Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Sex (And Then Some) - The Difference Between Erotica and Mainstream Romance by Debra Glass

As an author for Ellora’s Cave, I’m often asked, “What’s the difference between erotic romance and mainstream romance?”
My first response is usually to arch an eyebrow, wink, and explain that the sex scenes are more graphic and, of course, more frequent, throughout the story. This hot genre is not your grandmother’s brand of romance!
Today’s woman is hungry for more. She understands and embraces the fact that sex is very much an emotional experience for women and she wants the characters in the books she reads to reflect what she knows to be true in her own life.
Many modern readers are frustrated when the bedroom door is slammed shut on the love scenes. Now, they want those doors thrown wide open. They want to see—not only into the characters’ heads but into the experiences of their bodies as well.
But while the language and sex scenes in erotic romances are more abundant and explicit than what you find in a mainstream romance, the assumption that this is the only difference between the two genres is not exactly true.
Ellora’s Cave has even coined the term Romantica® to define their particular brand of erotic romance as, “a work of literature that is both romantic and explicitly sexual.”
In erotic romance, as in mainstream romance, authors use the sexual relationship between the hero and heroine to propel the story forward to demonstrate character growth and satisfy the reader with a commitment between the characters. Erotica writers, however, use more graphic language, describe more sexual positions, acts, and sometimes employ the use of sex toys, vibrators, dildos, or even sensual spankings, blindfolds, and handcuffs to take the love scenes to a different level.
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School director, Sandra Lieblum says, “The important sex organ for women is between the ears.”
In this passage from my historical erotic romance, Restraint, notice how Catherine’s physical reaction is triggered by the sexual awakening of her thoughts.
(Copyright © Debra Glass, 2008 All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.)
Her stomach tightened when she thought about what they’d done—when she imagined what they would do next. Desire flooded her abdomen.
She had never dreamed she would want to explore this dark side of her nature. She had grown up with strict parents and the topic of sex had been taboo. Her parents had never even kissed in front of her, much less touched.
With a twinge of shame and horror, she recalled the talk her mother had given her regarding sex. She’d sat wide eyed while her mother had described men as nasty, sex-starved beasts with horrid penises.
Catherine had not thought Thomas was horrid. Not at all. However, she was shocked she had wanted him inside her.
Sexual yearning spiraled downward in her body. She had wanted it more than anything and she would have done anything—said anything—to have him.
Sex therapist, Dr. Allegra Skye writes, (romance is an) “empowering, feel-good genre fiction written primarily by women for women. In these novels, women fight for the love of a good man and refuse to settle for anything but a healthy marriage. That’s a positive message.”
Erotic romance has evolved into a genre which is designed to empower women. Therefore, it’s no surprise Borders reports that erotic titles have seen a double digit sales growth since their stores began carrying the genre in 2004.
“Romance novels are the secret erotica of American women. These books describe what women want. The heroines are very strong and very feminine. And surveys have found that women who read romance novels have sex more often and enjoy themselves more than women who don't read them,” says author, Phyllis Curott.
But what makes a story erotic?
Certainly, the love scenes in erotic romances are explicit and involve sex acts that would be considered taboo in mainstream romance, but the difference doesn’t stop there.
While magazines like Playboy have existed for men for many years, women’s fantasies have often been either tailored to men’s sexual desires or ignored completely. Erotic romance finally gives women an outlet to indulge their own fantasies and to explore female desires in a way that puts women in charge of their sexuality. At the same time, erotic romance employs more realistic, modern terminology and imagery than mainstream romance creating a more realistic feel within the genre.
Author Belle Scarlett (The Woodsman-Ellora’s Cave) finds erotic romance a refreshing respite. “As a grown woman who is in charge of her own sexuality, I find the frank talk and openly expressed, intense emotions that occur between the consenting adults in erotic romance to be more realistic, stimulating and satisfying than coy or obscure sexual references I was used to seeing in mainstream romances. Naturally, everyone has to find their own comfort level as readers and writers of romance, but for me there's an immediacy and visceral, exciting urgency to erotic romance that puts the fun right back into the genre on the whole.”
Here’s a taste of one of the erotic romance scenes between Sir Marrok Ulfang and Lady Lily Rouge in Belle Scarlett’s, The Woodsman (Copyright © Belle Scarlett, 2008 All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.):
“Touch me, Lily.” Even he couldn’t tell if his words constituted a command or plea. “I think I shall die if you don’t put your hands on me. Now.”
To his surprise, she obeyed and tentatively raised her hand to lay her small palm against the heat of his chest. He sucked in a breath as her fingers began to trace the hard lines of his body. Her touch grew bolder when he groaned his encouragement.
“Aye, lady. Yes. Explore me. My body is here to please yours.”
He shifted his weight more fully on her, so her lower body could not help but be impressed by the hard bulge between his legs. Inflamed by the passionate little touches of his beginner lover, he ground his bare pelvis more intimately into hers and found, to his delight, that her undergarments were crotchless, made that way, so he supposed, for the convenience of the privy.
But her undergarments could not have been designed more usefully for his purposes. He nudged the wide tip of his cock through the open muslin seam and gently pushed himself against her wet opening, testing her.
She was drenched with her own arousal juices. He reached down, shifting his penis a fraction to make room for his hand. He drew his fingers lightly through her sopping wet folds, and felt her shiver of excitement.
He inserted just the tip of his finger inside her snug pussy and found he’d made her more than ready for her first time. She arched against his hand and gasped. He was satisfied she would feel pleasure, not pain, at his first penetration.
He never broke her gaze when he raised his hand, coated with dew from her pussy to his lips. Slowly, he licked his fingers clean. He closed his eyes, blissfully savoring her clean, womanly flavor as though it were a priceless delicacy and he its connoisseur.
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Reviews for The Woodsman have praised its evocative, arousing love scenes in the context of a lush retelling of the well-known fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood.
Women who read erotic romance often draw on these scenes to enhance their own sexual experience during intercourse within their relationships. Combining pure fantasy with well-written sex succeeds in creating an erotic world into which readers can escape.
The focus of erotic romance is to satisfy women readers who are hungry to be stimulated by a physically and emotionally gratifying story. And since there is a plethora of love scenes in erotic romance, in Restraint, the touch of a hand or a even a kiss becomes far more intimate than the actual sex act itself.
(Copyright © Debra Glass, 2008 All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.)
The bed sank as he sat on it. “I am going to spend the entire morning teaching you to kiss.”
A surge of disappointment welled through Catherine. She had never before been kissed. Not on the mouth anyway, she thought with a wry grin. It couldn’t possibly be as satisfying as the way he had kissed her yesterday.
She felt him stretch out beside her and then cool silk caressed her skin. A silk banyan? Silk pajamas? But again, she was disappointed. She wanted to feel his skin against hers.
She had been right. He was tall. One of his long legs slipped over hers, his knee between her knees, his hard, thick, silk-encased thigh draped over hers.
Tender fingers swept her hair off her face and trailed down to trace the line of her jaw, her chin. Catherine’s breath stopped in her chest. She tried to swallow but she couldn’t. And as he lowered his mouth to hers, her heart pounded so hard she could hear her pulse in her ears.
His lips merely grazed hers. Catherine wanted more. She lifted her chin and parted her lips. His shallow, fast breaths feathered her face. Was he as affected by this as she was? She only hoped so.
And then his mouth was on hers, raining expert kisses, biting, drawing her bottom lip into his mouth, sucking. She had never imagined a kiss could be so powerful!
But there was more. Much more.
His mouth opened and his tongue delved between her lips, searching, teasing. Cool fingers encircled her throat. He was trembling.
Timidly, Catherine touched her tongue to his and then responded with reckless abandon, fencing, mating, kissing him as if she had kissed dozens of men. This was no ordinary kiss. This sensation sent waves of desire spiraling straight to her loins. She arched, wishing, hoping his fingers would find that special place and send her once more to that perfect oblivion.
But he did not. He only kissed her mouth, her cheeks, her forehead. She turned her head to grant him greater access when he kissed her ear, nibbling her earlobe, his breath hot, tickling her. She arched underneath him and sighed audibly when he rained kisses down the curve of her neck. She had never dreamed she would be so sensitive there. And although this was more wonderful than she had ever imagined it could be, she wanted more.
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Erotic romance uses sex—a lot of sex—to propel the story and characters toward their goals. And like mainstream romance, every love scene has to be relevant to the story and must show character growth. Nothing is gratuitous.
However, the love scenes in erotica evoke a much more contemporary view of a woman’s sexuality, even in the context of fantasy, paranormal, historical, or futuristic romances.
Author Maureen Caudill sums it up nicely. (Erotic romance) “is the most feminist of all literature because it’s the only form of literature where woman are guaranteed to win and come out with an emotionally satisfying finish.”

About The Author
Debra Glass’ previous experience as a medium inspired her interest in writing Alabama ghost stories although she’s also got a passion for spine‑tingling paranormal romance. Since 2002, Debra has written several books on regional folklore and has had numerous articles published in Fate Magazine and various Civil War magazines. Now, she’s delving into steamy erotic romance with her Phantom Lovers series which debuted with Gatekeeper, in April 2008. Other books in the series include Shadowkeeper (August) and Watchkeeper (October). Her book, Mediumship-To-Go, is an upcoming non-fiction release in the metaphysical To-Go series from The Lotus Circle.
Learn more about Debra at .


Wylie Kinson said...

Excellent article, Debra. Have you thought of submitting it (sans the excerpts) to your RWA chapter for inclusion in the chapter newsletter? Passionate Ink, maybe?
If so, let me know because I'm the editor for my local chapter and I'd pick it up off the loop in a heartbeat!

Debra Glass said...

Thanks Wylie! I would love to submit it!!

Debra Glass said...

But only with a quote by you, Wylie!

Wylie Kinson said...

I'm sorry Debra... I only give quotes in articles that include my buddy Ron Jeremy.


Debra Glass said...

Well, OK, as long as he brings Peter North along, Wylie... lol!

Belle Scarlett said...

"Why am I suddenly hearing 'chickachicka bow-bow' adult video music coming from the Kitten's Blog?" Belle Scarlett couldn't help but wonder aloud to herself... And Wylie, Ron Jeremy is just darned lucky to be mentioned in the same interview as you!

Kimmie said...

Wow! I must say you summed that up quite nicely. Thank you, I enjoyed this article and look forward to more! Kimmie