My friend Alisha Paige is a Romance Novelist and she brought up something that struck me as interesting.  The topic was pertaining to sex in novels. I’ll give you what she said in a moment, but first let me give you a little insight on the evolution that has taken place in regards to “The Romance Novel”.  In fact you might say that when it comes to the romance genre…”Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag”. The romance novel of yesteryear came in one of two genres; contemporary or historical. In other words, did it take place in the past or present? The one common factor in both is thatthey all contained some form of sexual context. Now, however, the romance novel has crossed over into other genres. These other genresinclude paranormal, fantasy, time travel and… well, you get the idea. Still, the common factor continues to be the sex, though it too has taken a bit of a spin in its direction.

Oh sure, there were always  those “other” books usually found on that shelf in the back of the book store between – “please don’t let anyone see me” and “Oh this isn’t the self-help section? Oops, silly me”. This brings me to the subject as far as the role sex plays in the romance novel andhow far sexhas truly exploded in these novels. So much so, there is yet another genre that has gained popularity, because it’s specifically geared toward material that contains a certain amount or type of sexual content. No longer is it way in the back of the store or in a completely different room marked “XXX only”. No, now you can find it in its own section right next to the romance section of the book store proud and shouting… “hey look at me, I’m no longer a dirty little secret”! That genre is erotica and erotica has been around for a very long time. By definition it means; art of literature intended to arouse sexual desire by portraying sex in an explicit way…

So now we can also add erotica to that long list of genres used in connection to the romance novel. Actually, the genres are so intertwined in some that it’s growing more difficult to actually put them in one category. So, yes the bag is brand new and it’s huge to say the least. We not only have all types of genres to contend with,but now there is also the sexual content that needs consideration when trying to categorize them.

Believe me as a book reviewer this can be very frustrating to say the least. J  I mean seriously, where the hell do you put a book that’s genres include; Erotic/BDSM, Paranormal Romance? I ask you where??? There is however one little genre that has a lot of authors cringing when it’s used in reference to their books: Pornography.

Alisha’s comment was very simple, yet it spoke volumes; “Sex in a novel does not make it pornographic.”  No author likes it when their work is described that way. What is it about that one word, pornographic, that has the power to have authors and publishers both quaking when they hear it? I had to find out, and the first thing I needed was to know exactly what does that word means. The actual definition will surprise you.

The reality is that society has taken the word “pornography” totally out of context, at least its literal meaning. Somehow along the way that word has become equated to nothing less than bad. When in truth the definition of pornography simply means… sexually explicit materials, such as films, magazines, writings, photographs and so forth, that are intended to cause sexual arousal That’s it, nothing more.So far, I haven’t come across any other definition for pornography saying…”and that means it’s bad”. You might go as far as to say it has been stereotyped in its representation as a whole industry. Pornography is not an industry unto itself it is the word that is use to describe the Adult Entertainment Industry; Adult entertainment can involve portrayals through any media of material which provides sexual excitement and erotic satisfaction to the viewer, usually referred to as pornography or erotica.

If a reviewer writes…”this book is so erotic and the sex so hot it burned the clothes right off of me” the books sales just went sky high. Even if the reviewer goes as far as to put an actual warning, say like this, “erotic isn’t an adequate enough description, because the sexual chemistry in this book was so explicit it should come with the warning: This title contains explicit, rutting-like-a-stallion sex and graphicsituations”, the books stores wouldn’t be able to keep it on their shelves.

Are we so brainwashed that if one word, one little word, was added to that warning, “with its rutting-like-a-stallion sex and (instead of graphic puts) pornographic situations” that those same people who couldn’t wait to get that same book home to start reading it before, would suddenly read between the lines and find that to mean only a deviant would read “a book like that” and should be avoided like the plague? Really? I mean hell if “contains explicit rutting-like-a-stallion sex” isn’t a pornographic situation then I don’t know what is. Are we really so narrow minded or idle brained not to know that?

So why is it ok with an author when their work described as erotic yet when described as pornographic it’s a death sentence? They mean the same thing.

The only difference between erotica and pornography is, well, not a damn thing. Regardless of the venue that is used they achieve the same thing. There’s sex that is explicit and it doesn’t matter how they “portray” it. It could be through literature or a scene in a painting, photograph, drawing or a damn book cover. It’s all semantics, because the intention is to cause sexual arousal.

Some may try to argue that erotica is specifically geared toward literature intended to arouse sexual desire by portraying sex in an explicit way…where as pornography’s intention is to use sexually explicit materials, that can include, but are not limited to films, magazines, writings, photographs, that are intended to cause sexual arousal. Again, my friend, SEMANTICS "you say tomato, I say tomahto".

Here’s what I think. Somehow, some way, pornography got on the infamous “bad word” list made popular by the late and great comedian George Carlin. I think George Carlin said it best; “Don’t confuse words with thoughts. Thoughts are fluid and then we assign a word to a thought and then were stuck with that word for that thought…BAD WORDS, that’s what “they” told us ‘that’s a bad word’…{pause}…noooo bad words…bad thoughts…bad intention, but no bad words”. It’s a lot better when you actually hear him it comes across so much better. So I also included the video of that routine, it is quite graphic, my goodness some might be so inclined to say it’s outrageously pornographic…so be warned.

I believe that is what happened with the word pornography. It got confused with a bad thought with bad intentions and from there it was all downhill.

I’m afraid the other culprit is all the propaganda that has bombarded us, telling us that anything or anyone that is involved with pornography must also have an illicit intent and are sexual deviants. It’s that attitude, or stereotype, that has given the word pornography the reputation it has today and that is why publishers and authors alike get skittish when associated with it. I don’t blame them. It’s simply deemed an insult although incorrectly deemed none the less it is.

As a reviewer I can see why they would, because I have myself made that same mistake when I posted my review for
Vampire Mistress by Joey W. Hill“She has taken erotica from a reputation of smutty porn to a new level of intensity…”  I should have written… “She has taken erotica to a new level of intensity” and left out the “smutty porn” stuff altogether. I know better now. I was however correct when I said, “She challenges her readers to look beyond preconceive ideals of right and wrong and good and evil”. That’s exactly the point I am making here that until we can get passed preconceive ideals we will be doomed to repeat past mistakes over and over again.

Alas, there is another factor that also needs consideration. Not all writers are created equal. I think when a reviewer or even a publisher describes a book as “too pornographic”, what they might be trying to say is ‘the amount or type of sex to the ratio of story doesn’t balance’. Also in relation to certain subject matters it takes exceptional ability when it comes to seamlesslyintegrate awkward transitions when exposing a reader who might not pick a book that contains a nature of certain undeniable sexual practices that are difficult to define or express that most find uncomfortable. For instancewhen an author is trying to integratetopics with the more taboo reputations such BDSM or GLBT (Gay/Lesbian?Bi-Sexual/Transgender) or "Menage à Trois", because of the sensitive issues related to them may have a more difficult time intergrading them into the more mainstream audience. Of course an open mind on the reader’s part doesn’t hurt either.

I used the word pornography as the topic of discussion here, but really what this all boils down to is that a word is just a word, and the only time a word has any power to hurt or discriminate whether by reputation or otherwise is because we alone gave it that power.

Not everyone has the same opinion as to what they find acceptable when it comes to the type if any as far as sexual content in what they like to read and there are many choices out there for everyone’s reading enjoyment. So if you just happened by and aren’t really one that likes certain content in what you read then don’t read it. Simple. I am curious though, if that is in fact true, I’m surprised you actually read this all the way through. J

We are still very prudish when it comes to the matters of sex. I don’t think that this one little article is going to change people’s “preconceived ideals” when it comes to the word pornography. Maybe someday, but not today, so if it makes you feel better to call books that are sexually explicit erotic and not pornographic then this is what I have to say about that… ‘A Book by Any Other Name would Still Read as Sweet’.

So to all my friends that write sexually explicit novels…you keep writing and when someone refers to the sex in that novel as pornographic you tell them it does if you got turned on and smile.

I for one find that novels, films, videos, romances or otherwise, that contain sex can be very sexually arousing so by definition means they are pornographically erotic. Hey I kinda like that…pornographically erotic, sorta has a nice ring to it “don’t cha” you think?

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