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Need Some Spice?

What to know about the smutty side of BookTok

By: Ariana Molina


BookTok, a community on the popular social media platform TikTok dedicated to book lovers, has various tastes and genres ranging from fantasy to those with some “spice” in them. 


What are Spicy Books?

“Spicy,” a slang term that’s often associated with erotica in romance novels. But this is not everyone’s definition of spice; readers have different views of what makes a story spicy. 


“I think spicy romance is anything where the central love story is shown with some kind of physical contact,” said Leslie Murphy, the creator and writer of romance novel blog “She Reads Romance Books.”


Kaitlyn Calvin, a fifth-year criminal justice student at Cal State Fullerton, is also involved in the world of spicy books. Calvin believes a spicy book would be three out of five peppers, which is a way fans of spicy books measure the content of a novel.


“One pepper is when there’s only or two sex scenes,” Calvin said. “And then five…it’s basically written porn. There’s just no plot, and it’s just focused around the tension and the chemistry between the two characters.”


The Stigma of Spicy Romance

Even though the BookTok community normalizes reading steamy love stories and being open about it, some readers still try to be discreet about reading them in public. An example of this is using book covers so no one can see the actual cover.


This is due to the stigmatization of romance novels, especially spicy ones. There is a stigma that romance novels are no more than guilty pleasures and women who are seen reading them in sitcoms are bored middle-aged women escaping from passionless marriages.


Spicy books also tend to focus on female pleasure, which is taboo not just in literature but in society as well. Freely describing female pleasure has typically been dismissed, and this genre of novels is no different.



How to fight against the Stigma

While there isn’t much of a solution to fight against the stigma of spicy books, Murphy suggested that bookstores should have more spicy romance sections and keep highlighting best sellers of the genre to hopefully help normalize it.


If you are interested in getting into spicy romance, here are some book recommendations from Murphy:

“Him” by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen, an LGBTQ+ romance centered around two hockey players.

“Fangirl Down” by Tessa Bailey, a romantic comedy focused on a professional golf player.


If you would like some more recommendations, you can go to Murphy’s online blog “She Reads Romance Books.”


In the end, enjoy what you read and don’t be afraid to add some spice to your reading list.

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