Conflict and antagonist in a certain subtype of erotic novels
stories in which the stakes are romantic or sexual
stories in which the stakes are neither romantic nor sexual (e.g. an erotic thriller)
In an erotic novel, where the stakes are romantic or sexual – i.e. the story develops (to use @Standback's examples):
- from the first desire to consummation or
- from loveless sex to romantic love or
- from a lack of sexual experience to sexual empowerment
– what can cause conflict?
It seems to me that the development of a purely erotic plot, that is, a plot where the erotic storyline is not put into the context of a thriller, horror, romance (where a rival or differences in class stand between the lovers), or other non-sexual storyline, must lack all turning points and therefore all suspense.
Like the building of a house, unless you add an earthquake or financial crisis, a purely erotic storyline will unerringly build towards its climax. A purely sexual relationship will turn into love from time spent together alone, if love is at all possible. A person with no sexual experience will gain it if they have sex and nothing can keep that person from acquiring experience. Only the desire for consummation can fail because of one partner's shyness, and then the antagonist is that person's fear. In all other cases:
What causes conflict in a purely erotic storyline?
I'd like to repeat and emphasize that in the context of this question a "purely erotic story" is one where the protagonists aren't hindered from achieving their goals by external obstacles such as rivals or social segregation, as they commonly are in romance novels.
In a "purely erotic story", the obstacles and conflict are erotic or sexual.
I want to write an erotic novel (which does not contain rape) and am currently brainstorming story ideas. To better understand erotic storytelling, I wanted to understand which aspects are actually erotic in essence and which are not essentially erotic but sexualized. I want to try and build a purely erotic story fundament and then see whether I want or need to add non-erotic elements to that. If this approach doesn't work, I'll try another one. It is a writing experiment that I undertake to learn.
You may have a different concept of what is and what isn't erotic to you, but for the purpose of my question regarding my writing experiment, if you attempt an answer please respect the definitions I have given.
I'll try and explain my concept of "purely erotic" in more detail.
We can consider erotica as a continuum from stories that are purely sexual to stories that contain nothing sexual. On the one end of this continuum are depictions of sexual acts without any narrative as we find them in some pornographic movies. On the other end are stories without human relationships like some hard science short stories. In between, there are stories with differing amounts of sensuality, eroticism, and sex. And somewhere towards the pornographic end, there is a transition from stories that contain a non-sexual narrative to stories that are purely sexual:
Stories without sensuality, eroticism, or sex.
Stories about primarily non-sexual matters (a criminal case, a law suit, future technological development, history, family problems, etc.) with differing amounts of sensuality, eroticism, or sex.
Stories about love, eroticism, and sex with differing amounts of non-sexual narrative (e.g. an erotic thriller or an erotic romance).
Stories with a sexual or erotic narrative but without any (significant) non-sexual narrative elements. These are the "purely erotic stories" that we seek!
Depictions of sex without any narrative.
To better understand the distinctions between the third, fourth, and fifth story categories, let's define them in more detail and give some examples:
5. Depictions of sex without any narrative
This category is defined by the presence of sex and the absence of any narrative elements, sexual or non-sexual. Example:
- a porn clip that shows two people having sex; nothing else happens
3. Stories about sex with a non-sexual narrative
In this category, sex and eroticism are the main topics or themes of the story. The stories are about sex. But they contain non-sexual narrative elements which could also be told without their sexual or erotic turn. Example:
- a character desires sex with another character, but that other character desires sex with a third character.
This rival/triangle story can also be told without a sexual or erotic turn, for example: A child wants to be friends with another child, but that child is already best friends with a third child and seems to be disinterested. Here we have the same rival/triangle story, but without the sex.
- a character can stop time with her orgasms
This story can be told without the sexual turn, for example: A character can stop time with a technological device or with a spell from a grimoire. Here we have the time-stopping story, but without the sex.
In stories about sex with a non-sexual narrative, the connection between the sexual and the non-sexual narrative is not necessary. The non-sexual narrative can be told wihout sexualisation.
4. Stories with only a sexual narrative = "purely erotic stories"
In these stories, the narrative cannot be told without sex. Examples:
a character is afraid of sex and overcomes their fear
a character learns to have sex or to perform certain sexual practices or to enjoy them
a character is raped or forced to have sex
a character has sex in circumstances where sex is not allowed or taboo (in public, with a family member, etc.)
All these stories have a narrative (which distinguishes them from category 5), and this narrative requires sex (which distinguishes them from category 3).
In these stories, the conflict is sexual and the antagonist is an opponent or obstacle in sex. In this way, these stories are "purely erotic" or purely sexual.