Erotic literature: when words tease the senses

Updated: May 6, 2021

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[Bryony Wharfe | Contributing Writer]

Erotic literature has been around for years – way before 50 Shades of Grey – and it continues to flourish. It can be found in the form of novels, short stories, poetry, memoirs or even sex manuals; covering subjects such as prostitution, homosexuality, sadomasochism and the world of fetish.


Defining erotic literature is hard; yes it’s a book about sex, but it’s not just that. Many popular non-erotic novels have lots of sex in them. Pornography involves a lot of sex but it’s not erotic. They both deal solely on stimulating or sexually arousing matters, but the difference between the two is that erotic is more artistic than porn, it has a high-art aspiration.

A definition by Jane Little in a Publisher’s Weekly article, defines it as “when sex is the basis of the conflict.” Sex is the central theme of the story or the driving force between main characters; it can change and evolve a character’s life or self. In other words, if you take away the sex, there’s no story to tell.

Having sex as a story’s primary feature brings about many sub-genres, a few include:

BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism): this one is hard to define as BDSM itself as well as its erotic literature covers a huge range of sexual behaviours. In the simplest of terms: bondage and discipline focus on “dominant” and “submissive” roles, with bondage involving the use of sexy gear such as belts and handcuffs; while sadism and masochism focus on the infliction of pain and submission. However, it’s vital to note that this is all done with the consent of all participants!

LGBT: stories involving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, et cetera characters.

Fantasy: the same as the normal genre of fantasy, just with more artistic sex.

Erotic literature used to be seen as very taboo, but after the hype of 50 Shades of Grey, it changed the fate of writing and reading about sex. Now it’s very normal to be sitting in Costa giggling to yourself about how “he thrusts one finger inside her, crooking it and hitting her in the spot that turned her moans into one long, high-pitched orgasm” (Night After Night by Lauren Blakely). Sitting on the train reading how “he reached for the blindfold” (Exit to Eden by Anne Rice), grabbing the book tightly as the tension builds for what happens next.

Sex isn’t taboo anymore; women will proudly sit there with the newest edition of Vox by Nicholson Baker, a borrowed copy of Tampa by Alissa Nutting, or a book banned in the 1800’s called The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire.

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Erotic fiction writers are making a lot of money from their pieces and well done to them. For a genre that isn’t deemed that popular, it’s changed more lives of the people I know than any Dickens novel or Shakespeare play.

So if you’ve ever noticed a few “naughty” books popping up in your closest WHSmith, maybe don’t judge a book by its cover, and give it a try.

What do you think about erotic literature? Want to give us some book suggestions? Tweet us @TridentMediaUK.

#Books #erotic #Romance #50ShadesofGrey #Literature #Sex

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