Sat
Apr 27 2013 2:30pm

Back to Basics: What is Erotic Romance?

Sleepy Sundays image by seanmcgrath via FlickrWhat is an erotic romance?

Every time I think we've got this topic covered, I find out I'm wrong. People don't know. And I mean even people who are putting themselves out as personal assistants and public relations “experts” in the romance community.

What do I mean? I'll mention liking erotic romance, but not erotica. Someone who has been reading romances for twenty years and is well established in the romance community might say “Oh, I love erotica!” To which I respond, “Not for me, thanks. I need the HEA.” Almost always, the immediate following is “Oh. Me too.”

Excuse me?

Erotica doesn't require a happily ever after. It just doesn't. (And I'm not even going to try to discuss between erotica and porn…) But erotica is all about sex between characters. Emotions do not necessarily equal a relationship. Romance, on the other hand, is about the relational journey to a happily ever after love between the characters. (Notice at this point I'm not even saying “between the hero and heroine”?)

A romance story is where you have characters that fall in love, and you know they will stick together, and be happy forever. (Until one of them dies. Or if a paranormal, until the end of time.) That's it. I don't think “happy for now” counts as a romance. In fact, I hate it. It leaves readers dissatisfied, and feeling empty. I might venture to say it's a very romantic work of erotica. (Now I'm getting confusing, aren't I? I don't think I can do anything without being convoluted.)

Back to romances and erotic romances. It's like squares and rectangles. Romances being the rectangles, erotic romances being squares. Erotica is…a parallelogram? (Yeah, I just wanted to type that. I hate geometry. And a triangle seemed too obvious.)

Of course, everyone has their own fluid definitions of these specific genres. I'm not going there. (Much like religion.) But I will give some examples. I've heard some people say it isn't an erotic romance, unless there's a menage a definition with which I disagree. At one point I might have said explicit sex. I might still stick with that. One really hot and dirty sweaty flesh slapping scene in a novel? Sure—even if it's just the one, I could see that being an erotic romance. I suppose what the consideration would be is how graphic the scene(s) are.

A sweet romance of course, is when the bedroom door shuts. Think old school TV. Sweet romance. No sexytimes allowed. (Or at least, not written.)

“In the beginning,” I'd say any sexytimes would be an erotic romance. Now, that definition might be too broad. (It'd probably incorporate every romance other than the inspirationals.) Then also, there would be some authors who write explicit sex, but wouldn't self categorize their books as erotic romance.

I've seen some people say something like in an erotic romance, the sex is the focus of the story and the relationship. That the sex is how the relationship develops. Obviously, sex is important to most healthy romantic relationships. (And the fun part too, right?) But I wouldn't personally say it should be the focus. In fact, that's why we have so many people saying they've starting skipping sex scenes. Just paging through it.

Readers are talking—and they miss the tension. The relationship, the emotional connection. That is what makes the romances, and the sex so hot. Not “how many creative ways can we insert A into slot B or C or D?”

But we're talking about the basics.

Romance: a story where the characters fall in love. It focuses on their relationship, and the reader is certain the characters will be in love, and stay in love. For ever.

Erotic Romance: The same as above, but with explicit sex. The sex is instrumental to the development of the relationship, and helps further the connection between the hero and heroine.

Erotica: A story with explicit, graphic sex, that focuses on the emotions of the characters—not necessarily the relationship (good or bad)—and no happy ending required.

Are we good?

Agree, or disagree? Any fun, scary, traumatic, or hilarious examples to offer? Or do you want to define the “terms” a little more?

Sleepy Sundays image by seanmcgrath via Flickr

 


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6 comments
Carmen Pinzon
1. bungluna
"The sex is instrumental to the development of the relationship..."

I think this is what separates an explicit romance from an erotic romance. If there's explicit sex scenes but the sex is an off-shoot of the relationship and doesn't further it in any emotional way, then it's just a racey romance.

An erotic romance, imo, has to use the sex as an agent in the relationship, as opposed to other external things happening to fill that gap, like a murder or a pushy senior.

Argh, I can't make myself clear, sorry!
Laura Hault
2. Laura Hault
I write erotic romance and when I read a romance book I really like having the extra spice that the erotic element brings. I think a big part of it is how society has changed about sex. We see it on our most popular TV shows and it's not something to shy away from.

Read and write what you like, I love the erotic element!
J.K. Hogan
3. jkhogan
So where do you think serial romance falls in, erotic or not. Technically, it's a happy for now kind of thing, because they'll face another conflict in the next installment. The best example I can think of is Abi Roux's Cut & Run series (although m/m erotic romance is probably a different animal entirely). T&Z definitely fall into the happy for now category.
Trish Ward
4. Trishward
The reason we can talk about all of this here and now is because the views on sex have changed. And there are all ranges of romance, sex, erotica and most things inbetween. Which is good.
With that said I like romance with well build character devolopment with steamy scenes but not all the vulgar details! I have a great and vivid imagination and I can really get into big picture without the "blow by blow"! (Sorry for that but couldn't think of a better way to say it).
My favorite authors- Nalini Singh, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Bertrice Small do these well for me.
But that's just me!!
Laura Hault
5. Lizzie18
Is this post ever timely for me ! Last night, for the first time, I found myself skipping the sex scenes in a book. Why? because I wanted to get back to the 5-6 pages of story between the 30 pages of sex scenes. I am not a prude, love spicy romances, explicit sex scenes, but it was too much. No story line developped at all, I just got so bored !!! It's like watching a porn: the 1st 15 minutes are titillating but then it's get pretty repetitive, and yes boring.

Lime, I very much agree with your definition of romance and erotic romance. And for me, a menage is not at all romantic, merely erotica. I like romance novels, romantic suspense, paranormal romance; emphasis here on 'romance'. Sex scenes are a plus to ciment the relationship but, for me, not the 'be all and end all' of the book.
Laura Hault
6. Lizzie18
Is this post ever timely for me ! Last night, for the first time, I found myself skipping the sex scenes in a book. Why? because I wanted to get back to the 5-6 pages of story between the 30 pages of sex scenes. I am not a prude, love spicy romances, explicit sex scenes, but it was too much. No story line developped at all, I just got so bored !!! It's like watching a porn: the 1st 15 minutes are titillating but then it's get pretty repetitive, and yes boring.

Lime, I very much agree with your definition of romance and erotic romance. And for me, a menage is not at all romantic, merely erotica. I like romance novels, romantic suspense, paranormal romance; emphasis here on 'romance'. Sex scenes are a plus to ciment the relationship but, for me, not the 'be all and end all' of the book.
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