Definations or limitations?

“Erotica is sex for sex’s sake without any repercussions, demands, or thought to the outcome.”

To be blunt, that’s bullshit.

Unfortunately, it’s also a common misconception.

When the erotic romance subgenre started to boom a lot of traditional romance authors took offense. At first, word was that only writers who weren’t good enough to get published for real got epublished. Then word got out just how popular some of these epublished authors were and they shifted blame to to the subgenre. Romance authors started calling down erotica, and erotic romance authors started getting defensive about the fact that what they write is NOT erotica, it’s erotic romance.

And now, we have readers and writers alike struggling to try and figure out what is what.

Then NY publishers started buying. Some are looking for erotica, some are looking for erotic romance. Yet, not many have actual guidelines for what they want and marketing comes into play. More confusion. But basically, I think we all want the same thing. A Good Story.

Everybody seems to have a different idea of what is what, and this is just my version of things. It’s easy to say that the difference between ER and Erotica is how they end. That ER ends with a “happily ever after” (HEA) and Erotica doesn’t. Or that ER is more story and more love, and erotica is more sex and less story.

But things just aren’t that simple.

Erotica is, and has been a complete genre on it own for decades. A genre full of literary stories, photography and art, as well. We all know there doesn’t have to be explicit sex involved to make something erotic. Yet, it seems easy for people to look at a photograph and say it’s erotic, even when there is not overt or explicit sex, but when a book or story is called erotica, it’s expected to be completely about sex.

Or worse even, it’s expected to be an Erotic Romance.

Now, this is not to say that erotica novels don’t have a lot of sex. But I believe Erotica is all about the main character’s journey. The sexual acts and scenes that take place in an erotica story propel the character on a journey. It’s the same way and a photogrpah that’s classed as Erotica, in my mind, is more than an image of a body, or a sex act. That photograph also tells a story. And it tells a different story to every person who looks at it.

I often post photos here on my blog. Sometimes they’re cheesy eye candy, sometimes they’re actual erotic ones. I trust people know the difference, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly why they’re different, and appreciate both for what they’re worth.

The same goes for fictional works.

I’m sure there are many who will not agree with me, but to my way of thinking Erotica is closer to the chic-lit genre than to the romance genre.

Why? Because it’s all about the main character, and the obstacles that character faces. The obstacles could be a job, a boss, money! Or the fact that the character is realizing they like to be spanked, or that they enjoy sex with strangers, or that they crave being dominated and humiliated in the bedroom. The story is about one person’s journey to a satisfying end, not always a traditional HEA.

Erotic Romance is, first and foremost, a romance. They are a full-bodied look at the relationship that develops throughout the story. It’s about the romantic relationship, and the struggles of the hero and heroine on the path to making their relationship work. It’s about their journey. The same way a traditional romance is, only in Erotic Romance, the author doesn�t hold back or close the door when it comes to the sexual part of the story.

These are the differences as I see them. It’s how I define them when I write them, when I feel the need to define them.

But to me, the actual definition isn’t as important as the fact that readers realize they are different genres, that they promise different things, and that they can appreciatte each one for the story it is.

What do you think?

19 comments for “Definations or limitations?

  1. January 4, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    I think you hit it right on the head Sasha. My problem with the hwhole argument is why people have to argue or get their panties in a wad because of such nonsense. If you pour your heart and soul into a book, short story, poem, etc and it is published, whether traditional paperback, hardback or e-book you are a true author. You’ve made it farther than alot of people. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, romance, erotic romance, erotica, porn, etc their are fans and people who love what you write. Why label it and degrade it especially if you have never read erotica, erotic romance, etc or becuase it isn’t your taste. Not everybody likes it missionary style so just accept that everyone is their own person and has their own likes. Keep up the good work Sasha! :rolleyes:

  2. January 4, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    I agree with you about that statement.
    I wanted to comment on your statement about getting epublished because you weren’t good enough to be published for real…I know a few people out there that felt that way, and turned down a chance for an epub. they are still waiting to be noticed and you have a story in a real book. :)

  3. Eve
    January 4, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    I read all three and love each one, depending upon my mood. I, too, don’t know why there is such a problem. I actually like Erotic romance better than just general romance. Just like I like Blazes instead of Superromances. I like reading about sex, especially between two people in love. But sometimes, I just want to read about sex, period. I’m just an ebook holdout – not for any snobbish reason, just old fashioned – I want a book in my hand. Plus, sometimes I have to watch the credit cards and I can pay for a book in a store – but not ebooks. Some day they’ll get around to a way of doing that too. Anyway, good points and good post.

  4. Sasha
    January 4, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    Paula~ I agree. An author is an author no matter where they pub. Just like a writer is still a writer even if they never get pubbed. It doesn’t change the fact that they WROTE!

    Dianna ~ I hate that misconception. I’ve never thought of epublishing as a step below or backward and I was pubbed in print with Black Lace and a few others before I ever thought to try electronic. I think it’s all about finding the righ place for you, and your words.

    Eve ~ Exactly. Sometimes nothign beats the feel of a bookin your hands. And if a read is to be satisfying, we need to be able to read various genres. Not always sex, not always traditional. Variety is good! :D

  5. January 5, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    I think that as long as publishers keep buying "erotica" and then selling it as "erotic romance" and vice versa for marketing reasons, the public is going to be understandably confused.

    The two genres are just starting to make waves in the industry, so for many many readers this is all new stuff to them. The only thing they’ve got to go on is what the publisher puts on the "spine" (virtual or paper). And as long as the publishers call a spade a diamond, readers and writers are going to find the waters to be very muddy. :(

  6. January 5, 2006 at 7:30 am

    I agree with Sylvia on this one. The dissatisfaction often stems from never knowing what I’m going to get when I pick up something that says "erotic" on the label. My preference is for romance, so when I don’t get that HEA at the end, I get peeved. If only I’d known before I plonked down the cash!

  7. January 5, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Good post. This is one of those topics that will continue to be debated I think for a while. I agree with Sylvia too on the muddy waters though.

  8. Sasha
    January 5, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Uhmmm, It does say in the post that the publishers and the marketing thing confuses the issue. My point was that Personally, defining them limits the possabilities when I wrte them.

    So nobody is disagreeing here. Sylvia just picked one aspect of thepost to comment on. :)

  9. January 5, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    I think the definition you listed above sounds more like porn than erotica. Erotica always has a point to the story, whether it’s a journey or to evoke an emotion.

    I definitely agree with Sylvia that the biggest problem is with the marketing. Readers don’t like to be misled. Period.

  10. Sasha
    January 5, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    Jordan, the post does say erotica is about the characters journey in the post. Where do you get that it has no point?

  11. Sasha
    January 5, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    *goes back and rereads post to make sure it said what I thought it said*

    ohh! Are you referring to the Quote at the top?

    Uh huh. That would be the one I called bullshit on? :P

  12. JJ
    January 5, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve got to say, Sasha, I’ve read this entry and then the comments. So then I went back and reread the post. Erotica is not porn. Porn is porn. Maybe saying erotica is chick lit with the sex in would make it easier for some folks to understand? I write erotica, I write erotic romance and sometimes I even write a bit of porn. When I do, there’s no doubt about it.

  13. January 5, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    I suppose it all has to do with reader’s expectations. If they’re looking for the HEA and it doesn’t come through at the end, they’ll be disappointed. They might love the story, but they also want to know what to expect at the end. Like a rollercoaster ride. Yeah, it’s exciting, it’s fun–as long as you know you’re safe & can get off at the end.

    Then again, you could write a book, call it ‘erotic romance’, and not have a single consumated sex scene, but lots of ‘erotic’ ones.
    So who will determine where the line is between erotica, erotic romance, hot romance, spicy, etc? Didn’t we go through a big mess about this last year?

    And EVERY story is about a ‘journey’ of one kind or another, isn’t it? Even if it’s just from one state of mind/being to another.
    I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of ‘labels’ in any case, so I probably shouldn’t even be commenting, lol!

    It’s been an interesting argument for some time now. Be curious to see how/if it’s ever resolved.

  14. Sasha
    January 5, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    Actually Raine, I’m glad you commented. It seems that the point of my whole post wasn’t clear enough. I was NOT trying to revive the erotic /erotic romance argument. I was simply talking about defining things putting limitations onthings, hence the title. I agree with you completely. This post was suppposed to be about not labeling what I write. I guess I cnfused the issue by including a couple of my own definitions in my babble..

  15. January 5, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Erotica traditionally is about lush description, sensual writing, involving the senses. Not necessarily all about sex. In fact, I can think of at least one erotica novel I’ve read that had maybe three sex scenes in about 400 pages.

    I would say the big difference between erotica and erotic romance is whether or not the core of the story is about boy meets girl (or gender of choice), overcomes obstacles to commitment and lives happily ever after. Plenty of mainstream novels have a strong romantic element but aren’t "romances" because the core of the story isn’t boy-meets-girl, happily-ever-after.

    Erotica can very much contain a strong romantic element, and when it does it gets to be a very fine line between the two things.

    In the end, how much do the labels really matter? I’m not sure. For myself, I just want a good story.

  16. January 6, 2006 at 3:33 am

    I agree, Sasha. I think definitions are a minefield, they can hamper and conceal as much as they reveal, especially when it comes to the erotica debate. We need definitions to negotiate the world but when it comes to sexuality and what is acceptable it’s really all about individual perception. I put some thoughts about writing erotica on my site last year,when the whole debate went doolally, but in general I don’t like the overwhelming black/white perception of sexuality in literature.

  17. January 7, 2006 at 4:08 am

    Great post. I’ve been erotica for a good many years and when I’m reading the difference is usually "obvious". If I was given a few paragraphs of Penthouse Letters and 1st person erotic romance, 9 times out of 10 I bet I’d guess which was which. But I have to admit that sometimes I see a huge variety and notice the confusion within erotic romance. I was thinking of the new line at HQN should come out soon as I recall and that it was to be erotica, not erotic romance. I have a feeling no matter what their first releases are, I’ll be slightly surprised.

  18. Sasha
    January 9, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Charli~ I cpompletely agree. Alot of traditional eortica doesn;t have any real overt sex acts. It’s about the way the words are strung together.

    Saskia~ Lables! Yuck!

    Thats sums it up huh? ;)

    Annalee~ I hear they wanted erotica only to start, but have had a hard time finding good stories, so they opened it up to erotic romance as well. I have no idea what to expect, and maybe it’s bad to say, but I feel strangley apathetic towards Harlequin even trying to get into the erotica market.

  19. January 9, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    I keep coming back and reading that post because it is interesting that even editors and reviewers don’t agree on what erotica is. I had to call mine romantica because erotic reviewers wouldn’t review it without the 3 c words lol. Then those who reviewed it called it wonderfully erotic. so if you guys figure it out let me know. Any good story that arouses your imagination, takes hard work. I used to think the labels were for readers, erotica, erotic romance, romantica, romance, but they are scratching their heads like the rest of us. I think of porn, I think of penthouse. I don’t think of a book an author has written to engage me on an emotional level. It’s peas and apples or whatever. We love to label things so I suppose unless there’s some sort of clarity about which is what, we’re all going to be subject to whatever tag people stick on them. Taste, touch, scent, that’s erotic to me, but it doesn’t make what I write erotic to some reviewers. Not that I mind, Im just waving my hands to see through the same fog as everyone else…and wondering if the debate will ever make the lines clear. I still write ST romance and dont have a clue how to rate it when the lovescenes are more graphic. Neither does the editor sometimes.
    Just my 2cents. Evie(Aka)Gayle Eden

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