Some Like It Hot

Hearts afireMuch has been written about the rise of erotic romance since the stunning success of the Fifty Shades series, but this article on Salon.com is the best I’ve read. To me it gets to the heart of why people read erotic romance—and it’s not for the reasons that those who neither read nor write in the genre seem to believe. The article quotes author Anna Alexander, who sums it up well:

People are at their most vulnerable when they’re naked together, which leads them to admit their true feelings even if only to themselves.

Few would suggest that mysteries, thrillers, and horror novels should not dramatize killings because those scenes would only serve to titillate readers. It’s pretty clear that violence is inherent to those novels, and the degree to which the violence is graphically depicted depends on the author and the story.

So why is it difficult to understand that in novels about romantic love, where sexual attraction is intrinsic to the plot and character development, dramatization of the sex scenes can be integral to the story, rather than existing for cheap thrills?

Readers enjoy erotic romance for the same reason they enjoy other romance novels: because love conquers all. This belief is fundamental to human happiness. When the reader’s taste and the author’s talent are dismissed (by people ignorant of the genre, who’ve never read any of the literary-quality novels it’s produced), we are all diminished. This attitude says that we, as a species, shouldn’t value love. Shouldn’t value the decision of whom to marry and have children with. Shouldn’t value the joy that a fulfilling sexual relationship brings to our lives.

As an author of romantic women’s fiction, I generally don’t write novels where the sexual journey is key to the storyline. The sex scenes aren’t graphic, because they don’t need to be. But some stories can’t be told without fully dramatized sex scenes. That’s why erotica and erotic romance exist. It’s not about the sex—it’s about the story.

What do you think? Does the edginess of erotic romance appeal to you? Or do you prefer the bedroom door to be closed?

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About AndreaJWenger

Andrea J. Wenger is an award-winning writer and editor in Raleigh, North Carolina. She specializes in the fields of creative, technical, and freelance writing.

Posted on January 15, 2014, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I write traditional romance, so a steamy love scene or two is expected. I agree with Anna that these scenes are necessary to the story to show the evolution of the characters’ journey toward their HEA. I think you can achieve the same thing by alluding to sex, though, too. Both ways work for me.

  2. I’ve never read erotic romance but don’t have anything “against” it. We should be able to write whatever we wish and read whatever we wish.

  3. Tracy, I agree. The important point is to show the characters’ vulnerability, and there are ways to do that other than graphic sex. Patti, I started reading erotic romance about 2 years ago, and found that I like the way the good ones strip characters down to their core. It’s definitely not for everyone, though!

  4. The erotic genre has exploded and I’ve read a few by accident. The ones I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones where the sex is a natural part of their relationship and it enhances the story. Sex for sex sake is not fun to read. Thanks for sharing this informative article and your take on the subject!

  5. Christy, I’ve read so-called erotic romances (traditionally pubished) where the romance was little more than a framework to hang the sex scenes on. Awful.

  6. It doesn’t matter to me whether a book has sex scenes or not, Andrea. I do, however, want the story and the relationships between the characters. For me, this is what ultimately makes a book memorable.

  7. Exactly, Sheila. I don’t think anyone looks back on a book a year later and says, “Yeah, I remember that, the sex scenes were amazing.” They remember the relationship between the characters and how it affected them emotionally. If the sex scenes are the most memorable aspect of the book, then it’s ultimately a forgettable book.

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