Categorizing Writing: Erotica vs. Romance

Today as I was skimming my e-mails I came upon a blog post on my new publishers blog about alternative romance and found myself inspired to comment. After commenting (and when I comment I babble) I discovered I had more to babble about. My main subject for the day is erotica vs. romance in writing.


Part of being a writer is to create an image or moment using words on paper as a painter uses paint on a canvas. As someone who originally started out as an artist in my humble opinion I try to do exactly that. For me it’s not just about the physicality, but also the emotional and sometimes spirituality of the moment. Yes, I said spiritual and no I didn’t stutter. For me when a couple goes the last step and has sex it can, if the connection is true, be a spiritual experience. I don’t necessarily believe in the soul mate thing with every relationship on the planet, but it can happen and when it does–Wow!

In my experience so far as a writer the definition for erotica can vary depending on the reader, writer, and/or publisher. A prime example of this is a story from years ago when I was just starting out as a writer of fan fiction. At the time I was tipping my toe into the ‘adult’ version of fan fiction and was terrified.

Inspired by the song Stroke of Luck by the alternative rock band Garbage I wrote a flash fiction. In the story a woman is watching a man sleep. There is no sex. We just get her thoughts as she watches him sleep; the way she feels for him, the way she sees him vs. the way he sees himself. I wrote it from an emotional perspective.

The first feedback I received was from a fellow writer who stated “God that was one of the hottest things I’ve ever read. I do believe my pantyhose have melted.”

Okay, for that woman the scene was erotic, even beautiful, yet there was no physical contact between the two characters. Hell, the man didn’t even know she was watching him, he slept while she mused silently about their relationship. So, you tell me would you consider this erotica or romance? Or perhaps it would be erotic-romance.

My curiosity has gotten the best of me. Is erotica different from erotic and what defines the differences? Can something be erotic without a physical encounter? Does the lack of physical contact make it just romance?

I grew up watching the old classic movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age and for me eroticism can be played out without so much as a naked boob or ass. A prime example of this is the famous ‘you do know how whistle’ scene in To Have and Have Not (1944) between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. Through the entire scene you get the sense they aren’t talking about money sometimes. The most contact they have is when she sets in Bogart’s lap and helps herself to a kiss. There is a sexual tension between them through out in my opinion. Check out the scene and tell me that isn’t erotic:

So, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned sometimes and my definition of eroticism isn’t always what you see, but rather what you don’t.

I’d love to hear your opinions.

Until Later…Blessed Be


6 comments on “Categorizing Writing: Erotica vs. Romance

  1. Jesse, I always enjoy your posts. I’m so jealous because I can’t ever come up (or seldom, anyway) with an interesting blog. The blank screen sucks my ideas away. I especially enjoyed this blog entry because it says a lot of what I would say if I had come up with the idea of writing it. May I quote from it (with a link back, of course).

    • Hi Ruth, thanks for the lovely compliment. I have moments when my mind goes to a full on blank so I can sympathize. If I could come up with something fantastic I’d love to blog everyday, but between my two day jobs and trying to write sometimes it just doesn’t happen for days on end. 😀

      You’re more than welcome to quote anything from my blog as long as you link back. I think this might be the first time anyone has asked. *squees happily*

  2. I think eroticism comes in many forms and depends on the reader. I believe fully that there can be something erotic with no sexual or physical encounter between the characters. For me some fruit is highly erotic by just looking at it … red plump figs for one, bananas. and well … so on. ha. I think I’ve just babbled too much. Thanks for the great post, I have been thinkng about writing erotic stories, but it’s terrifying.

    • Welcome back!

      I would definitely agree with you on the numerous forms of eroticism. For me sometimes I flit between what hits the erotic button with me. As far as food goes strawberries are erotic to me…have no idea why they just are. Chocolate is for me as well, preferably the darker chocolate.

      By the way there is never too much babbling over here. 😉

      Yes, doing the erotic writing can be quit scary in the beginning. I got the scary out of my system before I went to pro-writing and I’m thankful for that. You should give it a tumble hon’ it can be quite fun.

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