The pigeon-holing of erotica (and no, that’s not sexual)

It seems to be a flaw common to most of humanity—the desire to categorize and label absolutely everything we need come into contact with. If the world doesn’t have a clear classification scheme into which everything we encounter will fit, we just freak out! But it’s also one of the most frustrating things about being an author.

Regardless of how broad writing might be in its appeal, readers always seem to want to slot books into a specific category, and woe be to those who don’t fit nicely into that slot! Actually, I should correct that—most readers are knowledgeable enough to know that books—like the world around us—usually can’t be so easily compartmentalized.

In the pursuit of mass-labelling the audience for a book is artificially narrowed, the net result being negative for both readers and writers alike—writers aren’t fairly marketed, and readers aren’t exposed to books and writers they might enjoy.

Those of us who have written erotica often unfairly bare brunt of this burden. Just have a read of this interesting opinion piece by Jane Drummond in The Globe and Mail published this week. It appears that the algorithms of online book programs  assume that anyone who reads erotica must only read erotica. The poor author has “apparently been labelled a porn addict” by her e-reader for the simple fact of having read a Harlequin romance—completely ignoring the fact that she’d also downloaded Dante and Flaubert.

Not only does this make the some strange assumptions about the consumer’s reading habits—by focusing only on the occasional saucy title—but it also assumes that erotica books cannot be simultaneously literate, funny, scary, dramatic, or what have you!

With all this, it’s little wonder that so many famous authors have made the decision to write erotica only under a pseudonym. Just as Drummond was pigeon-holed by her e-reader into assuming she read only erotica (and some pretty heavy duty stuff, compared to what she’d initially downloaded), those of us who write it often find ourselves typecast as not being capable of writing anything else. I chose not to write under a pseudonym because I’m proud of what I’ve written.

My next novel isn’t erotica, and indeed, I don’t know when or if I’ll write erotica again. But it will remain proudly on my resume because I firmly believe that a good novelist can write in any genre. It’s time for erotica writers to come out of the shadows—to borrow from someone else frequently misrepresented and typecast: erotica writers of the world: unite!


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