View Full Version : Distinctions

07-16-2006, 12:51 AM
I would like to know distinctions between EROTICA, SENSUAL ROMANCE, and EROTICA ROMANCE. I would appreciate assistance.


07-16-2006, 12:59 AM
Roughly speaking erotica is writing about sex in a titilating way, erotic romance also meets the genre requirements of romance (love story happy ending). Sensual romance doesn't strike me as a broadly used term--I would guess romance with a less explicit erotic element.

07-16-2006, 01:05 AM
I agree with veinglory, except I usually make a further distinction between porn and erotica: porn is for sexual titillation only (think Letters to Penthouse, or most of the stuff on alt.sex.stories), while erotica has sex within the context of a story.

But one man's meat is another man's throbbing love muscle--er, I meant to say, distinctions are sometimes hard to draw.

07-16-2006, 03:01 AM
Veinglory's summary, with Marlys's addition (porn has no significant plot or characterization; erotica does) is how I look at it too.

The term "sensual romance" and other similar phrases are seen a lot in the romance community, used the way Veinglory suggests. They usually refer to such lines as Harlequin's Blaze, and some of the hotter single title romances, examples of which elude me at the moment. I, personally, don't see a real distinction between "sensual romance" and "erotic romance," and believe it's really just a matter of marketing buzzwords, with "sensual romance" seeming more acceptable to certain readers than anything with "erotic" in it.


James Buchanan
07-16-2006, 03:17 AM
From what I've seen commented by people who've read the Blaze line (and I haven't btw)... there's more sex in a Laurel K. Hamilton book. So I think those who've started using the "sensual" tag to distinguish themselves from the "erotic" romance you'll find at e-publishers. Basically, there's sex... but not a lot of it.

Cathy C
07-16-2006, 03:24 AM
True. But Laurell's books don't purport to be EITHER erotica or romance. Her books are shelved in Dark Fantasy/Horror. The sex is merely an element, making it a "sexy fantasy."

07-19-2006, 05:59 PM
II think the whole think is pretty much gender-based. Remember our Tarzan poster who got banned for smutting up the board?

Guys, in general are sight based for arousal. This combined with their taste for raunchy fiction to be the act, the whole act, and nothing but the act. This is how the Penthouse letters are written. No story is needed, the act is the story.

Women are just different, God bless'em, Unless the act fits into the story and the characters like a hand into a glove, it's simply NOT of interest.

I think thaqt erotic romance as a genre is read by an audience 95% female, isn't it? I've read that a couple places. Those of who are male and trying to fit the market have to adjust.

The whole dichotomy between erotica and porn seems to me to be a gender thing.


07-19-2006, 08:09 PM
I'm not so sure the distinction between erotica and porn is a gender thing. I think READING is a gender thing, and then that carries over into the sex-story world.

Yes, I know the people on this board, male or female, are likely to be voracious readers, b/c we're writers. But in the world at large, reading for entertainment is VASTLY more popular among women than among men. I believe something like 80 percent of all (non-school/work-related) books are purchased by women (although some number of them are purchased to give to the significant males in their lives, but may also be read by both the purchaser and the ultimate recipient).

Women read BOTH porn and erotica. As Scott says, women tend to be more aroused by ideas or words (including porn, not just erotica), whereas men tend to be more aroused visually, and are therefore less likely to read EITHER porn (of the written variety, as opposed to the visual variety) or erotica.

But the two genres -- and the readers' expectations -- are different. With one, the reader expects plot and with the other, the reader doesn't expect plot, and it may be the same reader, just with different expectations at different times. Then, within erotica, you'll see stories that may appeal to both genders and stories that may appeal primarily to one gender or the other, depending on the fantasy or theme it's representing.

And that's where the marketing issue becomes important. If you know, as Scott said, that the vast majority of the erotica market is female, and they will pay for these stories, then, if possible, you want to skew your stories toward that market. OTOH, you also have to write what you care about, or the reader will feel your indifference, so at some point, you have to write whatever it is you write, and be willing to say to heck with the marketing.


07-19-2006, 09:46 PM
I think it is purely semantics. Erotica is either porn for people who think porn is a dirty word, or porn with pretentions of being "more". We need to get over seeing 'pornography' as derogatory. It's a useful word to designate sex writing without placing any other limits on the definition.

And yes, women read porn--men read erotic romance. Average, demogrpahic difference sin who buys more of what shouldn't be stretched to the point of suggesting anyone in the minority is weird. If we could stop seeing porn as 'unlady-like' porn writers would make a lot more sales. As it is I have to put up with comments from newsagent staff who think they have a right to comments on me buying porn as if it's any of their damn business (other than the extent to which it *is* making them money and they should encourage it).

Cathy C
07-19-2006, 11:19 PM
Erotica is either porn for people who think porn is a dirty word, or porn with pretentions of being "more".

Oh, see . . . and I completely disagree with this. Pornography is a totally different GENRE than erotica or erotic romance. The inherent elements of the story are absolutely different. Porn is the written slap of flesh against flesh, but erotica adds EMOTION.

I have nothing against good porn--I've read a bunch, but there's certainly no comparing the two. I'd no more pick up an erotica story when all I want to read is the act, than I'd pick up Gone with the Wind to watch Clark & Vivian, when what I want to see is an Adam & Eve quickie.

Totally different. Porn certainly isn't less deserving of respect, as a genre--but it's not the same thing at all. To me, it takes away from both when compared.

JMHO, of course.

07-19-2006, 11:26 PM
Yeah, I think they're different, but no value judgments. I didn't mean to suggest that one was superior in any way. Neither is better or worse than the other. Just different. Kinda' like people.


07-20-2006, 12:05 AM
I like porn, smut, raunch, erotica...whatever you want to call it. ;)

However, I'm not a huge fan of plain romance.

Oh, and I think it's a myth that men are visual vs. women are emotional. I'm as visual as the average male, and I'm not ashamed of that. Sometimes I want a story with good plot and characters; sometimes I'm in the mood for a cheap thrill. It just depends.

07-20-2006, 12:10 AM
Yeah, I think they're different, but no value judgments. I didn't mean to suggest that one was superior in any way. Neither is better or worse than the other. Just different. Kinda' like people.


Quite true. I think the dichotomy in our perception is based on what "porn" and "erotica" were fifty years ago.

The Story of 'O', or de Sade's book Justine, are quite literary though they were regarded as 'filth' fifty years ago. I had a high school English teacher who was the best teacher I ever had in high school, but would not let me write my senior research paper on de Sade. I wrote it on Rasputin instead.

If one wanted to read titillating fiction the ONLY place to get it was at newstands that catered to people who bought 'porn'. That market was exclusively male, because a "lady' simply would not be seen at that kind of bookstand perusing the titles like 'B**w J** Princess' or whatever.

When I was a senior in high school I came across my first Ted Mark book which was written with intriguing plot, a likeable character, strange locations and lots of very explicit scenes, all told with a devilish sense of humor. As far as I know these were the first books considered 'porn' by most people that could be found on bookstore shelves other than the classics like de Sade, et. al.

This is peculiar because there were lots of books written to be lurid and explicit in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods in Britain. It was 'under the counter' and 'direct order merchandise for the "collector"', of course, but it was there. In the sixties and seventies a lot of this was re-printed in "The Pearl" magazine and anthologies.

Men of my generation were taught what PORN was and was not, so that's what we expected to find. I was lucky that I had a rebellious streak that wanted to read Victorian lurid tales and Ted Mark.

Women were also taught what PORN was and how to avoid being disreputable by reading 'Bodice Rippers' instead. So they were taught to appreciate a different style of erotica.

In a sense the dichotomy between porn and erotica is one of those things "You Have to be Carefully Taught." (Proper genuflections to the composers Rogers and Hammerstein in 'South Pacific'.

Now that barrier long unassailable is broken and we find ourselves wondering what happened to 'porn'. Well, it became erotica and the public understanding of 'porn' now is totally visual and no longer literary.

Thank God.



07-20-2006, 01:29 AM
I know have read a great deal of pornogrpahy with plot, characters and emotion. I think deifning porn as not having these is using it in a purely derogatory sense and so a false definition as it leaves no-one who would proudly call themselves a pornogrpaher. IMHO it's like when feminism is defined as hatred of men -- the lack of a positive side to the definiton renders it not useable and so not useful.

I think pornography is simple writing aiming to sexually arouse--erotica is a subset of this rather than something mtually exclusive with it. I am as proudly a pronographer as I am a feminist, some of my porn is romantice, some more literary some just smut. But to me saying my erotica is not porn would be to suggest it would not sexually arouse the reader.

07-20-2006, 02:00 AM
I think we have a parallax problem. Two different societies and two different generations. That does not make either of us wrong, sometimes it's hard to get the picture right when parallax gets in the way.

I don't think feminism has anything to do with the hatred of men and society has been generally improved by the feminist concepts after they filter through the society. 'Isms' never turn out to be what the originators wanted them to be. The belief goes through a dialectic between proposal and acceptance so many times that the result is never pure according to the originators.

If you want to understand "pornography" from the American side of the coin-look at opinion articles and reports of court cases in the fifties and sixties. It'll show up in any daily paper dead files that has been around that long.


Cathy C
07-20-2006, 02:15 AM
I know have read a great deal of pornography with plot, characters and emotion. I think deifning porn as not having these is using it in a purely derogatory sense and so a false definition as it leaves no-one who would proudly call themselves a pornogrpaher

Not at all. I don't find anything derogatory about well-executed descriptive narrative. But I really don't care one whit about what the characters think or feel when I'm reading porn. I want to see creative action that stimulates my mind and senses. Any good book/story, in ANY genre, strives to do just that. But I don't have to have my emotions turned around or have a driving plot to enjoy the scene. It just doesn't matter, and there's a refreshing pleasure in the LACK of details that I can't find in much of the erotica I've found on the shelves. They're boring in their complexity.

Why wouldn't an author be proud to create something that satisfies what the reader wants the story for?

07-20-2006, 02:27 AM
Because most writers also want to create at least one of; characters, concept or narrative? Very few writer are proud of not including something in a story?

Or at least the pornogrpahy writers (who describe themselves that way) that I have encountered on a forum or two (inclusing myslef) are proud of other features of their work even when it is shelved and categorised for its sex content.

07-20-2006, 02:32 AM

Is an interesting article.


Cathy C
07-20-2006, 02:51 AM
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, veinglory. Stories with memorable narrative stay on the shelf. Ones that don't trip my trigger . . . don't. I just prefer for writers of porn not to concentrate so much on non-essential details (like a plot)that they forget the reason for the story. It's sort of like those big budget XXX movies where you press the fast forward repeatedly and mutter, "Oh, for Dog's sake! Would you just get on with it?! Don't try to be actors!"

Probably a great deal about knowing what I'm getting has to do with where I plan to buy the book. I won't be looking at Waldenbooks or Amazon.com. I'd be buying it in Fascinations or out of the Adam & Eve catalogue. They already have a pretty good idea of what I'm shopping for.

To me, it's like buying those silly little gold coins in the bag at times instead of a box of Godiva. Yeah, the chocolate isn't as good, but a lot of the fun is in the unwrapping... ;)

Interesting article, Popeyesays. Thanks for the link.

07-20-2006, 02:55 AM
Interestingly I totally agree with Wikipedia on this one

07-20-2006, 04:32 AM
To me, it's like buying those silly little gold coins in the bag at times instead of a box of Godiva. Yeah, the chocolate isn't as good, but a lot of the fun is in the unwrapping... ;)

Godiva is overrated. I like See's chocolates.

Sorry...the word "chocolate" distracted me. :)

Cathy C
07-20-2006, 06:35 PM
So do I. But not everybody has heard of See's... (poor devils!) ;)

James Buchanan
07-22-2006, 05:06 PM
NOOOO, say it ain't. Sees is God.

Back on topic, it was an interesting article.