Monday, February 7, 2011

The Difference Between Erotica and Erotic Romance

Hey all, 

As mentioned in a previous blog, for the first part of the month, due to Chinese New Year and family visiting, the blogs between now and February 21st will be recycled ones but are some of my very favorites.  Enjoy and I'll see you again after my vacation.

The Difference Between Erotica and Erotic Romance

Erotic romance, or just erotica. That's the question. Smut, porn, or sensual writing. I've been following a thread on another blog where the author says any sex in a book makes it erotica. Another author says any erotica might as well be called porn.

Now, I have very strong views on this. For me, I don't consider what I write as porn. In fact, I take very strong exception to that statement. To me, porn is nothing more than writing about sex to titillate. No story, no romance. Just sex.

To me, erotica is a story that has a well developed plot, yet there is no romance. It's all about the sex. Some authors excell in this, and while I don't write it, I do believe firmly, it is very different than porn.

What I write is what I call sensual romance. Some call it erotic romance, but for me, it's more sensual than erotic. It's a fine line, but the way I define it...sensual romance means the storyline comes before the sex. Erotic romance is more focused on the sex as a whole. Neither way is wrong, just different.

It does bother me when people define my work incorrectly. While I can understand the moniker Erotic Romance since that is what the industry uses, mistakenly saying I write erotica does. Romance is always a huge part of every book I write. I am
proud to be a Romance writer, and leaving that off when you define me, takes away from the work I do.

But what do you all think? Part of the problem is there are so many definitions for this type of writing. So help me out. Tell me what you think the differences are between Erotica and Erotic or Sensual Romance.

Let me know what you think of this post in the comments below.  I'll be back on Wednesday with another blast from the past.

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams


YACWW said...

Oh CJ I have no idea. I think for me I love erotic romance. I believe in a stroyline and while I commend those that can make sexy hot scenes without plot, I find it dull and lacking as a reading trying to connect. I need to be invested in the characters. Romance is first and foremost. I write sensual romance and my heat level is not high, heck I'm sure it is good for roasting marshmallows but not burning down the house.

Unknown said...

I think the difference is very simple.
Erotic = main focus is on the sex, not character development, not character emotional interaction. The little bit of those that are included are more window dressing so the sex scenes make sense.

Erotic Romance's main focus is on the STORY or the people involved even if there is a lot or very graphic sex.

However, i can see why people would catagorize anything with more that euphamisms to sex as a form of erotica. As there really should be a distiction between more adult literature.

Cassie Exline said...

Fascinating post. Why you ask? Because I started off writing erotica stories published at Ruthie's Club. I get very upset when someone says those stories are porn. My stories have plot, depth and of course lots of sex.

Although I agree on most what you've said, I do beg to differ with one point. Although my erotica is about sex, it still has romance, sex is just the driving force. (Notice I did say my erotica, not all authors add romance, but some do.)

Now I write sensual romance with suspense and mystery and always a dab of humor.

The heat level makes the difference in the erotic romance. I've read some that are very tame and others that would singe your eyelashes.

Have a great vacation.

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

Porn makes no pretense at any real plot, it's just there to keep from going straight to the sex, and then basically falls away as unnecessary.

There is a fine line between some erotica and porn, in my opinion. Some of the excerpts I see on the author groups are thinly veiled porn, disguised as erotica. And poorly so. If you're putting your best foot forward and that foot is couched in strictly sexual terms, a reader can hardly be blamed for jumping to conclusions, especially if you're not showing them any plot. Just my opinion.

Erotic Romance has more story, and the sex is more explicit, while in sensual romance the plot is the story, and the sex can be explicit or not, it's the love that counts.

At least this is how I see it. Great post!

Dennis Hays said...

Years ago, when the Supreme Court couldn't define porn, they left it to each community to decide. Therefore, porn in Alabama is not necessarily porn in California.

In Europe, going topless at the beach or an actress unveiling her breasts on prime-time television is generally accepted.

Your stories, which include graphic sex scenes can be defined as porn or erotica or erotic romance, depending on the reader, however, one general deciding factor is erotic romance must have a 'happily ever after' (or happily for now) and erotica usually does not.

Erotica, in most of the stories I've read, use the plot to set up the sex scenes, while romance uses the plot to set up, well..., romance or the emotional bridge between the characters.

And porn? I'm no better than the Supreme Court.

Harlie Williams said...

I would have to agree with you on the difference. Writing for smut sakes is not romance.

Unknown said...

I was just at a bookstore that had Erotic Romance and Sensual Romance all listed as Erotica and I a bit ticked. This could turn off a lot of readers who would love your books but not want a book just about sex.

For me the difference is the romance and, hopefully, a HEA or HFN sending. Sex for sex sake is fine if that's what you want but I prefer the romance part be there too.

Phylis said...

That is a definite sticky subject. I did notice the Erotica section at the local Hasting's Book store. Which suprised me a bit. Now begs the question...what books belong there and which do not and how do you decide? I like your definitions CJ.

CJ England said...


You sound a lot like me. I admire those who write straight erotica, but I can't seem to do it. My characters keep getting out of bed and into scrapes. LOL

CJ England said...


Exactly. I believe erotica and erotic romance are two different things. And it would be very nice to have a common distinction for everyone to follow.

CJ England said...


And in my opinion, because you add that wonderful romance, you cross out of straight erotica and into erotic romance. But I think each author has to find their "happy place" and write what they're comfortable with.

CJ England said...


I think it's a shame when authors rely on the "shock" factor of a sex scene instead of quality writing to bring readers in. Don't get me wrong, it can be both and often is, but like you, some of what I see on the groups doesn't show you what the book is about, just what the sex is.

For me, that's usually a miss. I want to know about the characters and plot as a whole, not just how tab A fits into slot B. LOL

CJ England said...


You are so right. Politics just make it even more difficult to figure things out. *sigh*

And my opinion, romance always should have an HEA or HEN. Otherwise to me it isn't a true romance.

CJ England said...


Someone once on a list jokingly referred to me as a smut writer. They were just joking, but to be the moniker is offensive.

I don't write smut. I write romance. And it sometimes has sex in it. A lot. But it is a romance, first and foremost.

CJ England said...


That's right. Sex for sex sake has it's place and some erotica is wonderfully written. But it's not romance. It's only romance when there is a relationship ongoing between the principals. And it ends with a HEA or HEN.

I won't bother reading an romance author who doesn't give me that.

CJ England said...


I'll bet there will be more opinions than books and nothing will get done. I know just because I have sex in mine, it shouldn't negate removing them from the romance section.

Add the heat levels and everyone is happy.

Fiona McGier said...

There's a famous quote about porn being whatever gave the judge an erection. I write romance books that have graphic sex scenes in them...but the focus is the romance. In fact, I have trouble with choosing excerpts because to me the whole point of the sex scene is to relieve the tension that has built within the context of the romance story...take it out of context and then it is just an erotic scene. Much of the heat comes from the build-up, in my opinion.

CJ England said...


That's an excellent way to put it. I rarely use sex in an excerpt because I want the reader to get to taste the story as a whole. Not just the titillating parts.

I want them to get excited about the story...not just get excited about getting excited. LOLOL