Erotica is literature or art that is designed to arouse you. That’s the definition.
Erotic literature, until recently, specifically used sex to tell the story.
I’m not one of those people who argue the difference between porn and erotica. Quite frankly, I don’t care, but I respect that other people do. That’s not what this post is about, however. This post is about sex in stories, in books, even in movies, maybe.
When I wrote my psychic trilogy, I did what all brand new, aspiring authors do and researched everything I could about my genre, how to tell a story, etc. Generally speaking, I wasted a lot of time, because there is no piece of advice in the world that is as helpful to a writer as simply sitting down to write. (But we keep giving it, and we keep trying to get it, too…Even me! Check out my advice posts on Tumblr) That being said, I did stumble on to something that changed my outlook, especially for those first novels, but it’s something that I cling to, even today.
If you can take out the sex scene and still follow the story completely, it’s not true erotica.
I anticipate a lot of emails about that statement, but suffice it to say it’s not exactly mine. It’s something I came across a long time ago, and I wish I knew where I’d seen it so I could give credit where it’s due.
I will never be ashamed to be an erotica writer and I will never let another shame me for being an erotica writer. I love erotica and romance. I love the sex scenes, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t write in the genre. I don’t care if they move the story in an obvious way or not, because if there is sex in your story, you’re probably showing something about the characters or the plot. Even in a twenty three page short story.
Most of my stories follow the premise above—without the sex scene, you’re missing something. You can skip the sex …but if you’re skipping those scenes, why are you reading erotica? Granted, I take pride in having a great story too, but that story is told in the context of sex. It may not be obvious right away—especially in my Tithe Collector series—but eventually, the piece of information I have conveyed in each, individual sex scene, will be necessary to the whole story. (The Tithe Collector is a long story…it might take a minute, but I promise, you’ll eventually be like, OMG, I remember, and so THAT’S why…)
In some of my other stories, the sex is there in the same way it’s present for other romance novels. To show relationship, communication, forgiveness, a deepening of emotions, or even a lack of emotion. Humans are complex, and sex is just as complex for them. That is why so many romances include graphic scenes.
So what does that tell you about the definition of Erotica?
It tells me the dictionary can be wrong! Erotica is more than just trying to get your readers off. It’s about conveying the most complex human idiosyncrasy. Sex is joyful, it’s communication, it’s a promise, and it’s a weapon. Sad, lonely, vulnerable, weak, strong…all at the same time, too. A connection between two people, or desperation on behalf of one. Sex is beautiful and horrible, pleasurable and harmful.
It is all these things, and Erotica is the only genre fighting to show every nuance.