Erotic Romance, Smut, and the Line

I had recently read a blog post from another erotica author, like myself, who spoke about the differences between erotica and smut. Her explanation entailed there being very little, to no difference, between those genres at all. What you label your work is entirely up to your interpretation or preferences. After reading it, I found myself dissatisfied with her conclusion, and found it to be a little fluffy. Personally, I dislike when people try to blur the lines between distinct genres, and create this idea that what one person does is no different than what someone else does.

Genres exist for a reason, and the lines between them exist to create definition. When writers call their work ‘Erotica’ it’s most often used as an umbrella term that encompasses written works that involve sexual interactions, and/or deep, passionate connections. Many sub-genres of erotica also exist, but these can also be separated further into two categories: Erotic Romance and Smut. This is the blurred line I’m referring to.

As I said, these lines exist for a reason. That reason is primarily for the benefit of the reader, as their tastes differ greatly, and are subject to change at any time. Some people prefer to read Erotic Romance, and will avoid looking at any sort of smut, and vice-versa. Without the line, you run the risk of frustrating your readers with promises of one, and delivering the other instead. Please keep in mind, I’m not writing this to say that one is superior, or inferior, to the other. But I think, if people do generally believe there isn’t a difference, then it needs to be put on record what those differences are.

Erotic Romance

This category is the one many readers are familiar with, and is often the most popular use of Erotica. Erotic romance is almost always written in a way that connects it’s characters on an emotional level. Readers choose this style of writing because it stimulates them between the ears, as well as between the legs. When these stories are written, the writer focuses much more on a characters thoughts and emotions, giving the reader a bit more insight to their motivations, and reveals a much more complex character structure.

The plots of these stories are also much larger, and lead the reader through a complicated history, and series of events as a romantic relationship is formed between it’s main characters. When sex becomes involved, it can come in varying degrees, from a “fade to black” scenario to a detailed sexual interaction that could be just as vulgar as the fantasies of a 15 year old boy. In my search for answers to where the line is drawn, it seems to be agreed that vulgar sex scenes do not de-legitimize(is that a good word?) a story as a romance. Even the amounts of sex involved can vary, and could sometimes be as small as just a hint of sex, and still be considered erotica.

Smut

This category is one I am very familiar with, as it is my preferred writing style. Whereas Erotic romance tends to focus on stories that are emotional, smut focuses on the physical. Some people usually think of smut as just porn in written form, but this isn’t necessarily true. While the two do share many similarities, such as aiming to get the reader/watcher turned on, and even masturbate to it’s scenes, smut also provides more description into the people involved. While their backstory is very short, the characters are also acting in a way that isn’t scripted, or acted. It feels much more real than any sort of pornography, and in a way, is akin to literary voyeurism.

Whereas romance focuses more on the emotional relationships of characters, smut describes the passion and drive people naturally have to satisfy their sexual desires. All of us have, at some point or another, maybe even a couple times today, have had sexual fantasies that transcend any emotion. Stories will most often build with a little backstory, culminating to a passionate sexual fling. In smut, sex is always present, and always explicit. I would also like to mention, when I first looked up the definition of ‘smut’, the urban dictionary listed one of it’s synonyms as “cliterature”, which I thought was too funny not to share.

Now, this is really more my own opinion from here on, but I tend to prefer smut over erotic romance, as smut seems a bit more ‘real’ to me. I’m not saying romance doesn’t happen all the time, but it doesn’t always happen the way you imagined it. With smut, the stories are based off one’s fantasies, and exist to satisfy one’s desires. Both romance and smut allow one to live vicariously through it’s characters, but smut seems to give one a sense of satisfaction at the end of reading it. Romance tends to leave people wishing for more in their lives; wishing they could live the lives of the characters, and find the love they found.

Tell me down in the comments below, which one do you prefer, and why? Do you write one or the other, and why? What is it about these stories that appeals to you?

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. lurvspanking says:

    It comes down to the tired cliche, I know it when I see it. It depends on the mood I’m in for both reading and writing. I tend to write atmospheric erotica where the sex happens within a story line. I also read lots of romance, I lean towards Regency, but I find contemporary can be good as well. I can write smut, but it gets boring for me to be too clinical all the time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, moods and preferences can change. I don’t see it as a cliché, as it is just a general occurrence. I write mainly smut, but I enjoy reading atmospheric erotica as well. I’ll have to check out your stuff. 😊

      Like

  2. JasonMestson says:

    You’re a great writer; however, your grammar leaves a lot to be desired. You use “it’s” a lot…You’re not saying, “It IS”, you need to rewrite as “its” because you’re describing a thought or idea.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the advice. There’s always more to learn.

      Like

      1. Grammar is not always easy to master and there will always be those that have an opinion on how others should write. Whether you contract words or not is entirely up to the writer. You can download a program called grammarly for free, it is very helpful in catching the easy mix ups such as it’s and its, and you’re and your.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jackladd says:

    Hey there. I write M2M erotica, but sometimes I reread what I’ve written and can’t help but think it’s smut. Saying that, a few of my readers have commented on my use of certain language, specifically how my descriptions of the extreme physical can be almost “poetic” (I’m quoting this, honestly!). So I wonder, can smut be poetic? Or would it be immediately classified as erotica? Or does the sheer nature of smut disallow any aspects of erotica no matter how poetic? Can there be both? Smurotica? Erotimut? Would be interested on your thoughts. Cheers, Jack.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think smut can be just as poetic as erotica can be. Personally, I think whether a scene feels poetic has much to do with the execution of your language. I’ve seen writing that structures well, but the language just comes off as clunky. That being said, there’s always other factors in determining which side of the spectrum you fall under. It’s still possible to write erotica with explicit sex scenes, as long as motivations are mainly emotion-based. You should count yourself lucky, most people often go one way or the other, but it sounds as though you’re able to appeal to a wider audience than many of us can. Thanks for the comment 🙂 and keep writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm… I tend to write in three ‘styles’. Romance novella’s with Erotic scenarios that I post as Chapter stories. What some would call smut or erotica, I call my ‘sexy Saturday serials’ and then my quick and dirty short stories that are one bite straight up sex encounters that I would personally call smutty. I don’t think I could limit myself to one ‘type’, but I do agree that genre’s and sub-genre’s exist for a reason and that’s to let the reader know what they are in for and how much effort is involved in reading the story. Some people want a long tease while others just want to get down to business.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t have said it better!

      Liked by 1 person

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