I was recently asked a question that I was not at all prepared to answer—what is the difference between erotica and pornography? Hmmm. Well, I went with the fine-line between the two answer, but switched to the feminist angle that pornography is typically more violent, both in the act and in the language. While both answers were acceptable, I knew they were vague and felt that the question continued to hover above the room unaddressed, or perhaps in this instance, undressed. I definitely needed to look into this further, especially since I think of myself as an erotic fiction writer, currently tying to distance myself from what I consider to be pornographic books in the marketplace.
Responses to my query ranged from serious to silly, and most included the preface that the difference between the two was highly subjective, that one’s mans trash is still one mans treasure. The overriding consensus, however, was that erotica referred to works (book and film) with a more artistic bend—an appreciation of the human form, the pleasures of the flesh in a painterly voice—think Michelangelo’s David doing it as told by Emily Bronte. Pornography referred to activity that was carnal, often with misogynistic and violent undertones—think libido not love and lots of props.
I am comfortable in saying that my work is more erotic than pornographic, but would not go so far as to call it artistic. Nor is it anything like Debbie does Dallas. Somewhere in between, perhaps—again, subjective. The findings below are a very small sampling of what others have to say on the subject. My favorites, of course, are the humorous responses. If you are new to the genre, as I am, if you are curious, my suggestion is to step outside your comfort zone and give erotica a try—you can close a book anytime you want. If erotica is on your bookshelf, open it again and enjoy.
…The unabashed goal [of pornography] is simple and straightforward: titillation and immediate, intense arousal (skip the foreplay, please!). Or, to put it even more bluntly, an instantaneous stirring of the genitals.
Admittedly, the erotic might end up having the same effect. Still, the ideal behind erotica is to transcend its literally provocative subject–to add a third dimension, if you will. In aspiring to celebrate the varieties of sexual bliss, and the universal desire for carnal union (which, deep within, just might carry hints of the divine), the eroticist seeks to portray a vision of both human pulchritude and the potential ecstasy that humans–through sexually joining–can share.
The main difference is that eroticism involves feelings, while pornography does not. As a result, erotic and pornographic images do not have the same impact on the society and especially on women. In pornography women are opressed and violently treated like objects, while in erotic images there is not this kind of oppression and violence and it is more a demonstration of the pleasure felt by the two partners rather than a demonstration of violence.
the difference between erotica and pornography
“What the average man on the street finds arousing is “pornography,” and what the wealthy, cultured, or intellectual man finds arousing is “erotic,” couched in an artistic sensibility that surrounds his base desires in a nimbus of respectability. If the intention of the cultural artifact you are making is to arouse the sexual desires within the viewer, it is pornography.” Sovereign Syre
“The difference between pornographic and erotic is about the same as “promiscuous” versus “normal”: we tend to be more likely to label things that make us uncomfortable as “pornographic,” and things we’re turned on by as “erotic.” While, yes, we can broadly say that things that are more hardcore are more likely to be “porn” and things that have more artistry are more likely to be “erotica,” I find that the labels are very often subjective and say far more about the person applying them than the work itself.” Lux Alptraum
hopes and fears
He reads pornography, you read erotica, I read stimulating adult literature. JR
Erotica leaves something for the imagination, pornography requires no imagination. PG
One is crack for the addict, the other is morphine for the sensuous. DL
[the difference between erotica and pornography] The height of the bookshelf. TV
Eleven Minutes, Pablo Coehlo
The New Urge Reader, New Urge Editions publisher
Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
The near Transformation of Claire, Pamela Naruta
photo credit: unknown