The Interesting Case of Erotic Romance vs Porn by Ryan Field
I won’t be linking to anything today because I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time. A conversation I had on Twitter earlier today prompted me to get moving on it and stop putting it off. I’ve mentioned the topic before, but I don’t think I’ve gone into any detailed explanations. And I think it’s important to do this sometimes so readers understand what often motivates authors who write erotic romance…or even erotica. We don’t do these things by accident. Also, let me make it clear this is my opinion and it’s what works for me as an author, and I feel this way about all erotic romance, not just gay erotic romance. If you don’t agree with me, I respect your right to do that.
Way back when in the earlier days of the Internet, when I subtitled the blog with this…A quiet blog that discusses LGBT issues, fiction, publishing, pop culture, and happily ever after romance books with naughty guys who always have strong stories…I didn’t do it by accident. I wanted to make a point of stating that there is a big difference between erotic romance and fiction that’s considered “porn.” “Strong Stories.” I’m not going to try to define porn here because even SCOTUS hasn’t done that yet, but the one definition of erotic romance I’ve always seen is that erotic romance is a book or story that contains sex and has a story line. A strong story line. In other words, if you take the sex out of any erotic romance the story should still be able to stand on its own. In most cases erotic romance authors work even harder with their story lines to offset the sex. Yes, there are books out there with just sex. They often call them erotic romance. I don’t. And neither do most of the erotic publishers or authors I know. The story is still the main focus.
For me, the sex in an erotic romance should move the *story* forward. I never thought of my stories as moving the sex forward. And I’ve gone to great lengths at certain times to prove this with my own books.
In book 2 of the Chase series, Chase of a Dream, I purposely…not by accident…released two distinctly different versions to the public with the intention of showing that an erotic romance can stand alone without the detailed sex scenes. Here’s a link to the version that I labeled “Unabridged.” That version contains the original sex scenes. As you can see from the cover below I even stated that clearly, on the cover, so there wouldn’t be any mistakes. Of course a few people made the mistake and I quickly exchanged the books for them so they could get what they wanted without have to go through a third party.
With that said, here’s another link the to version of Chase of a Dream that I released *without* sex scenes. I repeat, no explicit sex scenes. A PG rated gay romance. It was a matter of revising the unabridged version of about 7,000 words. That’s all. 7,000 words of sex were removed. The entire book is about 60,000 words. So you see where I’m going with that. If an erotic romance with explicit sex scenes only has 7,000 words of sex in it, there must be a storyline somewhere. More important, I didn’t consider this self-censoring because I wanted both versions out there so readers could decide which one they preferred. I wanted the readers to make their own choices. It was double the work, but I still think it was worth the time, effort, and expense to publish it both ways. As far as I know, no other erotic romance out there has been released with and without the sex scenes in two different versions.
Here’s the cover of Chase of a Dream without sex scenes. Again, as you can see I made this clear to the reader by stating “Abridged version does not contain strong erotic scenes.” There were still a few people who didn’t see that and I quickly exchanged the book for them. In most cases, ironically, where there was a discrepancy, the people who accidentally made the mistake wanted the version with sex.
And to take this just one step further, when I got the rights back from a book that was released about five years ago titled The Bachelor, I revised it completely, changed the cover, and then re-released it with a new title, Meadows Are Not Forever. That book always bothered me because I didn’t like what the publisher wanted with it. So I indie pubbed it myself and I think I improved it. The MOST significant thing with that book is that this time I did self-censor, admittedly, and I did it for a reason. I wanted that book to be out there *without* sex scenes because I never thought the story line needed the sex scenes. And I’m no prude, trust me. I just wanted that book to be a sweet little romance that talked about gay relationships where sex can be more of a problem than a solution. Here’s a link to that one.
One book reviewer almost made me cry when he wrote this:
This is the first book by Ryan Field I’ve read, and I have to say I’m very pleasantly surprised. In Meadows Are Not Forever he introduced us to a young man on the cusp of leaving the young stud age and moving into the mature, adult age because, gasp, he’s learning there is more to life than just SEX. I know, for some of you it maybe hard to believe, but it’s true! And like many of us when we made that transition he learns what is really important in life.
This reviewer has no idea how much that meant to me. He “got it” and I never had to explain a thing and didn’t have to go into detail about sex scenes. That almost never happens.
What prompted me to write this post was a comment I saw on a tweet earlier today about erotic romance. It was done in jest and there was no harm intended. Someone said something to the effect of “That book has too much sex for me,” and then they joked about it in a friendly way. However, my reply was that you can always skip the sex scenes and there’s still a strong story line…or should be a story line. In fact, I could take each one of any of my books or stories, now in the hundreds, and revise them without sex at all and they could still stand on their own. When writers who understand what erotic romance is, and they’ve been doing it long enough, they are always thinking and planning ahead to make sure the story line is always more important than the sex scenes. I personally think the sex does, indeed, add to the stories and move them along…I also think it creates another level of reality in a world of fantasy that’s often necessary. I like to write sex scenes and read them. But the truth is they aren’t always needed. I know there are people who disagree with that, and I’m fine with that. However, that’s why I wanted to prove, instead of just talking about it blindly, that an erotic romance can stand alone without the sex scenes.
And if these books and stories can’t stand alone without the sex they aren’t erotic romances as far as I’m concerned. I’m not judging them, not by any means. I don’t care if an author wants to just write sex scenes and make them the story line. I think that’s wonderful and more power to them. But that’s just not how it works for me with erotic romance. I’m sure this won’t end the debate of erotic romance vs porn in fiction, however, at least I explained what motivates me when I either add, or remove, sex scenes from a book.
But most important, if there’s a strong story line readers can always skip the sex scenes in an erotic romance and still enjoy the book…or least they should be able to do that. The story should always come first.