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The teacher’s in the house

by on January 11, 2014
Image courtesy of stockimages /

Image courtesy of stockimages /

It’s time dear readers to sit down and have a frank discussion about genres. I’m going to put on my teacher’s cap and break it all down to you. First and foremost genres are just a guide. One to steer you hopefully to a book you’ll enjoy, but lately I’ve been seeing genrephobia. Especially when it comes to one genre that is especially misunderstood. Erotic.

There is a difference between Erotic and Erotica, but those who previously would have picked up a book and enjoyed it now treat it as if it were the plague. What used to be Romance is now Erotic. Shocking I know. People assume Erotic and hear a bad porn music in the air. Bow-chicka-wow-wow. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Much like the movie ratings that have tried to help parents know what’s in a movie or isn’t book genres can be exceptionally deceptive.  What was once R is now NC-17, but NC-17 seems to only focus on one thing. Sex. Not violence. Not even language. Sex. It makes the world go round I guess. Did you know that saying the word ‘sh*t’ or ‘f*ck’ once in a movie allows it to stay PG-13, but twice makes it R. A hundred and seventy three times…still and R rating. In a PG-13 movie you can have sex, just not too graphic, and violence. R ratings stand on movies with graphic torture, decapitation, and even gutting of a main character.

Now how does this relate to book genres? You close the door during sex and it’s a romance. One sex scene and it’s erotic. Yep, ONE, graphic sex scene. What’s graphic? Graphic means the author talks about the touches, the sex organs and the feeling that over comes a person at climax. You just need one and you have to add Erotic.

So as a reader how can you tell the difference between an Erotic Romance and one that is literary porn?  The first and easiest way is to look at the end of the word.  There is a difference between Erotic and Erotica. That little ‘a’ at the end of the word removes plot. Sure there’s a plot in Erotica, but the plot is getting some and filling as many holes as possible in the best of ways.

The second way to know the level of sex is the flames. Those do have a purpose and it’s about the graphic sex. Not the rest of the novel. The hero may be turning on the heroine seven ways from Sunday through the whole book, but if there are only a few sex scenes or just one you’ll see a three flame rating. Those books with quite a few sex scenes, but still a plot will have four flames. If you see five flames assume it’s Erotica and we all know what that means.

My hope is you don’t run from a title because Erotic has been listed in the genre. Only in romance does erotic get added, not a Sidney Sheldon mystery, not a Robert Ludium suspense. It’s a double standard that sadly will not be resolved anytime soon.

Tell me dear students, have you ever taken a chance on a genre and found it wasn’t as bad as you thought?


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  1. Problem is, Amazon doesn’t have an erotic romance genre, and that’s where the majority of (at least my) sales come from. So, to warn against that one “graphic” sex scene, it needs to be categorized as erotica and romance, which is deceptive, but otherwise we have reviewers complaining that it’s too graphic. There is of course the opposite problem where we have to overrate it, and reviewers call us on it. So…. I don’t know what the right answer is.

  2. I was insulted that on Smashwords the only place they had interracial or multicultural was under erotica. There are sweet and contemporary IR/MC books. One of my favorite authors has graphic sex in her books, but since she’s with a big publisher they rarely slap an erotic genre on her books. She’s romance. I’ve never seen anyone complain that her paranormal books are too graphic. It might just be a small press thing that people are discriminating against.

  3. I’ve read romance novels (by big publishers) that have pretty graphic scenes, but those books aren’t listed as “erotic” and are sold right in the grocery store or drug store. The big publishers can get away with more. It’s usually the self-published authors or authors with small publishers who have to be really careful with categorization. I’ll bet a lot of romance lovers who shun erotica would be surprised to find the heat level isn’t all that steamier than what they’re used to in traditionally published books.

    • I was surprised by a “sports romance” that’s listed as contemporary only, but every other scene was sex, graphic and all, oral, vaginal and anal. Not erotic. But put out by a big company.

  4. belindaegreen permalink

    Thank you Michel for explaining the difference in Erotic vs Erotica. I too am surprised at how some books are categorized. You think, what? Now I have some insight.

    I always want a good story with lots of spice where it makes sense. Gratuitous graphic sex just because is a big turnoff for me…pun intended.

    I know it’s a double standard and it frankly sucks! I do believe that authors do lose sales bases on this. Reviewers are expecting one thing and get something totally different. Unfortunately, the reviewer ends up blaming the authors.

    Thanks for sharing Michel!

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