Erotica, according to Wikipedia, is any artistic work that deals substantively with subject matter that is erotically stimulating or sexually arousing but is not pornographic.
Pornography, according to the same source in a pitifully under-illustrated article, is material which has the sole purpose of sexual arousal.
So it’s a fine line. I guess there should be some fragments of plot or setting description or character development to add into the hot bits, and viola! it’s erotica not pornography.
Presumably, we erotica writers are telling a story that just happens to be erotically stimulating – nice bit of circular logic there, Wikipedia! – rather than a slab of sexually arousing text.
The quote from Jane Caleb-Wood above describes a fair bit of my own experience in writing erotica. There are three discrete scenes of explicit sex in Coding by Candlelight, apart from scattered teasing and titillation, and I reviewed them multiple times, getting hot and sticky each time. I won’t say that I was holding my iPad in one hand, my clitoris in the other and rubbing furiously but arousal and release were certainly part of the writing process.
If it doesn’t arouse the writer, then how is it going to arouse the reader? To my mind, erotica must arouse and stimulate. The words alone are unlikely to get anyone off; a few lucky people can consciously climax without any physical action, but the images and sensations portrayed help the process.
At the very least, erotica should arouse the reader. I remember attending a workshop presented by the reasonably steamy romance author Julie Cohen, where one gentleman admitted hunting down some of her books in a London Waterstones, reading them and having to sit down for a while until he could walk comfortably again. Julie was most amused, but she signed his books anyway.
They say good writing comes from the heart. Perhaps good erotica has a different source.
Incidentally, both Jane and Julie are excellent writers. Read some of their work, and you will find yourself caring about the characters, not their bits.
That’s my definition. Erotica is about more than just the good bits.