Nestled inside the top sellers list on Amazon, between the James Patterson pot-boilers, the ubiquitous de-cluttering manifesto, and various forgettable beach reads, is the answer to what women really want: in short, to fuck their stepbrothers. For months now, self-published stepsibling romance novels have become a staple on the best-selling Amazon charts. Titles such as, My Stepbrother, My Lover; Stepbrother Charming; Stepbrother Dearest; I’m in Love with my Stepbrother make up the newest outpost in the female erotic imagination.
Incest narratives have long been a staple of self-published erotica, be they volumes of fan fiction where the Weasley twins do it to each other or tortured narratives of forbidden love between father and daughter that float around free smut websites. But these familial romances have always lurked in the margins; now marks the first time these tracts have appeared next to a Dan Brown book. To wit, Penelope Ward’s Stepbrother Dearest hit #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list in the spring of this year. And Ward’s success is not a fluke. The stepbrother genre is the new juggernaut of e-book sales, making it the next “big thing” in erotic online publishing (a position once held by vampires, then BDSM duos, and most recently, motorcycle gang romances).
Colleen Masters’ Stepbrother Billionaire, a bestseller on Amazon and a much-discussed addition to the genre on Goodreads threads, is a fine introduction into the typical angsty play you’ll find in this blossoming new world. In Masters’ book, the heroine, Abby, hooks up with Emerson, the snobby lacrosse-playing son of Abby’s dad’s girlfriend. The hookup fills Abby with ambivalence which then evolves into agony after Emerson becomes a part of the family.
Now he torments me in the hallways, calling me “Sis” whenever he gets the chance, relishing in the fact that I can’t hide my blushing whenever he’s around. Even though I can’t stand him, my body betrays me—and he loves it. Emerson and his mom just moved in with us, and as if crushing on him wasn’t weird enough, now our bedrooms share a wall.
I asked Masters: Why now? Why is stepsibling romance so hot?
“A collective lingering obsession with Cruel Intentions?” she joked over e-mail. “I think that the dynamic is so sexy because everyone wants what they can’t have! I also think it’s the immediate emotional intensity that readers love. Deep empathy can arise between two characters coming from fractured families—and I personally always find that level of understanding to be sexy. The warring forces of tight quarters and forbidden physical attraction also make this dynamic inherently dramatic. ”
Alice Ward, author of My Stepbrother, My Lover, believes the genre has become popular “because stepsiblings have such a unique and fascinating dynamic. They’re put in a situation where they’re expected to grow to love each other. And if sexual attraction accompanies that love, it’s only natural for a little romance to blossom.”
Stepsiblings are also, in the grand sweep of history, a relatively new phenomenon. The divorce rate in the United States really started to climb in the 1970’s, which led to bisected families merging with other families, thrusting horny teens into sharing bathrooms with another horny teens. Sex with your stepsibling, therefore, isn’t just a device in erotica. It’s a wonderfully American phenomenon, the run-off from the tidal shift of our sexual revolution. Even if you didn’t fuck your stepbrother, incest play provides way to burn off lingering fumes of primitive childhood impulses that didn’t make much sense to us at the time. Sex, after all, is the straightest line between two points.
The most common couple dynamic in the stepbrother genre is an angsty combative stepbrother versus his virginal, but curious, new stepsister. Sometimes the two have hooked up before their parents marry. Other times the siblings resent the other’s new presence in the home, but feel an instant physical attraction. Soon their verbal jousting evolves into sexual tension that erupt into an ambivalent fuck-for-all. Here is some tête–à–tête between the steplovers in Sabrina Paige’s Prick, which also spent several weeks on Amazon’s bestseller chart:
‘Did you just spank me?’
‘It won’t be the last time I do it, either.’
‘Do women fall for this shit?’
‘You’re the one bent over your father’s desk, Princess. You’re also the one who’s soaking wet. So you tell me.”
The early pioneers of the stepbrother romance genre were the women who penned stepsibling “one-offs” and sold them for a couple bucks on Amazon. One-offs are short stories, about a few thousand words in length, that revolve around one sex act. Erotic one-offs, then, are like slutty little sister to the multi-part romance novel. They are quick, hardcore, and dirty micro-narratives about group sex, virgins with older men, rough sex, rape play, and pseudo-incest.
“Writing about incest, straight out between blood relations will get you banned,” says Rennie Reynolds (a pseudonym for an erotica writer who has published over 60 titles on Amazon). “And it’s a major loss, especially if that title was making money for you. That’s why you have to be clever with your wording in the synopsis. You have to signal to people that there’s taboo material in your story, but you also don’t want to get your story banned. You have to use coded language.”
For example, you can signal that you have father/daughter sex in your story by using the phrase “man of the house” in place of father. For brother-on-sister action, the code is “the boy who has always lived with us.” Eventually erotica writers figured out that they could just cut to the chase if they used the “step” device for family romance and voila, a genre was born.
“You definitely have to get creative, when it comes to toeing the no-incest line,” Masters says. “My editors usually let me have at a story on my own, and rein me in later if they think something’s going to become an issue. But I find that having to take those rules into account actually gets my creativity fired up. Any time you have to work around obstructions of form, style, or content, you’re going to come up with new ideas that never would have occurred to you otherwise.”
For Ward, who is primarily a romance writer—the cardinal difference between romance and erotica is the fact that characters in a romance typically always end up in a relationship, not just a fling—making her characters young adults with no shared childhood experiences helps her to “avoid crossing any lines that may be considered too taboo. It also keeps the sensational family dynamic from overshadowing the romance.”
But the family dynamic is potent, and sets the imagination on fire for women and men alike. A cursory look at Pornhub will pull up countless step-sex sessions that go beyond siblings to parents. There’s the hot stepmom instructing her son how to properly pleasure a woman; the stepdad who catches his teen daughter prancing around her mom’s lingerie and so on. Shows like Game of Thrones have brought incest into our living rooms—you prestige cable drama nerds, love it, admit it. And just a few weeks ago on Reddit, there was a lively thread soliciting real stories of people who had actually slept with a stepsibling. Here’s a taste:
I hooked up with my stepbrother the same night our parents got married. My real brother caught us and thank god he’s never fucking said anything. I make sure to never piss him off. But me and my stepbrother still kinda flirt and fool around during family gatherings (Thanksgiving is a LOT more fun now). Hasn’t messed up our lives yet, thank god we’re adults and he lives in a different state.
I, a gay male, came out to my step-brother when I was 15 and he was 16. I told him I wanted to always give someone a blowjob. He told me if I gave him $20 he would let me suck him off. So I did.From there things escalated, we ended up having sex several times. He would walk around the house wagging his penis at me when no one was in the house. He would flash his cock at me in the bathroom where I could only see him to let me know he wanted me to blow him again. Or he would tap twice on the hallway door when walking back to his room.He ended up telling his brother, my other step-brother, and he had me eat his ass out. Nothing ever happened after that. I moved away, they got married and had kids. edit: we were step-siblings for about 5 years at that point when it all started - and as far as I know no one was ever the wiser.
So here we are, you nation of perverts. “Step” is our safe-word.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Especially if you’ve had sex with a stepsibling.
Illustration by Jim Cooke