Erotic horror is one of those genres I’m not sure I should use to describe what I write as an author. Some of my stories are certainly erotic horror, but others feel too much like dark fantasy or some other genre. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What is erotic horror?
According to Wikipedia, erotic horror is “a term applied to works of fiction in which sensual or sexual imagery are blended with horrific overtones or story elements for the sake of sexual titillation.”
Wikipedia notes that erotic horror is alternately called horror erotica or dark erotica. I’d argue that erotic horror may fall under the umbrella of dark erotica, but the two aren’t necessarily the same. For example, I would consider noncon erotica dark, but not necessarily horror.
Then again, I generally accept genre definitions based on what the experts say and based on what the audience seems to expect from the genre. So let’s explore a few other definitions, shall we?
Goodreads’ erotic horror genre page describes the genre very similarly to Wikipedia: “Works of horror fiction in which sensual or sexual imagery (or even descriptions of the physical act of sexual intercourse) are blended with horrific overtones or story elements.”
Book Riot’s article, 15 Erotic Horror Titles to Titillate and Terrify, touches on an element of erotic horror that is nearly universal in my fiction, stating, “…what we find arousing and what we find terrifying often get labeled as taboo.”
The article Lust and Terror: Exploring the Evolution of Erotic Horror describes erotic horror films simply as a new genre of horror that blended “eroticism and fear.”
The erotic horror anthology Libidinous Zombie opens with a quote from Remittance Girl. “This is hunger beyond sense or language, ignorant of limits or civility. Both erotic and horrific, the libidinous zombie that lives inside all of us is only really addressed at the intersection of horror and eroticism.”
That quote, above all others, suggests that my work taps very strongly into the root of erotic horror. It’s ignorant of limits or civility, most keen on addressing a deep erotic hunger that safe words and enthusiastic consent can’t satiate. A hunger that can only be safely satisfied in fiction stripped of decency.
At the end of the day, erotic horror is a somewhat slippery, loosely defined genre. It’s nothing more or less than fiction that significantly draws on and blends elements of horror and erotica.
If it uses sex and sexuality to terrify the reader, I’d call it horror more than erotica. If it uses elements of horror to titillate the reader, I’d call it erotica more than horror. Either way, “erotic horror” seems to fit just fine. Based on the anthologies I’ve read, reader expectations are quite open in this genre.
As my body of work grows, I might feel more comfortable calling myself an erotic horror author. I have story ideas about jealous stalker demons and seductive haunted houses and women getting stolen away by creatures they can’t hope to best. Even in my more paranormal or fantastical stories, my protagonists often feel fear, terror, and desperation.
For now, I’ll continue to say I write dark erotic fantasy and paranormal fiction. Dark erotic fantasy and erotic horror has a nice ring to it too, though.