Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Please Shelve Under Erotica

I have a recent pet peeve. My pet peeve is the sudden influx of "erotic" novels in my romance section of the bookstore. Sorry guys, but erotica is not romance. Erotica is a story that includes elements designed to titillate, or that focuses on the description of the sexual interactions between characters. My argument is that some of the common themes of erotica by definition clearly exclude it from the romance genre. Let's compare and contrast.

  • Does not require a committed relationship between characters
  • May involve sexual acts that most people consider out of the norm
  • Can involve sex acts between more than one character at a given time
  • May involve same sex interactions
  • Focus is on the sexual, not the emotional
  • Will employ language that is very blunt and non-flowery to describe sexual acts, the sexual organs, or the interaction on a sexual level between characters


  • Involves the evolution between two characters which should end in discussion of a committed relationship, or the description of the characters in a committed relationship
  • Does not involve sexual interactions between characters other than the main two characters
  • Does not involve sexual acts that most people consider out of the norm
  • Focus is on the emotional, not the sexual
  • The language is more gentle in describing sexual acts, sexual organs, or sexual interactions between characters to give a sensual tone to the scenes

In general, these are major differences between erotica and romance. Then why, oh, why, does the bookstore shelve these two different genres together? I fear for the sweet little old lady who wants a nice romance and ends up with a book with three men sharing a woman, or pretty bizarre sex acts within (whips, chains, sex other than vaginal or oral, anal play, etc). I fear for myself! Unfortunately I have inadvertently bought what I thought was a mainstream romance and found the characters doing things I find extremely objectionable within the pages. At least, I would feel better if I was warned. If I saw on the back of the book, or on the spine, "erotic novel
", then I would know to be warned. And please, the term "erotic romance" is a contradiction in terms, at least for the clarification of the purchaser. Unless you want all people who don't like erotica to steer away from a novel called an erotic romance. Some of the book publishers are putting warnings on the back of the book, and for that I thank you.

I am very happy that a lot of the e-published authors are going into print and into mainstream bookstores. But if they are erotica writers, then it is not fair to market them as romance writers to the mainstream public.

I do realize that a lot of romance readers want the spicy read. I like sensual scenes in my books as well. Sensual, not downright erotica. Please realize that there is a difference and spare some of us hardcore romance readers who want the romance to stay romance. When we want to read a dirty read, we will be happy to go to the erotic section and pick one out.

And as for the paranormal romance, it's still a romance. Just because it involves shapeshifters, demons, etc, does not mean that the romance reader wants to read about deviant sex acts. If you want to write a paranormal novel with erotic elements, then call it a paranormal erotic novel, not a paranormal romance.

This has been stewing inside me for some time. I know a lot of the ladies like the erotic elements. I don't begrude them that. The publisher probably hooked them by disguising an erotic novel as a romance. But realize that you are alienating those segments of the romance novel consumers who don't want these elements in their romance books. And lastly, don't stick an erotic writer in a short story collection with romance writers. It sets readers up for pretty nasty surprises. I won't name names. I respect the writers for doing a good job at what they do , even if I don't want to read it.

If anyone happens to read this, I am not trying to be controversial. This is the heartfelt plea of a very concerned, longtime romance novel reader.

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