Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Waving The White Flag

By Kathleen Bradean

Over the past decade, I’ve discussed, argued, and mused over erotica as a genre. Last night, while reading a piece of erotica, I decided that my arguments are invalid.

Oh, on an esoteric ‘awake at three in the morning with another writer who is like my fricking soulmate as we share profound insights into The Everything of Everythingness’ level, the ideas I fought for and against do matter. To someone. Probably an academic. And me, but I’m weird that way. But to everyone else, they don’t, because everyone else properly goes to bed at a sensible hour, doesn’t drink absinthe at cons, and likes the erotica genre because that’s what they reach for when they want to turn on their brain.

Rather than fight against the label of erotica, I’ve decided to embrace it because it’s damn useful to a writer.  Think about it. A person who picks up a romance expects a story about a relationship. No one picks up a romance then half way through asks with a suspicious glint in their eye, “Wait. Is this a kissing book?”

A writer can only put so much on the page. The reader has to bring something to the party, and the most important hostess gift-- so to speak-- is the expectation of arousal. If you’ve been thinking of sex since lunch at work, through the commute home, and during dinner, you’re going to be more primed for sex than someone who only just now thought about it as they’re climbing into bed. It makes the writers work so much easier if the reader is already willing to be turned on.

The problem with not having the erotica label on my work is far worse than having it. I imagine the wrinkled nose of a reader as they look down at their tingling groin and mutter, “Wait. Is this a fucking book?” And imagine the chirping crickets awkwardness of someone reading through a sex scene they weren’t mentally prepared for and being bored by it. They might do something to retaliate, like quote part of the scene out of context and publicly ridicule it in a contest designed to shame writers for attempting to write sex scenes in books that are not officially designated dirty, filthy smut.


Not that I find that sort of thing annoying as all get out or anything.

While I’ve been writing erotica for years, I’ve often been at odds with the label, but now I’ve decided to make my peace with it.  I know you’ve been waiting breathlessly for this moment.  ;)


  1. Although I haven't been waiting breathlessly, I find it an interesting moment. You make some excellent points about reader expectation and 'primedness'.

    Much to mull over.

    1. The drift of the genre's definition is still a matter of concern. It doesn't mean what it used to mean, and that leaves traditional literary erotica in an odd place.

  2. You're right, Kathleen. It doesn't seem to mean what it used to mean. I have mixed feelings about labels too. I like to fantasize about a marvelously open-minded reader opening a book by any of us (esp. you, me, or RG) with no expectations, and feeling carried away to another world. However, clear labels prob. prevent unnecessary freakouts ("There is sex in this book!"). For better and worse, marketing seems to require labels.

    1. I think we'd all like to cry out that a story is a story, but I'll admit that I find the mystery category quite useful when I look for a book I'd enjoy reading. My user side is in conflict with my producer side.

  3. Hi, Kathleen,

    I've come to terms with the fact that there are lots of people who just won't *get* what I write. And I do feel genres are useful up to a point, though the current publishing world takes them to ridiculous extremes.

    You're certainly right that what is marketed as erotica has changed dramatically since I was first published. I just have to shrug and say, "so what". I have my own definition, which doesn't necessarily agree with yours, or anyone else's for that matter. It's a rather futile topic to argue about, which is why I avoid the topic when it crops up, like measles, on the ERWA writers list!


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