Monday, April 28, 2008

Erotica or Porno?

At one of the workshops I attended at the RT convention, a man in the audience asked the panel to explain the difference between erotica and pornography. I was a bit taken aback when the entire panel agreed that there was no difference. One panel member went so far as to emphatically state that as writers we were doing ourselves a disservice if we insisted on trying to impose a separation between erotica and pornography.

Hmph. I never in my wildest imagination aspired to write pornography. To be absolutely truthful, I didn't aspire to write erotica or erotic romance, either. But it seems to me that if we as writers are going to insist on the differentiation between erotica and pornography, then we ought to be very clear where the lines are drawn. To that end, I offer you two definitions from dictionary.com:

erotica~~literature or art dealing with sexual love.

pornography~~obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.

Now looking at the definitions, it would appear that the sole difference is a determination on whether or not our work has "artistic merit". Pornography doesn't depend on a happily ever after ending--it depends on whether the story can be judged to have artistic merit.

According to Wikipedia~~ Artistic merit is an English language term that is used in relation to cultural products when referring to the judgment of their perceived quality or value as works of art.

Artistic merit is a crucial term, as pertains to visual art. Whether or not a work is considered art is a question of artistic merit. And the quality of a work of art is largely based on the artistic merit that people attach to it.

It is also a term frequently encountered in obscenity and censorship trials. For example, it has been said that the difference between erotica and pornography is artistic merit.

Ah, that cleared things up, didn't it? No? As I understand it then, whether my work is called pornography or erotica depends on the value my readers and I place on it as a work of art! Based on that, it appears that any given work could be both erotica and pornography, depending on who is reading it and their personal moral parameters. My father, the Baptist minister would no doubt consider all of my writing pornography. My friend is not quite sure whether it is pornography or erotica. My publisher markets my work as erotic romance.

As I pointed out to a friend earlier today, everyone has a line that they will not cross. One side of that line is permissible levels of eroticism. On the other side is the "ick" factor. For each individual, that line is in a different place. As a young married woman, I cut my teeth on Victorian Erotica that would no doubt be called pornography by the vast majority of readers today. Those Victorians were quite a hot blooded lot. As far as I can tell, there wasn't much that they didn't try out. Quite frankly, I haven't encountered anything in the current era that could come close to giving the Victorian underground literature a run for its money.

Think about that. Apparently, there are no new perversions in the modern era. I suspect that there were no new ones in the Victorian era either. Nor in the time of the Ananga Ranga or the Kama Sutra.

I believe that my writing has artistic merit. It brings joy and laughter to my readers and that is merit enough. So what do I write? I write romantic erotica.

Anny Cook
www.annycook.blogspot.com
www.annycook.com

14 comments:

  1. EC does very well in calling it ROMANTICA and I think therein lies the difference between straight PORN and EROTICA. The romantic element is the difference, I think. Porn is the physical act with no caring, concern, affection or love. Erotica is quite the opposite in my view. You can find plenty of ICK in porn and not so much in erotica.

    Don't forget the Bibles SOng of SOlomon is actually biblical erotica. No one would call that porn. Preachers might argue it isn't erotica but I think, they would be WRONG.

    Great great post, Anny!

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  2. I'm with you, Anny and Regina. Porn is sex without love, stuck into a story for its own sake and is often so mechanical and repetitive it becomes farcical. It is also as titilating as a wet paper bag. And cheap.

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  3. I love the clinical approach Annycoo. I'm glad you started out the week. It gives us a parameter to work by or deviate from. Good job.

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  4. Great post, Anny. With the topic broken down like this, it's clear to see the line. It makes you wonder if the members of the panel would've answered differently if they'd researched the question before hand...

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  5. Thank you all for your comments. James, I'm not sure it would have made a difference, but for me the word pornography has powerful connotations that I really don't want attached to my work. I'm still have difficulty understanding their point of view.

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  6. Great insights, Anny. And a great kick off to the week.

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  7. Your erotica is simply the icing on the cake of your romance writing. Wouldn't be buying or reading them if they were pornography. Keep up the good work.

    Jane

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  8. To my mind, pornography is something in which women are used and erotica or romantica is something in which women are empowered. In Porn, women are objects. In Romantica, women are people who love and want to be loved.
    Charlene

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  9. Hi, Charlene. That's an interesting distinction, and as a whole, I'd say spot on. *Steps into Devil's advocate suit* But what about lesbian pornography? I'd venture that the women in these instances were empowered and given the audience they are likely intended for, would be filled with the theme of love and be loved...

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  10. My, James, that devil suit looks simply dashing on you!

    Excellent points. Both of yas.

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  11. For me pornography is the sex act without emotion involved. Sex for the sake of sex, just to achieve orgasm. While erotica involves a love story with its up and down, and gamut of emotions.

    Although I write several descriptive sex scenes in each stoy, my books are not erotica. When I put the question to our respected main publisher, she said that erotica stories' main plot are about sex and that the vocabulary used in erotica is more down-to-earth and less flowery than in erotica.

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  12. Sorry my last paragraph came completely wrong as my DH is pushing to leave : here again :

    Although I write several descriptive sex scenes in each story, my books are not erotica. When I put the question to our respected main publisher, she said that erotica stories' main plots are about sex and that the vocabulary used in erotica is more down-to-earth and less flowery than in simply hot romance. I hope it comes right this time. Sorry, got to go.

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  13. Well put Anny. Must make my mother read this. Perhaps it will convince her to notice there actually is a story and not just a jumble of sex.

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  14. James:
    I still contend that erotica (and that includes lesbian erotica) is about the empowerment of women. It doesn't matter whether the couple are m/m, f/f, or m/f. Pornography uses people. There is no empowerment, there is no love as many here have noted.
    Charlene

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