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Definition of Erotic Romance Poll

Definition of erotic romance.

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A week or so ago, Publishers Weekly posted an article about erotic romance. I gave my definition of erotic romance and that is a romance wherein sex is the source of the conflict. Maya Banks and Joey Hill come to mind.   Other people view erotic romance based on the numerosity or type of sex involved.   Erotica and erotic romance is often conflated, in my opinion.   A single character’s sexual exploration is erotica to me or even parallel character exploration of sex is erotica if the focus of the story is not on the development of the relationship.   What’s your opinion. (I apologize for the inartful nature of the answers in the poll. I wasn’t quite sure how to craft those).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 09:14:55

    A little of A, a little of of B, none of C. I’ve read way too many books where there is too much focus on the sex, and not enough on relationship and plot and they do nothing for me.

    Relationship is just as key to the book as the sex-actually, for me, more so. I don’t care how hot the sex is, if the couple doesn’t connect, it doesn’t work for me. To really love an erotic romance, I need to see the couple connect, fall in love.

    For me, erotic romance is a book where the sexual aspects are integral to the book, as much as the relationship, but that doesn’t mean the sexual aspects provide the main conflicts. It can do that, and with Joey Hill, yep, I definitely agree with you there.

  2. Leslie Dicken
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 09:20:13

    I voted for B, but I think most bookstores believe it to be A. Neither of the two novels I wrote for Samhain are what I would consider erotic. There is sex, but it’s not inherent in the conflict of the plot. It is part of the relationship. Well, whether online (and B&M) stores consider the publisher to be erotic only, or my book to be, that’s how my stories are listed and shelved. I only hope the reader who buys is not disappointed.

  3. Danielle Yockman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 09:26:49

    I know in the writing circles there are often discussions about writing sex. To write it or not to write it. I often see, and certainly agree with the idea, that the sex should move the story along just like any other scene in the book. It should be a natural part of the progression of the relationship (not different than real life)! If it isn’t natural or if you aren’t comfortable then don’t write it! Now how descriptive the scene will be is up to you as a writer. I like a little more description, some don’t. In erotic romance, some how the sex must be central to the plot and conflict. But, in some of the spicier romances there are characters (like some people) who just have more sex than others, don’t be jealous! That is my take anyway, sex has its place and there is a definite divider between erotic romance and romance. Hot sex is hot, but it isn’t automatically erotic romance. And well, erotica I don’t read really so I can’t offer an opinion.

  4. Anne Calhoun
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 09:27:54

    Hmmm…interesting question, and I completely agree with Shiloh. I feel that sometimes if the sex provides the conflict the romance suffers. I like to see the sex and emotional conflict intertwined, IOW, the sex ramps up the conflict as the story progresses. As I’m working on a book, the way I think about it is that in an erotic romance, the hero and heroine are on a sexual journey that has emotional consequences. Megan Hart’s Dirty is an excellent example of this. In a traditional romance, the hero and heroine are on an emotional journey that has sexual consequences that can range from “explicitly described” to “behind closed doors” if you’re writing inspirational or sweet. However, if you took the sex scenes out, the plot and romance wouldn’t suffer (much).

  5. Rowan Larke
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 09:31:07

    Um. B…
    only ‘contributes to’ the conflict, instead of provides it…

  6. Kinsey W. Holley
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 09:50:23

    I’ve always thought of erotic romance as a story in which the sex is integral to the development of the relationship. The sex might not be a conflict generator, but it’s one of the main ways the H/H relate to one another. Like the ubiquitous “we thought it would be a sizzling one night stand but then it turned into something more” or the equally ubiquitous “she just wanted a guy to help her achieve her secret fantasies, but she fell in love” or the only slightly less ubiquitous (can you have degrees of ubiquitousness? or is ubiquitous unquantifiable, like unique?) “they’re thrown together when they have to go on the run from [bad guys]. Now their passion is as out of control as the danger” or whatever.

  7. RStewie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:03:39

    Erotic Romance to me is any romance that has a lot of explicit sex. GOOD Erotic Romance also makes sure that the sex is a natural progression of the story and the relationship of the characters. I’m fine with immediate, HOT sexxoring, BUT it has to be realistic at the same time.

    One night stands DO happen, and I’m fine with a heroine that is just ready to get some dick and then discovers it’s attached to this really great guy she wants to stay with. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still a little picky about writing style, story development, and a tightly written plot.

    Joey Hill of course comes to mind. I would say that the Kushiel series does too (although maybe not, because it’s only sometimes explicit), but I also consider Angela Knight’s Jane’s Warlord to be Erotic Romance and Lora Leigh’s Breed series.

  8. RStewie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:09:02

    This is just a thought, too, but the “kink” factor comes into play when I’m determining if a story is Erotic Romance or Regular Romance. I’ll note that, and then expect something along the same lines from that author in the future, especially if they don’t have it already labeled as “erotic”.

    Once they’ve started anal, or there’s more than two people involved, or a lifestyle like BDSM, or something along those lines…that will push it into that category for me, too.

  9. vanessa jaye
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:35:14

    I don’t think any of those definitions quite work for me.

    I think it’s a romance where the emotional and psychological aspects of the relationship/characters is explored and/or developed via the physical lovemaking/sex.

    These aspects (psychological/emotional/sexual) can’t separated without the story failing to some degree.

    Nor should the sexxing be the *main* conflict or stuffed into every nook, cranny and orifice of the story/plot without adding something substantive to the character arc/story progression.

  10. Kalen Hughes
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:44:59

    I think it's a romance where the emotional and psychological aspects of the relationship/characters is explored and/or developed via the physical lovemaking/sex.

    These aspects (psychological/emotional/sexual) can't separated without the story failing to some degree.

    Ditto! Vanessa put it perfectly . . . Though for years now my friends and I have been using a much more simplistic “rule”: If the pussy gushes, drips, or oozes (or god forbids moans or queefs) it’s an erotic romance.

  11. joanne
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:50:41

    My preference in an erotic romance is that the sex is one of the things that doesn’t provide conflict between the two (or three or four or OMG –ain’t it crowded? — more) protagonists.

    I’m hoping, going into the story, that there is a balance between the characters so that even if they are exploring new sexual preferences they aren’t ‘conflicted’ about doing so.

    Well, I’m not sure that made sense.

  12. sabrinadarby
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:51:26

    To add on, I think in erotic romance, even if sex isn’t the “conflict” it is an integral part of the character’s journey. The sex needs to show part of either the evolution of the protagonist or the evolution of the H/h’s relationship. I think in the best cases the scenes with sex in them do this AND are titillating.

    I also think there needs to be an element of blatant discussion of sex in an erotic romance.

  13. Noelle (Chloe Harris)
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 11:09:18

    I agree with what’s been said about somewhere between A and B or B if it contributes to not provides.

    What we strive for writing as Chloe Harris is for the books to be romances first, last and always. The fact that the sex is a little less vanilla (maybe a lot) and woven into the conflict is a bonus.

  14. Robin L. Rotham
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 11:09:50

    B. I want to hang on a book’s every word, and if there’s no suspense in it, no conflict or discovery or resolution, I start skimming even the most well-written sex scene to get back to the story.

  15. Rowan Larke
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 11:16:35

    @Robin L. Rotham: I love you, woman.

    If I can skim the sex scenes and not miss something integral to the story? It’s not the erotic romance for me.

  16. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 11:34:41

    I would say that most ER focuses on sex within a loving relationship, and that sex scenes make up @ 50% of book.

  17. Elise Logan
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 12:06:17

    To me erotica is a story about a sexual journey – the sex is the conflict. Therefore, Erotic romance is the same thing – in a romance. Sex is the plot – or at least one of the main plots – in the story. Otherwise, it’s just sexxxxy romance. IMHO.

  18. Mireya
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 12:07:22

    I didn’t vote, it’s more than the options given, even if you combine them. And the romantic plot has to either take center stage or the book has to have a very strong romantic feel to it. If it’s just sex, it is NOT erotic romance, it’s porn. The sex enhances the romantic plot, not the other way around. Additionally, if you take the sex out, you should be able to still find a plot.

  19. Tee
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 12:13:09

    Kalen said: Though for years now my friends and I have been using a much more simplistic “rule”: If the pussy gushes, drips, or oozes (or god forbids moans or queefs) it's an erotic romance.

    Can’t get much more simplistic than that definition, Kalen. I like it and that’s why I feel the answer is “none of the above, really.”

  20. Nadia
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 12:51:42

    I think (I could be wrong) that many people are talking about what they WANT erotic romance to be rather than how it’s currently being marketed and labeled.

    I’ve seen far too many C’s than A’s & B’s. BTW — I adore books that are in the latter categories, but so many publishers and authors *RcoughR* abuse the label to peddle anything with lots of sex because they know romance readers read voraciously and buy lots of books.

  21. JenD
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 14:04:20

    I agree with Nadia.

    What I want in ER and what I’m being offered are often two totally different things.

    Personally, I just want a romance with the sex spiced up a bit. I’m getting tired of having to search and am ready to simply write off the genre. I don’t want to but honestly, I just don’t have hours and hours to sit and search anymore.

    I want a romance (not a porn play-by-play). I want emotional tension and involvement. I want a monogomous relationship without heavy BD/SM. I want well-written characters that Stay The Same Person Throughout The Whole Damn Book instead of changing into a thoughtless bimbo after the first sex scene. I don’t want sex scenes that have no emotion whatsoever to them. I want some hot sex that has more than two positions.

    Maybe ER just isn’t for me? If not, that’s ok too. The more catagories that people enjoy the better.

  22. Melissa Blue
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 14:13:12

    “I think it's a romance where the emotional and psychological aspects of the relationship/characters is explored and/or developed via the physical lovemaking/sex.

    These aspects (psychological/emotional/sexual) can't separated without the story failing to some degree.”

    I really don’t understand this definition. Mainly because every sex scene, in any book, should do this. Sex is just not sex, it’s a plot point. It should be broken down to whatever issues the characters are dealing with. Can the character trusts the other person? You can find that conflict in a novel without any sex. Or one where there is a Dom/Submissive. So, yes, sex should always be either a form of conflict or conflict arises out of the sexual act.

    But, what makes it erotic when you add in the romance? The kink factor? The explicit sex? The amount of scenes that uses sex instead of something else to raise the stakes of the romance and the eventual arc of the characters.

    I would go with the last one. I am not an erotic author nor do I write erotic romance, but if you cut out my sex scenes my stories would fail.

  23. Angie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 15:00:21

    If you use “Any romance with a lot of hot sex,” then erotic romance goes back to the seventies. [shrug] That’s way too wishy-washy to make a useful definition IMO; you can’t draw clear lines, or even reasonably narrow-ish lines, based on that, because different people will have different ideas of “hot” and “a lot,” or whichever terms are used to indicate that these books are smokin’. [wry smile] A good definition of a class gives you clear tools for deciding what is and what is not a member of that class. The idea that issues of sex are key to the plotline — to the protag’s goal and the main conflict — does that.


  24. K. Z. Snow
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 15:33:22

    Ach, too much hairsplitting. It’s romance with explicitly described sexual encounters, sans delicate euphemisms, regardless of the genders of the characters. (Oh lord, if I never see the questionable word netherlips again, I’ll be a happy reader!)

  25. Linda
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 15:55:46

    To me it’s where the relationship begins, develops, becomes love, and naturally progresses into sex. Depending on how explicit the sexual activity is determines for me whether it’s erotic. The lovemaking itself is not the story line, but a part of the larger plot.

  26. Jennifer McKenzie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:04:36

    I don’t agree with any of those definitions. (Hence the reason why Erotic Romance is so hard to define.)

    My definition? The sex is an integral BUT NOT ALL of the plot. Character growth through sexual contact. Does that make sense?

  27. ldb
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:16:09

    It’s differnt IMO for a writer and a reader. As a reader it’s a book which has lots of sex and also a meaningful relationshoip, which doesn’t break any of the rules of romance. Many books I’ve seen marketed as erotic romance I would consider erotica mainly because they break the rules of romance. Pretty much what I am getting at here is mulitple partners. I feel if you put the word romance on the lable then it should encompass all the things a romance reader wants, adding erotic to the lable means you get something extra. Labels alert readers to what;s betweent he pages without having to look at the back, which some readers don’t like doing because they don’t want ANY spoilers.

  28. MaryK
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:23:51

    I can’t choose, but I know it’s not C. Erotic Romance must be primarily Romance otherwise it’s Erotic Fiction with romantic elements.

  29. Danielle Yockman
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:37:12

    So maybe we need to define what is a romance before we can really decide what is erotic romance and then erotica. As a writer I often hear anything with a romantic arc that ends in a HEA or a HEA-for now. Sex is not a deciding factor. When you get to heat level, then you have to decide where the line is between spicy romance and erotic romance.

  30. Angie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 16:46:15

    Danielle @29 — a romance is defined by its plot. Two (or more) people are trying to form a stable romantic relationship, but are prevented by some obstacle. Or sometimes one person is pursuing a second who’s trying to run away, but the second person has to be willing by the end. :) The process of overcoming the obstacle is the bulk of the plot, and the story is effectively over when they succeed in forming their stable romantic relationship, whether they’re married or engaged or move in together, or just make it clear that they are together to their own satisfaction. There you go — that’s a romance.

    Whether there’s sex and how much is just a detail which has nothing to do with whether or not it’s a romance. Whether it’s a man and a woman, or two men, or two women, or three men, or two women and a man and an alien from Aldebaran IV, is also just detailing, and has nothing to do with whether or not it’s a romance.


  31. GrowlyCub
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 18:12:36

    None of the choices work for me, so I didn’t vote.

    “Romance wherein the sex provides the conflict.” really doesn’t work for me and I was surprised to see others say that they consider it so. I don’t think I’d want to read a book where the sex provides the only conflict.

    I’ve read some books by e-pubs labeled ‘erotic romance’ that were no more than lukewarm and I’ve read some ‘historical romance’ by major print houses that definitely sh/could have been labeled ‘erotic romance’ if they weren’t too cowardly to do so.

    As far as I can see the distinction between ‘romance with lots of sex’ and ‘erotic romance’ currently lies in which label the publisher is willing to put on the book and it’s applied haphazardly and inconsistently.

    Obviously, we’ll never all agree and it’s really hard to quantify even in my own mind where the border between ‘romance with lots of hot sex’ and ‘erotic romance’ is, so I’m starting to think it’s one of those ‘I know it when I see it’ deals that varies by reader expectation and experience.

    I just mentioned on another thread how I can take or leave sex scenes, but that I’ve been feeling recently that a lot of books are promising more sex/more out of the norm sex than they actually deliver. That really bugs me. Don’t tell me that X character really likes rough/dominant/submissive sex and then show him/her doing a nice gentle vanilla coupling that doesn’t even make them break out in a sweat.

    Right now I’d really love to see a character who’s worried that his perfectly ordinary vanilla tastes aren’t exciting enough for the heroine. That would be different for sure from all the ‘I’m so dark and deviant, the poor lassie can’t take my badness…’ we are being served with no follow-through.

    To a degree this wishy-washy stuff is probably a reaction of print houses trying to cash in on the current popularity of the ‘erotic’ without being willing to really go there in an effort not to scare of the more conservative readers.

    All it’s doing is making me really crabby at the false advertising and resulting inconsistent and unbelievable characterizations.

  32. ldb
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 18:39:38

    Danille I think you asked the key question, I think you need to know what romance is and then it’s easy to figure out how sex relates to it to make an erotica romance. IMO romance is the female reaction ot the romantic movement. Larger then life charactedrs and exotic locations, but all centerted around a female lead and among other threads the key plot is one where she falls in love. As time has gone there have been more bountries, like no affiars and no rape, but the main thing is it’s a story about falling in love, which features a female lead, and has a HEA

  33. ldb
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 18:44:57

    I couldn’t edit what i just posted, so

    Danille I think you asked the key question, I think you need to know what romance is and then it's easy to figure out how sex relates to it to make an erotica romance. IMO romance is the female reaction ot the romantic movement. Larger then life charactedrs and exotic locations, but all centerted around a female lead and among other threads the key plot is one where she falls in love. As time has gone there have been more bountries, like no affiars and no rape, but the main thing is it's a story about falling in love, which features a female lead, and has a HEA

    I actually thik romance is much more simple, hero and heroine fall in love and live hea, readers each have their own guildlines for which books that belong to these rules will and won;t work for them, but if you;re a writer, I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s about love. So I guess erotic romance would be about two people falling in love, and expressing it formost eroticly.

  34. Ellie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 19:13:19

    If lots of sex was the answer, Stephanie Laurens, Susan Johnson and Dara Joy would be categorized as erotic authors. I like K.Z.Snow’s #24 response. Whatever erotic is, these guys do it right: Jory Strong, Shiloh Walker, Sarah McCarty, Lora Leigh, Joey Hill, Elizabeth Amber, Emma Holly, Delilah Devlin, J.L. Langley and Bianca D’Arc. I need to feel the love and respect between the protagonists or multiple partners and receive an HEA for it to be erotic romance and not porn. The degree of kink (such as anal, public, bondage, menage) generally pushes borderline books from burning into erotic. Gotta love those Samhain warning labels…very helpful and colorful!

  35. maddie
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 19:34:08

    I voted for the first option, any romance book for me is the conflict of the H/H getting together and working out their future together.
    Anything more than the normal sex scenes to me are erotic – mfm, bondage, etc. etc.

  36. ReacherFan
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 20:53:07

    I didn’t vote because for me it was ‘none of the above’. That is not to say A and B are not well represented in erotic romance, I just prefer books where the erotic romance is integrated into a compelling story. Let me just say that any story that’s exclusively about sex has zero appeal to me. There are so many sub-genres, ones I don’t read because the content is simply of no interest. But then neither are books like The Sunday Wife.

    Were I to define erotic romance using those definitions, many mysteries and fantasy novels would suddenly be reclassified. Heck, the Dragon Riders of Pern were busy in the sack before any of today’s erotic romance authors picked up a pen.

    I did read the Publisher’s Weekly article and I think the problem is more than market saturation, I think it’s the customers getting to know what they do and don’t enjoy reading. I’ve been exploring erotic romance for about a year, though I’ve read erotica on occasion since I was old enough to know what it was. As I read I learned – what I enjoy, what bores, me and what annoys me. Now I select more carefully. Is my spending down? Yes. Why? The books are not what I’m interested in. I do the same with any new genre I explore.

    I’m not sure such a diverse genre will lend itself easily to a short definition. And I’m not sure we’d all see the same thing as “erotic”. M/F can be quite erotic in the right hands. M/F/M can be as boring as watching paint dry. Like any other kind of writing, it all depends on how well the writer and the reader relate.

  37. Jane O
    Aug 13, 2009 @ 09:43:39

    What’s the difference between A and C? Just the amount of “relationship” in the book?

  38. Kate Pearce
    Aug 13, 2009 @ 21:05:00

    I think it's a romance where the emotional and psychological aspects of the relationship/characters is explored and/or developed via the physical lovemaking/sex.

    These aspects (psychological/emotional/sexual) can't separated without the story failing to some degree.

    In my books, the hero and heroine’s sexual journey toward love and acceptance of themselves provides the driving force of the book. If you skip my sex scenes, you might as well not bother to read the book. They are an integral part of the whole, and the books wouldn’t be the same without that added conflict of finding your true sexual self and also finding a partner who loves you just the way you are. (that’s where the romance part comes in :))
    And there are quite a few erotic romance writers who manage to do that very well and I love to read them.

  39. Stephanie Julian
    Aug 18, 2009 @ 14:07:36

    Erotic romance to me is where sex provides an insight into character. Sex is also a driving point of the conflict and there’s got to be a lot of it. Not just hinting at it, I want to be there. And it’s got to be a romance. There has to be a happily ever after for me and sex has to play a role in getting there.

  40. Jackie Barbosa » Blog Archive » WTF Wednesday: Erotic Romance is NOT a Subgenre
    Aug 19, 2009 @ 11:20:22

    […] is simply too slippery and could lead to more problems than it solves. (The outcome of Dear Author’s poll last week on the question of what constitutes erotic romance provides, to me, confirmation of the […]

  41. Thursday 13:13 Reasons Why I Write Sensual/Erotic Romance « Zora Stout
    Aug 19, 2009 @ 23:02:15

    […] “A real erotic novel is more than a display of debauchery.” I know people have various definition for the genre, but for me, the sex isn't the end all, be all. It's an important factor in how […]

  42. hinrustjum
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 09:00:20

    зарегистрированных пользователей, 10 тыс. В следующем году организаторы обещают подойти к проведению конкурса более вдумчиво. Нанесение фирменной символики методом шелкографии, машинной вышивкой или термотрансфером. 3.

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