Genre Series

Feminine Genres: Erotica

What is erotica, and how are classic and modern erotica different?

May 16, 2018

BC Marine, CAO, Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Two weeks ago, I compared romance, erotica, and women’s fiction. Today, Iet’s take a deeper look at erotica.

What is it?

Like romance, erotica can have different meanings depending on the context. The classical or academic definition is a work of art or literature devoted to sexual arousal or desire. For the purposes of fiction genres, this is too broad to be of any practical use. How do we narrow it down?

Racy content

An erotic story doesn’t just have sex in it. It has explicit, graphic sexual content—and not just mainstream sex: at least one fetish is typically involved. But many stories in other genres have intense or unusual sex scenes, so...

The sex drives the story in erotica.

Here’s a simple litmus test. If you remove all the sex scenes in a story, does it still have a plot? A lone sex scene, no matter how raunchy, is unlikely to qualify a whole novel as erotic. This article from RT Book Reviews puts it succinctly: “A general rule of thumb, however, is that if it's sex driving the story? It's erotica, or erotic (insert subgenre here). If it's the story driving the sex? It's probably something else.”

Is it porn?

Yes and no. It’s a topic of debate.

Much of what is on the market today is unabashed written pornography. But some of it, especially older works, have higher artistic aspirations. In his lifetime, Walt Whitman was infamous for his erotic poetry, but today, his work is celebrated for its literary merits.

Why do people read it?

Sex sells, obviously, but…

If it’s porn, why the written form?

For the same reason people still read fantasy novels even though movies with good special effects now exist: many find the act of reading to be a more immersive experience for them. And since few real life experiences are more immersive than sex, it makes sense that people would want to combine it with reading.

If it’s art, why sex?

Art is about exploring all parts of humanity. While the details differ from person to person, some level of sexuality is an almost universal experience for adults, even if the experience is simply desire.

Conclusion

Erotica is a popular but controversial genre. What are your thoughts about it? Is it porn or art? Let us know on our Facebook page!