Let me begin by clarifying to the usual oversensitive suspects at Literotica - whom I know are reading this blog despite their public declarations to the contrary - that this is not an attack on their sensibilities, moral, past lives, lifestyles, choices, lingerie, diet, or anything even remotely related to their selves. Got that?
Now, in the past I've been criticized for even playfully calling a body of work "smut" even if that body of work has anal sex, werewolf sex, threesomes, foursomes, whatever, because the author and her fans would love to believe that such a work is art. I am personally of the school of thought that pornography can be an art form too if done well and there is really no shame in admitting that you like a story because it has plenty of hot sex scenes.
But that's me. I'd be interested to see how the reaction of the romance community will be now that we have authors of outright smut, romance optional, branching into publication. There is Phaze, of course, which is pretty much synonymous with published Literotica authors since we have cases like published Literotica authors at Phaze editing the upcoming works of Literotica contributors, with the cover arts naturally done by a fellow Literotica contributor who is also writing and working for Phaze. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but I do at the same time hear whispers, let's just say, of how there are authors out there who refuse to submit anything to Phaze due to the prominence of the Literotica folks writing and playing behind the scenes at Phaze.
Again, let me point out to the cabal who are no doubt ready at this moment to send me poison emails or furious comments that I am not slamming Phaze in any way. I'm just being the messenger here, pointing out what I've heard and been told directly via personal correspondences. I won't even mention Phaze specifically were not for the fact that the publishing house is where the Literotica authors seem to be most concentrated at. If Ellora's Cave is the publishing house instead of Phaze, I'd mention Ellora's Cave then.
Anyway, it does seem to me that there is a section of the erotic romance community that - fairly or unfairly, depending on how you look at it - feels uncomfortable especially about how open the authors who dip their toes in Literotica are about flaunting their usually unorthodox sexual lifestyles in public functions meant for the entire erotic romance author community. I know, it does feel odd at times how authors who write about threesomes and more can get uncomfortable dealing with a bunch of people who are very open about practicing the things these authors write about. But I can understand how some authors feel that it is a disservice to the genre as a whole to have their works tarred by the "smut" brush after they've worked so hard clarifying the differences between pornography and erotic romance. There are also authors who feel that the emphasis on erotic mechanics in the story - and in the lifestyles of the authors who flaunt that they are indeed living out the things they write about - will only give people the wrong impression that erotic romance is all about sex with no effort made to include story and characterization.
It seems to me that the same principle behind the "traditional" romance and erotic romance divide is also at work here in what could have been a growing divide between authors who feel that they write erotic romance rather than smut and authors who are very open about their involvement in what other people would deem "smut" in a negative manner. For example, the former will balk at the idea of holding book signing sessions in sex stores while the latter would embrace the opportunity and call up all their friends to show up in leather gear to make the event more lively. The former cringe at the idea of incest, rape, daddy/daughter fantasies, and more while the latter will go, "What's the big deal? We are writing about sex here, are we not?"
Once upon a time, there were "traditional romance" authors who were not happy with interviews of romance authors where they were hyped to live out and believe in the things they write about (such as Barbara Cartland's infamous interviews where she would talk about love as if love in real life is comparable to that in her stories, usually accompanied with photos of her dressed up like an elderly woman in a ballerina costume meant for a much younger woman). This is because those interviews inevitably drive home the stereotype that romance readers and authors really believe in the unrealistic romance fantasies in romance novels and as a result we are all sexually-deprived and reality-challenged housewives. I suspect that a similar reasoning is driving the current divide between the two groups in the online erotic fiction landscape.
I'm not judging both groups here, since I'm a bit on the fence myself as I am partial to my smut but I can also understand why authors don't want their works to be associated with a word that comes with all kinds of stigma no matter how high the sexual content in their stories is. I don't believe this is a clear-cut simple case of erotic romance authors being hypocritical about the nature of their works. But it will be interesting to follow further developments, if any, should the more defiantly unconventional erotic fiction authors become more prominent in number and mingle with the rest of the population. That will happen, make no mistake, since the folks at the Literotica Author Hangout are slowly branching out into Ellora's Cave, Harlequin, and more. A culture clash is inevitable, but I wonder whether the result will be a compromise and reconciliation of differences, with a more "open" attitude towards the current topics deemed taboo in erotic romance. After all, anal sex and threesomes were considered taboo in romance just ten years or so ago, no?