Friday, April 13, 2007

Eroticism vs. Pornography in Story

I’ve recently been visiting some blogs about erotic romance and I thought it was time for me to share my point of view on the subject. I continue to see authors who write erotic romance continue to say they admit to writing smut or pornography. If they write true erotic romance, or erotica, I beg to differ.

There are definitions set down for defining the different aspects of eroticism and sexual experimentation in story by the Passionate Pen Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. So let’s get those definitions out of the way first. Here’s how they define them:

“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.”

(Visit for more information about the chapter.)

I’m going to rant today because, well, it’s just one of those days and I’ve been visiting some other blogs. I get a little miffed when I see a number of authors who say they write erotic romance and tell people they write “smut” or “pornography.” They say call it what it is. Well, you know what? I write erotic romance and I do not write smut or pornography. I disagree with those monikers totally. Erotic romance may be stories meant to arouse, but they are not meant to strictly arouse sexual response as appears the case in pornography and/or smut. At least not with my stories. Sex is not gratuitous, explicit love scenes are a part of the story and are important to the developing relationships.

If a reader or writer is ashamed of sexuality, then they are probably going to think erotic romance is smut. Have you ever really seen a pornographic movie or read pornography? Pornography is meant to sexually arouse. Period.

In erotic romance, or even erotica, much more is involved. There is a passion, an eroticism to all the senses, and that is what should be obvious when writing in the erotic genre as opposed to the pornographic genre.

Why do I use the term “genre?” I see pornography as a genre of pure sex, as science fiction is delving into the possibilities of science of alternative or futuristic fiction; horror meant to instill fear and terror; romance meant to inspire passion, and it is more than about the sex. If you introduce as the main part of the plot a romantic relationship, it changes the genre for pornography, science fiction, horror, or any of the other genres. The balance alters.

If an erotic romance does not contain the correct balance of sex to relationship and plot, yes, it can be pornography, or it can be erotica, depending on how the story is written.

In story, balance of components is important. Knowing what you write, be it erotic romance, erotica, pornography, or science fiction, and not trying to pass it off as another genre, is important. Because of the fairly new acceptance of erotic romance as a subgenre of romance, sometimes even the publishers do not distinguish between the genres. But a writer should know the difference in what they are writing, no matter which level of sexual explicitness is included.

To say to someone, “yes, I write smut” or, “yes, I write pornography” when what the author really writes is erotic romance, is bending to popular, uneducated definition, that really isn’t correct, nor does it do a service to either genre–not to erotic romance and not to pornography. If I were to write erotic horror and call it horror, it comes down to the same thing. If I were to write a story of horror, it would probably be more romantic horror. And that is a different genre, make no mistake. Nor is erotic horror the same as horror, such as Stephen King would write. There is a difference, although they may be related at some level. And just because an author doesn’t want to take the time to explain the difference, doesn’t mean it is a correct definition of the genre. Or they are trying to blur the lines of writing pornography and attempting to introduce their stories into a popular, and more acceptable genre such as erotic romance. It doesn’t make it so.

I love the passion of romance, be it heterosexual, same sex, multiple partners, or whatever the dynamics. I love being able to write about the emotion and soul involved in intimacy and commitment, or the anticipation of commitment. This is erotic romance. The journey to intimacy can also be erotica, which is not necessarily written toward the end result of commitment, but some part of personality, some growth is usually involved through the journey of discovery.

Here’s a passage from my dark futuristic erotic romance story, Zytarri 1: Virgin Blood, that could be considered erotic, yet it doesn’t deal directly with recognized sexual terms. Valyn, the hero, is preparing to meet his upcoming challenge in this passage.

Closing his eyes, he breathed in, pulling deeply from his abdomen, exhaling every particle of used breath, cleansing his inner body and soul while opening to the nuances of the pulsing earth. Eventually the oneness embraced him, and he felt the steady surging of the earth beneath him, heard the flow of life rushing under the surface, and felt the creaking growth of root life as it surged and burst. The pulse beat through him until his own rhythms matched those of the living earth, and he became attuned, a part of all that surrounded him.

Everything inside and around him slowed, matching cadence to cadence, the deep breathing increased the flow of oxygen to his lifeblood, and the power and balance threaded through him, anchoring deep inside. Opening his eyes, he centered his gaze on a close-budded flower and concentrated, coaxing her response.

‘Open your sweet heart to me.’

He did not move, did not breathe, waiting for the response.

First one shy petal peeled back, then another followed, and another, until the blushing, fuchsia core opened completely to the morning light, the fragrance of its heady, potent nectar filling the air.

He did not alter his attention, but heard the buzzing presence of a male bee close by.

‘She awaits.’ The whispered words moved outward from his mind to the fluttering insect.

His gaze soon encompassed the descent of the drone as it settled into the heart of the shy flower, piercing deep into its moist, succulent core, eager to consume the nectar of the fragrant, delicate beauty

Erotic writing is in the blending of words meant to arouse, not necessarily explicit in a sexually obvious way. It is a seduction of the senses. It is not always “in-your-face” explicit. A writer wants the reader to be seduced by the writing, not dropped in a freezing cold or boiling hot pool. There is a difference.

Here’s a passage from my recent contemporary erotic romance release, Pleasure, which uses a few of the more recognized terms in erotic writing. Helen has come to Las Vegas for a weekend away from her daily life as mayor of a small town and discovers more than she bargained for, particularly about her own needs.

She really tried not looking their way again, but it was just too difficult. Taking a sip of her coffee, slowly she angled her head, the hairs on the back of her neck rising when she realized he was watching her intently.

The woman was nowhere in sight, probably having gone to the powder room to freshen up.

Long moments passed as her gaze locked with his across the crowded room. She felt heat surge through her body and a bolt of desire shocked right down to her pussy, making her throb with need.

His dark eyes traveled over her, studying her, caressing her in the ways a lover might do, but from a significant distance away. He lifted his hands and caressed the coffee cup in front of him, still watching her. He raised the cup and brought it to his finely chiseled lips.

His tongue stroked across his lips. Her body tingled at the thought of what that tongue could do to her body. It was too much and she felt her pussy convulse.

He smiled a deliberate, sensuous smile, then brought the cup to his lips. She watched his Adam's apple move as he swallowed, then set the cup back down.

Moving his chair back from the table, he splayed his legs, drawing her attention to his groin. It came to her suddenly that he was putting on a show for her, drawing her across the room. Maybe not physically, but mentally he seduced her, tantalized her. But why?

Her focus feasted on the prominent display of male dominance bulging from between his legs. It was as though there was no one else in the room but them.

Her breathing increased, rising to rapid pants of need.
She waned to get up from the table, to join him, to have him take her in his arms and kiss her with all the passion she surmised was sheathed inside that delectable, sexy man across the room. She could smell her own arousal keenly. In that look, no distance separated them. No one else existed.

Using all the self-control she could muster, she broke the contact, thinking a fan would not be so out of place right this minute. What had he done to her?

Make no mistake, I write explicitly and use, when appropriate, recognized terminology. But I do not depend on strictly those words to carry the eroticism of the story.

Passion, using all the senses, is what brings soul and romance to erotic writing. It isn’t sex strictly for the sake of sex alone. It is intimacy, it is relationship, it is romantically erotic.



Portia Da Costa said...

I can only say 'ditto' to what I said in reply to your MySpace blog...

You're so right, and I'd love to discuss this further with you some time. :)



IM Cupnjava said...

You're right and I'm guilty of it. I've had editors smack me for it and other writers slap me for it.

At first, I didn't see the big deal. Then, I started paying attention and realized there IS a huge amount of confusion between erotica and pornography in the eyes of readers.

Now, I'm careful to use the right terminology and REALLY call it what it is.

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