Let’s step into a dark place shall we? One of fear, but also titillation. One where the shadows might whisper your name and lure you in. One where desire and terror swirl together into one. Let’s talk about Erotic Horror.
Defining Erotic Horror
This is one of those genres that is not so easily pinned down with clean labels. The boiled down extremely simplified version is that Erotic Horror is simply horror with sex in it. But, that’s too easy. Halloween, Friday the 13th, and many other slasher properties have sex in them, yet I, and many others, wouldn’t consider them Erotic Horror. Horror itself is often called seductive, and erotic, and there’s many articles, and blog posts discussing this very fact.
So, what exactly is Erotic Horror that seperates it from normal horror? Another easy explanation is that it’s the combination of both Erotica and Horror. Two genres that are often looked down upon, even as many enjoy them, sometimes for their primal natures. A closer look though, when the two genres are combined, they can weave in unpredictable ways. What makes Erotic Horror truly Erotic Horror, is when the sexual or erotic element cannot be removed from the horror element without altering the story.
If we look at the slasher example again, there’s often sex within the story. But the sex can often be removed without damaging the core story. Now take a look at something like “The Hellbound Heart” and its film adaptation “Hellraiser” by Clive Barker. There are affairs, desires explored, and the Hellpriest/Pinhead with their Cenobites are creatures clad in something made to look fetishistic, while also revelling in the pleasures of pain. There is a deep sexual element to the Hellbound Heart that if removed would not feel like the same story, or material.
Why Erotic Horror?
It’s easy to look down upon the genre. Horror itself doesn’t get many accolades and is often called perverse. Erotica and the topic of sexuality is often misunderstood enough that many authors go under pen names to get their material out to the world. I myself being one of them. So why look into Erotic Horror? Why bring fear into something like sex?
Simply put, people have dark corners of their own mind. Sometimes they revel in it, openly enjoy it, sometimes they try to hide it. But through fiction, people can explore the perverse, the debaucherous, and the taboo safely.
So with Erotic Horror, a writer, or the reader, can experience something truly primal. Can embrace a certain level of darkness within their own minds and souls. Elements that are shied away from in the mainstream can be firmly embraced. Gray characters with shady morality. Non-consensual sex in an erotic bent meant to terrify and arouse. These are things that many people would not enjoy normally, or openly. But, non-consensual fantasies are not entirely uncommon, even among women. Fiction allows them a safe place to experience these fantasies.
Plus, there’s always the fact that monsters, true beastial monsters and demons, not the human kind, just turn people on. Sometimes its the inhumanity that will pull a writer or a reader in. Sam Clover’s “Cold Snap” (did folks not expect me to bring up her work in her own blog?) has a monstrous bat like entity. It is the foe, it is the love interest, and it is the monster. It is horrifying, and it is fucking sexy. And it’s meant to be sexy. It hunted, it killed, and it seduced.
Looking back at “Hellbound Heart”, the Cenobites are inhuman. Sadistic, and monstrous. But, they lure people in with promises of ecstasy. Ecstasy that lies on the razor’s edge between pain and pleasure.
This is why people turn to Erotic Horror. Because it’s an escape from morality sometimes. An escape from where one has to be good. But it’s also a delve into where one can be victim, can be prey, and savour the strange sensations that crawl into their mind when they explore.
Some examples of Erotic Horror
So you’re interested in writing some Erotic Horror? You have some darker desires you wish laid out on the page. Let’s talk about two examples, one of which I’ve mentioned already.
It’s easy to smash Erotica into Horror and call it a day. More interesting is to weave the two. As I said in the definition, create a story where the erotica cannot be seperated from the horror. “Cold Snap” as an example has a romantic, and erotic edge to it throughout. A detective, a homeless man, and a monster all circling each other. Playing a courting game with one another with many trappings of a romantic drama. However, punctuating all of it is the monster, stalking and hunting and killing. The two humans are searching, and running for their lives. The two elements slither in and around one another like serpents or tendrils, to create a whole story. Without the erotic and romantic element, the characters have no reason to help one another and they would drift. Without the horror element they simply wouldn’t help one another and the romance withers away.
In my own work, Blood and Lace, the main characters are succubi. Their lives, their worlds, revolve around sexuality. It is their food, their nourishment. Without it, they die. This becomes an element of survival as the characters struggle to come to terms with what they are. The horror comes with that they are demons. Their lust can drain, or kill a person. It’s a sense of danger with each sex scene as the characters all slowly succumb to their natures. But there are also other elements of horror, the possessed, zombie like creatures that live out sins without concern for others. Wrath, lust, envy… it can all come spilling out in twisted displays of carnality mixed with violence. Stomach churning, and yet something at the back of the mind whispers that it’s kind of sexy. Kind of hot.
When creating such works, or reading, one might wonder how explicit to go in one direction or the other. After all, many excellent horror doesn’t have much gore. A lot of truly steamy works don’t have that much sex. Truly, the answer is up to the writer, and the reader.
As a writer though, do not be afraid to set limits on either. Leaning heavily into the sexuality does not mean you must hold back with the horror. Or even combining the two, especially if dealing with sadism and masochism, or dubious consent. A vampire who ravages their prey, both feeding on their blood while fucking them. A demon who delights in feasting upon flesh while enjoying the more sensual pleasures of it. The limits are really what you decide on yourself.
Note though, that sometimes the limits should not necessarily be something you are comfortable with. Sometimes the material is made to make you feel uncomfortable. Aroused and disturbed. Perhaps disturbed by your arousal. Just be sure to know boundaries that will keep you from slipping into a mental state you can’t escape from. Just because you want to explore a darker piece, does not mean you should stumble into something that will upset you long after the book is put down, or send you into a depression.
So this has been a brief overview of Erotic Horror. It’s a genre I enjoy greatly, and have written a few small tales for it as well. I would love to explore more specific facets of this in the future.
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