...and the Problem of Erotica. The eternal "Why?"
(This isn't a rant so much as a ramble.)
Plot, character, world-building, dialogue, etc., should be just as much of an issue in erotica as in any story. There exists a general perception that these things tend to get shorted in erotica and they're "allowed" to slide because... well... are we reading this for the story, or for the sex?
"Both!" everybody says... because otherwise it'll all slide into PWP crapola, right? Erotica packs far more punch when you're invested in the characters, but the development of that investment is not done via erotica. (is it? could it be?)
How "long" are you willing to go in an erotica without any action?
When I tried writing erotica, I started to hear a heckler in the back row yelling "Take it off!" (or something more salty) in the middle of my dramatic scenes. I began to run into questions like "Why are these two fooling around on-stage?" and the more problematic "Is this really relevant?"
Many better writers than I have tackled the relevance of explicit sex to a given story. Better writers than I have succeeded in making sex important to their plotline. Personally, I think one can make a case for using a sexual scene to develop character, raise tension and, yes, titillate the reader.
But to get back to the eternal "Why?" -- why does the reader "need" to see this explicit scene? "Because they want to see it" is a valid answer, IMO. But here's the twist: given the work you put into an erotica story -- equal to the work you'd put into any story -- why limit your audience to only those who want to read explicit scenes?
Since e-books are taking off so well, I think it would be interesting if they started featuring "extras" for those who want... more. Just a little icon at the end of a bedroom scene -- where it ends for those who don't want to know the details -- that a reader could tap to see the steamy stuff. Has anyone done this yet?
If you'd like to comment on any of the questions above, I'd be glad to hear your thoughts. If you'd like to recommend your favorite science fiction or fantasy erotica author, I'd be glad to hear that too. I'm badly out-of-date with the erotica world.