Erotica or Erotic Romance?

This sis something that I wrote an published back in 2006 when Erotic Romance was first starting to boom. For a few years people will were very good about knowing the differences between the two genres, and calling each by what it was. However, in the last couple of years, those lines have disappeared. Im not sure if it’s just because people got lazy and found Erotic Romance too long of a genre name, or what, but it’s very frustrating when this lack of knowledge causes people to judge something unfairly.

I tried to purchase some promotion spots for LUSH, which is on sale for 50% off right now, and was turned down because “we do not promote erotica, pornography, books that contain controversial subject matter or books that may be considered offensive to any race, gender, religion, etc.”

LUSH is romance. No ifs, ands, or buts, about it. All three stories are about the birth and growth of a romantic relationship between a couple, that end in happily ever afters. Yes, there is sex. But there is sex in Life.

You might ask why I am so firm in my opinions on the differences between porn, erotica, and erotic romance. It’s because I have written in all three genres in a professional capacity. I started out writing for porn for Penthouse. Then Erotica for Black Lace, and then erotic romance for Berkley and Kensington. I have made a study of the three genres, and know them intimately. So things like this are vey frustrating, and I just had to speak up.

Like I said, this article was written in 2006, (and published in Erotic Ramblings magazine) and some things may have changed since them – like the fact that regular old romance now is a lot hotter than it used to be. So much hotter that I wouldn’t hesitate to classify LUSH as contemporary romance and not just erotic romance – but the basics still hold true.

And yes,I do believe there are stories, that be can be both erotica and erotic romance. The lines between them are thin, but they are there for those who care to know where they stand.

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. It’s 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 in erotica novels, 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, ort 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 focus, and the tone, of the story. It’s not about the amount of sex.

What do you think? Can you tell the difference between these genres?
Have you read LUSH? DO you think it’s Erotic Romance, or erotica?

2 comments for “Erotica or Erotic Romance?

  1. April 18, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Speaking as former acquiring editor — erotica and erotic romance aren’t the same thing genre wise. Erotica, as far as I understand it, is more about the sexual relationship and an individual journey, rather than a couple (or more) coming together. No HFN or HEA required. Whereas erotic romance is romance with explicit erotic scenes, but also with the romantic thread. Even in an erotic romance, the emphasis remains heavier on the emotional journey; books that focus on the sex and don’t allow for the couple to fall in love (realistically) feel imbalanced, especially if an HEA is the intended outcome.

    The resistance from the traditional romance industry came when erotic elements were inserted into romance, therein necessitating the need for “erotic romance” as a genre at all. I believe at one time, there was just erotica and just romance. Now there’s erotica, romance, and erotic romance. And as you say, today’s “erotic romance” can be much more graphic than what was edgy even ten years ago.

  2. April 18, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks, Rosalie, for speaking up. I agree 100%.

    ten years ago LUSH was erotic romance. Now I see it more as Hot and sexy romance. Or even just contemporary romance because the whole genre is so much more explicit than it used to be.

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