Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What is Erotic Romance?

Apparently the RWA find it impossible to define. Writers don't seem to agree on a defintion and I really don't think we should get bogged down in this. (Blogged down, maybe)

An erotic romance is a story that is both erotica, and romance. (Not necessarily equally).

It has a love story with a happy ending.

It has sex scenes that aim to sexually arouse the reader.

Oh no, some might say. There must be a literary quality. Really? You think everything out there being reasonably considered erotic romance has pretences to be literature with artistic goals and great over-arching themes? I think not.

Oh no, it must also have a plot line that intrinsically involves sex, not just sex added in. In that case at least two of my books aren't erotic romance, just romance with sex. Do we really need to make that distinction other than to suggest I am some kind of pervert?

Okay, I am some kind of pervert but that is quite beside the point. Erotic romance is both romance and erotica and I see no need to be ashamed of either aspect--or to subordinate or excuse either under veils of artistic necessity and 'the plot made me do it.'

Sure, some people don't like gratuitous sex... and some people clearly seek it out. Some come more from an erotica background, some more from a romance motivation. But if there is one thing we should have learned in the latest kerfuffle it would be this. For each of us, what we like about erotic romance, or why we write it, is not necessarily the whole of the genre. Nor does the genre need protecting from those who are a little less refined or more kinky...

let's keep the definition inclusive?


Anonymous said...

Erotic romance is both romance and erotica and I see no need to be ashamed of either aspect--or to subordinate or excuse either under veils of artistic necessity and 'the plot made me do it.'

Emily Veinglory, you're my hero.

How many times have I read, in submission guidelines and elsewhere, that a graphic sex scene must be intrinsic to the plot, otherwise it's porn. Come on! Plot-wise, 99% of sex scenes in ero (or straight) romance could be converted to behind-closed-doors without affecting the "plot" one iota. A story where graphic sex is intrinsic to the plot, IMO, is a story solely about the sex, and therefore, again IMO, porn.

Not that I have anything against porn. As far as I'm concerned, porn's willingness to admit it's basic function is refreshing. Porn is about getting people aroused, period. And, sorry to burst the bubble of all those writers and publishers with delusions to the contrary, so is the explicit sex in erotic romance. The only sex scene which should not have this as its main purpose is a rape scene--which would probably be more vital to the plot than sex of the consensual variety. That said, I have a hard time enjoying a book where the number and length of sex scenes stand in the way of the plot. I even read one recently where, if all the graphic sex was eliminated, only five percent of the text would be left. I'm sorry, 10 pages of plot does not a novel make.

Jeez, Loise, I don't even know why we're still debating this point! If you don't want to read sex and get aroused, why would you be getting books from EC or Liquid Silver?

Here's a formula you might try:

Bimbo+roommate+pizza guy=porn.

Love story+lots of graphic sex=erotic romance.

veinglory said...

It always seemed counetr-intuitive to me that the romance and sex would need separate plot lines, like one wasn't sufficient reason for the other....

Dusk Peterson said...

Just to mix things up further, I would define erotica as a story that centers upon an erotic encounter. So by that definition, most erotic romance can't be erotica.

Really, this is no small matter for me, because most of my erotic fiction doesn't qualify for reviews by erotica sites. One of my novels, for example, has 25 chapters. Three of the chapters consist mainly of an extended sex scene. One other chapter has a brief sex scene.

The rest doesn't have any sex in it. Some of the chapters don't even deal with sexual attraction. So I'd be hard pressed to call this work erotica, though it might, just might, qualify as erotic romance, because that extended sex scene is vitally important to the plotline.

I agree with you, though, that any genre definition that depends on literary merit is on shaky ground.