Writin’ Dirty – Opening the discussion of the “new” erotica, the genre between Romance and Porn

Definitions

The Oxford American Dictionary defines “erotica” as being literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.  “Pornography”, it says, is printed or visual material containing explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.   As a side note, I don’t see much of a difference between those two definitions.  But okay, what about romance?   I found the definition of “Romance” (as its used to describe the literary genre) on the website, FindMeAnAuthor.com.  Their definition, “A romance is a work in which the plot centers around a love relationship. The plot line must be substantial enough for the reader to maintain interest from chapter to chapter. In other words, the reader must be able to say when reading the book, “I care about these people and what happens to them. I want the best for them, despite the personal and circumstantial obstacles that war to keep them apart.”  A very lofty (not to mention long-winded) definition. Certainly much more involved than erotica and pornography, at least as far as the dictionary is concerned.   I wanted to use something a little easier to type or repeat should Oprah ask me this when she interviews me for her next book club recommendation show.  I thought about it and decided on the following:  romance fiction equals plot with the hint of making love, erotica is a plot with vivid hits of foreplay and sex, and porn?  Well, porn is little more than a string of money shots, if you know what I mean.

Examples

We’re all familiar with Playboy, Penthouse, and other magazines that mainstream readers consider pornography, but you are probably less familiar with books along the upper most shelves at the airport, or the “book” sections of the local adult shops that hold paperback tomes entitled, Jailbirds in the Backseat, Up the Down Escalator (yes, I’m serious) and Letters to Penthouse Forum.  They may look like innocent little, mass market fiction books, but when you open them up, your eyes are immediately assaulted with the few words in the English language most used to describe “sexual organs or activity.”  As for plot? There are a few sentences between sex scenes offering up the thinnest of story lines possible.

A step up from them are the books you can now find in most mainstream bookstores in a small section, usually tucked between “Self-Help” and “Sexuality”.  These books range from The Good Girls Guide to Bad Girls Sex by Dr. Barbara Keesling to (and I found this  surprising) Letters to Penthouse Forum– volumes one through infinity.  In between are anthologies, such as The Best in Female Erotica, short story collections, and novels with explicit sex scenes.  You have to travel way over to the other side of the book store to find the Romance section.  That’s where the “bodice rippers” are kept – your Harlequin Romance novels chock full of chic leading ladies, and the cool, unemotional men they love.  Admittedly, I haven’t read a romance novel since junior high school.  I hope the story lines and writing have evolved from the sappy drivel of my youth.

Whether they have or haven’t,  it is into this varied mix that the new erotica is found.  Sex today has moved into mainstream across the board; tune into any channel on television, or sit through a popular action flick and you’ll find couple’s dropping trou at the slightest provocation.   Sexuality is no longer as big a taboo as it was before.  Gone are the days when a mainstream writer could only hint at the interactions between a man and a woman.  Explicit sexual encounters are no longer bound to just one genre of writing either.  It’s become a staple for the ever-growing genre of paranormal / fantasy / monster fiction.  Notable authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris are burning up the shelves with their brand of monster fiction – vampires, were-animals, and zombies (oh my), can all be found naked, writhing on the sheets with humans and beasties alike.  It’s a veritable f***-fest of the monster kind.

I could launch into why I think more, openly acceptable sex is a good thing, but I won’t.  This isn’t that type of blog.  I will say that I’m glad this shift has occurred.  I write dirty, explicit literature that I want to share with the world.  This way, I don’t have to keep doing it in the dark.  I heard an old writer’s tale that said I could go blind if I kept that up…

Happy writing y’all.

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