Values Dissonance, anyone?)

I don't know about you, but I LOATHE  Female Stalker/Rapists. ("No" means No people, girl or guy!) I hate these characters even more-so if they're temperamentally violent; females that viciously attack guys for no provocation other than embarrassment. It's Unfair and Not Funny. In fact, I hate those sorts of female characters even more than I do "Too Stupid To Live" (TSTL) doormat characters. I certainly would never want to play such a character in a game!

If you want to sell to the Female Market
Research what this market actually Buys

What movies do they watch?
What music do they listen to?
What books do they buy?
What stories do they actually Like?

Also, read what women actually Write. Not the professional stuff, the Amateur stuff, the dojinshi mangas they produce, and adult fan-fictions posted in the thousands for free viewing all over the 'net.

What factors do all these things have in common?

It's a well-known fact that when people can't find what they're looking for, they will make it themselves. The BL/Yaoi/Shonen Ai market and the entire Erotic Romance market are direct results of this. They both started with strictly amateur artists and writers, and look where they are now?

And that's my opinion on the topic. 


  1. This is so wonderfully said! Thank you!

  2. I disagree. I've heard of many , many women in western society that have been shamed for rape. Thats why a lot of rape goes unreported.

    Besides for that one thing I agree with the rest. Its great to hear that sex-pos writing has increased ! Never heard of black lace...will check out and recommend. Despite not reading romance books often...I actually do like the cheesy feel good stories so heres to hoping I can find one like that there.

    1. ...I've heard of many, many women in western society that have been shamed for rape.

      Yes they have, most often by their own family and by so-called friends. However in the USA, (where I'm from,) it is Not Acceptable societally or legally to 'blame the victim.' In fact, rape victims can, and do, sue those who try to shame them for 'Defamation of Character.'

      More importantly, this article is NOT about the realities of rape. This is about the Buyers of rape porn.


      The publication of Sex-Positive writing has indeed increased. In fact, to the point that one can only find rape-fiction in Self-Published work, simply because no legitimate publisher of Erotica or Erotic Romance will take any story that features the act of rape in a 'positive' way, (as entertainment.)

      I'm not saying that rape doesn't occur in fiction -- it does, but these days it's considered very bad taste to show rape as anything other than a vicious attack, and rapists as anything other than those to be Despised.

      As for the Black Lace books, they are no longer being published. The hundreds of Erotic Romance publishing houses put the Black Lace publisher out of business. You might, however, find a few of them as used books.

      If you're looking for sex-positive erotica books, search under: Erotic Romance. That's what they're called these days.

      I adore cheesy, feel-good books too. That's why I write them. ♥

  3. Excellent article. I agree 100%. Could you add a list of the Black Lace novels you own as references please. :) I'd love to jump on the band wagon!