Hey! You got sex in my horror! No! You got horror in my sex!
What’s all the bickering about? Isn’t that a delicious combo? Does the inclusion of sex in horror fiction automatically make it “erotic” horror? It seems in the world of publishing, heavy sexual content scores you an “erotica” label, just like we expect a penis in a movie to get slapped…with an NC-17 rating. But isn’t there a distinct difference between sex and erotica depending on its purpose within the context of a story and its effect on the reader?
Either way, you would think that in the world of LGBTQ fiction, expressing our sexuality openly in our stories would be embraced. Hell. It should be encouraged! Instead, we need the prudish “erotic” warning label to protect our virgin minds from unsavory adult content!
It often seems that the inclusion of sex in a book has readers holding crossed fingers up to it as if they’re warding off a vampire with a crucifix or stamping an X rating on the book. And so, any books that feature sexual situations get the old “erotic” subgenre attached to the true genre: erotic horror; erotic romance; erotic mystery; erotic fantasy (that last one sounds the dirtiest of all!).
I don’t know how it works with the other genres, but I personally cringe every time I see the word “erotic” attached to the “horror” classification on my books—which is basically all the time. Just the fact that “erotic” leads the classification creates an assumption about a book; before even getting to the “horror” part, the mind has already sent the wrong signal of terror loud and clear. “EEK! This is a sex book!”
I would prefer to call my fiction grindhouse horror or exploitation horror. As in those types of movies, the sex in my books is most often presented as over-the-top, absurd, and funny. Come on. A guy pleasures a big red bear with a dildo using only his mind in my new book No Place for Little Ones, and a man’s expulsions taste just like dairy when he’s “milked” in my novel Combustion.
Occasionally, there’s a “romantic” sex scene (because my characters do have hearts!), but generally, the sex is there as a prelude to the horror, to place characters at their most vulnerable when the horror shows itself, or even to just go for the good old gross out.
These are all purposes that go hand-in-hand with horror. Sex isn’t meant to arouse; it is intended as foreplay to awaken the senses and emotions and to enhance the intensity of the climactic moment of fear.
And hey. If sex in horror does turn some readers on, that’s a result of their warped ids. Some people are that sick and twisted. I’m fine with them calling my stuff erotic horror. For the rest of you, it’s simply horror. Just have an adult cover your eyes during the dirty parts.