A Rose by any other name

(SN: we’re not fans of Romeo & Juliet. But The Bard is so eminently quotable….)

Recently, we were told that our book wasn’t really “romance.” We were rather surprised by this. Because, well, we consider Magic is Real to be very much a Romance. The person kindly clarified that our story may have romantic elements, but with all the sex, it’s Erotica.

Because Romance = happily ever after and Erotica = sex for sex’s sake.

Sadly, despite the recent success of the story about a guy with singular tastes, the general consensus remains erotica = pornography = Gasp, how dare you have that in public? There are children on the internet!

While we don’t want to upset potential readers, we’ve gotta call Condition 1. We really need to make sure we’re all using the right words. Buckle up, sweeties, it’s about to get bumpy…

This is when we fell down the Google Rabbit Hole. A Google search for “Erotica vs Romance” was mind boggling and not really very helpful. So after refining the search a bit, we ended up on the Online Etymology Dictionary. We started with

  • erotica (n.) 1820, noun use of neuter plural of Greek erotikos “amatory” (see erotic); originally a booksellers’ catalogue heading.

We couldn’t stop there, so we clicked erotic ….

  • erotic (n.) 1650s, from French érotique (16c.), from Greek erotikos “caused by passionate love, referring to love,” from eros (genitive erotos) “sexual love”. (see Eros). Earlier form was erotical (1620s).

Ah! Here it is. The root of the word! The Greek god Eros….

  • Eros (n.) god of love, late 14c., from Greek eros (plural erotes), “god or personification of love,” literally “love,” from eran “to love,” erasthai “to love, desire,” which is of uncertain origin. Freudian sense of “urge to self-preservation and sexual pleasure” is from 1922.

Ancient Greeks distinguished four ways of love: 

  • erao “to be in love with, to desire passionately or sexually;” 
  • phileo “have affection for;” 
  • agapao “have regard for, be contented with;” 
  • and stergo, used especially of the love of parents and children or a ruler and his subjects.

And here we are still falling down the rabbit hole because we still haven’t yet found how and where erotica became bad?

Maybe the search term was too vague, you’re saying? Ah. But we literally typed into Google, “why is erotica bad?”

That led us to some Psychology Today articles. In one, the doctor clarifies the terms using Art as the backdrop. Michelangelo’s David is considered pornographic and fine art, depending on who you talk to. My dad used to say, “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” (No, he wasn’t the first one to say it…but if you can figure out who DID say it first, please let us know in the Comments. Googling that phrase has found Doctor Who, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, and Monty Python…)

The point is, before you judge a story that has explicit sex and sexual terms as pornographic or say that it can’t POSSIBLY be a romance novel/story because there are GRAPHIC sex scenes, please, consider why you’re making that judgment? Who says that romance can’t be graphic and raw?

We’ve gotta admit, neither of us would mind experiencing a couple of the scenes Seph did.

Or, a couple that Max is having in Book 2. oops…sorry…Spoilers…

Since we’re still falling down the Rabbit hole, we decided to make this a series. There’s so much to unpack regarding Uncomfortable Conversations and the words we have in our lexicons to leave it for one blog post.

In episode 2, we’re going to broach the topics of Shame and Vulnerability surrounding Sex and Sexuality. (In the meantime, we HIGHLY recommend Brene Brown’s TEDTalks and her website.)