Writing Erotica or Porn?


“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.” -E.B. White

“You know how much I love porn!” A friend told me,  anxious to read my erotic short stories.

That got me to thinking, what is the difference between PORN and EROTIC literature? Encyclopedia Britannica defines erotic as, “literary or artistic works having an erotic theme; especially, books treating of sexual love in a sensuous or voluptuous manner. The word erotica typically applies to works in which the sexual element is regarded as part of the larger aesthetic aspect. It  is usually distinguished from pornography, which can also have literary merit but which is usually understood to have sexual arousal as its main purpose.”

Dictionary.com Unabridged defines pornography as, “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.”

Irving Kristol noted, “Pornography is not objectionable simply because it arouses sexual desire or lust or prurience in the mind of the reader or spectator; this is a silly Victorian notion. A great many non-pornographic works—including some parts of the Bible—excite sexual desire very successfully. What is distinctive about pornography is that, in the words of D.H. Lawrence, it attempts “to do dirt on [sex]…. [It is an] insult to a vital human relationship.” In other words, pornography differs from erotic art in that its whole purpose is to treat human beings obscenely, to deprive human beings of their specifically human dimension. That is what obscenity is all about. It is light years removed from any kind of carefree sensuality—there is no continuum between Fielding’s Tom Jones and the Marquis de Sade’s Justine. These works have quite opposite intentions.”

Should we say there is a fine line between Porn and Erotica? Gloria Steinem noted, “Pornography is about dominance. Erotica is about mutuality. Though both erotica and pornography refer to verbal or pictorial representations of sexual behavior, they are as different as a room with doors open and one with doors closed. The first might be a home, but the second could only be a prison.”

May Chen noted, “Erotica writers can tell a story. There is a definite hero or heroine. You might have a few sex scenes in there, but it’s not gratuitous.” From the above comments, the basic differences seem to be that porn skips story and character development and focuses on the sexual acts, of dominance and submission, while eliminating an actual love interest between characters. Whereas erotica develops characters into a plot leading to the development of a relationship, where sexual acts support love or attraction between the leading characters, while developing the storyline.

Andrea Dworkin sums it up best, “Erotica is simply high-class pornography; better produced, better conceived, better executed, better packaged, designed for a better class of consumer.”

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