I love sex. I love having it, thinking about it, reading about it, and definitely writing about it. I think sex is fun and wonderful, and I think erotica and erotic romance are fantastic.
Thus it really riles me up when I see something like this on a writer’s forum:
“My characters are going to have sex, and I don’t want to end up writing erotica! What do I do?”
And, of course, everyone suggests a tasteful “fade to black,” which is great for your YA book or whatever. Not every book should have sex in it. But it’s the underlying message that irks me, the belief that I see represented each time some form of this question arises.
It’s the idea that erotica and erotic romance are somehow less than other forms of writing. If you’re not careful, your book might “end up” that way, like that slutty girl in your high school who had sex and had to drop out of school and go live with her aunt in Nebraska while she had the baby and gave it up for adoption. The underlying belief is that erotica is trashy and wrong, and you’re trashy and wrong for liking it.
Listen, accidental sex writers of the world: your attempts at the beginning of a sex scene aren’t going to turn you into an erotica writer any more than buying a violin at a yard sale will send you to Carnegie Hall. So stop worrying about it.
Furthermore, stop talking about erotica as if it’s hepatitis. It’s not something that happens to your manuscript if you write with someone else’s pen. Those of us who write erotica and erotic romance spend quite a lot of time crafting those sex scenes to make them titillate and entertain, so stop scoffing at our craft. It’s not harming anyone, and it’s not a blight on the literary landscape. Liking erotica doesn’t make me any less likely to appreciate Catch-22 or Great Expectations any more than wearing pajama pants at home makes me less likely to wear a suit to work.
Wait, those were a lot of metaphors. Am I comparing erotica to pajama pants?
Yes I am. Just as we have different outfits for different situations, so can – and should! – our reading habits vary. Different books are stimulating in different ways, and erotica and erotic romance are stimulating in at least one very delightful way. Even within those categories, though, there’s a range of options. I might be reading an erotic romance novel for the long-term commitment of character development and plot, interwoven with some very hot sex, knowing the payoff of the “happily ever after” is just as fun as the journey. Sometimes I want to pop over to Literotica.com and find some smexy little gem for a reading quickie, a one-night-stand that I don’t have to call the next day. So what’s the big deal?
The fact that I write erotic romance doesn’t mean my work is any less valuable than your Literary Fiction masterpiece. It’s just different. It serves a different purpose. Sometimes I want to be intellectually stimulated, and sometimes I want to be stimulated in other ways, and that doesn’t make me tasteless or dirty or low class. It makes a me a red-blooded woman with a healthy sexual appetite.
Finally, I hate bad writing as much as the next bibliophile. I have high standards for my erotica and erotic romance, just like I do for the other books I read. Please don’t judge an entire genre by its free offerings on the internet.
Let’s stop the literary slut-shaming.