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Friday, July 19, 2013

Erotica or Porn?


When I first began to write my work, I wondered how far to take the description of the sex act. Most of the books I was reading at the time described the foreplay, but only in general terms, and certainly not everything which can happen between two consenting adults.

I wanted to put in everything. The pearl necklace. Different positions. Sex toys. Graphic language. Light bondage.

But how much was too much? Did I really need to show someone who was determined not to lose their virginity having sex in other ways? Or did that cross the line into porn writing?

The first time I ever saw a dildo, I was appalled. Why would someone willingly have sex with a rubber penis when the REAL DEAL was so available (keep in mind, I was in my 20's and had no shortage of men in my life, lol!)?

But now I'm in my forties and can fully appreciate the use of one, thanks to the 'education' of Passion Parties and fellow authors' books. And it seems the line between porn and erotica is fragile; as long as there is romance in the act, it's acceptable.

Another issue is fidelity. The rules state that once the hero/heroine meet/attract/sleep together, there must be no intimacy with anyone else. So....does the book I wrote, tentatively titled 'Anatomy of an Affair' not count? He DOES stop sleeping with the wife, and ultimately divorces her. I'm not finished yet; this is the wip which is scarily and eerily mirroring a friend's life, minus the actual affair. I spiced it up to be a 'what-if' she crossed the line; guess some things doesn't matter if she stayes faithful or not. The bad things are still happening.

Anyway....where was I? Oh yeah...then there is the popular menage stories. Twenty years ago, threesomes were a 'hush-hush' topic. Now they are increasingly in demand. But what I want to know is, what happens if the two people of the same sex decide to swap 'roles'? You know; usually only one does the actual penetrating (from what I've read, anyway...maybe I need to read more??). What happens if one day he says to his buddy, 'Tonight, I want to make love to her; you only get her mouth.'? And there is another one where the heroine sleeps with each man, one at a time, only one is a D/s relationship, while the other's not. The non-D/s male wants to know why she seems more happy after her nights with her 'Master' and strives to be more dominant. Doesn't that count, or since the two males know about each other, it's not technically infidelity?

Maybe I need to investigate the meaning of 'erotica' vs 'erotic romance', since I came across this issue in another book two years ago?

So what do you find is 'too far over the line'?

14 comments:

Rose Anderson said...

I know what you mean Molly. I spend great deal of time in character development and building an exciting plot. That the bedroom door is left open seems small compared to the rest. As for menage, I unintentionally wrote one with Loving Leonardo. I wasn't just writing a gay Victorian love story. I was writing a social statement. The next thing I knew Ellie walked it. As far as love scenes went, that extra person in the room takes a little fancy footwork so someone doesn't lose and eye. lol

Tina Donahue said...

Hey, Molly. Erotic romance is really no different from any other romance (even sweet romance) EXCEPT it has more graphic sex scenes. That's is. There's an HEA. A growing bond between the participants. Romance. Love. All the standard elements of the genre.

Erotica, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily have an HEA or any love involved. It's about the sexual journey, sexual awakening, sexual experience.

That's the difference - love centric as opposed to sex centric. To me, it's a huge difference.

In my case, I write erotic romance, not erotica.

Molly Daniels said...

@Rose: I had to force my characters in 'anatomy' to quit talking to me; I didn't want to find out that six months later the same bad thing had happened to my bff!

Molly Daniels said...

@Tina: I get that, but how much description is TOO much? For example, when I first wrote Love Weighs In, I have a heroine who does NOT lose her virginity, but comes dangerously close to it. So I got inventive with their foreplay. But after a while, I began to be concerned that some of their actions were crossing that line of 'TMI', so I took out a few things. And when I threw in her bulimia, I decided he would definitely notice a change in her, and the focus shifted away from him trying to talk her into bed and more towards 'how much longer are you going to be on this crazy diet of yours?'

I didn't know if readers would be turned off by the things Travis suggested, so I took it out and he 'yelled' at me for a few weeks.

Melissa Keir said...

Molly,
I believe that there are stories that people just love and since each person is different, what they love is different. I've ready everything from sweet to erotic romance. I love the character development and don't really care about their sexual orientation or what they like...If they love each other, then it works for them m/m or m/f/m.

Jean Joachim said...

I read everything from sweet to erotic. I do have a threshold I prefer not to cross. But if a book does that, I simply skip over that part. Most important to me is the relationship, the genuine loving of each other. I write 3 flames because I prefer to avoid graphic language, but my books are considered hot by some. I have a ton of sexual tension building up to a good, strong love scene that's based on love and mutual caring. That's my favorite and I think that's the hottest stuff of all.

Cara Marsi said...

Interesting blog. I agree the envelope as to how much sex should be in romance novels has been pushed. I too enjoy everything from sweet to erotic. For me, it's all about the relationship. Tina is right about the difference between erotic romance and erotica. There are some things in erotic romance that I choose not to read, but that's just me. I thought that for a book to be considered erotic romance, the love scenes had to be very graphic and contain certain words. But I see lots of books, including one of mine, that don't contain those words and aren't extremely graphic being classified as erotic romance.

Tabitha Shay said...

Interesting blog that raises some great questions. I don't think anything is too much as long as it fits the story, the romance, the ending. I write erotic romances I'm sure are rough for some readers and mild for others. The main thing to remember is whatever happens has to be between two consenting adults, things that pleases both characters. JMHO...

Dalton Diaz said...

Very interesting question for me right now. I have had readers say that I crossed the line with By Mutual Desire, and others who absolutely loved it because the relationship was there and it remained intact.

I think it boils down to personal limits, so it's always going to be a hard call.

Janice Seagraves said...

My first published book was more sensuous with the love scene. One man and one woman exploring their love.

However, in my Alien Heart series, I'm pushing what I'm comfortable with, two aliens one human female (at least in the first two books), so I understand where you coming from.

As long as you have a deep emotional commitment between your lovers (no matter how many there are), then it's a romance. If there is no emotion, then it can be considered porn.

Good luck with your writing.

Janice~

B.C. Brown said...

Well, you have an idea how I stand on this topic. But I'm going to toss my two cents in as well. :)

1) If the sex is for the sake of a) furthering the romance, or b) furthering the sexual development of a character, then it is perfect, no matter how graphic it might be.

2) Even if multiple partners are involved (separately or in multiple-partner sex like a menage) as long as all are aware of the others, aware there is not a monogamous relationship, and/or happy with the arrangement, then all is fine.

I believe fully that you can have a lot of extremely graphic language/description in a story. The issue becomes when there is SO much that the scene is overwhelmed with it. My problem becomes when there is sex for the sake of sex, not for the sake of character or plot development. That, to me, is TMI.

There are many who think that ANY degree of description for a sex scene, or even foreplay, is pornography and, to them, unnecessary. Every romance writer, whether erotic or erotica or plain sensual romance, will run across that dilemma.

I think the decision falls to the writer, and not the reader, in this topic. If what you are writing is "too much" for you but you continue to write it because it is what readers seem to want, then you've crossed a line. As writers we walk a fine line of "What is entertaining to others and will sell" and "What is true to ourselves and our voice". It's a juggling act at times, but it also keeps us focused and sharp.

I mean, it would be so easy to crank out the next "Book That Shall Not Be Named" (LOL - to use your terminology) because it is popular and would sell. BUT it wouldn't be what you, as a writer, is comfortable writing. However there is nothing wrong with playing with your comfort zones (just like with the notion that dildos now are less confusing as dildos when you were 20). All of us could afford to write a little more outside our comfort zones from time to time. :)

Anonymous said...

Since we're all different, so are our comfort zones. For example: I have no probelem with M/M stories although I don't deliberately seek them out. However, for some reason I can't read F/F stories, even though my heroine in Thirteen West had one in the past as she starts her affiliation at the psychatric hospital. I've never like too graphic descriptions of body parts either. Which I suppose makes me Old-fashiohed. But, hey, I'm 86. Jane

Patsy Nelson said...

All I can say is that I haven't read one of your books that I didn't like. I love to read romance but I do not like M/M or F/F. Maybe it's because I have friends and relatives that are gay. I love them to death but I don't feel the need to imagine what happens in their bedrooms. :-) I also don't read the new Urban street lit. Just not interested. I like romance, romantic/suspense, Navy SEAL, Cowboys, Maintenance men as long as it's intriguing, I'm in.

jean hart stewart said...

Lots of good, and varied comment here. I think anything goes as long as it's real. It's sex without commitment that I don't like.

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