Well, we’ve had several intriguing discussions this week. Is it erotica or is it porn? We’ve read the definitions, identified the characteristics that allow us to distinguish between the two and now are better equipped to assuage the bite of those naysayers who would lump them together.
The research for this week has been interesting, to say the least. My wife thanks you kindly.
I’m reminded of a skit Adam Sandler did back in the 90s called Sex or Weightlifting. The premise was fairly basic: he played an audio clip for random strangers and they had to guess whether it was someone having sex or lifting weights. Invariably, whichever answer they gave was wrong.
What does this have to do with porn vs. erotica? Well in both instances, it really comes down to perception. We’ll come back to that in a moment. First, I want to revisit the definitions from Wikipedia:
Pornography or porn is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer. It is to a certain extent similar to erotica, which is the use of sexually-arousing imagery for mainly artistic purposes.
Erotica (from the Greek Eros - "desire") or "curiosa," works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions. Erotica is a modern word used to describe the portrayal of the human anatomy and sexuality with high-art aspirations, differentiating such work from commercial pornography. "Curiosa" is generally used to refer to erotica and pornography as discrete, collectible items, usually in published or printed form.
Various sub-genres of erotica exist. As with fiction as a whole, there are erotic stories with a science fiction, fantasy, horror or romance focus. Additionally, erotica can also focus on specific sexual behavior or fetishes such as BDSM, wearing uniforms, cross-dressing, polygamy and sexual promiscuity. Fan fiction featuring characters engaging in male homosexual acts has become known as slash fiction.
Distinction is often made between erotica and pornography (as well as the lesser known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry), although depending on the viewer they may seem one in the same. Pornography's objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes. Pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading. Erotica, on the other hand, seeks to tell a story with sexual themes. It attempts to explore desire through mystery and intrigue.
In my humble opinion, it all boils down to what we want to believe. If a particularly narrow-minded person chances upon erotica book, hits the first sex scene and instantly labels it porn, there will not be enough definitions or persuasive arguments in the world to convince that person the book is anything but a sexual account and therefore dirty and all things dirty, as we know, are porn… or at least some would have us believe.
Sexuality is a marvelous thing, a glorious thing, a beautiful thing… a natural thing. Yet, there will always be those among us who are ashamed of their baser desires. I feel sorry for them.
Artistic merit, the empowerment of women and the eternal quest for love aside, why do we read erotica? We can find the above characteristics in any number of novels that take us to the bedroom door, offer us a tiny peek and gently shut it before they get down to the nitty gritty. No, for me (and I realize I may be alone here), the only reason I have ever read erotica is for the arousal factor. Are you not aroused?
A great storyline, vivid characters and an emotional journey make for a memorable read, but it’s the lure of sex that brought me to the few erotic romances I’ve indulged in, in the first place. True, the sex is usually that much hotter, because if written properly, you can almost feel the love between the characters and for me sex doesn’t get much hotter than when it’s done with someone you truly love.
In the end, it’s the sex that draws people to both erotica and porn. Yes the distinction is clear, but whether you choose to turn to erotica or porn to get your arousal fix, it really becomes a matter of taste and… perception.