What IS Erotic?

I was surfing around the web again and found this entry in a blog, and it made me think.

I have read some stories, both store bought, and ePubbed, that were labeled Erotic Romance, that left me cold. Not just as a reader, but disappointed at the quality as a writer. Lynn does a good job in mentioning the lack of craft involved in some stories so I’m going to mention something I’ve found lacking. The EROTIC part of erotic romances.

I’m often disappointed when I read a story that’s billed as an erotic romance when I get to the love/sex scenes. Why? Because in my humble opinion I think there’s more to making a sex scene erotic than just explicitness.

I’ve often heard romance authors say that erotica has no emotion, or no feeling. I disagree 100%. Just because the feelings involved are not LOVE does not mean there is no emotion. To me, the key to making a scene erotic is just how clearly the writer expresses all the feelings of the characters, not how many times they can say ‘cock’ or how many positions their characters fuck in.

For some examples of GREAT erotic romance stories check out Emma Holly, Angela Knight, Janelle Denison, Jaid Black, and Alison Kent.

13 comments for “What IS Erotic?

  1. October 18, 2004 at 10:29 am

    Ooooh, interesting topic. I just approached a website that specializes in erotic reviews and asked if they’d review my latest. The answer was no. Why? Because in order to meet their guidelines, a book has to have at least one example of "blunt" language (c*ck, c*nt, etc.). I generally don’t use terms like those. Never mind that my book has five or six extremely explicit and descriptive sex scenes– it’s still not "erotic romance" as this site defines it. I understand the need for a site to have an easy, facile definition of "erotic romance," but I can’t say I agree with that one. Erotic romance doesn’t necessarily have to imply coarse words… or does it??? Is bluntness and frank language a requirement in order for a romance to be considered erotic?

    Now I’ve confused myself, LOL!

  2. Dianna
    October 18, 2004 at 11:25 am

    e·rot·i·ca…Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.
    To me using "harsh" words ruin the erotic feeling of a story. One of my favorite erotic love scenes is in a super romance, the author gets your juices flowing with out ever using harsh words or terms. So many romance stories have erotic love scenes. IMHO One can not have erotica without feeling that is porn.

  3. October 18, 2004 at 11:30 am

    Wow. I think this was a great blog entry, all of it. You expressed the point very well!! I agree, I have read quite a few erotic romances that just weren’t erotic. And I agree too that love is not the only emotion there is. A HEA is not required to have a greatly emotional story.

    As to Ellen, this is just MHO, but a coarse word conveys not just dirtiness, but urgency. Also, a love scene done in a man’s POV would most likely use those descriptions. But that’s just my opinion, ya know?

  4. Sasha
    October 18, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    To me, you can definitely have an erotic scene WITHOUT the coarse words, and WITH them. It’s the tone, and feel of the scene that makes it erotic. The emotions the characters are experiencing, and the ones that the writer arouses in the reader.

    What I’m disappointed in is that some of the stories labeled Erotic Romance are not erotic. I believe this is due to A) the rapid growth of the market. B)lack of craft in some writers, C) and a lack of emotion in some stories.

    AND, I have nothing against pornographic stories!! They have their place, and I write them too! But I don’t label them erotic. There is a line that seperates them, it just seems to me that not everyone can see that line.

  5. October 18, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    One of the most erotic stories I ever read (by emma holly) didn’t have coarse lang in it (that I remember). Coarse words don’t bother me–rather the lack of emotion bothers me–because i think you can use coarse words and still ellicit emotion.

    Funny, I wrote a love scene Saturday from the POV of one of the most sensual men I’ve ever written and he used rather coarse words. IMO it didn’t take away from the scene because it’s obvious he’s making love to her.

    I agree 150% with Sasha. Personally, (gonna use my favorite word here) it’s evocative writing that gets me and I think that comes with a combonation of sex and emotion.

  6. Dianna
    October 18, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    Sasha I think different people see the line between erotica and porn differenty then you do, you probably don’t concider a sex scene where they include oral sex as porn where some would. The use of toys may also be erotic or porn, depending on context the Statement "you want to Fuck me" can be discusting or erotic. :plain:

  7. October 18, 2004 at 3:58 pm

    Good discussion about Erotica. I have an idea that I want to write targeting EC, and I’ve been reading and studing more erotica lately. One of my CP’s has a partial with EC now. I believe that there is a line between porn and erotica. But language for me isn’t it. IMO, Language has to be true not only to your plot and what you are trying to convey, but it has to be true to your characters. If you’re not true to them then the entire story falls flat. But the actual acts the characters perform and the emotions felt are vital for me to draw a distinction.

    Just my opinion.

  8. Sasha
    October 18, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    I think most of us agree that it’s NOT the language that makes a scene erotic. But coarse language will not take anything away from a well written, well crafted erotic scene.

    It’s not even the act itself that makes it erotic. It is possible to have a scene that has no sex in it be erotic. (Think Jennifer Beals eating lobster in Flashdance, or The Tango that Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo in The Tomas Crown Affair)

    Now all we have to do it make sure that the publshers of Erotica and Erotic Romance know that we prefer evocative storytelling , and that explicitness is not a requirement. Not that it’s bad either! Man, I could go in circles with this! :crazy:

    What I’m trying to say is, I think we all agree. ;)

  9. October 18, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    Definitely an interesting subject. When I first started writing for EC, they encouraged the use of stronger language. I think they’ve backed away from that stance now. It took me forever to get used to using some of the language that was expected in the hotter ratings. Some of it, I’m still not fond of, but I don’t find it offensive. I agree that language does NOT make the erotic scene.

  10. October 19, 2004 at 4:14 am

    HI Sasha, great topic. I agree with those who’ve said "erotic" has more to do with sexual tension and the reactions of the character, than anything else. But I also feel that explicit language can be used to good effect at the right moments. I also have to say that the review site Ellen mentioned needs to redefine their criteria!!!!

  11. October 19, 2004 at 4:48 am

    I agree with you Sasha. Most of the erotic romances I’ve read have been even less erotic and sensual than a romance where the sexuality/sensuality is rated warm. Ignoring my personal feelings; that is why most Blaze’s haven’t worked for me. Alot of them have read like sex manuals. It felt as though the author felt that writing alot of sex scenes and using cuss words and crude language made the book erotic. Emma Holly is one of my favorite authors because her books have heart, characterization and HEAT. I think the definition of erotic romance should be changed. Upping the sexual content and adding blunt words does not romantica make.

  12. October 22, 2004 at 9:06 pm

    FWIW, Janelle Denison insists she writes sensual romance, but that what she does is not erotic. No how. No way. Proving yet again, the definition is all in the eye of the consumer!

  13. Sasha
    October 24, 2004 at 4:53 am

    There you go. I love Janelle Denison’s Wilde Thing (I enjoyed the other Wilde ones, but Wilde Thing was my fave) …and I found it quite erotic. But that’s me! ;)

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