Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Erotica vs. erotic romance

Today I'm going to give you my take on the difference between erotica and erotic romance. Is there a difference? Heck, yeah! I've been writing (and publishing) hot, steamy romances since 2004, so consider me informed. Please feel free to agree or disagree! Do you think there's a difference?

Erotica vs. erotic romance:

I really think the difference between erotica vs. erotic romance needs to be explained. To me, romance in the name defines the story as a love story...be it between male and female; male and male; female, male and male; werewolf, vampire and stripper or what have you. Erotica is a sex story in which sex is the goal and motivation and there need be no conflict unless they disagree on positions.

Confusion is what keeps us from being recognized as a romance genre. This is what conservative judges "see" when they read graphic language even though some national bestsellers, use it. And you should know that "pure" erotica (pardon the oxymoron) venues, like the stores with blacked-out windows, want nothing to do with us and would probably appreciate our making the difference known too.

I once ventured into one of these stores with my paperback, promo matchbooks, and a press release for the manager. I was practically thrown out. “Our readers don’t want those books,” he said. “They want ranchy porn. Your books aren’t.” So, there you go, right from the erotica experts. Our genre isn’t pornography no matter what some people will tell you.

And just to be sure, I read one of these badly written books. A man on a motorcycle comes up beside a beautiful blonde in a convertible at a stoplight. She looks him over and cocks her head, inviting him to follow her. Of course, he follows her to her penthouse and they do it all over the sofa about half a dozen times. This is described in what would be graphic detail except the writer needed an anatomy lesson.

The only secondary character was the maid who walked in and walked out, disgusted. The woman mentioned her husband would be home at 5 o’clock so they carry on until about a quarter to five and the biker leaves. End of story. Would you call that guy a “hero?” I wouldn’t. Is the woman a “heroine?” Hardly. Would I rather read a story with a plot? A conflict to overcome? Some three dimensional characters? Absolutely! Give me a good erotic romance any day.

25 comments:

  1. Totally agree on your definition of erotica and erotic romance! Thanks for the post today, I think a lot of people will find useful informaiton in it. I LOL @ the fact that that author needed an anatomy lesson. I really do rather my romance stories have an actual hero, heroine and plot line!

    Val
    lastnerve2000@gmail.com

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  2. Excellent post, Ashlyn! One lady who read erotic romance said she tore out the hot pages before she gave it to her mother to read. :) I wonder if her mother knew there were significant gaps in the story? And another said she buried the books in her backyard after she read them. Now that would make an interesting secondary character, wouldn't it? She didn't want her fellow church friends to know she read hot romances. :)

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  3. I once asked my publisher what defined a "red-hot" to see if I would EVER qualify. What I was told was it's "sex for sex's sake." If you take out the sex and the story still stands, that's erotic romance, b/c you still have the plot & romance. If you take out the sex and the book collapses, that's erotica.

    I'm not willing to cross that line, so I'll have to live with being a "never be."(LOL)

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  4. Bravo!!! People may enjoy the erotic parts, but it's the story that keeps them reading! Great Post!

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  5. Good morning, Ashlyn~

    Great post. I always wonder what is the difference between romance and erotic romance. They both have love/sex scenes. Is there some kind of heat rating? If so, what is it? Is it a frequency thing, a position thing? I've always felt that I skirt the line between the two.

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  6. Always good to know the facts. :)

    I suppose it can be looked at in the same way as porn movies vs. R-rated. Yeah, there may be some sloppy sex going on, but it probably drives the plot (or at least does not detract from it too greatly) but is not the main focus.

    Now, another interesting topic would be to discuss the "levels" within erotic romance. Or can it not even BE an "erotic" romance if certain body parts are not described in stark detail!? LOL! I mean, is there a group in some high tower that decides the FCC words and phrases that can or cannot be allowed if the romance is "sweet" or "hot"? I'm just askin'....

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  7. Wonderful post! God save us from Tab A into Slot B until they break or fall off! It's about the emotions behind it, about why doing these things with this person is not only ok, it's hot! And yes, in a true erotic story, person can become people and still be just as much about the moment as the sex.

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  8. Interesting, Ash. I didn't realize there was a difference between erotica and erotic romance.

    So where does the term "romantica" fit with all this?

    Best,
    Emily

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  9. LOVE the image of you going in that store and getting told you don't write raunchy porn. There you have it, folks! Straight from the horse's mouth.

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  10. Excellent post, Ashlyn... vive la difference between erotica, erotic romance and just plain porn!!!!

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  11. Great post, Ash! I've only just started to read erotic romance, and I'm really enjoying it! And I'll admit, I wasn't sure what to expect myself when I picked up my first one, mainly because of all the confusion and misinformation out there. I agree with everything you said...erotic romance is NOT porn, just romance with the heat turned way up, and where the physical aspect of the romance is more integral to the plot. Seems like there's something for everyone in the subgenre, too...and I really do think it merits its own classification as a subgenre.

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  12. DEAR ASH,
    The only secondary character was the maid who walked in and walked out, disgusted. The woman mentioned her husband would be home at 5 o’clock so they carry on until about a quarter to five and the biker leaves. End of story. Would you call that guy a “hero?” I wouldn’t. Is the woman a “heroine?” Hardly. Would I rather read a story with a plot? A conflict to overcome? Some three dimensional characters? Absolutely! Give me a good erotic romance any day.

    ABSOLUTELY!! THE FIRST HALE OF THIS PARAGRAPH IS PURE GARBAGE AND ANYONE WHO THINKS IT'S ROMANCE NEEDS THEIR HEAD EXAMINED. IT’S CALLED PORNOGRAPHY.

    THE DICTIONARY DEFINES EROTIC: ADJ: OF OR CONCERNING SEXUAL LOVE AND DESIRE. AROUSING OR SATISFYING SEXUAL DESIRE. LITERATURE OR ART DEALING WITH SEXUAL LOVE. YOU’LL NOTICE THE WORD LOVE IS USED.

    NOT PORNOGRAPHY, WHICH I BELIEVE IS WRITTEN GRAPHIC MATERIAL INTENDED TO EXCITE LASCIVIOUS FEELINGS. WHICH IS ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES DESIGNED TO STIMULATE SEXUAL DESIRE.

    DICTIONARY DEFINITION: GREEK: PORNOGRAPHOS: [WRITTEN ABOUT PROSTITUTES.]

    I’VE READ ASH’S BOOKS AND DO NOT CONSIDER THEM PORNOGRAPHY. I WILL ADMIT, AMONG THE GASPS AND WOWS, I EVEN HAD TO LAUGH WHILE READING ONE, BUT IT NEVER DISCUSSED ME.

    KEEP GOING ASH, YOU’VE ONE READER THAT LOVES YOUR WRITING AND WILL BUY ANY AND ALL OF YOUR BOOKS.

    SINCERELY,
    JACLYN

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  13. Interesting post, Ash and interesting comments from everyone else as well. I have to admit it wasn't a subject that ever crossed my mind. And I thought I was too old to learn anything new!
    Amelia

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  14. Very true.

    And fun to have a bit of story in there too.

    Linda

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  15. I think another distinction that can be drawn between erotic romance and erotica is the reader's experience and involvement. In plain old erotica, the reader is a voyeur. It may be titillating, but you're not given a chance to care about the character or what's happening to them (and in what orifice.) In a good romance, even a crazy-hot erotic one, you should feel like you ARE the protagonist -- not just the maid who walks in and walks out again feeling nauseous.

    Great post, Ash!

    Cara

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  16. Thanks everyone! I really appreciate your comments and questions.

    Let's see... Diana, the term Romantica was coined (and trademarked by) Ellora's Cave. They're the largest publisher of erotic romance in the world--and they have several of my books.

    LOL, Terry, on the woman who tore out the pages before she gave the books to her mother. That shows that there's still a story if the sex is taken out.

    Renee's definition is right-on. It's a story with sex in it, not sex for the sake of sex.

    Robin, yes there are heat levels within erotic romance. Most epubs and review sites will rate each book in some clever way. Maybe one, two or three chili-peppers...something like that. There's no specific set of criteria, just that person's opinion.

    Sharon, I like your definition. It's like an R, or NC-17 or X movie, but not a porno.

    Jac, thanks for supplying the definitions. I wonder if Webster blushed as he was writing them. (evil grin.)

    Ash

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  17. Interesting post.

    I'm not completely sure that a useful distinction between erotic romance and romance exists in the real world. The discussion always goes to questions of plot and character development. I agree. It's how I would explain the difference too. Still, I suspect those percpetions are useful to writers, but few others.

    In the interest of clarity we COULD label every romance that contains sex scenes "erotic romance," and leave "romance" to cover everything else.

    That's so not going to happen. :-)

    If someone knows an objective way to quantify heat level, I wish they'd speak up.

    In the meantime, it would seem that the only people who know for sure what makes a book porn rather than erotica, erotic romance, or romantica are owners of stores with blacked out windows. Lord, that's funny.

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  18. Nice article, and a distinction well worth drawing and publicizing. I do like the image of tearing out pages for the mother. My Mum says she just skips bits when she finds a scene to explicit, but I guess I'm fairly careful what I give her.

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  19. I love erotic romance, but straight erotica, not so much. I need my HEA and a slove story. Otherwise I feel cheated.

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  20. Ashlyn,

    I loved what you had to say and was quite surprised. I thought you were just gonna blog about sex. LOL. Seriously it was very well put and I agreed with a lot of what you had to say.

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  21. I have always loved Ash's book's. Her humor has made me laugh out loud to many times to count and sensual love scenes beautiful and very hot. I've recommended them to many of my friends. What I don't understand is someone not telling people they read these wonderful books..

    Sadly, having to explain the difference between erotica and erotic romance tells me that there is still a long way to go before the public is informed. If
    a book store owner would think of hers or any author's in this genre's books as porn then how can anyone think that the rest of society is any different. I just wish they would open their minds and hearts and take the time to really read these wonderful stories, all they have to do is give them a chance.. they would be convince in no time... :)

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  22. After going through this artical i have decided to bookmark this site found this really interesting & thanks a lot for keeping the blog Lively with such interesting blogs.

    _______________
    Vince
    Email Marketing Solutions

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  23. I tottally agree id like to read erotica but even some erotica is better then that and i could tell it was more of a true thing then a plot but i love erotic romance where it has a plot and 3 demnsional characters ty for posting about this ash and clearfiying cant wait to read your print works when they r out

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  24. I love this. I am an incurable romantic and I write about sensual and erotic lovemaking, not sex. There is such a huge difference. A big kiss to all the romantics of the world. - Hamilton Wade

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  25. Fabulous post, Ash, and so very true.

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