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So, I am a person who writes titillating stories. Problem is, I want a way to tell people what I write in a way that doesn't seem like I'm some sort of pornstar or filmmaker. Because "I write porn/erotica/smut" is typically frowned upon, how do I tell people without being blunt about it? Or should I be blunt about it?

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"I write stories for adults only."

or

"I write erotica."

It all works.

There's enough out there that is NC-17 or even a hard R, or the book/TV/comic equivalent, that people get it if you say your work isn't appropriate for kids.

Also, if you don't even know if your work is smut or erotica or porn, which are all different things! You're going to have a hard time explaining it to others.

Own what you do.

That means you tell the truth (unless it's your conservative nephew or boss, then you can fudge it). If you write erotica, call it erotica. Don't call it ordinary and don't call it porn. (If you do write porn, own it. And don't call it erotica.)

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There's nothing wrong with the word erotica. That's exactly how it's categorized in bookstores, where it's publicly displayed and not considered something to be hidden from anyone.

[Merriam-Webster]
1 : literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality

If people take issue with the content of your work, then you have a bigger problem than just using this neutral word to describe the subject.

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If you wish to deal with specific categories of people who have specific keyword triggers, then you could work your way into a fancy description of your activity:

I write titillating stories that explore the psychological and physical boundaries of desire and lust without sparing graphical details and explicit references.

This may appeal to the more restrained souls.

On the other hand, you could also be blunt. Perhaps you ought to be so, given that you probably are quite proud of what you do. And don't forget, regardless of literary genre, you are first and foremost a writer. That in itself is a great opening:

I am a writer. The genre? The kind that pleases: erotica/smut/porn.

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The big question here is: What is your purpose in telling people about your writing.

Some people, some forums, and some audiences, will absolutely appreciate that writing erotica is a skill, a craft, something that people enjoy -- and you can just straight up say "I write erotica."

Other people, forums, and audiences won't have that appreciation, and may very well look down on you for erotica. (Or just might be heterogeneous enough that you don't know what reaction to expect, but assume that some of them will be offended and/or condescending.)

In this second case, the question is: why tell them about your writing at all? Is this a social situation ("So, tell us what you do for a living!"), a professional conversation ("Hey, can I join this writer's group?", "Sure, what do you write?"), something else?
The answer will depend on the situation, and on what you're trying to accomplish -- for lots of these, the easiest solution is just to keep your writing to yourself around people who won't appreciate it.

You sound like you want to thread a really fine needle where you do tell people you're writing, but don't tell them what. This isn't about phrasing, because honestly, people know what erotica is (or have very firm preconceptions about what erotica is...), and there isn't some magic phrasing that's going to make them go, "Ohhhh! I'd normally be really dismissive of erotica writers, but this one is different!"

I may be misunderstanding your intention here -- maybe you want people to know what you write, and you want to explain to them that it's worthy of respect. Maybe you want to fight the stereotype and the preconceptions. Maybe it's something entirely different -- you're, I dunno, applying for a scholarship, and you want to show experience but also avoid a bad impression.

What you want to tell people depends on how you want the interaction to go, what you want them to know, how you'd like them to respond. If you want to add more detail to the question, you might get more specific answers, but I hope that as a general principle this is helpful, particularly with the various examples the answers have offered :)

Best of luck!

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    I knew a professional dominatrix who didn't discuss her job/lifestyle with strangers. When we'd go out and people asked what she did for a living, she'd tell them she's a secretary, and like magic, the person would change the subject since they had zero curiosity about secretaries. – wetcircuit May 26 at 12:31

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