Porn, Erotic Fiction, Erotic Romance: What’s the Difference?

By now, nearly all of us have heard of Mommy Porn. It’s an obnoxious term used for erotic fiction geared toward women. While it was the sweeping success of FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY which attracted so much attention to the erotic genre, erotic fiction, in various forms, has been around and enjoyed – by women and men – for centuries.

I think back to the romance novels of the 1970’s and 80’s. They were called, Bodice-rippers because of the standard theme of aggressive (by today’s standards, abusive) heroes who manhandled the heroines, berated them as if their respective roles were lord and serf, kidnapped them, imprisoned them, and ultimately raped them… only to somehow be portrayed as having been so deeply wounded that only our brave heroines could ever bring light into their lives. And forgive them. Lords of the Were - Bianca D'arc

Today, those heroines would be considered TSTL (too stupid to live), but back then? They offered a glimpse at what would become the strong independent and smart heroines who populate many books of today. Heroines who would never forgive their rapists. Heroines who have spunk and intelligence that, at the least, matches, and at times surpasses, the hero’s. Women who appreciate their own beauty in all its forms. Women who embrace their sexuality – in all its forms – and are responsible enough to fully enjoy it.

Erotic fiction helps to remind us how we – whether male or female – are all sexual beings. How sex for the pleasure of it is not just exciting, it’s normal. Of course, some plot lines fail to remind readers to be smart, safe and aware if you’re going to be sexually active. And some blur the lines of reality and fiction in quite shocking ways. But the target audience of erotic fiction is a reader of some maturity who would understand erotic fiction is just that – fiction meant to arouse.

Bound to be PleasuredHow focused that level of arousal is helps distinguish the difference between erotic romance, erotic fiction and straight porn. That’s not to say any one of those is intended to be less arousing than the others but rather how focused the piece is on sex versus emotion.

To break it down into workable bits, we can look at a story as having three parts – beginning, middle and end. What happens within a story that propels it through action, emotion, narration and dialogue from one point to the next is plot.

Porn does not have a beginning, middle and end – and yes, that means foreplay, climax and afterglow cigarettes are not the beginning, middle and end.

With porn, take out the sex and there’s nothing to the story.

Erotic fiction, or erotica, is a story with a beginning, middle and end that does not end with a happily-ever-after for the star players, whether hero and heroine, hero and hero, werewolf and heroine or any other combination. There are usually several explicit sex scenes within these stories, and there is absolutely no sex behind closed doors/fade to black moments and no purple prose. Characters may care for – or even love – one another, but love is not at all central to the plot.   The Sinners Club

Take the sex out of the story, and the story is still there. It’s not porn because emotions will be explored and expanded. There can be yearning, fear, concern, affection or any other emotion. Not just lust. As readers, we will get to know the characters beyond their sexual desires, though we won’t see them riding off into the sunset. Well… we’ll see them riding but not necessarily into the sunset or with forever in mind.

In erotic romance, the sex scenes can/will be plentiful and explicit, as in erotic fiction or erotica, but the heart-warming feeling of commitment between sexual partners will be clearly presented, built upon and defined.

And yes, it will end with an implied, “…and they lived happily ever after.” Though, some of today’s erotic romances end with a simple “happily for now” instead. There is explicit sex within the pages, but it is not just sex. Instead, it is sex with a sense of commitment between the characters. A joining of hearts, not just bodies. We would see how the characters are attracted to more than each other’s body. How when they look at each other, they see a person who helps make them whole and happy. That brings their story – with all its hot, uninhibited sex – from porn to erotic fiction to erotic romance.

PorAnne Rice Beauty Trilogyn = sex without plot (sex for the sake of sex)

Erotic Fiction/Erotica= sex as an integral but not sole element of plot (sex within a story that has a clear beginning, middle and end as well as some level of emotional depth)

Erotic Romance = sex between characters whose deep emotional connection grows throughout the story and leads to either a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now ending

As readers, we enjoy various levels of heat in the books we read – even within the erotica genre. Some of us enjoy paranormal erotica – whether paranormal erotic romance, paranormal porn or something in between. Some of us enjoy BDSM, ménage, dubious consent, historical or any combination of those and others.

Readers like myself and, probably, like you, regularly browse actual and virtual bookshelves for the type of stories that ignite and quench our desires. With authors’ interests as varied as readers’, there is a book out there for everyone – every taste, every desire, and every level of heat.

 

6 Responses to Porn, Erotic Fiction, Erotic Romance: What’s the Difference?

  • Interesting topic, Debora, especially considering the recent popularity of these subgenres among readers who may not have read them before Fifty Shades appeared on the scene. I didn’t read Fifty Shades but I enjoyed Sylvia Day’s first three Crossfire novels.
    JOLYSE bARNETT recently posted…My Favorite Ten Quotes from RWA13My Profile

    • I think many people assume Fifty Shades was the beginning of it all and that it defines the genre. I know I’ve needed clarification. I figured others might need it as well. :cool:

      Sylvia Day writes amazing erotica. In fact, there are so many fantastic erotica authors out there with their own visions of the genre, that my post is actually just a small sampling of what’s out there. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Thanks for breaking down the different subgenres, Debbie. I think a lot of readers don’t realize the differences and miss out on some good reading because they lump them all together.

    • That was my thought, too, Donna, that everyone would measure erotica against Fifty Shades. Meanwhile, there is a whole world of erotica out there for us to discover.

  • There seems to be a lot of confusion about the differences between these genres, and you did a great job explaining them, Debora. I was so happy to see a pic of my boxed set! Thanks! :grin:

  • Thanks, Pam! After reading your boxed set, there was no doubt in my mind about including it here. I loved it – and it’s a great example of various styles of erotica. Three page-turners.

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