Monday, December 7, 2009

Erotica vs. Pornography

To me, erotica - whether it be writing, photographs, or illustrations - requires that the reader or viewer have an imagination. By that I mean erotica must draw the reader in and make him an active participant (mentally) in the story. The same is true if the erotic object is a photograph: the photograph should suggest something rather than explain something. The same holds true for an erotic film, or an erotic scene within a film. To be sure, a certain amount must be shown, or described, but it is that which is left to the imagination that makes the piece erotic.

Pornography, on the other hand, does not really require the viewer or reader to have an imagination. He simply has to know how to read or he has to have eyeballs. Pornography is all-inclusive; it explains and illustrates. It stands alone and doesn't require imagination to fulfill it. One doesn’t get “drawn into” pornography. It is simply a show to be watched, like an old John Wayne western on Saturday afternoon at a small town Bijou.There is no reason or need for the viewer to get involved; the viewer is simply a spectator watching a time-tested plot play out. And, like the John Wayne movie, one can probably guess the ending because they are largely all the same.

Erotica is an unfinished work until it gets lodged in the mind of the viewer or reader and becomes intertwined with the reader’s own thought processes, personal memories and secret curiosities. Even the author doesn’t know the twists and turns the fantasy is creating in the reader’s mind. He only knows what it means to himself as he writes it.

Erotica must always leave something to the imagination. That which is described or shown is important, of course, because without it there would be no fuel for the fire. But it is that which is left to the imagination that ignites the flames. Thinks Max.

The word erotica comes from the Greek god of love, Eros. In Roman mythology, Eros was known as Cupid. Eros was the son of Aphrodite. Although she was very beautiful, Aphrodite became jealous of a mortal woman named Psyche, and ordered her son to go to earth and shoot her in the heart with one of his arrows and cause her to fall in love with the world's ugliest man. But when Eros saw Psyche, it was he who fell in love and he carried her away. They enjoyed great love, but only at night because Psyche was not allowed to shine light on Eros. (See... you have to leave something to the imagination, remember?) There's a lot more, but this post needs to end soon. Cesar Planck wrote an opera called Psyche et Eros. (She didn't really; et means "and" in French.)

In the old Playboy magazine, there used to be a monthly feature called “Dear Playboy” or “Ask Playboy” or something like that. Readers would write in questions about sex, fashion, cars, etiquette, and the like. Mostly frat boys I think, looking back, but they seemed pretty mature compared to my high school ignorance on all social issues.
I remember one letter asked what a woman’s most erroneous zone was. I mean erogenous zone. The letter author offered the Playboy Adviser (maybe THAT was the name of the column) several suggestions to choose from. Such as the ear lobe or the neck or one or two other more obvious ones. But the adviser declined all of the writers suggestions and answered simply, “Her brain.” That answer was to help me greatly in years to come.

Let’s hear it for “imagination”.

Listen to Little Arrows


  1. There are probably innumerable definitions of how and where the line should be drawn between erotica and pornography. Are they even mutually exclusive? Or is it a continuum with romantic novels at one end of the scale, through erotica to pornography? One man's erotica is another man's pornography, I'm sure. We probably each have our own individual limit to what we will find erotic and where the balance will tip over into pornography.

    They say women are more likely to be aroused by words than images. I'm not convinced that's true. Personally I think that second illustration of yours is lovely!

  2. I think that what you say is true of any artwork - using one's imagination/brain is what makes it stimulating. Unfortunately, too many things today require nothing of the reader/observer, but merely clunk one over the head (and make the assumption that the audience is moronic - re which, no comment).

  3. I haven't heard Leapy Lee in years!!

    The train of thought from Tiger Woods' new found friends through erotica to pornography as the numbers increase. Interesting, or coincidental. :)

  4. @A. - No, there is only one definition and I've given it to you. No continuum. And don't be looking at Cupid's ass and thinking smutty thoughts. :)

    Would you please go listen to that silly arrow song again? Thanks.

  5. but, but, BUT.... the people who like what you and I call pornography probably do imagine things too. It's just that their imagination is (judgemental I know) more limited than yours and needs more, shall we say, stimulus.

    I'd like to think I have an imagination too, though possibly not particularly verbal. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate words though - the Little Arrows have always found their mark. And as for that ass, arse or bum, OK no looking, but you can't stop my imagination. :)

  6. Pornography, Sir?
    Why, I don't even own a pornograph.

  7. I don't see the definitions the same way you do, though I'm also in the continuum camp rather than discrete categories.

    Describing/showing everything in exact and excruciating detail is different from describing/showing everything but not in exact detail, from focusing on the sensations involved but leaving out most of the details from mentioning suggestively they wandered off together.

    From my own view, much of the difference lies not in what's described (though I have found a correlation) so much as in the relationship between the individuals described (though this is likely less true of still art like paintings and sculpture). Although the end of the spectrum associated with pornography (aka smut) does tend toward excessive and sometimes repellent detail, it also seems most likely to involve disinterested stranger-stranger sex, rape, slavery and its ilk, prostitution and other potentially denigrating behaviors, generally, in my opinion, objectifying women, even the “heroine.”

    Erotica, that may involve many different levels of detail and imagination, is more likely, in my opinion, to involve real relationships, often between characters (as opposed to caricatures) where they tend to stand on more equal footing and events that involve respect, affection and even love as opposed to just lust. That there are fewer details necessary, I think, is because we understand the characters better and can better deduce them. Hence imagination.

    I personally rarely go into detail in my fiction(though I have into some level of detail on at least two occasions) – I like imagination. Even then, the detail is not exact. But, I also always have strong characters, characters I like to think mean something to each other and hopefully the reader. I don’t apologize for the detail I do go into, but don’t regret the detail I don’t use.

    I don’t know that I would have even described it as erotica.

  8. @Lidian - Much of what you say appears to be true at certain times in varying degrees. Hard for me to get "stimulated" looking at "American Gothic". But perhaps Wood left not enough to the imagination.

    Hey. What have you been up to?

  9. @Sheila - And Leapy hasn't heard you either. So you can't expect too much from him. An Eastbourne native just down the road. But you probably knew thatl. Fans of the arrow music genre will be tickled to learn he is still alive. More or less.

    I don't care about Tiger Woods. I'm above that stuff.

  10. @A. - Or perhaps those people have used up all their imagination and must be told what is exciting to them.

    I'm sure you would like to think you are imaginative.

    I'm becoming wary of the direction your comments are taking. Just sayin'. (Alison may stop by and read this. You never know. Be warned.)

    You do wear me out. You know that, right? :)

  11. @Soubriquet - Then just use your eroticater.

    You DO have imagination, though. :)

  12. @Stephanie B - well, it's not like we are going to resolve the definition since people have been arguing it for many years. I was just giving my opinion, and it seemed the key was that the one was a hint at something more and the reader's mind filled in the blanks, so to speak. This is a much bigger subject than I thought it was. It applies to so many things.

  13. Sheesh. I go away for 3 months and this is what happens.



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