Explicit Language
 and the Writer

 Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved



 *Please note this article contains sexual terms.


In the past couple of years, erotica and erotic romance have become the most lucrative segment of the romance writing market. As the saying goes, sex sells! Companies like Ellora’s Cave, Phaze, and Amber Quill do a booming business and most publishers now offer a steamier imprint within their lines. And as writers, many of us want to tap into the money that can be made writing for these lines. 


These imprints offer extremely explicit sexual content and for the most part, avoid the use of euphemisms, preferring more direct language to describe body parts and sexual activity. Which leads to the subject of this article. How explicit is too explicit and where is the line drawn? 


The distinction between erotica and pornography has become clearer in the part few years. Pornography is generally thought of as stories written to arouse--period. Erotica and erotic romance, although meant to arouse and titillate, also contain a story. The hero and heroine are in a relationship and there is a “happily ever after”, or at the very least, a “happily for now” ending. 


What’s not so clear is what language is acceptable within these genres. In porn, it’s pretty clear that anything goes, and the more graphic, the better. But what about erotica and erotic romance? Opinions vary. Some feel that erotic scenes can be written without the use of any graphic language whatsoever. Others feel that the graphic language is part of the eroticism. It’s understandable that you’d want to write within your own comfort zone. 


I personally feel that if it’s appropriate for the character within the context of the story, then vulgar language is acceptable. For instance, if you have a stevedore, or a Hell’s Angels biker, or even a 21st century teenager, you can be sure that swearing will occur. Stroll through any suburban mall filled with teens, and you’ll hear the f-word with tedious frequency. To tone down the language or use euphemisms would erode the reality you’re trying to create.  


But it’s equally as important to take care not to slip into purple prose in an attempt not to offend your readers or your own delicate sensibilities. Terms like “his mighty lance” or “her silken sheath”, don’t cut it any more. Nor calling breasts “mounds”, or a penis “a rod”. Readers are more sophisticated these days, and likely to laugh at such flowery euphemisms. 


Thankfully publishers generally provide clear guidance for what is expected for their steamier lines. Draumr Publishing, for example, has their “smooches” system, with five smooches being the steamiest. Five smooches means sex happens fairly often in the story and/or includes much detail and coarse descriptive language. Amber Quill’s guidelines state that for their Level 3, which is their hottest material, love scenes are extremely explicit, frequent, and  language is quite graphic. Phaze wants expressive language that is explicit, yet appropriate to the story. 


If it makes you, as a writer, feel uncomfortable to use explicit language then perhaps writing erotica and erotic romance is not for you. Thankfully, there is a wide range of types of romances within the industry, from very sweet and clean, to extremely graphic and raw, and everything in between. There’s room for everyone. Find your niche and write! 


For more information on writing more sensual romances, consider these articles: 


http://romance.writer2writer.com/sensuality-times-five.htm   Sensuality Times Five by Cynthia Vanrooy 



The Real Purpose of Sex in Literature by Evelyn Cole




About the Author: Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in  Ontario , Canada. Visit Judy's website:



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Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell