Despite the popularity of kinky, BDSM erotic romance, replete with whips and chains and paddles and ball gags, it may not be for everyone. Don’t lose sight of the variety available for writers and readers of erotic romance. Here’s an overview of a few of the delicious options:
PRO: BDSM erotic romance, to start with, has the heightened plus of edgy sex play and the power exchange dynamic to augment the emotional relationship. From Master/slave, Dom/sub or Top/Bottom roles for heroes and heroines, to S&M paraphernalia, pain play, erotic humiliation, slave auctions; kink allows for an author to ramp up the sexual heat, tension, exploration and growth in a blended role with the emotional relationship. BDSM can also provide another layer of external conflict for characters who have to deal with societal biases against the lifestyle, and personal conflicts over these darker desires.
PRO: Like the kink but shying away from the heavy-duty stuff? Read a wide spectrum of BDSM erotic romance and you’ll see the breadth of coverage of this type of sexual activity. It can run the gamut from the serious scenes in an Eden Bradley, Roni Lauren, or Maya Banks novel to a tamer version that travels the middle road of kinky copulation.
PRO: Then there is what I call “BDSM light” (not a reference to the derogatory comments made about FSOG, BTW). I think of it as kinder, gentler BDSM. You can have an emotional BDSM relationship with the Dominance and submission emotional and psychological elements without the pain play, or the other edgier aspects like erotic humiliation. You can have mild physical “domination” such as being held down, and sexy mind play. This category allows you the opportunity to Alpha-up your hero (they don’t come more Alpha than a Dom, after all!) or heroine (I don’t write Female/male submission so I tend not to refer to it; but all aspects of BDSM can be F/m, M/f, F/f, M/m or any other permutation your kinky little heart desires.)
CON: BDSM, no matter the intensity or scene play specificity, requires a firm grasp of both the technical logistics, as well as the emotional and psychological mind-set of the participants. The more the reading public knows about the scene, the easier they’ll spot errors in your presentation if you don’t know what you’re talking about, S&M-wise!
But there are options, too, for writing smoldering hot ero-rom wholly outside the BDSM/kink realm. Here are two:
PRO: Ménage and polyamory. Here’s the sub-genre of ero-rom where no holes are barred. Any combination of heroes/heroines goes here. (Granted, you can have BDSM ménage, and it’s an incendiary sub-sub-genre all by itself.) Options abound. You can have a pair who bring in a third friend for a 3-way fling, or you can have a committed triad. Lora Leigh is the queen of multiple partner polyamory with up to 3 men per gal where all the men love the woman and she loves all the dudes. It works great with M/M/F, too, as illustrated by Lauren Dane. Whether your male partners are together first, or come together (pun intended) in a bisexual triad while also loving a woman, or whether it’s the M/F/M variety where there is no gay sexual aspect, it can be a super-intense, dramatic and sexy scenario. For one, you’ve got all those extra body parts to play with (and the object of this physical affection is really getting an overwhelming experience). But additionally this ero-rom choice heaps on the conflict. Society frowns on multiple lovers. There’s no legal “marriage” possibility. And there’s a third (or fourth) personality fraught with jealousy and personal issues in the mix that can ramp up conflict, both internal and external. But it’s the orgiastic couplings that are the real treat in this sub-genre.
CON: It takes a skilled hand to avoid falling into the orgy or gang-bang scenario (unless that’s what you’re going for, of course, you naughty thing!).
CON: Writing multiple-partner ero-rom also requires an in-depth exploration of your characters’ mind-sets to ensure that there is a viable emotional relationship and connection among the parties. Just tossing in an extra set of cojones for the fun of it won’t enhance the romance; which, of course, if the bottom line, regardless of the XXX rating. Make sure all your characters are engaged in the relationship (in and out of the boudoir).
CON: Ménage is NOT about cheating lovers. While your triad may have sex independent of one another in some scenes, they are all aware of the actions and no one is lying to another or cheating on an unsuspecting lover.
PRO: Perhaps the most obvious of erotic romance tropes in what I call “hot vanilla”. This is where erotic romance actually started (as far as my experience is concerned). The hottest of the hot couplings of an M/F couple (which now happily also encompasses the M/M and F/F couples). No dominance, no chains, no taking turns with a third, just two loving people having super-hot sex. It’s the nature of the graphic depiction of the love scenes that pushes the vanilla couple into the erotic romance sphere. Simple, straightforward, but hugely satisfying to the reader who loves the sex scorching, but shies away from the wilder side of lovin’.
PRO: One particular thing that can make a vanilla ero-rom smokin’ is that delectably taboo raunch: Anal sex. You’ll definitely find anal in BDSM and ménage (and obviously even in an erotic vanilla M/M). But inclusion in a hot vanilla allows you, the author, to push that envelope to the breaking point. Back door Betties are your friend! One happy way to include it and use it to cement a vanilla M/F relationship? The vaginal virgin is pretty much an anachronism these days (unless you’re writing historical), but your heroic fella can still be her “first” if she’s an anal virgin. Ass play allows for a wider variety of sexual activity and you can mix it up for hotter and hotter scenes.
PRO: Naturally, the good-old graphic BJ is less prevalent in the borderline sexy romance, but it’s a staple in erotic romance along with its “cunny” cousin. So don’t forget to have some give-and-take 69 action in your hot vanilla tale!
PRO: A couple of other ways to turn up the heat for your vanilla couple? Sex toys, mutual masturbation, phone sex, and fantasies. It’s all about exploration, and pushing those intimacy boundaries.
CON: As with any other variety of erotic romance, writing graphic sex scenes when you don’t feel it, or get squirmy (not in the good way) using all those hot 4-letter words, can be problematic. Using euphemistic language doesn’t fly with ero-rom readers. And they’re savvy when it comes to the sex scenes. Toss in a few because you need the heat but they’re not progressing the story or moving the characters’ relationship? They’ll call you on it. And be cognizant that an EROTIC ROMANCE has that requisite erotic plot line that is woven into the others (whether it’s a single romance plot line, or a story with an additional one, such as a romantic suspense plot line). It’s about the erotic, sexual relationship that grows and evolves alongside the affair of the heart.
Clearly, we have a delightful array of combustible possibilities for crafting erotic romance on the writing menu. Be it schtupping in a galaxy far, far away, fornicating in a gazebo in a country manor in the Regency, or doing the mattress mambo in the Big Apple, your options for writing erotic romance are breathtaking!
Can YOU stand the heat?