Monday, July 24, 2006

Sensual romance or erotica?

What makes a book an erotic novel, and not a sensual romance? I write both, but I can't seem to get the hang of what the "rules" are for actually putting the appropriate genre on the books. I realize it's a fine-line distinction, but I admit to being truly curious as to how the average reader makes the classification. The terms themselves mean something different for everyone who reads or writes romance, and it can be really mind-boggling for someone who's crafting a story to specific tastes. I've written books that my personal perception classed as erotic, but have then been reviewed with a line like "typical romance novel sensuality", which is fine by me, but curious nonetheless. So, what do you, as a reader, use as a "guideline" when defining this kind of book? Is the amount of sexual content the measure of the classification, or the language use? Or is it more the kind of sexual activity involved? I think it has to be some measure of all those ingredients, but the lines are getting murky, so I'd really love to see some reader commentary on how you define this subject??

And, another line of thought to ponder: When the book is historical in setting, mood and tone are extremely important as they become secondary characters in and of themselves sometimes, so are there terms and situations that a reader would consider totally ridiculous? That's another of those murky areas, so I'll be very interested in what readers have to offer by way of comment. And, very happy to keep it in mind when writing this kind of thing, I assure you! Now, what have you got for suggestions?

Denysé
Website: www.denysebridger.com
Blog: http://fantasy-pages.blogspot.com

45 comments:

Kelley said...

I too think it is a mixture of the three ingredients. I think that language and the type of sexual activity are BIG ones. Almost anything goes in erotica but not so in sensual romance. When I read a sensual romance, I feel emotionally touched with the love scenes, but most of the time with erotica, I dont feel the same way. Maybe that is just me, though. I think the words and actvities involved define the difference between making love and having sex.

kim said...

i want both. i don't know much difference, but i have not tried them all, but i would like to. it's the story that counts anyways

Julie in Ohio said...

I agree completely with Kelly and will add multiple partners. When I think of erotica, I think of more than one partner not necessarily at the same time but with erotica anything goes.
Sensual romance, to me, is only one partner and you are more emotionally involved. The intimacy is still HOT but there is a connection there that there isn't there with erotica.

Dannyfiredragon said...

Funny that mention this, because we just had this discussion on one the loops.

Here is my humble opinion:

There is a big difference for me between Erotica & Romance.

Erotica: Main focus on sex, no real plot, a HEA is no must

Erotic Romance: good balance between sex and normal plot (love story)

"Normal" Romance: main focus on the love story, less sex scenes or better said sometimes less steamy.

Denyse said...

Wow!! Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts. This is a subject that is pretty much guaranteed to get people talking, and I really find the diversity of perceptions fascianting. Despite most of my stuff being classified as erotica, I strongly feel it's all erotic romance or "normal" romance. I much prefer two committed people, regardless of what they're doing in bed! It's the romance and the emotional bonds that make it real, and strong, and what we identify with most easily in our hearts.

Jennifer Y. said...

I like both too, but tend to prefer the romance...to me there is a difference. Danny defined it well.

AmberPackard said...

I agree With Kelley When i think erotica its all about the sexual encounter and when i think of sensual romance theres a story beyond the sex.

Cherie Japp said...

I like the variety of having both to choose from. I think Danny did a real good job of defining it as well.

Joyce said...

Just tried to post and it didn't go through. So I'll try again and say that I agree with Danny's definition.

bamabelle said...

I like both, but have a slight inclination toward Romance over Erotica.

To me, it is all based on what the primary focus is. If the focus is the romantic relationship it is Romance. If the focus is on the sexual journey, it is Erotica.

Laurie D. said...

I always think of erotica as being more about the sex act itself, w/out any true emotion or feelings, while sensual romance may have that same attention to sexual detail, but it also involves the characters' hearts. After all, when you love someone, you derive just as much pleasure out of pleasuring them, not just what you get out of it for yourself. I may love hot, steamy sex scenes, but I like them to be love scenes at the same time - I want romance and the happy ending each and every time. I won't read anything w/out a happy ending if I know ahead of time that it doesn't have one.

Jennifer L hart said...

I think it is all in the perception of the reader. Somebody's too tame romance could be someone else's highly charged erotica. I'm sure there are charts and statistics on this sort of thing, but I can barely balance my checkbook.:)

ShelMel said...

I have to agree with Danny, too. But I can see where the lines are blurred sometimes.

Jodi said...

I agree with Danny on the meanings.
Also, Laurie hit it head on. I want my HEA. Hot sex between a committed couple makes it all the better!

Jennifer Y. said...

Yes, a HEA is a must (usually) for me.

Rachael said...

I perfer sensual romance rather then erotica. I think Erotica doesn't have as much plot to the story and just focuses on the sex scenes. Now a sex scene within a story with a good plot, seems to be more romantic that in an erotica book. You need to build up the characters for us to get into it. If there is no character development, how am I supposed to feel anything for them?

readingissomuchfun said...

I agree with Danny. Erotica has alot more sex scenes and is more open about what they talk about and how they write the sex scenes in the book. But I love both Sensual romance & Erotica.


HUGSSSS
Linda.H.

Jenn said...

I think that I enjoy both but tend to go toward more erotica stories at times. I love all romance but sometimes you just want more.

Judy F said...

what Danny said...LOL I agreee I want my happy ending period

Maria said...

I think of a sensual romance as a story where the language isn't very graphic nor are the love scenes. I say love scenes instead of sex scenes because I expect the h/h to love each other the first time they become intimate in a sensual romance. I don't expect that in an erotic romance, eventually yes but not the first time.

rachd said...

Sensual romance is HOT HOT HOT! The language is a little more subtle and not quite as graphic. Eroita is more open to alternative lifestyles, more in your face language, and sex really drives the plot.

With a sensual romance, the plot is the relationship and great sex is there, but not the only thing.

Jen in WA said...

My two cents...

A sensual romance is more emotional and not so much sexual. If there is sex it's more behind closed doors.

An erotic romance is more about the sex. It's definately more graphic (especially with the language used). With erotica, I also think you get more than your standard 'sex scene'... you start to move into fetishes, bondage, multiple partners, and so on.

Veronica said...

I think you have to have all three no matter what you write. To me it is just the amount of each in a book that would make it erotic or a sensual romance. That line is getting harder to define though.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Since I write erotic paranormal and I read them too, that's a good question--that fine line between erotic and sensual romance. Maybe sensual is the lighter side of erotic and erotic the darkside, to quote Star Wars-LOL. In erotic you cna pull out all the punches, be not afraid to have sexual words in the story that are all out there, steamy as all get out, and can be with more than one person, or same sex, while sensual is more sweeter and one person, different sex.
Though both are way different than erotica, as erotica the characters don't have to be in love or end up with each other, etc....

Jennifer L hart said...

I remember reading a poem about the naked and the nude. Does anyone else know what I mean? It basically said that there was shame in being naked while the nude were proud. I don't know why this discussion made me think of that. Sorry for the tangent.:)

Pat said...

I agree with Kelley - I prefer sensual. With erotica, I too believe anything goes and the language nd acts as well determines whether it erotica or sensual.

lidia said...

I liked Danny's definition. Never thought about it much before. Definitely prefer romance and erotic romance to erotica.

Becky said...

I think the difference is that:

Sensual Romance focuses more on the loving relationship outside of sex than in the bedroom. Also the sex in Sensual Romance books is really low key, no harsh language, and sticks to the conventional sex act that most people think about. lol It also has a good plot that takes up most of the book.

Erotica focuses mostly on sex and the pleasure of it. It has some very unconventional sexual acts that would be scorned in society to say the least. It focuses very little on plost and relationship and more of the sexual tension and interaction between the characters.

Cryna said...

Erotica to me is something I can do without. I find that with erotica there is no thought about the sex, it does not go with the plot, it does not flow, it is just sex for sex with no thought for each other. And bouncing from one partner to the other. No rhyme or reason just sex.

I like a good romance, I like sex in the romance, and it can even be hot sex, but it is something that blends in with the story. The hero and the heroine feel something toward one another, and it is just the natural flow to the next step.

Lucy Monroe said...

For me, sensual romance and erotica are totally different animals, but the problem I've faced when trying to discuss the topic is that is not necessarily true for all publishers, reviewers, agents, readers and other authors. Defining something that so many conflict in their definition of is just too darn hard. So, I prefer my books to be referred to as romance. Call 'em erotic romance, sensual romance or sexy romance...just remember, that at the core, they ARE romance. How another author wants her books defined may be different, or I may not think the term she uses fits, but I doubt we're ever going to have a cohesive industry standard. Heck, we don't even really have one for romance. Not one that all pubs, agents, reviewers and readers accept, much less authors.

The best I can do personally is to try to brand myself as a romance author who writes pretty hot love scenes. LOL

That said, Kelley and many others have hit the nail on the head for me. It's the terms used to define sex (though I know some romance authors who use the language of erotica but definitely write romance), the type of sex (multiple partners vs. committed relationship for me) and the focus on sex versus emotion that defines the difference between erotica and romance for me.

Yikes...have I gone on, or what? But that happens at conference too. I usually end up blushing 'cuz I've talked too much when we get on topics near and dear to my heart. LOL

Just like now...

Cryna said...

Lucy I agree with you whole heartedly and find that your books are always sensual but romance to the core. I have really enjoyed anything that I have read from you and am never diappointed.

But perceptions of others to what is erotica and what is just good romance is as varied as with anything else. Although I have noticed upon reading the other posts that we are all pretty feeling the same about the distinction.

Hugs

Lucy Monroe said...

Thanks, hon! Hugs back atcha. :)

mammakim said...

Well my thoughts are that erotica adds more description of kinkier sex... sensual romance adds more of the story and the feelings of the couples heart more than the lust of the erotica couples.

Pam P. said...

I agree, the main difference is the use of graphic words and the types of act. Many of the erotic romances do tend to focus on the acts rather than emotions and character development like the sensual romance.

It is becoming somewhat blurred now and I'd like to see it become more so, lol, not overdone with too many of those words but adding more of the emotions to the story. I want to know the characters and what they are feeling most of all. Well-written sensual scenes can be on the side of steamy.

Whatever anyone wants to call it, I want the emotions and character development to be there for the best story. If it has more sex fine, but if that's all there is, it doesn't quite satisfy my definition of romance.

Anonymous said...

I kind of like them both. (G)
Hugs!
Lisa R.

JENNA said...

sensual romance v. erotica
making love v. having sex
kink v. intamacy

I think reviewers for erotica sites are more stringent on things being erotic 'enough'. It should be about the story - is it the characters who make it erotic (more romance) or the situations (more erotica).

it is a fine line at times, but I like Dannyfiredragon's definitions.

Jo said...

To me the difference between erotic and sensual is the intensity and wordage used in the scene. I have found that it depends on both the characters and storyline on which type of scene will work the best.

I have read some stories where the emotions involved lead you to expect sensual and for some reason the scenes are erotic and feel out of place. But I have also read the opposite.

I guess alot just depends on what the story is saying to me or any other reader. But I am interested in what other readers have to say on this.

Tee said...

I have to agree with Kelly. I really think it is how you expresss the love making. For example my Mom would be offending by anything erotic. She would be on the phone givig me a ear full about why this or why do they have to write like that. So language is a big part. But that is what I think anyway....

Denyse said...

Again, fascinating discussion. I think I have to agree about 200% with Lucy. I would MUCH rather be classified as a romance writer first, or a writer of sensual romance. I did a stronger slant toward erotica in my newest book, and it's not something I particularly cared for, so it will probably be the last one with that kind of in your face sexuality. The next one is the one I'm looking forward to, and since it's a Victorian mystery, as well as a romance, the sensuality is much more intimate but understated. I liked the balance much better.

Louise Kovacs said...

I think it depends on the kind of sexual activity and how graphic the description is. I prefer to have some things left to my imagination. For me, erotica is definitely more graphic.

Amy said...

I like them all as long as they are well written and can pull the reader into the story

Ruby said...

I think the difference is this. In sensual romance, there is a story, and an emotional as well as sexual attraction between a man and woman. In erotica, there is really no romance or emotional connection. It is just plain graphic sex with or without multiple partners. If not handled correctly it borders on porn.
Ruby

Alessandra said...

i totally agree with ruby. erotica deals more with the technical nature of sexual intercourse while sensual romance is more on emotions. i do love reading both though, depending on my mood. good thing i finally met the man of my dreams and no, he's not a character from a romance novel, he's from webdate*dot*com.

Kelli in Kentucky said...

I like both also but I think erotic has more in your face lang., more detail, more sexual encounters. At one time I would have agree that you could relate better to charaters in a sensual book but with more and more main stream authors getting into erotica the content is better.

Powerone said...

For publishers, the definition is that in romance, you can only have one sex partner and you must have HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

Otherwise, anything goes.