Tags:
  1. aClem
    Offline

    aClem Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2013
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    San Jose, Costa Rica

    What is/is not "Erotica?"

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by aClem, May 16, 2014.

    I do not consider what I write to be erotica, but I am very hazy on just what the term means in the world of publishing and specifically reviewers who do not review "erotica."

    I have just finished a self-published book entitled "Magdalena - A Prostitute's Life in Costa Rica"

    The book is essentially the life story of Magdalena, from the age of about fifteen until the present, when she is nearing fifty. As one would imagine, sexual situations are unavoidable and occasionally a little graphic, though only when it seemed necessary. There is also occasional strong language, once again when it seemed necessary.

    Personally, I would not call this "erotica" but I am unclear what the term is likely to mean to a reviewer who does not review "erotica." Can anyone give me some guidance here?
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,893
    Likes Received:
    10,079
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I get the feeling you got a review that elicited this question, yes?

    Prepare for no two answers to be alike, which, in a way, is my answer to this question. ;)
     
    bakinpowder likes this.
  3. aClem
    Offline

    aClem Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2013
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    San Jose, Costa Rica
    I actually haven't submitted the book for review to any "no erotica" reviewers, though I suppose I should. The worst that happen is to get a nasty "I thought I TOLD you no erotica!" type answer. I don't see it as erotica, in that I doubt it would arouse many folks, but that's my definition only.
     
  4. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    If you are asking if you submitted that work to someone who actively chooses not to review erotica, and it was returned to you stating that it was being classed as erotica, would I be surprised? As described, yes... but it's really gonna come down to the tone of the sex, and the preferences of the reader.
     
    bakinpowder and aClem like this.
  5. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    Would someone who doesn't want to review erotica be okay with graphic sex in other genres? Why not just say, no graphic sex?

    I heard that in erotica, the sex is the main plot point, and it's there to titulate the reader. A story with depressing sex doesn't sound like erotica.
     
  6. Fronzizzle
    Offline

    Fronzizzle Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2014
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Taylor
    I agree with Renee J. I've read plenty of books that contained sex - in some cases, kinky and graphic - and didn't think they were erotica.
     
  7. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566
    I'm reading Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk right now and it contains all kinds of pornographic stuff, but it's definitely not erotica. I think erotica is basically fiction designed to act like romantic, soft-core porn in narrative form. It's supposed to arouse you and bring you into a sexy mood. You can have a book with 100 chapters of sci fi action and only one scene of sensual sexuality, and maybe if you read the excerpt of that scene it would be erotica, but as a whole the book would be labeled as sci fi. Or something.
     
    sylvertech likes this.
  8. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    Interesting discussion of the topic here. Lots to connect with present publication issues, etc.

    http://www.writing-world.com/romance/romantica.shtml

    I especially liked the straightforward definition of Erotic Fiction. At the very least, it's a definition that separates erotic fiction from regular fiction that merely contains explicit sexual scenes as part of the story:

    If you take the sexual scenes away, there is no story.

    While that's a bit simplistic, it works for me.
     
    T.Trian likes this.
  9. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    I also think the way in which the sex scenes are presented matters. If e.g. the prostitute's work with her johns is glamorized, they're written in a manner that's supposed to arouse the reader, then it could be seen as erotica, but if the approach is more realistic, I doubt all that many readers would find it erotic (although there are always the odd exceptions out there).

    Hmm, I had a strange sense of déjà-vu while I was typing this post...
     
    jannert likes this.
  10. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yeah, me too! :)
     
  11. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    I've seen some reviewers say "no erotica" and clarify that any kind of sex at all is verboten i.e. "family friendly" only. Some publishers will probably have similarly clear cut rules. After that, it all gets fuzzy. You will get people who use the type of language/descriptions of genitalia/etc as the trigger point, while others are basically whatever the reviewer/publisher thinks of your particular book.

    I write out and out hardcore SM sex, but because my books have a decent plot and defined characters, some readers/reviewers find it hard to mentally classify them as porn, erotica, sexy action, or action/thriller with sex scenes.

    The "taking the sex out" test doesn't always work either. There are many books with strong romance elements and HEA endings, that could have all the romance taken out and still make sense. The same goes for what some might call erotica or porn.

    If you incorporate explicit sex, expect that someone is going to shout "Porn!", others classify it as "Erotica", while others might even call it "literature". There is no hard and fast rule that is going to insulate you from it other than shutting the door from the outside whenever your characters get undressed.
     
    jannert likes this.
  12. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    I agree with what you're saying. I think the confusion comes from mixing the name of the genre with the content of the book.

    I maintain there is a difference between erotica and Erotica when it comes to books, just as there is a difference between romance and Romance. Of course you could take all the romance out of a book and it might still make sense, but you could not market it as a category Romance. Same with erotica. Take all the sex out of a book and you can't market it as Erotic Fiction—although it's more likely to be family-friendly!

    I do notice that the category name that used to be plain old Erotica is beginning to be changed to Erotic Fiction (and its sub-categories.) Maybe that's in response to the confusion. Ach well. I tend to call a spade a shovel. Sex is sex! And I like reading and writing about it.

    I suspect what nervous reviewers mean is 'no explicit sexual content, please!' I wish they'd just say that straight out, forget 'erotica', and spare us all the hee-haw.
     
  13. bakinpowder
    Offline

    bakinpowder Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2014
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Slough
    Hey this principle is in analogous proportion to what I think about writers.
    My advice would be to logically accept what you've put down to be accountable as legit erotica, although you might have never had intentions to ascribe your current inscriptions to the genre you would acknowledge as being erotica...
    I don't know up to who it is to decide if my comment here would be accountable as constructive criticism, but I'm not really putting myself down as contending for usefull commentary, because I haven't even got to read your actual work that's up for discussion.
    Maybe your work would broaden my idea of what erotica is. To be specific, if anyone would be interesteded in my definition, i'd draw a line right between the scene in the '97 Titanic movie where Rose would be naked in front of Jack's crafty eyes driven by artistic motives (so, non erotic, but erotic art (!) ), and the scene in the same movie where the two were having intercourse driven by lust (definately erotic). So I say if it's driven by lust it's erotica, simply because I expect anyone to empathize with the characters.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  14. bakinpowder
    Offline

    bakinpowder Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2014
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Slough
    PS
    Now, I'm not saying it'd be possible to define erotica, but one mustn't forget about fetishism and innuendo, especially Japanese, when trying to think of all there is to sexually graphic content. Is the PG rating system trustworthy enough? I wouldn't doubt it. Try to rate your -wheter or not it'd be- erotica according to it.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  15. bakinpowder
    Offline

    bakinpowder Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2014
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Slough
    I'm sorry, it should be: "My advice would be to logically accept your current inscriptions to be accountable as legit erotica, although you might have never had intentions to ascribe what you've put down to the genre you would acknowledge as being erotica..."

    On top of my review on erotica, I just thought of the scene in Sin City, when the whip is brought out by the yellow freak on Jessica Alba, on wich Tarantino and co did a very eligible job for portraying her as circle jerk material, by the way, if I you allow me to put it so straight forward. Well, so sadism counts too, if I'm integrally correct, as erotica, even when the character would be an obvious bad guy villain ugly evil scoundrel, that does the sexy part...

    I was really talking about myself when I said the term "writers" should be discussed too for proper classification. That's an insider's joke, you know, sorry for hijacking the thread, oh well, the pen is stronger then the sword.

    Well, so far for philosophy, lol
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  16. aClem
    Offline

    aClem Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2013
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    San Jose, Costa Rica
    Lots of interesting takes here. After reading it all, I think I will just submit my book to any reviewer that doesn't demand no sex or language (other than those who only review certain genre such as Romance or Sci Fi). All I have to lose is some time and electrons.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  17. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I think the difference is between erotica and sexual content. Erotica, to me, is a genre where stories are written expressly to arouse the reader. The central premise is the rising sexual tension and all descriptions of sex have a goal of satisfaction of the characters engaged in it. So in these types of books, that generally have another, non-sexual story within it, you get multiple descriptions of intercourse (or similar) from the beginning to the happy end etc. Without the sex, the story doesn't hold up on its own. This is different from pornography, which is, again, in my mind, written expressly to satisfy male-type sexuality. Considering men are visual, and rarely use written porn as opposed to visual, this isn't a very common genre. If written for women, it tends to focus on female pleasure at least equally to the man's (if not more), the emphasis tends to be on emotions as well, so this ends up as erotica.

    Sexual content is different. Typically, describing a prostitute engaging with customers, if trying to portray it in a way most men view prostitutes, as nymphos who orgasm with every customer, then it becomes pornography, because most women will recognise it as bs and it'll come across as crass, vulgar and only believable to a horny male teenager at heart. Otherwise, if the sex from a prostitute's pov is described realistically, you get sexual content that probably feels mechanical, often unpleasant, and the comfortable, sexy sex occurs only if she falls in love, in which case you might end up with romance. If the book revolves around sex, you are always walking the fine line between erotica and porn, or sexual content and erotica.
     
    T.Trian and KaTrian like this.
  18. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    I agree with this. If the story is from the POV of the customer, the encounter can be sexy, of course. I've read of men brainwashing themselves into thinking that the prostitute has to love it or otherwise they couldn't get it up :p Have you read Helen Walsh's Brass? The protag pays for sex and it's so blatant throughout the encounter that she's only lying to herself, and the reader's suspicion is confirmed in the morning when reality kicks in and the protag realizes her mistake.
     
    T.Trian and jazzabel like this.
  19. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I haven' read Brass, is it good? Yeah, definitely, I think johns exist on a continuum between delusion that the prostitute is 'loving it' (whether because they are so damn irresistible or because prostitutes are nymphos/sluts/whores), and misogyny, basically believing that primary purpose of the female body is to exist for their enjoyment.

    Just last week there was a big stir in the classical music community, this young mezzo, who happens to be chubby, was slated by four male critics purely for the way she looked (unpleasant to them), only one mentioned in passing that her performance was stellar, others simply banged on about how unattractive she was. All four critics habitually review male singers who are also overweight, not to mention unsightly, and not once did they mention their looks at all. I mention this only because I think the line between 'I would never pay for sex' and 'I would pay for sex under certain circumstances' is very blurred in most men, because of this deep objectification of women that pervades society.

    How women fit into it? I read that women tend to pay for sex when they need affection and companionship, that sex is not necessarily a primary goal. At the same time, the objectification allows men perhaps to view sex in a more predatory way, and a woman may feel drawn to the idea of such freedom, to use someone for pleasure, not give a toss about consequences of their actions. This is where the reality check seeps in - prostitution isn't a victimless crime, the abuse is a violation all too easily seen once all the coats of paint are removed (such as in the morning light). Because equal objectification of men doesn't exist, they are always viewed by us as something more than 'a piece of ass'... Etc. I don't know if I'm on the right track with this?
     
    T.Trian and KaTrian like this.
  20. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Not really :D Imagine The Prodigy's 'Smack My Bitch Up' music vid was made into a novel. It's a quick read, fairly witty, and the author is pretty good with the language, but the "plot" is thin and there're several unrealistic aspects to the protag (as a boxing enthusiast it got me eyerolling by the time I was supposed to buy that the smoking, boozing, drug-addled semi-anorexic MC was an avid boxer). However, it turns gender roles upside down when it comes to sex, whic is pretty cool.

    When one is a prostitute, that is pretty much the purpose of the prostitute's body. It exists for the other's pleasure, that is its only function. When this thinking expands into other areas of life, it becomes a problem. Now if a story was written by such man/woman's POV, it could be erotic. If it was written from the prostitute's POV, things could look really ugly.

    This is prevalent among pro athletes as well.

    In Brass , the female MC visits a female prostitute, so afaic, she's just as deluded as the men, though she comes to realize the ugliness of such abuse of power and another body later, especially after she opens a door she probably shouldn't have to a dangerous guy and gets hurt herself.

    Women do objectify men, of course, but we can hardly ever out-power them physically. I think that makes it a bit different. But this is pretty much another discussion, and I'm not sure how to tie it to this topic :D
     
    T.Trian and jazzabel like this.
  21. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Yeah, definitely a discussion worth having elsewhere, but I'm already tired of it, before it even started :D
     
  22. Morristreet
    Offline

    Morristreet Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Chilliwack, BC Canada
    Just to toss in my two bits worth here...

    To my mind, Erotica has never had a hard and fast definition. It has always trended to be labelled erotica if the overall content of the book is of a sexual nature, so that without the sexual content, the story loses focus and the plot is impacted, as it were. So books like the dime store romance novels, which tended to be grinder fiction, could have a dozen or so sex scenes, and not be erotica, but something written where the primary focus is on sex, in all of it's different aspects, such as 'Exit To Eden' or the 'Claiming Of Sleeping Beauty' by Ann Rice, is classified by some distributors as Erotica simply because it's primary focus is on sex.

    My definition of erotica is pretty simple, it echoes what some others have already said. If you take away the sex scenes, and the story falls apart, then you've got erotica. I have tended to write my initial synopsis of my work as erotica, sex scene after sex scene, tied together in some way. Then I go back and begin the process of expanding on the background and plot and the full story develops from there. I use intimacy as an anchor in my worlds, and although I write what would be considered erotica, or romantic sex, the people who have read my work feel that the way it is written is natural and organic, not forced, so it tends to flow together and be integral, but the story can stand without it, once it's been fleshed out.

    I've not written from the POV of a sex worker yet, but I have been tickling the back of my mind with that aspect for a series of chapters in my current monster of a book I'm crafting, just to show the way it is portrayed in my SF universe. Prostitution is considered the oldest profession, and that is what it is, it is a job, but unlike any other. As far as I am aware, the only other job that comes close to prostitution ... would be porn performer, which is loosely classified as similar because it is still pay for sex, but there is a different aspect and spin on it as it is only done in front of a camera or audience. Both things can be described in a much or as little graphic detail as needed, it all really depends on what the mental picture build in the mind of the reader as to what they interpret as primary erotics or sexually driven, or literature, not primarily sexually driven.

    If you look at the eBook market, where I publish, Erotica is defined by each publisher totally differently, but they all tend to stand on the hard and fast rule of 'nothing under 18' and 'nothing that is classified as non-consensual' Because each author writes differently, I think the concept of Erotica tends to sit differently with each reviewer, reader, or consumer. I have tended to lean on the idea that if the book's primary focus is to arouse, then it's erotica. Otherwise, it's literature, and have at it. Let slip the dogs of war, and go forth and conquer.
     
  23. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    I don't know if it's true or just a malicious rumor, but I've read that Walsh wrote Brass just to make money and a name for herself so she could then write her "real" books after getting her foot in the door, and figured that writing a sexually active, young, beautiful, bisexual girl having lots of sex with girls, guys, masturbating, doing drugs etc. was a good way to make a quick buck.
    I'd definitely classify Brass as erotica since if you remove the sex, there's not much left except random boozery and drug use mixed with a few unrealistic boxing scenes.

    I wouldn't call it a good story, but from a technical standpoint, it's pretty well written; Walsh has a way with words and at least to me, as a non-Brit, her use of British slang feels authentic.

    And she does take off the blinds now and then, showing the uglier side of the character's actions, like the regret and disgust the MC feels towards herself the next morning after she, in a drug-induced haze, rapes a 14yo girl who's too drunk to do anything about it when the MC drags her into a club's bathroom stall and has her way with her.

    It's kinda like Fear and Loathing in LA in the respect that first it shows such scenes from the high/drunk/stoned/horny MC's POV in an erotic, titillating way, and then the blinds come off and Walsh shows the gruesome reality, but there's still far more purposefully erotic content than the latter kind, so it does fall on the side of erotica in this sense too.

    But the book is essentially just a big, glorified wank-fest of sex, booze, and drugs without any real story/content underneath all that sugary, sticky frosting. I'd recommend you give it a pass and read something worthwhile instead. :read:
     
    jazzabel likes this.
  24. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    Now I want to read it.
     
    KaTrian likes this.
  25. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England

Share This Page