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What is Bigfoot erotica? A Virginia congressional candidate accused her opponent of being into it.

Our weird political era just got a little hairier. For the first time, millions of Americans are asking, “What is Bigfoot erotica?”

That question has been inspired by Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat who’s running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District. On Twitter this Sunday, Cockburn accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica.” Her tweet included a crudely drawn image of Bigfoot — with the monster’s genitalia obscured — taken from Riggleman’s Instagram account. She added, “This is not what we need on Capitol Hill.”

Actually, it would probably fit in just fine.

On the Cook Political Report, political analyst David Wasserman notes, “The most curious element of Riggleman’s background may be a recently-deleted Facebook author page appearing to promote a self-published book titled ‘The Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him.’ ”

GOP picks Denver Riggleman to replace Rep. Tom Garrett as nominee in Virginia’s 5th District

Reached by phone Monday morning, Riggleman said he has no interest at all in Bigfoot erotica, and he characterized Cockburn’s accusation as ludicrous. “We’re stunned by it.”

He said that he did write an “anthropological book sort of based on parody and satire,” which has been a running joke with “a bunch of military pals” for the past 14 years. The Bigfoot image that Cockburn grabbed from Instagram was drawn by an artist friend who told Riggleman, “This is the best way to present your book.”

“I thought it was funny. There is no way that anybody’s dumb enough to think this is real,” said Riggleman, a former Air Force intelligence officer and defense contractor who owns a Nelson County distillery with his wife.

“I do not believe that Bigfoot is real,” he added, laughing. “But I don’t want to alienate any Bigfoot voters.”

He plans to publish his book someday. “When people read it, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, my goodness, this was 14 years of practical jokes.’ ”

This is a dark day for political discourse in America. But it is an enlightening one for Bigfoot erotica.

The genre, a subset of pornographic literature called cryptozoological erotica, was in the news a few years ago when and other online booksellers began deleting so-called monster porn from their websites. Critics complained that the books featured rape, bestiality and pedophilia. Some authors responded by changing their titles, toning down the descriptions of their plots or labeling their stories “ADULTS ONLY!” Amazon currently lists dozens of e-books with titles such as “Shiver for Yeti,” “Where the Wild Things Ravish” and “Bride of Bigfoot.” ( founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

These books are almost always self-published, short and inexpensive. Their covers frequently sport obscene puns and bizarre images. In 2013, one author, Virginia Wade, told Business Insider that her self-published monster erotica sometimes earned $30,000 a month.

Bigfoot erotica may seem like another abomination birthed by the Internet, but its antecedents are centuries old. Sexual encounters between humans and mythical animal creatures can be found in ancient Greek myths. Zeus, for instance, took the form of a swan when he seduced Leda; Pasiphae had a tragic thing for bulls.

Girl, they’re just not that into you.

Chuck Tingle, the pseudonym of an author of comically absurd erotica, is perhaps the most well-known creator of monster porn, including about 10 books featuring encounters with Sasquatch. Reached via email, Tingle said he understands why Bigfoot monsters are so attractive as romantic heroes: “They are natural outdoorsmen . . . which I think is nice, and, even though it seems like they could have a bad-boy way, they are actually very kind.” He imagines his readers think, “Wow, he could protect me in a big fight, and he could also take me on a walk in nature and show me which are the best plants to kiss or to eat in a stew.”

“Such stories, he said, “prove love is real for all.”

Whether the voters of Virginia’s 5th District will agree is not clear.

Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts

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