Smut Reporting

Let’s get something clear: erotic romance edition

Recently I found myself in a conversation in which we had been asked to rec an extremely high heat book, and Holly and I went straight to thinking about erotic romance we knew, but when polled, others came back with responses that surprised us because…we don’t think of them as particularly high heat at all (Please see: Lisa Kleypas). During the course of this conversation, someone asked what was the threshold between Romance and Erotica. And…while heat level might be somewhat subjective, Romance and Erotica do have pretty clear definitions. They are:


  1. Love story central to narrative
  2. Emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending (HEA or HFN required)


  1. Story is substantively sexual with arousing or erotic content
  2. Love story not required
  3. HEA or HFN not required

And where these two meet is at…

Erotic Romance (sometimes called Romantica):

  1. Love story central to narrative
  2. Love story is substantively sexual and includes arousing or erotic content
  3. Emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending (HEA or HFN required)

By definition, a story does not require sex at all, not to mention on-page sex, in order to qualify as romance. (I’ll probably rant about this another day.)

In a similar vein, a romantic narrative is in no way required for a story to qualify as erotica. 
But there are some stories in which the romantic journey is broadly aligned with the sexual journey of the protagonists, resulting in a HEA or HFN, and those stories inhabit the space that is erotic romance.

OH AND ALSO, while a lot of erotic romance also explores various kink, it is not required

To summarize: 

Erotic romance ≠ kink

Erotic romance ≠ BDSM

Erotic romance ≠ high heat or explicit descriptions

Erotic romance ≠ numerous sexytimes

Erotic romance = sex doing a lot of work to advance the romantic narrative or to reveal the emotions or emotional journey of the protagonists. The fact that it’s also usually marvelously explicit and extremely high heat is a feature, not the defining characteristic. 

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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