Forget enveloping your books in discreet covers. Tracey O’Hara explains a genre shrouded in dirty stigma and taboo, and asks us to approach erotic fiction as a fact of life, a form of enjoyment, and a literary skill.
Erotic fiction isn’t a new phenomenon with the introduction of the internet and ereaders. It’s been around for centuries. Fanny Hill was first published by John Cleland in 1748, even the ancient Greeks and Egyptians wrote about it. Sex has been around as long as humanity – obviously. We would not exist without sex – obviously. So it sometimes confounds me how we as a society treat it like a dirty secret, like it is the something to be ashamed of. Some literary authors tend to write around sex, or use sex as some twisted and angst driven experience – as if writing about sex will somehow make their work less worthy.
To me erotic fiction is a much about emotional journey of the protagonists as it is about the sex. It is mainly genre fiction, there to entertain and tell a story, not change the world with new ideas. But like all literature it has its good examples and bad examples.
I’ve heard it said that the introduction of digital ereaders has caused an explosion in the popularity of erotic fiction for women. But erotic fiction has been big online long before ereaders were readily available. Women of all ages like the freedom and the fantasy of erotic romance. I think that is why the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon hit the mark for so women who had not experienced this kind of story before. Not that I am holding FSoG up as the best of erotic fiction.
Definition of Erotica (from the Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Literary or artistic works having an erotic theme; especially, books treating of sexual love in a sensuous or voluptuous manner. The word erotica typically applies to works in which the sexual element is regarded as part of the larger aesthetic aspect. It is usually distinguished from pornography, which can also have literary merit but which is usually understood to have sexual arousal as its main purpose.
In 2000, Tina Engler started selling her erotic romance novels from a website under her pen name of Jaid Black after being told her stories were well written but too racy for the market. Now that company is a multi-million dollar publishing house called Ellora’s Cave with over 800 authors and 4000 novels available for download immediately. It’s one of the biggest and most successful online independent publishing houses in the world and includes a couple of New York Times and USA today bestselling authors in its stable. It sells erotic romance which is mainly written for women by women and the market has been increasing ever since. And it has recently even launched an erotica line for men.
Now that ereaders abound, it’s easier than ever to access to this type of literature. Sex in women’s fiction is not new. In the US romance novels are up to 48% of all paperback sales. Heat level can vary and are usually classified in the below sensuality and heat levels for sex scenes:
Sweet – the sexual tension and emotional attraction is apparent but any sex happens behind closed doors.
Sensual – the sex scenes are in frame so to speak but they are not explicit. The scenes concentrate more on the emotions rather than the actual act itself.
Sexy – the sex scenes are detailed but not as graphic in the use of language. The sexual tension has built the anticipation of this culmination of the two protagonists finally coming together. This is as emotionally satisfying as it is sexually.
Erotic Fiction takes it all to another level. The stories are about the sexual and emotional journey of the protagonists:
Erotic Romance – Sexual tension is high and pushes the envelope of traditional romance and can break the boundaries of the traditional male/female pairings. The sex is hot, the language explicit and graphic, and sex scenes thoroughly described using strong straight forward language. It is the sexual and emotional journey of main characters (plural). A HEA (happily ever after) or at least a HFN (Happily for Now) ending is a must.
Erotica – is more about the sexual journey of a single protagonist. It pushes the boundaries of the sexual experience and the HEA is not required.
Both Erotica and Erotic romance themes can include such things as ménages, same sex relationships, BDSM to name a few that challenge the boundaries of traditional romance.
While I write in a few different genres including paranormal and crime thrillers, I enjoy the challenge of writing erotic fiction. It is nice to write about love and relationships. And really, where would we all be without it?