Porn vs Erotica vs Erotic Romance

Geez, Louise. How many times do I have to say it? I DO NOT write porn!

If you figured out from that previous statement that I’m just a wee tad frustrated right now, you’d be right on the money. You see, I’m getting a bit weary of having to defend the genre I’m currently published in… which happens to be erotic romance — or paranormal erotic romance if you want to get really technical.

So right now, I would like to state for the record that I am a romance author. Both what I have currently had published, and what I write, is not porn.

Now I’m sure that all you writers out there, who have educated yourselves in all aspects of “The Business” of writing, would not make the mistake of confusing porn with the erotic romance genre. And this post isn’t aimed at you. It’s aimed at some of my friends and aquaintances, who apparently believe that porn and erotic romance are the same thing and that the terms can be used interchangeably. And believe me, when I mention “erotica” and that definition gets added into the mix of misconceptions, then the explanations start to get even more tricky and long-winded!

And I gotta point out at this point, that what makes it kinda worse is that the biggest offenders — the ones who point me out, grin widely, and announce to all and sundry that “she writes porn” — haven’t even read the book in question. How can they state that I write porn if they haven’t even read anything I’ve written?

So…. Frustrating, much?

Hell, yeah!

And rather than having to repeat myself over and over again, and defend the genre that I’m currently published in over and over again, I thought I’d try to explain the difference here. So in the future, rather than getting into what often turns out to be a inappropriate conversation in a public place — typically my dance class or Denny’s or a dinner party! — I can just hand over my business card and direct whoever happens to be claiming that I write porn to this post on my website.

One more thing: I’m talking about these terms primarily as they apply to literature, i.e. the written word.

PORNOGRAPHY:

Y’all heard mention of that judge’s definition of pornography — the one that goes: “I’ll know it when I see it”? Well, here’s some food for thought.

The word “pornography” is derived from the  Greek word pornē, meaning  prostitute,  and it was orginally a word used to describe prostitutes and their trade.

The scope of what is considered “pornographic” in this day and age is difficult to define — just ask many a supreme court judge! And just so you know, I’m not willing to enter into a debate as to what constitutes pornography because I’m hardly qualified to comment! (And comments on this post will be monitered and strictly moderated.)

For the purposes of this post, let me say this:

For me, the crucial element which defines pornography is that it is preoccupied with, and places emphasis on, sex organs for the purpose of sexual stimulation. In other words, it’s used as a masturbation aid and the characters/actors/participants are merely sexual props. For me, porn is “no plot, just sex.”

EROTICA:

This is a tricky one, because the root of the word comes from the Greek word erōtikos, which in turn has its origins in the word erōs or erōtos, meaning “love.” And we all know (I hope!) that erotica and love are two completely different beasties!

Here’s a definition for erotica that I came across, by Ginny Wiehardt on the About.Com website:

“Erotica is a genre of literature that includes sexually explicit details as a primary feature. Unlike pornography, erotica does not aim exclusively at sexual arousal.”

Hmmm. Did you see the really important part of that definition? Lemme give you a clue: “primary feature.” In other words, erotica is mainly all about the sexually explicit details.

The way I see it, erotica is more than just a story with explicit sex — or I would be claiming in this post that I am published in paranormal erotica! Erotica is a story which explores and focuses on a character’s sexual journey, or as Jane from the Dear Author website put it: “a single character’s sexual exploration”.

For me, the key points when defining erotica are emphasis on a “sexual journey” or “sexual exploration”, rather than emphasis on a developing relationship. And for those readers expecting a traditional “And they lived happily ever after”? Well, don’t hold your breath. It’s more likely to be a “Oh yeah, baby! I’m sexually satisfied and rather happy…. For now.”

Some great example of the genre are The Sleeping Beauty Novels by Anne Rice writing as A. N. Roquelaure, or the works of Anais Nin.

EROTIC ROMANCE:

From the Romance Writers of America website, here’s a definition of what constitutes a “romance”:

“Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

And for me, based on that definition, an erotic romance — or at least, the erotic romance that I happen to write — are definitely  romances. Sure, Even Demons Get The Blues and the soon to be published Let Sleeping Demons Lie contain explicitly described sex scenes and graphic language. But these stories are not all about the sex.

Let me say that again: They’re. Not. All. About. The. Sex.

Both stories center around two individuals who undergo an emotional journey, struggle to make their relationship work against all odds (trite, I know, but that about sums it up!), and ultimately end up together because they are deeply in love with each other, and are willing to sacrifice everything to be together.

There’s plot and characterisation and dialogue. There’s hot sex and love — the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive! And just because I’m published in a genre whose readers know what they like (and what they like are explicit descriptions of body parts and the sexual act, rather than the sometimes unintelligible euphemisms that are so often held up for ridicule), doesn’t mean it’s porn.

As Angela Knight so succinctly puts it in her fabulous book Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance:

“EroRom readers like vivid sexual storytelling, yes, but they also want believable, well-developed characters and strong plots. They’re not just reading these stories as stroke material. They want the whole story, not just the sex. They also see the love scenes as a natural part of the romance that deserves just as much attention as any other part of the story.”

So that’s it from me: I write romance, not porn. Lecture over.

And hopefully, the next person who describes me as someone who “writes porn” will have an iPhone, so I can immediately direct them to this post and save myself a ton of explanations, LOL!

:-)

M


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5 Responses to “Porn vs Erotica vs Erotic Romance”

  1. Cath Evans says:

    Yeah Maree!!! Maybe when people tell me it’s “filth” or “smut” or “disgusting” I can just point them to your post too! Great post.

    I reckon those who make judgements are those too repressed to know themselves (well, that’s what I tell myself!!)

    Cath

    • Maree says:

      Gosh, thanks so much for the comment, Cath!

      I gotta admit I’ve been cringing at the thought of what people might think — and comment about this post. Definitions for these terms can be such a loaded topic.

      Hugs!
      M

  2. Rhian Cahill says:

    Very well said. I’ll be pointing people here in future when they start in on what I write.
    I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even try to explain it anymore. I just let them think what they want because they’re the ones missing out and all the wonderful stories to be found in these very hard to distinguish genres.

    • Maree says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment, Rhian. And I’m chuffed as heck that you approve of what I had to say!

      Please do direct people here if they give you a hard time about what you write. Hopefully they’ll go away with a deeper understanding of what we write — or at the very least, they’ll be a bit more polite about it!

      :-)
      M