Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"E" is for Erotica

For the A-Z Blogging Challenge, I was going to do e-publishing, but I think I'll save that for a post on a regular day.  So, my brave choice for the letter "E" is erotica.

Now, I know my parents read this, and I'm fairly certain my in-laws do, too.  


This should be interesting.

So, here goes.

What do most people think when they hear "erotica"?  Written porn?  A Madonna album from the early 90s?  Something to be ashamed of; to hide under one's bed or in a drawer?  Ridiculous euphemisms and innuendo, with words like "moist" and "throbbing" (words that, coincidently, make me thing of a dish sponge and a migraine)?  Some book with an awkwardly hilarious cover with Fabio on it?

Yeah, go ahead.  Have a giggle.  I'll wait...

All set?

Well, don't be surprised to hear that, yes, erotica can be a lot of those things.  Especially the embarrassing covers.  But, in reality, it's so much more and nothing to be embarrassed about...your book club might even be reading it soon!  More on that later...

Passionate Ink, the erotic romance special interest chapter of the Romance Writers of America organization (RWA, which I belong to), actually breaks down erotic romance into several categories.  This chunk of the post is courtesy of their site ( and my awesome copy/paste skills:

The definition varies depending on who you ask, but Passionate Ink’s co-founder Sylvia Day defines the varying “heat” levels in the following manner:
Porn: stories written for the express purpose of causing sexual titillation. Plot, character development, and romance are NOT primary to these stories. They are designed to sexually arouse the reader and nothing else.
Erotica: stories written about the sexual journey of the characters and how this impacts them as individuals. Emotion and character growth are important facets of a true erotic story. However, erotica is NOT designed to show the development of a romantic relationship, although it’s not prohibited if the author chooses to explore romance. Happily Ever Afters are NOT an intrinsic part of erotica, though they can be included.
Erotic Romance: stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline. Happily Ever After is a REQUIREMENT to be an erotic romance.
Sexy Romance: stories written about the development of a romantic relationship that just happen to have more explicit sex. The sex is not an inherent part of the story, character growth, or relationship development, and it could easily be removed or “toned down” without damaging the storyline. Happily Ever After is a REQUIREMENT as this is basically a standard romance with hotter sex.

As you can see, a lot of the genre is subjective, and has a lot more criteria than just "heaving bosoms" and "turgid members."  In fact, a HEA (happily ever after) is a requirement.  So, as a reader, you get to have your cake and eat it, too.  Or, at least have some fun with the frosting. *wink wink*  
As a side note, having both read and written in this genre, the silly innuendo and descriptions are definitely a thing of the past, having moved to more graphic descriptions and language.  Not a bad thing.  Also, the covers are not what they used to be (see above, if you dare look again), moving to more monochromatic themes and a simple design and away from the nearly cartoony images that we associate with the genre.  If I had to take a guess, I'd say this was because more men were reading them and didn't want to be caught dead with a book with Fabio in a cowboy outfit with his flowing locks waving in the wind on the cover.  Or that women couldn't stop laughing long enough to actually open the things to read the stories to begin with...

This awesome article from the sexual health section of was sent to me by my husband, and the only thing in the body of the email besides the link was "Get writing!"  The article itself is worth a read, but in a nutshell, erotica is gaining steam as a mainstream (and profitable) genre in literature.  Big publishing houses like Random House, Penguin, Kensington, Simon and Schuster have their own erotica imprints (divisions that concentrate on one genre) and there are tons of e-publishers such as Samhain, Ellora's Cave, The Wild Rose Press, and many others who concentrate on this hot (pun definitely intended) genre.  Publishers even have divisions within the divisions for erotica such as: historical, gay/lesbian, "older", etc.  I know...I've checked.  

There are even people who hold book club meetings (online and in homes) for erotic literature.  Imagine being invited to a book club meeting by a good friend.  
"Sure, I'll come.  What are you reading?" you say, expecting to hear something like Water for Elephants.  
"Great!  This month's selection is Candy Licker by Noire.  We'll meet next Thursday at seven.  Bring an appetizer or dessert to share!"
The whole idea of the reality of this interaction makes me smile, and not just because it's one of the genres I write in.  I like how people are becoming more open about it, and that's good for literature in every genre.  Kind of like how good Oprah's Book Club was for...well...everything she recommended.  

Speaking of which, I wonder what the big "O"'s nightstand has stacked on it... 

As an exciting side-note, I updated the tab above that's labeled "Novellas and Short Stories." 

xoxo Sarah


  1. Hi Sarah - new reader/follower here - and ALSO a writer of erotica and sexy romance. (As well as other stuff.) Thanks for throwing back the sheets on this. Looking forward to reading more of your work, when time permits.

  2. I do read some erotic romance and sexy romance. Not much for erotica in its pure form, and you can keep Porn.

    Actually, I think sex is hotter in many romance, women's fiction, and mainstream. Kind of fun to see men write hot scenes--I've read a few and had to go looking for my eyebrow which seems to have gotten lost in my head of hair. Also interesting to see how many male authors do write erotica romance.

    I think for me, it's always the storyline that pulls me in, not the hot sex. What will keep me with an author who writes erotica romance is writing a really good story and the sex is not just stuck there because it's expected, but because it fits with the characters and the story.

    I laughed at your comment about parents reading your blog article. Like my mom told me once, when I was reluctant to show her one of my manuscripts because of the sex scenes, "What? Do you think your generation invented sex? We enjoy good sex as much as you do and we also read...

    Enjoyed your article. :-)

  3. What a fabulous E word! I have a lot of friends that write erotica. Though I've never been able to read one - still a little nervous - I'd love to be able to try it at one point!

    I'm a co-host and wanted to stop in and welcome you to the wonderful world of the A to Z blogging challenge! I do hope you'll stop by my neck of the woods (though my E isn't near as fun)! We're also having a ton of fun on twitter (I'm @jenunedited and we're at #atozchallenge)!

  4. Great post! Some people frown on the word "erotica" because they automatically think it's just written porn. LOL I liked that you got into the different levels of erotica with explanations of what elements are in each level.

  5. All I ever wanted to know about erotica but was afraid to ask...
    Looks like you're having fun with the Challenge - and you've made a lot of new friends!

  6. Thanks for sharing this, it is nice to see another view point on the word. I'm always looking for new books to read. I'm now following you. =)

  7. Sex is inherent in our nature. Sex is good. Sex can also be "bad." It depends on how it's used. But, we ARE sexual beings. It's inherent in our nature.

    Very excellent and enlightening definitions!

    I came over from my friend Alex Cavanaugh's blog. He said we should come over to meet you. I'm glad I did!
    Ann Carbine Best’s Long Journey Home

  8. @Writing Goddess: Nice to meet a fellow erotica author! I'm glad you liked my "E" entry.

    @Sia: Thank you so much! I agree...the sex is never hot unless you feel for the characters and it doesn't seem out of place.

    @Jen: Thank you! I'm glad you stopped by. Just like any genre, there are erotica stories I'm sure you'd love and some that you'll hate. Just a matter of finding one.

    @Anime: I definitely wanted to clear up some misconceptions about what the word and genre is. Glad you liked it!

    @Alex: Haha, glad you found it informative! I had fun writing this one, and am enjoying the lovely people I've been meeting. So many new blogs to visit!

    @Tiger: I'm glad you liked my take on it. :-) I'll check your blog out as well!

    @Ann: Thanks for stopping by! Alex was sweet to send people my way. :-) You're completely it good and part of who we are, so why wouldn't we naturally want to read about it?

  9. Well, I just bumped in today!!

    Thanks for telling the difference. I never bothered to read a review of book after knowing the category as Erotic ... I will try from now on!!

    with warm regards

  10. Great! There are a lot of stories that are classified as being erotic but have great plots and characterization...they're just hotter than a typical romance novel.

  11. Hooray for erotica! It's nice to see a fellow writer of the genre. It's so funny because years ago, I couldn't bring myself to write so much as a sex scene in a story - I had heard that if it made you blush, don't write it, and I'm not a prude by any means, but writing sexy stuff made me blush like you wouldn't believe. Then I started writing with a friend and we decided to write erotica together and it became natural. In fact, the only stories I've had published (which took A LOT of courage to submit) are short erotic stories. I'm glad they're becoming more widely accepted and more modern...and thank god for the evolution of cover art so that if I ever decide to go all the way and write an erotic novel, I don't have to worry about titters and giggles over Fabio on the cover!

  12. As a new reader I have to say I'm glad you were brave, your erotica topic was a fun read.

  13. @Marie: Thank you! It's definitely nice to meet another erotica author. I'm glad you took the plunge and partnered up to write something you wanted to. :-)

    @Spenc: I'm so happy you liked my "E" entry! Thank you for commenting.