Erotic is a charged word in literature. Most of us, including me, think sex. So it’s understandable that people use the terms erotic romance and erotica interchangeably. As someone who has written erotica and working on an erotic romance, those are two very different genres. Readers of each have specific expectations when they read these two different genres.
The two have many similarities, such as people who have sex, there’s actually some major differences between them. Let’s unpack the big three:
Erotic romance: While we expect our characters to get jiggy with it in erotic romances, there’s more to their unconscious coupling than orgasms. I love a good meet cute or angry flirting in my romances. I enjoy watching the characters fall in love or back in love with each other. Yes, I’m a sucker for second chance love stories.
Erotic: When it comes to erotica, relationships aren’t always based on love. Desire and lust play important role, whether it’s for a specific fetish or kink. Characters may have multiple partners or indulge in one-night-stands. There are even cuckolding fetishes, where a man is aroused by watching his wife have sex with other men (but he can’t participate).
Erotic romance: Give me a story with a great sex scene and I’m all in! There are key differences in how the sex fits into the story for these genres. Sex plays a crucial role within the characters’ love story, but you could remove the sex scenes and have a mostly coherent story. But don’t do that–it’s more fun with the sex.
For a summer steamy romance where an older woman rediscovers her sexual pleasure with a younger man, read Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun.
Erotica: Sex drives the story in erotica. I’m using sex in the broadest sense here: arousal, foreplay, intercourse, oral sex–any sexual act. There no set timeline on when the characters will have sex. It could happen on the first page and and every page after. Often erotica is focused on a specific fetish. Unlike erotic romance, characters don’t need an emotional connection sex. They enjoy sex and aren’t ashamed of it.
Nope, not those kinds of happy endings. While I’m all for a story’s characters achieving physical nirvana, we’re talking about how the story resolves itself.
Erotic romance: In pretty much all romances readers expect our main characters to find their happily ever after (HEA) or happily for now (HFN) ending. There are always exceptions to this rule, such as duologies where the first book ends in a cliffhanger or if the story is told in a serial format.
Erotica makes no promises that its characters fall happily in love after the last chapter. That’s not saying that some won’t have their fairy tale ending. The only thing that’s required of erotica is sex.
If you’re not worried about happy endings (or explicit consent), Anne Rice’s The Sleeping Beauty Chronicles is a very kinky classic.
There you have it. The three key differences between erotic romance and erotica.