I wrote a response to a question posed about the definition of erotic romance to a discussion loop recently. This is that response, but kind of expanded (new and improved and now with tangents!). This question comes up frequently on loops and blogs, ect.
Mostly, I think the definition of erotic romance is developing and changing as erotic romance becomes more a mainstream feature of the romance genre. I also think that everyone has their own definitions of these terms. Going by the dictionary, after all, is a little limited. Everyone brings a different perspective to the books they read based on their worldview and life experiences. One person’s erotic romance is another person’s porn.
My books have been called porn. I don’t have a problem with the word porn, really, even though the people wielding the word usually mean it in a negative way. As in, “This book has no plot; it’s just meaningless porn”. (Obviously, I tend to not agree. Heh. However, I understand the POV/worldview element and respect the person’s right to her perception.) Here’s how I define the term: Porn to me is visual, not written. Porn is explicit images in magazines and on video.
Erotica is any written story where the sex is the primary focus. There might be a plot beyond the sexual story, but the focus is on sex. Typically, I don’t think of these stories as romances, though the plot might explore larger issues or show the emotional development of the characters (literary erotica). It also might just be the “penthouse letters” form of erotica and meant simply to titillate.
Erotic romance is a romance, where the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine is focused on, but is also very sexually explicit. Erotic romance interweaves the sexual and emotional journey of the H/H. If you cut away all the sexual bits, the story still stands on its own. However, sex plays a large role in the plot.
A non-erotic romance usually only focuses on the emotional development of the relationship, less so on the sexual (although, of course, that’s always a part of it to some degree).
I don’t really see any problem making an erotic romance a very emotional and heart tugging journey, while also having it be explicit. So, to me, an erotic romance is simply a romance novel with door flung wide open on the lovemaking scenes.
Now, I write everything from what I would term paranormal romance to erotic romance to flat out erotica. Mostly what I write is paranormal erotic romance or urban fantasy erotic romance. I think trying to slap a label on this particular sub-genre gets a little complex.
My books vary in their degree of heat because of the characters. Sometimes I write characters who are totally all right with super-kink and engage in it freely. Sometimes not. Ultimately, they are the chief drivers of how hot a novel is. So some of my books have a high degree of sexuality, sometimes less so. I would say that as a general rule, readers who don’t enjoy explicit sex scenes should probably stay away from my work.
What are your definitions?