What’s The Difference Between Erotica And Romance?


Whenever I tell a non-romance reader about Bawdy Bookworms, they automatically assume the books in our boxes are erotica. Words like smut, porn, and trashy books are also tossed around.

All the hairs on my arm stand up and my body stiffens. I refuse be shamed for what I choose to read. I’m ready to fight. Verbally, of course. I’m not cut out for fist fights.

I smile politely and tell them that romance and erotica account for over a billion dollars in sales each year. If they haven’t bolted yet, I dive into how romance empowers women’s independence and affirms our right to sexual pleasure.

By that time, the person is either squirming or confesses to secretly reading romance and erotica. I let the squirmy ones escape. The secret romance readers and I exchange book recommendations.

Let’s backtrack to how erotica is considered a dirty word. Some consider it porn for women, playing on the myth that women are aroused by words while men are aroused by images.  Women aren’t supposed to want sex and orgasms, so society attempts to make it socially unacceptable.

Erotica isn’t a dirty word.

It’s sensual and emotional. And yes, it’s fucking sexy.

Difference between erotica and erotic romance

Since the book-that-shall-not-be-named (but rhymes with Nifty Blades of Cray) became popular, the market has exploded with erotic romances. Which is a good thing in my opinion. Books that encourages women to explore their sexual fantasies get a gold star.

This book wasn’t the first book to write about kink and women’s fantasies. There’s an entire genre dedicated to exploring our sexual fantasies: erotica.

Though used interchangeably by many, there are key differences between erotica and erotic romance.

Erotic romance is a central love story, usually with a happy ending (HEA), where sex plays a deep role in the characters’ journey towards love.  (Panty melting examples here)

Erotica is a story where sex plays a central role and there may or may not be a love story.

Erotica for Newbies

If you’re new to erotica or looking for new-to-you erotica, you’re in for a treat! Like romance, erotica has many subgenres and tropes. Not all stories are for everyone. What might have you reaching for your battery-operated-buddy may make someone else toss the book across the room. And vice versa. Don’t yuck someone’s yum.

I usually recommend anthologies for those new to erotica. They offer a diverse range of tropes and kinks. Once you learn what or who makes you hot and bothered, you can do a deeper dive with longer reads.

Bonus: they’re also available in digital format, making it easy for one-handed reading. You’re welcome.

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Vol 3 Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I eagerly await for these to release each year. Each one gets better and better. I’m recommending Volume 3 not just because my story “Body Shots” is included, but my fellow authors wrote some smoking hot shorts! You’ll find everything from bondage to making a sex tape to erotic painting.

The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty 30 Vol. 2 Edited by Rose Caraway

As host of The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast, Rose Caraway knows a thing or two about eroticism. Her collection covers military adventures, bi-curious rendezvous, orgies, and more. I highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Caraway’s sultry voice. Eargasms, anyone?

Like Myth Made Flesh Edited by Jennifer Williams

Calling paranormal romance readers: Like Myth Made Flesh offers fantasy erotica. We’re talking merfolk, nymphs, even Aztec gods! Circlet Press embraces erotica for geeks, so head over to their site for sci-fi, steampunk, and more fantasy erotica.

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2 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between Erotica And Romance?”

  1. So my mom recently passed away. she volunteered heavily at her local Friends of the Library group and the bookstore. When she passed away, I picked up some of her time at the store. When I was last there, they were all talking about a box or two of books that went straight to the recyclery because they didn’t feel comfortable selling them in the library bookstore. Knowing mom was a pro-choice book person (anti censorship), I said I would sell them on ebay (or wherever).
    Problem is, I don’t know what category they fall in to properly label them for full search value.
    So, my question is, do you know a group that could help me with this? I thank you kindly for your time.

    As an aside, all the proceeds will got to an endowed scholarship they created in my mom’s name, and I think mom would get a good giggle at these books going towards that, besides being secretly pleased they even created the scholarship in her name. Plus, the scholarhship money is undesignated, meaning the recipients can use it for whatever college expenses they need the money for… child care, groceries, transportation, and yes, tuition and books.

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