Erotica is easily the most misunderstood of all genres. Even people who think they write Erotica don’t actually know what Erotica is.
One of the most frequent complaints I’ve seen on Twitter is from literary agents who accept erotica submissions. The complaint is almost always along the lines of erotica is not just a book with lots of explicit sex in it.
Erotica is a genre in its own right. There are requirements that must be met for a book to be classified as erotica beyond the inclusion of explicit sex scenes.
Every story should have a character arc for its main protagonist. In every story the protagonist can no longer go on living how they have lived or they can no longer be the person they once were.
In erotica, the reasons the protagonist’s character or life has been forced to change are of a sexual nature. If you take the scenes of a sexual nature out of a work of erotica, the protagonist’s journey of change through the story would make no sense. Sex and sexuality are fundamental to the development of the characters and the plot.
In other genres it is the emotional lives of the characters that is important; in erotica, the sexual and sensual lives of the characters are equally important.
Erotica is also different from written pornography.
With written pornography the only intention of the prose is to sexually stimulate the reader. An erotic novel will usually contain written pornography but the two are not synonymous.
Erotica is a certain type of story, not just writing that titillates.
I read a lot of smut and erotica really is the most fantastic genre if it’s done right. It is certainly a genre that should be taken more seriously and I have a lot to say about how the publishing industry perceives and treats erotica, but I think I’ll save that for another time.