June is coming, and Im excited. I’m going to be in Vegas for The Romance Novel Convention, and one of the classes I’m going to be teaching there is Porn or Erotica: Is there a Difference?
The reason I volunteered to teach this class is because I started my fiction writing career I wrote short stories and sold them to either an erotic a collection, or to Penthouse Forum. It was while I was still bartending full time,and every now and then I’d sit down and write a short story and send it off to them, or to one of the publishers who did Erotica anthologies. This was back in 2003 and 2004, so way before the term erotic romance became well known. Back then it was erotica, or porn. And there is a difference.
When I got more serious about writing, I focused more on Erotica, then erotic romance. Not because I enjoy one of them more than the other – because all of them have their pros and cons-but because I began to look at how to build a career out of what I was doing. And okay, I have a bit of writerly ADD and like to jump around a bit. Point being, I’ve written professionally (as in been paid to write and publish) porn, erotica, and erotic romance, so I feel I have a good understanding of what makes things fit into each category.
With that in mind, I wanted to repost an article I wrote on the difference between Erotica and Erotic Romance almost nine years ago because I still believe it stands true.
The Difference between Erotica and Erotic Romance
‘The subgenre of Erotic Romance (ER) has been booming for a while now, and with it’s newfound popularity, it sometimes gets confused with Erotica. Readers and writers alike are confused because each publisher seems to have a different idea of what is what. It’s easy to say that the difference between the two 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 emotions. But things just aren’t that simple.
JJ Massa writes Erotic Romances that run the gamut from werewolves, vampires, to Cajuns with special powers. She also writes heterosexual as well as same sex relationships, and is very clear on why her books are romances, not erotica. Why? Because JJ says, “Erotica is the story of a person and their journey at a given point in time, including erotic moments and explicit descriptions of sexual encounters.” And her stories are romances, because they are about the building of the relationships. No matter between two men, or two different species. It’s about the relationship.
Erotica is, and has been a complete genre on its own for decades. A genre that not only encompasses literary stories, but photography and art as well. There doesn’t have to be sex involved to make something erotic. And to say it has no emotion to it is absolutely wrong. Erotica is all about feelings elicited. It seems easy for people to look at a photograph and say it’s erotic, even when there is not overt or explicit sex, yet for some reason when a book or story is called erotic, or erotica, it’s expected to be completely about sex.
Now, this is not to say that erotica novels don’t have a lot of sex. What I am saying is, that erotica novels are not only about the sex. Sure, there’s lots of sex, but the sex itself isn’t enough to make the story fit into the genre of Erotica.
I believe it’s completely wrong to say that erotica is “sex for sex’s sake”, or that it’s “emotionally light”. Just because love isn’t one of the prime emotions explored does not mean that there are no heavy emotions explored. What about joy, awe, shame, wonder? Are those not emotions?
In fact, in most mainstream erotica, emotion is the focal point.
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. Most often it is one that involves a lot of looking inside oneself and acceptance, as well as adventure and sometimes even intrigue. The sex scenes are explicit, but not gratuitous. They are part of the story and key to the evolving relationships within the story.
I write both Erotic Romance, and mainstream Erotica, and I feel that the idea of erotica only being about superficial relationships is a gross misconception. I’m sure there are many that 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 that they like to be spanked, or that they enjoy sex with strangers, or that no matter how much they love their boyfriend, they’re not “in love” with him. 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. However, it is a romance with a high level of erotic scenes in it. A more full-bodied look at the relationship that develops throughout the story. Best selling Erotic Romance author Angela Knight says “In erotic romance, there are two (sometimes three) protagonists, and the objective is the formation of a stable romantic relationship between them.”
Erotic Romance is about the romantic relationship. (Sometimes with a threesome or in sci-fi, and other species) but its primary emotion is LOVE, and a HEA. They just don’t close the bedroom door when it comes to that part of the story.
Erotic Romance author Vivi Anna says it very well when she says; “An erotic romance, is a romance first, and a sexual journey second. The romance is the cake, and the sex is the delicious chocolate icing that is spread across it. The sex scenes just show another part of the characters blossoming relationship.”
I think that sums it up nicely!
Can an Erotica novel be classified as an erotic romance? Some, for sure. Just because it’s erotica doesn’t mean there won’t be romance. It just means the romance is not the main focus of the story. Can an Erotic Romance be classified as Erotica? It’s a bit trickier, I think, but yes, some can.
Many people believe that erotica is all about sex. To me, it’s about the emotions sex can elicit. And Erotic Romance is about the relationship between the hero and the heroine, and the happy ending for them.
All in all, it’s about the tone and the focus of the story. It’s not about the sex.
As published in ENCHANTED RAMBLINGS Issue 3.
Wanna know what I think the difference between Porn and Erotic is? Come to the Romance Novel Convention in June and find out!
BTW: this event is an amazing all-inclusive deal! If you come, be sure to let me know as I’ll be booking dates with readers for times when I’m not teaching and I’d love to hang out!