Erotica is not erotic romance. This isn’t meant to be a semantics debate and I don’t want to delve too heavily into their definitions. Readers view these things as different — so much so that All Romance Ebooks has decided to split their catalog into two distinct areas: erotica and romance.
So for the moment, let’s put the erotica vs. ER on hold. I want to introduce an entirely new sub-genre — my own, self-defined sub-genre that emerged after some lengthy conversations with my friend, Jake Marlow: romantic erotica.
First, though, we should probably address those semantics. ARe defines the split like this:
Erotic romance is a Romance containing frequent, sexually explicit love scenes. The main plot centers around two or more people falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. The love scenes are a natural part of the romance and described using graphic and frank language. Typically these stories have an HEA (happily ever a fter) or HFN (happy for now) ending.
Erotica is a sexually explicit story, which explores and focuses on a character’s sexual journey rather than an emphasis on a developing romantic relationship. While such an erotic story may have elements of romance, it is the sex that primarily drives the story.
[This is from their e-mail announcement of the changes, but can also be found at Dear Author]
I’m OK with the above definitions for the most part. I think you could argue that the differences are deeper. That erotic romance stems from the traditions of the romance genre, complete with a hero, a heroine, a story arc that has a whole set of rules, and a happy ending. On the other hand, I think erotica comes from art forms that celebrated sex and sexuality. But you get the idea: they’re different.
I write erotica. I’ve tried my hand at romance — I even have one that I hope to finish in the next month or so that I think it pretty good — but I enjoy writing erotica a lot more. I’m also a romantic. I live and breath it. I’m the guy who enjoys a clever romantic comedy. I give gifts at Christmas with themes like “white” or “yoga” or “what you find in the back of the underwear drawer” (hint: diamond studs — in addition to all those things). I proposed to my wife on the very spot where we first met. All these things bleed into the stories that I write. There’s no getting around it. It just happens.
But I don’t write erotic romance. I write erotica (or porn, if you want; I resisted that moniker, but I can own it, too). If you removed the sex from one of my stories, then the story probably wouldn’t work. Sex is the driving force behind the plot. But a story about sex doesn’t need to be flat or lack depth. After all, how can something that lacks identifiable characters and situations be sexy? Reading about pussies and cocks isn’t hot alone; I need context. This context forms the basis of my erotica.
Romantic erotica isn’t some hybrid between erotica and erotic romance. It’s firmly in the erotica column. It may borrow some of ER’s conventions (tendency toward a happy ending, a love-conquers-all outlook, etc.), but at it’s heart, it’s a sex-driven and highly graphic form of storytelling. RE (see, I’m abbreviating my new term!) is about sex, sexuality, and would make a pretty stale story without it.
OK, so definitions and semantics aside, what does this mean in practice? It means opportunity. While I can’t prove anything (RE is only minutes old, after all!), I’d venture to say that this “new breed” of erotica has a larger male audience than traditional erotic romance. Like the ever popular “Erotica for men” post I did last year, we’re the untapped market, and this is the stuff that I, at least, crave.