What is Erotic Romance? Readers Speak Out (post by Anna)
I’ve never been afraid to stray from the mainstream, forging my own trail. While romance novels remain the most popular fiction genre, they also remain possibly the most ridiculed. Ever heard the term bodice-rippers? Mommy porn? That term was used most famously to describe the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve read the book. First of all, it ain’t as porno as the people using that term think (I suspect they’ve never read the book). Second, it’s an insult to mothers to imply they all read pornography.
Fifty Shades has also been labeled erotic romance, which it is not. Ana dumps Christian in the end — and yes, I realize there are two more books in the series where they stay together, but that’s beside the point. For a series to qualify as romance, each book must have a happy ending. This controversy swirling around Fifty Shades brings up another question. What is erotic romance?
Last year when I decided to try my hand at erotic romance (which I’ll call ER from here on out), I asked several authors of ER what defines the subgenre. Each writer gave me their best answers, but each one response was completely different and vague. It seems even ER authors can’t describe the subgenre! I’ve read books labeled ER that had almost no sex in them and those scenes were neither sexy nor graphic. The term sexual journey gets bandied about, but the term is vague and, again, I’ve read books labeled ER (by major publishers) where the sexual relationship was a minor part of the story. They might throw in some very graphic, but gratuitous, sex scenes and proceed to call the book ER.
Since the release of my first erotic romance, Tempted by a Kiss, I’ve been honored to receive rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. They all cite the steaminess of the love scenes and the endearing relationship between the hero and heroine. This got me to thinking. Whose opinion matters most when defining ER? Publishers have their own definitions, which often contradict what their own authors say! But when we look at the issue honestly, the opinions that matter come from readers. They buy ER books. They love or hate ER books. What, then, do readers think defines the subgenre?
I posed this question to my newsletter subscribers. Of those who responded to my Erotic Romance Survey, 93% read ER. Of the 7% who don’t, all of them said they’ve read ER in the past and listed too much sex as the reason why they quit reading it. But…Well, check out the graphs below to see what ER readers have to say about the qualities that make an erotic romance erotic.
Note: This is a thoroughly nonscientific survey. I did not calculate confidence ratios or margins of error. The wording of questions is directly reflected in the graphs below and comes straight out of my brain. Take these results for what they are — one set of results.
My newsletter subscribers received a more detailed analysis of the survey results, as it should be. They provided data, after all.