Our guest blog today is from Lachesis Publishing author Alexis D. Craig. Alexis writes sultry and spicy romantic suspense (Give Me Shelter and Imminent Danger) featuring the brave men and women in law enforcement. She also writes super hot erotica featuring sexy cops (Undercover Seduction).
There used to be a day, in the early ’90s, when Erotic Romance was just getting off the ground as a legit enterprise. Even then, it was only really in the historical subgenre, and only in euphemism. You wanted more realistic wording and phrases? You went to erotica or porn.
There was a lot of ‘weeping centers of womanhood’ and ‘manroots’ about the place. Not a good scene at all, and one of which I was guilty back in the day when I was starting out.
Then I read Chances by Jackie Collins, and all bets were off. Lord have mercy, she had the hottest sex scenes, I mean, realistic, non-euphemistic sex scenes, but they weren’t about love. They were hot as hell, but the motivation was entirely different than romance novels. That, to me, cemented itself as the definition of ‘erotica’, e. g. sexus gratia sexūs, sex for the sake of sex.
The exploration of attraction, arousal, and fun, unencumbered by feelings (and, by extension, consequences), is a fun path to explore. What would you do if you didn’t have to answer for it (literally and emotionally)? The appeal of the forbidden comes in to play, too. Raised in a traditional American society, where heterosexual monogamy was the tacit expectation, it feels good to play outside the box, and take the reader with you.
Want to read about lesbians? Ménage and group scenes? BDSM? Erotica and porn, all day long. It was a playground without context. Arousing, fun, fetishizing, but really, at no point were the two ‘R’ words (relationship or romance) ever really mentioned.
In that respect, erotica hasn’t really changed all that much over time. A lot of things that used to be considered ‘fetish’ material are now de rigueur, but still somewhat independent of relationships and romance. In my story, Rule Number Seven, (Undercover Seduction) Shiva didn’t even start off looking for a good time, but found one with Adam and Jason both, then summarily tossed them out of her hotel room. No cuddling, no heartfelt declarations, nada. Same with Jimmy, and the unnamed female narrator in Cookies, (Undercover Seduction) who he summarily ravishes in an ostensibly public place before she sends him on his way. The lack of Relationship and Romance, note both with the capital ‘R’, don’t detract from the heat of the story, and I’d argue actually increase it by layering a sense of illicitness over the narrative, but then, that’s me.
That’s not to say there’s no erotica in romance. My relationship with the genre began back in eighth grade home room where I’d sneak in the Harlequin Temptation stories I’d picked up at the grocery store during classroom reading time. (I was also reading a lot of Hemingway at the time, and my emotions needed something a bit more uplifting.) I loved the juxtaposition of the HEA endings and the hot, yet still semi-euphemistic, scenes.
Erotic romance, as a genre, didn’t really gel for me, until 1994 and I discovered Tami Hoag’s Cry Wolf. I have since purchased numerous copies for other people and had to replace the version I fell in love with thrice. The emotional and sexual interactions between Jack and Laurel damn near burnt my fingers, and ignited a desire within me to recreate that type of heat and engagement with my reader.
I think, with the blurred lines of both language (no more ‘manroot’! yay!) and what is considered acceptable subject matter (LGBTQ* now included, no assembly required), the last stand in terms of difference between Erotica and Erotic Romance is the role of sex within the narrative framework.
Sex is the purpose in erotica, the source from which the rest of the story flows, with a focus on the physical sensations and not as much on the emotions or potential circumstantial repercussions (both good and bad) for the actions. Sex, within the context of erotic romance, is part of the overall expression of feeling and emotion between the characters. It can still be hot and blissfully free of euphemism, but make no mistake; the physical acts as well as the emotional structure in which they occur are on equal footing here, and to a certain extent, the emotions might be more important.
For example, Olivia has extensive fantasies about her and Josh and the naked things they could be doing in Dream a Little Dream, (Undercover Seduction) but hesitates to really discuss it since she has an emotional and professional attachment to him. Eli and Bex, Atticus and Violet, in Give Me Shelter all have the same type of story, their lives beyond their sexual desires dictate that acting on said desires would, most likely, yield disastrous results. Love means taking chances, risking the status quo in a game of ‘what if’, damn the torpedos and all that.
I would suggest that the two genres have merged and overlapped as much as they are going to, reaching an equilibrium between the two that allows them to still maintain their integrity as separate, but closely related, entities that still please their audiences, regardless of their evolutions.