Can Reading Erotica Keep My Sexual Flame Burning After a Cancer Diagnosis?


Cancer took a toll on mine and my husband’s sex life, but after a great sexual encounter on New Year’s Eve, I wondered if adding erotica into our relationship might help keep that passion alive.

My desire to obtain and read erotica came from a wonderful love-making session I had with my husband on New Year’s Eve, 2021. Finally, I had gotten over the self-consciousness of my double mastectomy and losing my breasts and nipples to cancer.

I wanted to continue the rekindled sexual heat that had been extinguished for so many years following my diagnosis and treatment. I thought adding a little erotica to our relationship would continue to stoke the fire.

I also knew that I wasn’t the only cancer survivor to experience a lengthy sexual dry spell. If sexy literature might aid my husband and me in the bedroom, it might help others as well.

I remembered that when I was a teenager and in college, I lived with a family in a rented room. They had a subscription to Penthouse Letters, and I used to read them. In this bi-monthly magazine, people would write in and share their sexual exploits. The pretense was that the experiences were true, but many of the letters were written by professional writers who assumed the role of readers who had recently engaged in some great sex that they had to tell the whole world about. The Penthouse Letters made the time pass quickly when I wasn’t doing college homework, and I have to say, they turned me on. I remember the magazines being sexually explicit but not “trashy.”

During my 30s, I never read porn, but enjoyed an occasional romance novel. In fact, I liked Harlequin Romances. They were fun, happy reads where the girl always got the boy. Back when I was reading these books, about 25 years ago, there was very little sex in them, just warm kisses and deep embraces. Now that I was older and years removed from cancer treatment, I wondered if they’d gotten a little racier since I’d read them for relaxation back in the day.

Harlequins and other romance novels sounded fine for some couples who wanted a slow, full-length narrative about love, but I wanted something a little sexier.

Again, it was 40 years later. I hadn’t read a Letter since I was 19. Would they still keep my flame burning? I wondered if they even printed Penthouse Letters. I looked online and, lo and behold, there they were — in compilations.

I decided to call some adult stores and found the book at the second place I called.

I summoned up my courage and drove over. My plan was simply to park in the lot and eyeball the place. If it checked out in my mind as adequately safe, I’d go in.

The store had its share of neon signs and brightly colored lingerie hanging in the windows. I could see immediately that it was “pitched” to women. All kinds of women. I then knew it was fine and went in.

“Hello,” the salesperson said.

“Hi, I’m the person looking for the Penthouse Letters.” I cut right to the chase. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, not wanting to be recognized by anyone I knew. There was still stigma to erotica in my little burb.

“Here,” she said, handing me the book.

She’d had it ready for me.

“Thanks,” I said and got in line to buy it. While I was waiting, I opened the cover and read a little.

“My,” I thought, seeing the words “prick” and “snatch.” It was vulgar, more so than I had remembered reading as a teen.

It turned me off.

I put the compilation back on the shelf. If my husband and I could generate sexual heat without erotica on New Year’s Eve after his rotator cuff injury, the COVID-19 scare, kids, and my breast cancer and mastectomy, we could certainly keep up the trend.

“That’s a little trashier than when I read them as a teenager forty years ago.”

“I guess so,” said the salesperson. “Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen erotica get more explicit.”

The girl couldn’t have been older than 30.

“You might enjoy this,” she said, handing me Calendar Girl, part of a 12-book series, by Audrey Carlan.

“OK. On second thought, I’ll take the Letters compilation and Calendar Girl. I need to peruse them in the comfort and privacy of my own home.”

She checked me out, putting the two books in a bright purple plastic bag, and I proceeded to leave to go home to do more reading.

Friends, the bottom line is I did my own research into the world of erotica and discovered that ultimately, it wasn’t my “cup of tea.”

Recovering from cancer is difficult, and add to that, the task of enjoying sex again. It’s all hard, but you can do it.

If you’ve got the notion, look into the world of erotica. It just might be to your liking.

Then again, if you’re like my husband and me, you’ll eventually create your own sexual spark.

This is a no judgement zone. It’s up to you.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.

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