From Margin to Mainstream: Why Erotica Matters

It’s Wednesday, which is on its way to being officially renamed in the U.S. calendar of holidays as “Cait Reynolds Blogs for Kristen Lamb” Day. Denny Basenji, however, thinks it should be renamed “Curly Tail Problems” Day.

Announcing that you write erotic romances is certainly a conversation starter. Or stopper. Depending on your audience. Explaining that this is your livelihood and that you are proud of it will get you reactions from, “Wow, that’s cool!” to, “So, when are you going to write a real book?”

Let’s just get something straight, right off the bat. Erotica today is not “porn in pretty dresses.”

One of the first ground rules for taking an objective look at the changing face of romance publishing is to separate the quality of the writing from the message of the content.

The message of today’s romance, erotic romance, and erotica novels is that women are free to associate themselves (and pay the money to buy the books to drive this point home) with sexually experienced, sexually adventurous, and sexually knowledgeable heroines. Heroes today are expected to spend as much, if not more, time focused on the heroine’s pleasure than their own.

While certain tropes like the Cinderella rescue persist, the nature of their portrayal has changed. For example, you now find the Cinderella rescue scenario played out in LGBTQ romances as much as heterosexual romances. Often the “heroine” is just as or more successful professionally than the “hero” (regardless of gender or orientation).

Heroes now have room to be complex, and heroines can genuinely be strong. Erotic romance novels fearlessly explored issues of mental illness, adoption, divorce, depression, anxiety, socio-economic differences, even while so-called “mainstream” books were still tip-toeing around sensitive topics.

The readers of these erotic romances are a truly diverse group, and people are starting to take note of this sociological change (and you can thank good ol’ “Fifty Shades” for the mainstream media attention erotic romance has gotten).

But who are the writers of these books? These are men and women who sit down, day in and day out, and put fingers to keyboard to produce these stories. I am one of them.

I used to be tremendously embarrassed by the fact that I wrote erotica. I felt like everyone was always expecting me to use it as a “stepping stone” to my “real books.”

Well, guess what? The books I write as Fiona Blackthorne ARE real books. I lost sleep, tweeted, swore, chatted, paced, dog-walked, typed, ground my teeth, wrote notes on receipts, and sketched out entire storyboards for these books. I had to submit them to my publisher, Siren Publishing, wait for them to be accepted, then go through an intense, fast-paced editing phase that would leave your head spinning. Then, there’s all the marketing work I had to do to get my website up and running, and promoting my books.

Yes, I work from home, and yes, I can start my day in my pajamas. But my workday starts at 7:00 a.m. and doesn’t really stop until I go to bed. Sure, I can change the laundry in between chapters, but you can bet I’m still working through a paragraph in my head. Yes, I have a flexible schedule. That just means that if I need to work from 7pm to 2am because my day was already full of other stuff, then I’ll suck it up and work from 7-2.

You want to know what it’s like to write a sex scene…or seven for a book? Sometimes, it’s a delightful literary challenge, because I never want to write a sex scene the same way twice. I always am looking for different words, moments, things to notice, ways to enhance the experience for my reader. Sometimes, it’s good fun for *ahem* me as well.

Sometimes, though? Sometimes, it’s like pulling freaking eye-teeth. You can get really tired of writing sex scenes. You always have to be on your guard against dropping into the mechanical and clinical just to get through it.

Then there are those moments when you are thinking to yourself: “Okay, about 700 words left in the chapter. That means if I can get her to her climax, then, hmmm, no, that won’t take enough words. He’ll have to stop just short of it. Oh, and then he can actually pick her up and put her on the bed. That’s about fifty words right there. Then maybe he ties her up? That could be a good hundred words or so, and I could finish this goddamn scene in 500 words after that.”

Yeah. It happens.

Then, I remember Anais Nin, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, and I am strong again.

Erotic writing has been around for as long as the oldest profession has been around…and when people couldn’t read or write, they carved things on walls and painted them in caves. Clearly, something that is so deeply tied to our biological drive for survival and procreation deserves attention, study, and respect, not dismissiveness or judgment.

This is why I am teaching a class on writing erotica. We write the stories that are the mirrors reflecting the changes in society’s sexual mores and gender roles. Good, bad, indifferent, it is our writing that helps to push boundaries, expand horizons, and drive acceptance.

Who are the writers of erotic romance? Why do they write this when they could simply leave out all the sex? What are the blessings and consequences of this life? For once, it’s time to tell our own stories.

Baby, It’s Hot in Here!…a Sizzling New Class from Cait Reynolds

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $45 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, August 4, 2017

Erotica is one of the most difficult genres to write.

Wait. No. Erotica is one of the most difficult genres to write well.

From pacing (literally) to placing, this class is gonna go…deep. Yeah. Couldn’t resist. In all seriousness, how do you handle the paradox of writing a book with compelling characters and interesting story when it’s really about sex?

The answer is this: good erotica is not about sex. It is about seduction and intimacy. In this class we will cover:

  • Understanding why readers choose erotica, what they are looking for, and how to both deliver and guide them to wanting more;
  • How to apply and adapt standard plotting structures to erotica;
  • Creating a story that is interesting enough to sustain a full-length novel;
  • Developing characters that are complex, memorable, and desirable;
  • Avoiding repetitive, mechanical sex scenes;
  • Maintaining the heat throughout a  book;
  • How to push yourself to write better and use quality as a unique marketing strategy;
  • Bonus: history, fun facts, and trivia about literary erotica through history!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

In a world of a gazillion forgettable erotica books and romance novels, let Cait help you stand out in the one way no marketing can compete with: hot, unique stories that turn readers into fans who will BEG you for more! 

Erotica GOLD

You get the class (recording included in price) with Cait plus one hour of personalized one-on-one consulting regarding YOUR story. 


You get the class (recording included in price) with Cait plus two hours of personalized one-on-one consulting regarding YOUR story and a detailed edit and critique of one sex scene up to 2,500 words.

Register today!

About the Instructor

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and four-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, rock climbing, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Learn more at


For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

****And MAKE SURE to check out the NEW CLASSES classes below (including writing layered characters and strong females) and sign up!

Summer school! YAY! We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson. So click on a tile and sign up!

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  1. While I’ve read authors like Stephanie Laurens for years, I picked up my first book I would consider true erotica yesterday.

    I’m 25% done with it, and it was a very interesting read. It opened with sex scene.

    While the characters weren’t terribly memorable, and I can’t remember the heroines name, I’m still going to finish it. 🙂

  2. Cait,
    Good for you. I enjoyed your thoughts. A couple of my writer friends write pure erotica and many write erotic scenes in their work. Many are embarrassed that they broach the subject at all. A shame but I guess it comes with life in our present culture.

    I tell them, a good story is a good story so keep writing what you want to write.

    Best of luck with your class.

    • JC on August 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm
    • Reply

    Okay, I don’t know if this an appropriate question for this post, but I’ve been going nuts about it.
    How do you handle kissing a man with a beard. Even a very short one? I haven’t happened to have the opportunity to research it directly, except once when it was quite distracting! Do you just ignore it?

    1. JC – Unless the sensation is something the kisser POV would notice as weird, unusual, arousing, or uncomfortable, I see no reason to call attention to it specifically 🙂

    2. Rub your face in a Brillo pad. Hubby’s beard is sexy but….yeah.

  3. Cait, I’ve enjoyed this blog so much. Why erotica is considered a lowly genre is beyond me. I have a PhD in molecular biology and I work in the lab, I write litfic, comedy, scifi, non-fiction, but I also write erotic fiction, and I take equal pride in my academic research and my creative writing whether it has sex in it or not. The only thing that matters is doing what you love.

  4. okay… my first paycheck for writing came from a one-page story I wrote for an back-in-the-old-days ‘giant breasts’ magazine. The subsequent printed page was ripped from that mag full of ‘giant breasts’ and stuck to the wall. Eventually, I had several one-page stories stuck to the wall, all with ‘giant breasts’ on the opposite side of the page.

    This story was the first of what I titled ‘One-page Wonders’. The supposed idea being that there was no interrupting page-turning involved. The stories were ‘soft’ but direct, and very descriptive, and always had a story line. Think what is now called flash fiction.

    Being in college, the stuff was a quick write, with absurd, extreme concepts — great fun.

    I have real respect for anyone who writes good erotica, as it takes all the writing skills necessary for any other type of writing, but also takes a great sense of fun and thinking outside all the boxes (which lie in wait everywhere).

    Thanks, Cait, for another great post — and especially for the very accurate description of working as an independent writer (or editor). I just came off one of those 7a-noon, race to 4 appointments, come back home, catch up chores, eat while stuffing laundry in machine, then work 8p-1a… and yeah, coulda slept ‘late’ (til maybe 9a), but phone rings, someone bangs on door to leave tag on door about the new dry cleaners down the road, and neighbors decide to mow.

    vive la freelancer!

  5. Excellent article. No argument from me that erotic books are “real” books. Good sex scenes are not easy to write. Honest well-written erotica is not only entertainment, it’s educational. I’d rather see adolescents getting sex info from good feminist erotica than from the kind of porn that views women as objects to aid male masturbation!

    • Sky on August 8, 2017 at 7:32 am
    • Reply

    I find it sad that such a horribly written book like 50 Shades is credited as a best selling erotic novel. It was just badly written porn, IMO.
    There are much better erotic novels written by more intelligent authors. Authors that know their settings and have a firm grasp on the English language.
    You can say ‘ oh, my’ only so many times before it becomes boring.
    I realize that there are women who practically swooned over the book.
    I know my opinion will step on some toes but it is my opinion.
    I just hope I won’t be verbally attacked, bullied and ridiculed because I passionately disliked the book.
    I’ve been accused of hating sex, not knowing how to have sex, a hater, and so on.
    I just think there are more worthy books that are worded in such an elegant way. And the author has a talent to paint a vivid picture using only her words.
    And you don’t have to use crude language for body parts in sex scenes. To me, it’s a huge turn off to see the ‘P’ word to explain the woman’s vagina. ‘Down there’ is something a 6 year old might say.
    But, this is just my opinion.
    I don’t harass those that like the book. So, please, don’t take my review personally. Some fan girls do. They act like I am purposely attacking them.
    I’m not.
    I did read a book called, “Soft Erotica” by Anastacia Kelley from Amazon. It’s a series of short erotic stories. They were pretty hit stories and there was no crude language, hence the title.

      • Sky on August 8, 2017 at 7:36 am
      • Reply

      I’m sorry. I got my authors mixed up. I was thinking of those Paranormal Romances by Anastacia Kelley and typed that author in by mistake. Those sex scenes were smoking, too.
      “Soft Erotica” was actually written by Miss Turee.
      My bad, guys.

  6. I very much enjoyed thus. You don’t read a lot on erotica and romance being important in literature but I agree very much that is. But finding that right balance and the right words are often difficult.

  7. Wish I would have read this in Aug in time to take your class. I got to get over apologizing for the sex in my murder mysteries. I get a lot of blowback about it.

    1. Hi Kelly! I’ll be offering similar classes next year, and we are working on making some of the classes “on-demand” where you can buy them 🙂 Thank you for the kind words!

      Also, definitely stop apologizing! If you want to write it, go for it! If they don’t like it? They don’t have to read it. 🙂

  1. […] on a totally unrelated topic, check out Why Erotic Matters? on a guest post in Kristen Lamb’s blog. She has so many amazing and helpful posts for […]

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