A while back I chatted with a university prof who studies women's issues and pop culture, a smart, personable, way-reasonable ladyA strong romance fiction supporter, she says she's got no beef with describing erotic romance as porn

While the First Amendment-huggin' part of me likes her idea of not demonizing adult entertainment - and allowing chicks the right to revel in depictions of sexuality for the simple sake of libidinal arousal - I think erotic romance and adult entertainment generally fulfill entirely different, n'er-the-twain-shall-meet needs...

 

Even when we dress up adult film in "story" -- the newer "women's erotica" films, for example, in which we view a couple having sex interspersed with B roll of their clothed selves telling their "how we met" stories -- we're still watching the flick simply to experience sexual arousal

We also read erotic romance novels (erom) expecting to become aroused. In erom, scenes of sensual and sexual play occur frequently and generally are depicted with graphic language and imagery .

Yet the erom fan also demands sex in the erotic romance be linked inextricably with the formation and growth of an intense emotional bond between the lovers depictedSensuality in erotic romance necessarily moves the story forward as partners use their sexual exploration to build relational connectivity in the same way sexual tension and relational interaction is used in less-sensual romances.

That said, don't think for a moment I and others don't turn to favorite erotic romances the way some guys I know seek out certain Jenna Jameson downloadsI mean, there are 30 or 40 strategically dog-eared pages of Emma Holly's upcoming "Kissing Midnight  " that I regularly reach for in ways that probably would alter anybody's definition of the term comfort read.

But here's the rub, as it wereI may get off on the scenes, but I've already absorbed the love story Holly's laid out for me, how the shape-shifting vampire hero's adored the heroine for years, how his rapacious craving for her is heightened by the way her humanity affects his newly awakened ability to fiercely love a being other than his adopted children.

And if you read romance, you dig just how much more sexy that makes Edmund Fitz Clare and anything he and his bigol vampire body can do to a woman.

So, if we can pull out of context and read a scene from an erotic romance and get hot, and we use porn for the same reason, aren't they one and the sameI asked this question of author Portia Da Costa, an author whose exceptional work is influential in the worlds of American as well as British erotic romance.

"Basically," says Da Costa, "I just let people classify books and stories how they want to, and as long as they're enjoying what they read in the way they want to enjoy it, I'm happy with that."

Quite reasonable, considering how we've talked around Unabashedly Bookish of  lines between genres and subgenres blending.  In Portia's case, you can make your own call when you check out an 18+ only excerpt from Portia's delicious upcoming erom, "Kiss It Better  ."  But I predict you'll get a grand idea of how erotic romance weaves a spell of sensuality with a promise of the relational commitment that will develop through sexual exploration.

Yikers. I may have confused rather than clarified the porn vs erotic romance debate.  But let's review anyway: Love develops when partners connect emotionally and experience relational growth toward commitment while exploring joyfully shared sensual pleasure

 

Yeah, my thoughts exactly; romance is just so unrealistic.

If they both are created to get you hot, are porn and erotic romance the same beastHow do they differWhat do you love about erotic romance? What are some of your faves?
Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 05-12-2009 04:20 PM
Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 05-13-2009 07:26 PM
Comments
by Author Shiloh_walker on ‎05-12-2009 02:21 PM
Not the same beast, no way.    Porn is all about getting somebody aroused.  Erotic romance has to have the elevated heat levels, but it also has to have a story, a plot, something more than just a few sex scenes strung together.  Take out the story?  Yes, they are the same.  But the story, the plot, makes all the difference.
by on ‎05-12-2009 02:40 PM

I'm pissed!  I just wrote a long, detailed reply, and I was timed out!  Grrrrrrr!

 

In a shortened version:  I agree with Shiloh Walker...not the same.

 

Michelle wrote:  If they both are created to get you hot, are porn and erotic romance the same beastHow do they differWhat do you love about erotic romance? What are some of your faves?

Porn:  depiction of erotic behavior meant chieftly to cause sexual excitement.

Erotic:  sexually arousing.

Romance:  love story - love affair

 

I don't have a 'fave' novel, but I do have a favorite short story writer of beautiful prose, which I will put into this classification 

Miranda July. No one belongs here more than you

 

by amyskf on ‎05-12-2009 03:01 PM

I love it that Portia Da Costa, let's people enjoy her writing however they want. And I struggle to try to pinpoint what it is that I enjoy about erom--well, actually, I don't struggle. It's the whole package. It's the cake and the eating it so to speak. Yum.

 

I will say porn has a tendency to make me feel ooky--erom so does not.

by Stacy1 on ‎05-12-2009 03:51 PM
Porn to me is always about sex and only sex.  Anything else going on in the story is purely to take up space, whereas, like Shi said, the erom has an actual plot, and a relationship, just an extremely hot 'n sexy one.  I always think of porn as the more selfish act, primarily concerned with one's own pleasure, instead of wanting both characters to be having a good time.  It's about feeling good physically and emotionally.   It's the icing on the cake.  Sure, you can do without it, but it's not quite as good.
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎05-12-2009 04:45 PM
I agree with most of the responders here that erotica romance is not porn, it's just romance to the ninth degree. I have been known to enjoy an ahem sizzling between the sheets encounter with our main characters, but without the angst of falling in love all the baggage they usually drag along and any other obstacle they need to jump over to get to the HEA part it wouldn't be worth the read. Reading sex just for the act is like going to a health class, the mechanics are there but that's all.
by Author PortiaDaCosta on ‎05-12-2009 05:05 PM

Mm... everybody's talking about cake! A self indulgent treat that makes you feel good... Nice definition of either erotica for women or erotic romance. I write both, more of the latter lately, because the emotion and the journey towards love, woven in with the sex, has provided me with the most satisfying writing I've ever done. 

 

Thanks ever so much for the mention of Kiss It Better, Michelle. I hope the rest of the book lives up to that taster... :smileywink:

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-12-2009 05:38 PM

I'm a big fan of Lora Leigh's Breed books, which were originally published by Ellora's Cave (women's erotica and erotic romance), but are now mainstream.  I like them because they have heat AND great, emotional romances.  There are some authors whose books are just plain hot, and I do buy those, too.  But my favorites -- the keepers -- hit me on an emotional level.

 

Male-written "porn" strikes me as something totally different from female-written erotica.  It's hard for me to pinpoint the differences, but (wait for it) I know it when I read it. 

by MalePerspectiveGuy on ‎05-12-2009 05:52 PM

Having very little experience with any of this I know that most people think  of the "story" lines in porn as merely ways to get from one sex scene to the next.  But I bet you there are scores of porn directors and producers who would say thier stories are crucial to the sex. So, is it merely the quality of the story lines keeps the material separated from being porn?

by on ‎05-12-2009 06:23 PM
I've always had them all under different classifications. Porn, Erotica, and Romance. Porn has no plot, minor story. Erotica has minor plot, mixed levels of story. Romance has major plot, major story.
by on ‎05-12-2009 08:30 PM

One more time...raw/edgy/porn/erotic chic lit.

 

Porn/erotica in a 'novel', is the cake, as everyone makes reference to.  But without decent writing/lead-ins, just becomes erotica without the staying power of icing.  The 'romance' is the icing/glue that holds it together, and makes that cake flavor yummy?  No?  It lingers, and lasts. 

 

Cut to the chase porn, is fleeting, and more often than not, ugly...do it and get it over with, Wham, bang, thank you mam!  Memorable?  Hope.

....or as Amyskf, said,  "....has a tendency to make me feel 'ooky'."

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎05-12-2009 10:51 PM
I'd like to start w/ Male Perspective Guy.  Your point may hit closest to the one I think of most when I explore this topic.  I'm an enormous fan of erotic romance and any romance with vivid sensuality, which for me means sensuality that's nearly as integral to the novel as the love story.  Yet when I began discussing this topic w/ the prof I wrote of, I realized it can get slippery.  I believe the majority of visual pornography simply is sex on "film" meant to titillate.  But I do believe that there are prod companies that work hard to create scripts, scenarios, storylines to entertain differently viewers of adult flicks who are looking for a more dynamic experience.  We can say, 'Gawd, but the scripts are cheesy and the acting stinks."  But maybe not all viewers feel that way.

I also have heard many romance readers tell me, "I really like romance, but I hate all the sex in it these days."  Frankly, I'm skeptical when I hear that; I think it's something some folks say cause they're still uncomfortable admitting they enjoy sex onthe page.  But who knows what they mean by 'all the sex.' Do they mean pre-marital sex?  Or do they mean menage, 30% more sex scenes than three years ago?  Maybe they simply miss the sweet romances or don't know where to find Inspirationals.

It's all subjective.  Sorta like defining pornography, no?  But let's think about sex on the page.  We may laugh or skoff at the old Penthouse Forum letters, but I firmly believe that they tap into fantasy for many guys with an immediacy and intensity we shouldn't dismiss.  Why is a quick ndirty, get-to-the-point epistolary  "I never thought I'd have a chance to make it with two women, but in my junior year of college..."  -- a classic guy fantasy -- pornography, yet an anthology shore about a woman experimenting in a dressing room w/2 Abercrombie and Fitch salesguys "women's erotica?" 

See what I'm sayin?  I think this question, "What's porn and what's erom," rather than being dangerous, is one that makes us explore our ideas about what kinds of fantasy we'll "allow" both men and women.  We tend to think of porn as 'just a guy thing" and always wrong.  Obviously, porn addiction, the availability of  Internet porn and its desensitising boys and men to images of hypersexuality, etc., can be unhealthy and cause problems forthe  viewer and those around him.  However, men are visual creatures, and healthy guys assimilate fantasy very visually and practically in a way chicks don't.  Does that make their need or desire for that stimulation wrong because they fantasize w/ less backstory than we do?

So, I guess I'm wondering that if we're so quick to reject association with porn -- or at least want to label it as being at the wrong end of the spectrum, with our first love, erom, on the correct end -- what does that say about how we, who deal in women's fantasy, respect men's fantasy?  I'm just sayin' is all...


by on ‎05-13-2009 01:28 AM
Yeah, whatever...to each his/her own.
by Author MonicaBurns on ‎05-13-2009 12:26 PM

*sigh* I get so tired of people trying to equate erotic romance with porn. Generally, the people equating the two haven’t even read a romance.  I read AND write erotic romance. I’ve read porn, but I DO NOT write it. Porn and erotic romance aren’t even distant cousins. Porn has little to no plot, it’s simply scenes of sexual acts linked together and thrown into a book (or movie). There is no character development, no emotional connection or complexity between the characters, which translates into an emotional reaction by the reader. Porn exists simply to incite the base sexual urges of those who read or watch it. I have no problem with that, if that’s what floats the reader’s boat, but erotic romance offers a hell of a lot more than sex for sex’s sake.

 

I find it irritating when I see romance equated to porn or smut. Even if we were to try and embrace those words in an attempt to empower ourselves by using them in conjunction with the word romance, it doesn’t, and won’t, work. The words smut and porn are so deeply ingrained into the American psyche that they can’t be rooted out. I write erotic romance that empowers women to take charge of their own sexuality. I write sex, but it’s there to further the development of the characters, not to titillate.

 

My work has many fantasy components such as heroes who are alpha, have exceptional physiques and other qualities that few men in reality can live up too. But then I’ll take a real man like my husband any day of the week because he loves me, brings home the bacon, deals with my bitchiness, and does thoughtful things that make him more appealing than any male eye candy. For those who seem to think romance is women’s porn, they should consider the recorded fact that women who read romance (erotic or otherwise) have better intimate relationships with their significant others than those who don’t read romance.

by Author Eva_Gale on ‎05-13-2009 09:45 PM
I think it's all in the story of the relationship. Even with a one night stand story, if it's written on an emotionally satisfying level, as well as hot, then it's erotica/romance. 
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-14-2009 12:30 AM

I, personally, enjoy a hot romance.  I do want romance, as opposed to straight sex (or not so straight sex), but, at my age, I've stopped apologizing for my taste in books.  My kids might laugh at some of the covers, but I love to read and I read what I love.

 

If there is a strong emotional connection, as in Lora Leigh's books, the level of heat doesn't bother me at all.  I am aware, though, that the whole "different strokes for different folks" (and why does that sounds somehow obscene?) thing definitely applies here.

 

We all feel strongly about different things.  I really liked the book PASSION by Lisa Valdez, but the poor woman apparently was so reviled for writing an exceedingly hot historical that didn't follow the traditional pattern, that she froze up and never finished her next book.  I think that's AWFUL and, besides, I really want to read that second book.

 

I think it's a matter of expectations and marketing.  Inspirational and "Amish" romances leave me cold.  If I bought what I thought was a contemporary romance and it turned out to be one of those genres/sub-genres, I'd want to throw the book against the wall.  I imagine that's what it's like for Kathy and others who don't want the hot scenes if they buy a book looking purely for romance and find they've got something way hotter than they expected, or wanted.

 

This can be avoided if the publisher labels the book somehow -- "this book is HOT" is printed on the back of some of my paperbacks.  There's plenty of room -- and plenty of books -- for us to each follow our own tastes.  No one forces us to buy books, or read them, so I think we all do the same thing:  we find the authors we like, and look for others who write in a similar style.  It's a win/win. 

by on ‎05-14-2009 03:00 AM

Okay, two books have I thrown in my life!  One, as I had said, was GWTW.  Not because of the 'sex"... Ha!

 

The second book I threw, a hardcover 509 pages of Julia Glass' ,The Whole World Over.  Actually, I picked it up, after I threw it the first times, and heaved it across the room a second time....it didn't hit the wall, the first time! 

 

Julia is a wonderful writer, in that she's word perfect and articulate, but because I hated, literally hated, the ending to her book...it didn't make sense, nor did the fact that she stuck a sex scene in this story that was way out of line.  It boardered vulgar, and had no business being written in this story the way it was. [now, how to define vulgar?] 

 

I was in a discussion with her, at the time, but I didn't have the guts to ask her why she felt that scene was necessary to the plot.  I think she thought I was nuts enough, just going off on one of her characters, who I intensely disliked.....I had to leave the discussion for a while, to cool down!  Gads!  I hope she isn't reading this blog!  She's really a very nice, and sensitive lady!  She was more than kind to me, during my mental break-down! :smileyvery-happy:

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎05-14-2009 09:23 AM

Hi, KathyS.  I'm sorry. I didn't understand from your comments that you don't really go for too much heat in your books, though I should have remembered that from when we first met here.  I like how thoughtful you are about this stuff.

I really feel your frustration over the superfluous sex scene.  A kind of rule of thumb for me is if the sensuality don't move the emotional connection forward, it doesn't belong in the novel.  I always think of the end of "Da Vinci Code."  Did he need to kiss the girl and, I think, press up agin' 'er?  nuh uh.  I was like, 'Dan, no.  Bogus. You never built any sensual tension I could pick up on; you never gave me reason to believe they were drawn to one another; there just wasnt room for it in the book. Plus, you broke the sacred rule for guys writing thrillers: If the guy does the girl, she's gotta die."  Well, ok, he didn't do her, but you know what I'm sayin, right?  But that 'toss a little action in' isn't unusual for some of the 'guyish' books I've read, though I'll say I haven't read enough to know fer sure.

 

It's very cool you got to meet the author.  She probably would have answered your question very reasonable.  And I think you get to decide what's vulgar to you.  I do think it's good to examine why something drives us crazy about a character or occurrence in a book and ask ourselves whether it doesn't touch on something in our own lives.  Then it can become clearer why an author made a certain choice once we've worked through that. Least for me it does.  

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎05-14-2009 09:30 AM
hey, becke: I agree that publishers sometimes have trouble marketing correctly books based on sensuality levels.  Genres and subgenres may be blending, but consumers deserve to know what sensuality level they're buying and publishers have had a few years since the 'hot romance craze' hit to work out the bugs in the system.  I wrote a few years back that we needed to give publishers time to learn how to do it right.  I think they've gotten better. But I agree w/you wholeheartedly, the Lisa Valdez story is tragic.  In my opinion – my opinion – it’s a graphic example of why authors who are sensitive probably shouldn't spend time hanging out online absorbing myriad commentary about their work.  I say it often: Don’t even believe what I write about you. :smileyhappy:  The bigger problem was that Valdez’ book was it was marketed in a mass-market package (paperback) and that, at best, promises a highly sensual romance.  Valdez' book wasn't to me for some reason – if I remember correctly -- necessarily erotic romance, but it was too strongly sensual for the packaging.  JR Ward can push the sensual envelope in the mass-market, probably because of the urban fantasy/paranormal nature of the books and her readership.  But the general mm historical readership didn't expect it and Valdez' got caught in the crossfire of the marketing ish.

I hope she can find some peace and center herself. I – and tons of folks -- want to read the next novel, too.
by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎05-14-2009 09:43 AM

I know, I know, Monica. But, let me put it to you this way: My adopted daughter is Chinese and folks often say, "Is that child yours?"  Now, I could get all up in their faces and jump, "of course!  blahblah love her as much as biological you ignorant idiot..."  But I prefer to think that person is reaching out in curiosity and I have an opportunity to educate and explore opinions, to define not defend.  I really believe in that case, as well as when some people wonder if romance isn't like porn, that they're truly curious because they don't think all 'porn' is bad and w/out emotion or value. 

In the same way we hear people say "Romance sucks" and they've never read a romance, I've heard people say "romance isn't porn' who've never watched a film or picked up a mag or book, etc.  To me, if I'm going to say romance or erotic romance isn't porn, I dern well better have explored pornography and the issues surrounding it.

 

So I guess I'm starting to wonder whether we can be less afraid of the comparison and start to explore what part of the fantasies depicted in "pornography" -- imagery which I've seen recreated time upon time in erotic romance -- might hold some value.  Especially as they relate to male fantasy.  I love romance. I love men.  I love men in romance.  I don't want to leave men out of this equation by rejecting out of hand what turns them on.Especially cause we need them --if we roll that way -- for those 'better intimate relationships.' :smileyhappy:

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-14-2009 10:12 AM

Michelle - I think the cover of PASSION was definitely part of the problem because there was nothing to tell you it was anything different from a "normal" historical.  (Historical authors, please don't hit me -- I know they are all different!)  In fact, if I had seen it on a book shelf (it was recommended to me and I sought it out), I probably wouldn't have bought it.  The title alone is no indication of how hot a book is.

 

While I like books that are hot, I don't require it.  I absolutely LOVED A Countess Below the Stairs by Eva Ibbotsen, and the hero/heroine barely even kiss in that one. It is still one of the most romantic books I've read in ages!

 

I do think publishers should be more cover-conscious.  While I rarely (I won't say "never") buy a book for its cover, I do have expectations based on covers. 

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎05-14-2009 12:50 PM

I don't want to leave men out of this equation by rejecting out of hand what turns them on.Especially cause we need them --if we roll that way -- for those 'better intimate relationships.'

 

Ok, you know I love men, love to look at their beauty, but I don’t see them as being left out of the equation. I’ve had a strong male readership from the beginning of my career (which is still small), and I confess that readership amazed me. Bad girl that I am, I thought men were buying simply to read the “dirty parts.” But subsequent conversations with male readers have surprised me. They like the story line and emotional connections just as much as they do the sex. I think eBooks have done a lot to open up the eRom gates to men who want to read romance, but are nervous about going to the front of the store. Amazon has done the same.

 

If I understand you correctly, your point is we should explore fantasies that exist in both porn and eRom and share that info with men. IOWs saying hey, eRom gives you the same type of fantasies you find in porn, but in addition it also gives you emotional satisfaction as well.

 

The problem I have with that point is that the two mediums are different and comparing them won’t work, not even for imagery. While both mediums might hold similar imagery, they can’t be labeled the same because the imagery is treated differently. In one form (porn) imagery is produced simply to provide a base, animal satisfaction for the reader/viewer. The other form (eRom) of imagery is designed first and foremost to give an emotional satisfaction that includes the added component of enjoying the physical interaction between the characters. Comparing the two means we have to compare the purpose each medium provides to readers.

 

We’re really talking about two different audiences and needs. If we compare the fantasies in both mediums, the message will no doubt become convoluted and I have no doubt it would cause a backlash, and eRom will take a hit because the perception will be that it’s nothing but sex as opposed to fiction that tugs at your emotions and heartstrings, because it emotional and takes the reader into the bedroom for those emotional scenes that can give a deeper insight into a character. 

 

But then, as I’ve said before, my perception of the whole issue is colored by other things. *grin* This is definitely an interesting debate and conversation, which is what I love to do. Wish it were in person so we could just sit and debate without typing. LOL

 

And damn it, I want to know how you get those cutsey smilies!!!!

by on ‎05-14-2009 01:58 PM

Monica: 

 

:smileyhappy:     Colon with right parenthesis 

:smileyvery-happy:   Colon  with the letter D

 :smileysad:    Colon with left parenthesis

:smileytongue:    Colon with  the letter P

 

 etc.  :smileyhappy:

by on ‎05-14-2009 02:07 PM
Becke,  

I don't think I could publish, unless I had a say in what the cover looked like, or the title.  The title, Passion, says a lot, though.  I've been in the art field too long to let that one go. 

 

Visuals on a cover can be more than half of telling the story, for me.  To have someone from the graphic’s department, who didn't write the story, try to interpret what was in my head, within those pages [even if they do read the story, which I’ve heard that some don’t], just makes me shudder! 

 

A lot of readers DO pick a book by its cover.  I don't necessarily, because I know the process, or the author, or who's doing the recommending, or at least I do enough research/reading reviews to figure it out.  But why do publishers want to take the chance, by pulling a crappy cover out of a hat, is beyond me.  

 

Sometimes the unfortunate thing is, for me being in some of these discussions I've been in [with an author and their book], I don't pick/select the book, as much as the book picks me.  Not until recent years, has the book cover come into these discussions.  Then you find that every country has it’s own version of what that cover should look like.  Then over time, they keep changing those covers.  I find this an interesting process.

 

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎05-14-2009 02:11 PM
Now see that's how I differ from some romance readers. I feel that sex is an important part of romance and I don't require marriage with it or as a result of it, but definitely require that all allusive HEA that we discussed last week. Usually sweet romance novels leave me wanting more, however there are a few exceptions, one being Sundays at Tiffany's. it was full of whimsy and make believe and what a wonderful story. But in that novel you knew that there had been sex because there were children. The act itself can be as descriptive and imaginative as the author wants and I really enjoy hearing the thoughts going through the partners heads while "engaged".
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-14-2009 11:46 PM

Debbie - I started reading romance in the 1970s and got bored with it in the 1980s.  I rediscovered it about 10 years ago and found two major differences:  1) they were much hotter and 2) most of the books now include the hero's point of view.  That made a huge difference to me. 

 

Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie and Suzanne Brockmann brought me back into the fold. I loved the humor in Jenny's books, the romance/humor in Nora's and the intensity in Suzanne's books.  I don't like Nora's newer books as much because they seem to focus more on the mystery than the romance, and that's not where her strength is.

 

Julia Harper's book HOT is very hot, as the title suggests, but the hero and heroine don't even meet (in person) until about page 100.  And in another favorite book, Eva Ibbotsen's A Countess Below the Stairs, the hero and heroine barely kiss.  But two of my other favorites, Anna Campbell's Tempt the Devil and Anne Stuart's Ritual Sins, are explosively hot -- but it's as much about the emotion as the sex.

 

Other favorites of mine include everything by Kristan Higgins and Virginia Kantra (added to the authors mentioned above), Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, Skinny Dipping by Connie Brockway, Letters to a Secret Lover by Toni Blake, Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney, J.R. Ward, Kresley Cole, Lora Leigh, etc., etc.  The levels of heat vary widely, but they all offer strong emotion. 

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