Feature: Erotica Article

Is it Erotic or Erotica?
By CharityDaugherty

I want to delve right into the differences in Eroticwriting. I, myself, have to confess I was not sure of what the difference wasbetween an Erotic book and Erotica. After a lot of research and talking with writersand readers alike I have been able to break it down…get rid of all thatconfusion.

An Erotic Romance contains an actual plot line throughoutthe story.  The couple meets, start fallingin love, internal and external complications keep them apart and they gettogether in the end with a Happily Ever After, or in erotic romance, at least aHappily for Now. The sex should be important to the plot for developing therelationship, not just for fun, but the focus of the story is the growing relationship.The sex should be detailed, but the language isn’t necessarily explicit. Thereare rarely more than two partners in erotic romance, because it is difficult tocreate a true, believable romance between more than two partners.  It is sometimes done, but usually ménagebooks fit better in the erotica genre. 

Erotic romance is almost always geared toward women. Theoccasional man may read it, but nonetheless, it is geared toward women.  It can vary from "plain vanilla"(just m/f, and regular exciting sex, but no BDSM, fetishes, etc.) to very risqué,with all the crazy, inventive stuff.   The sex is not just thrown in; it isintertwined through the plot and is necessary in building the relationship ofthe main characters.

Erotica for Women and this is listed separately from eroticafor men, because storylines that a man think is erotic can often be a turn offfor a woman.  This is a broadgeneralization, but women want to see one man and one woman (with the exceptionof the m/m--male on male-- niche market, which is geared toward heterosexualwomen who like m/m scenes).  Men, takenote:  most women do not fantasize aboutbeing one of several women with one man. Straight erotica does not have to have a Happily Ever After or even a Happilyfor Now angle.  It can include fetishes,BDSM, multiple partners (done the way WOMEN like, which is usually one womanand multiple men).  There IS a plot line,and it's not just "two people meet in a bar and have great sex all weekend"...unlessit's a very short story, and women still like some character development and alittle bit of backstory thrown in.  Theintention is to captivate and titillate the woman, but not just be intended toget a woman off (though some women might use it for that).  It is about the story (normally lacking theromance part), not just the arousal.  Theheat level can vary in these too, and they can still be "plainvanilla", but tend to run toward the wilder stuff.

Erotica for Men:  Trueerotica for men should be like erotica for women, about the story.  It should have a real plot, and not just be amasturbatory aid.  The difference is thatit caters to what men like.  For example,in women's erotica, the hero would make it a point to pleasure the woman first,possibly more than once, before he seeks his own gratification.  In men's erotica, it would be thereverse.  If the story IS just all aboutthe sex and intended as a masturbatory aid, it's actually porn.  Now, the fact is, much of men's"erotica" is really just porn packaged with a prettier name.  If it reads like something out of a girliemagazine or the "plot" of a porno movie, it is porn, regardless ofthe name you put on it.  I feel for theguys who really want a story with a real plot, and have a hard time findingone.

Porn Erotica is anything that is intended primarily toarouse you to the point of masturbation. There is little plot, no character building, no real backstory, andprobably no subplot.  It's all about thesex.  The story takes a backseat, and isreally just backdrop for the sex.  It isoften unrealistic (A cop stops a woman late at night on a deserted road and hashis way with her, every way). The point of the story is to excite, so any timespent on character or plot development is considered "wasted".

Getting these genre’s mixed up can result in disappointmentfor both readers and writers. If you really enjoy reading a good Erotic Romancewith a nice couple falling in love and having great, passionate, detailed sexthen you wouldn’t want to do a search of Erotica books in a search enginebecause more often than not you will come across books that have little romanceand lots of steam. Or the opposite, if you love good raunchy heated scenes youmight cringe as some of the mushier lovey dovey stuff.

A writer getting their genre wrong and/or advertising canmean the difference between failure and success in the world of sales. Itreally is important that a book be marketed toward the right audience. Whensearch tags are set up for books it is important that the difference in Eroticaand Erotic not be switched. There are other factors also, including: Title,Cover Art, Blurb, and Warnings that writers need to consider whendistinguishing between the genres.  Anexample being: If the book is about two lovers falling in love, therefor being consideredErotic Romance, the cover should not include leather, chains and whips…it givesoff the wrong impression. Warnings on the back of the book are also veryimportant. The warning on the back of an Erotic Romance books may read “This isa REALLY HOT book (sexually explicit)” as an Erotic book may be more along thelines of “This book contains sexually explicit language, m/m/f and anal play.”Believe me readers do pay attention to those warnings if they are at all squeamishabout sexual behavior in their stories.  

Mixing up Erotic and Erotica will just end up with annoyedreaders, who may leave a one star review as a result.  Putting "erotica" as a tag if yourbook is really just a spicy romance could really tick someone off, especiallyif they buy a book and feel cheated. I don’t have to really spell it out but,bad ratings equal poor sales.

I hope this has enlightened you and prepared you for moresuccessful reading…if you were like me and were confused on the difference.Happy reading in the genre that suits you best!
A big THANKS to Juliette and some members of a coupleGoodreads groups for helping me out in my research!


  1. The language and situations that some erotica writers use turns me off. I'd much rather watch porn than read the bad plots. I still like to leave a little room for the imagination, suggestive pieces that will make me hot and bothered and leave me with my imaginings. Thanks for this wonderful and smartly written article.

  2. I agree, the imagination is a wonderful thing. Thank you!


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