Wednesday 24 June 2015

What Makes it Erotica?

I've been chatting with authors recently about labels. Genre labels.

Why are some mainstream books that contain lots of sex not labelled erotica?

Why do I label my writing and art erotic? Or at the very least, sensual?

Well, I guess I can only speak from my point of view. I worry sometimes that labelling a piece of work 'erotic' is putting a warning on it. Why would you need to be warned about a story that contains all facets of human existence? Birth, violence, sex, death, longing, desire - all the good stuff that make up a story. Well, apart from trying to make sure only adults get hold of it, here's why I think I put the label on mine. I don't put the sex and sensuality in my tales simply because the story and characters demand it. I do it because I want it to be a sensual experience for the reader. I'm not simply trying to tell their story, I'm hoping their story will arouse you and make you desirous of the sensual.
Does that make sense? Much in the same way that authors of horror aren't just writing about horrible things to put their characters through, no, they want to scare you. They want to involve you in the fear. They are trying to elicit that response in you.

But still... why label it? A warning? Perhaps just 'adult' would suffice.
I was going to draw a conclusion but I've come full circle!

What makes a piece of work erotic?
I think it's partly what the artist intended but more importantly, how the reader/ viewer experiences it.
I draw all my pictures with a hue of the erotic in mind - same with my stories, even if there is no actual sex, there is erotic intent.

What do you think?
Here's one of my drawings that I felt was quite erotic, yet not explicit.

And here's the start of a story which I tried to make as sexy as possible without any sex. Erotica?

The Birthday Cake

I pluck one of the candles out of the thick frosting and hold it out to her, still smouldering.
“Why don't you wrap your lips around it and lick it clean?”
Her face is stony and her exasperated breath matches the look in her eyes.
“Don't be crass Quentin.”
She's been calling me my full name for the past few days. I'm still unsure of what has caused this most recent mood but it is certainly something of my doing. She does this to 'teach me a lesson' when I've been bad. I never know when or how I pass her test but we might be on the cusp tonight if I play this right.
“Oh go on,” I persevere, waving the sticky candle over the table. It hasn't escaped my notice that she didn't go to the trouble of buying those little coloured birthday candles but plumped instead for the emergency dinner ones from the bits and bobs drawer. At least she'd made a cake. That's something. An olive branch of sorts. “It would be a shame to waste this creamy celebration.”
A flicker at the corner of her mouth hints at a thaw. My groin twitches at the thought of watching her ease the sugary shaft into her pout and teasing me, undulating her tongue around and around. I can even hear the slide and pop as she pulls it out, clean and slick with her saliva. I waggle the candle again, urging her to take it from me, lifting my eyebrow in a way I hope is sexy.
She rolls her eyes but then very slowly, reaches out.
I think about snatching my hand away and making her come closer but relinquish it in favour of nurturing the fragile moment. It's time to play by her rules precisely. Her fingers hover slightly and for a moment I think she might withdraw them. I hold my breath as she takes the candle and the ice melts a little more.
I don't want to be too eager so I settle back and just watch. Her gaze meets mine and she lifts the frosting to her lips. Her pupils dilate and she shifts in her seat. Does she feel it? She must. The rigid pose softens and she smears the soft butter icing over her red, red lips easing them open with the end of the candle. It is exactly what I'd seen in my mind just a few seconds ago.
White blobs of the icing cream cling to her lips as she opens her mouth, wrapping her tongue around the candle, sucking and licking it clean. Her mouth is such a sensual thing, moving and teasing me, just as I want. My cock swells and strains in my jeans but I remain still, not wanting to break the static spell that hangs between us.

The skin at her throat blushes crimson as she sucks, pushing the candle in deeper. It is a good sign. She shifts a little and I know if I peek under the table, her legs will be parted. Lust hangs heavy on her expression now and I inhale deeply, feeling confident this is the start of something. Something to heal and shatter the chill of the past few days. I venture a hand to her knee and it yields to my touch, falling to where I push. Running my palm up her inner thigh I shudder when I feel the nylon change to lace...

There you have it - I teased you a little - that's only part of it :D

If you want to read the rest of that story it's from An Intimate Education - charity anthology raising money for Brook Advisory

I'd love to hear your thoughts on genre labelling in general, not just erotica x x x


  1. Great post, Tabitha. And I'm with you on using 'erotic' as an adult only label, that's the main reason I slap it on mine too.

    1. Thank you Lily - I know some of your work is highly erotic though - and some much more gentle - lovely mix x x x

  2. I have to think about this more. It's a good question.

    One typo watch, though, illicit/elicit!

    1. Doh! That'll teach me to only check it 3 times instead of my usual 17! Thank you Jo - what a wally I am ;) x x

  3. Great post. As a writer, words mean things. So do labels. That said, labels tend to be a subjective thing. They are used for various reasons. For the erotic(a) one: it can be just the 'adult-only' warning; a warning as to 'there is stuff to arouse in here so if only one person is allowed to arouse you, get that book on gardening next to me instead'; more as positive sign, 'looking for some sensuality, well look no further and ignore that gardening book next to me'; or just in the need to 'label' it, as an author in your mind's eye that is just the mental pigeon-hole you feel it most likely fits with the constraint of only being able to use one label (yeah, it is part western, part thriller, and the Martians make it sci-fi too, but because 9/10th of the book takes place in a brothel...).

    [Stream of consciousness response now ending, for the benefit of all!] ;)

    1. Thank you for your wonderful thoughtful comment, Fantastical Thought -
      I'm interested about your point on 'if only one person is allowed to arouse you' - don't read this book. Does that mean the author counts as the person or the book? Wow, my mind is boggling right now! You've got my story juices flowing...
      Thanks again for taking the time to add your response x x


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