Running With Quills, Blogsite for Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Stella Cameron, and Suzanne Simmons
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Stella Cameron
Stella Cameron

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Jayne Ann Krentz, Photo credit Marc von Borstel
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Elizabeth Lowell
Elizabeth Lowell

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Carla Neggers

  • Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Literary Pornography? Stella is curious.

    What do you think is the difference between literary pornography and pornography? Bigger words in the former? Better words in the former? Can’t be that–some words are the same length and have the same importance no matter where or in what type of publication they’re written.

    Yesterday I read a piece in a publishing magazine–a long, complimentary, even gushy article about a book that is (gasp) literary pornography. This offering has lots of pretty fabulously done illustrations. Pornographic illustrations. I will have to pick up the book because I always was a sucker for a good picture or two.

    How many of you have read EXIT TO EDEN by Ann Rampling, alias, Ann Rice? In this lauded book, the founder of an exclusive resort dedicated to sexual fantasy (very cleverly called, The Club) develops a crack in her iron self esteem when she falls in love with a photojournalist employed as a slave at The Club. (Anything familiar here?) Before you rush out to buy your copy, I should tell you that this is literary pornography so you should be prepared for big, important words like, ass, breast, cock, cream, sweat, possibly even the odd taxing phrase (this is my own creation) such as, “Through the veil of demand, he dragged her and she went, gladly, into the reaching arms of a dozen writhing young male gods, all smiling, all erect, and all determined to be satisfied.”

    Major warp to the middle-aged writer, pleasantly round with a sweet face (unfortunately covered with too much makeup at the moment) wearing a low-cut short, black satin dress, black fishnet hose, and possibly some sort of veil arrangement, the type with the spots that remind us of fuzzy beauty marks carried in little comfit boxes in the seventeen hundreds. The natural variety would be moles.

    This nice, earnest, eager writer is trying to be sexy. She’s writing “Erotica” and has decided to leap to the middle of the fantasies and dress the part. Too bad they arrest you for running around naked–it would be so much simpler. This is a nice if naive woman. She probably enjoys what she writes and feels power and control when she’s working, but she won’t be written up anywhere as having produced a piece of literary pornography and she’s looking for a publicity angle–we’re all looking for publicity angles, just not always the one our lady author has chosen. But she’s having fun, feels special and may even have written some entertaining pornography.

    The world of publishing magazines wouldn’t even consider remarking on one of this author’s books because they’re full of “kinky sex,” “gratuitous sex,” and they are “weak on plot, characterization and meaningful emotion.”

    Yes, I’d croak before I put on a veil (except maybe on an opera hat) but I will defend the right of another writer to wear seven veils if she wants to. And I’ll stoutly announce that while one story of pornography/erotica (Why don’t we drop “erotica” which is meant to soften the idea of pornography? Be proud of whatever skill you practice.)–anyway, I’ll argue that there will always be different levels of brilliance in any art form, but an ass is an ass . . . isn’t it?

    Question: Although I've already asked a number of questions. If some people didn't, deep down (or even not so deep down) think sex is bad, particularly sex that explores possibilities beyond missionary position, would the worlds of Hollywood, TV, Advertising, Fashion, The Internet, and so many other successful endeavors collapse?

    And what word can we use to replace "sexy" now that it's come to mean anything from a fast car to a provocative debate on global warming?


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    What is that old saying? You know pornography when you see it.
    I'm not sure I really get what the term "literary pornography" actually means. Isn't that an oxymoron of sorts?

    As to using the term sexy, who determines what is sexy? It means different things to different people (though I, personally, can't see it applied to discussions of global warming). For that matter, who determines the difference between romance, erotica, and pornography?

    Who are the mysterious "they" making these determinations for the rest of us?

    9:08 AM  
    Anonymous Katrina said...

    Ok...I agree with the person above....Can the word 'sexy' be used to describe global warming? Because that is one of the many things I do not find sexy.

    Isn't literary pornography like the stories and such? Like the ones that come in Playboy, Hustler, Variations? Or am I totally wrong?

    And to answer the question-I don't think people, deep down, or not so deep down, think sex is bad. I think that is why there is so much literary pornograpghy and just pornography.
    It seems to me that people now a days are more accepting of 'sex' in any context. Which has made it so popular.
    But if people did not find it bad, I am sure that there would still be too much of pornography floating around.

    9:26 AM  
    Blogger Nicole Reising said...

    I love this post! I think that we each have our own guidelines of where the lines are drawn for things to be termed too much and thus pornography. And I think that old phrase - you'll know it when you read it - does work but not in the sense probably intended. As once again, what I may find offensive, you may not and as such we'd place things in different piles.


    9:56 AM  
    Blogger Elizabeth Lowell said...

    To me, pornography is visual, and aimed at a man's crotch.

    Erotica is verbal, and aimed at a woman's brain.

    *ducks and runs hard*

    9:58 AM  
    Anonymous Kendra said...

    Thank you Elizabeth...

    11:05 AM  
    Blogger DFender said...

    I agree with Elizabeth. I read erotica and will continue to read it as long as it's well-written.

    Hustler and Playboy have good articles; crappy erotica. Aiming for the men's crotch as opposed to the women's brain as Elizabeth so wisely wrote.

    I love reading a well-written descriptive sexually oriented story, preferably without pictures so that my imagination can conjure what my fantasy would relate to. Geez, I hope that made sense.

    I've read Exit to Eden and I've also read Anne Rice's (aka Rampling) Cinderella series. They're both really very good.

    I've gone into Border's and browsed through their Erotica section and *gasp!* they consider it literature. No one even looks sideways at me when I'm browsing the books. I may have even, possibly, sorta looked through the picture books in the same section. I wasn't even arrested.


    wuhymuzl: What unlikely hope yearns mostly underneath zealous love?

    12:17 PM  
    Blogger bookkeeper said...

    I tend to be with Elizabeth on this one.

    Since the beginning of time, sex has been around. Then one day, someone (read lonely virgin here) decided that sex was bad and no one was allowed to enjoy it in any form. "They" have gone to incredible lengths to ensure that people don't enjoy it (god forbid a woman enjoy sex!!!!! gasp)

    If you do happen to enjoy sex in any form (physical, mental or visual) you are BAD! BAD! BAD!

    Why is the word slut so derogatory when applied to women, yet a congratulatory slap on the back when applied to men?

    Personally, I enjoy "women's erotica", but like anything, too much is not a good thing. A book that is only about sex I find to be along the same lines as a porno video.... lots of action, not enough dialogue (or at least not the kind I want to read! :) )
    But, when it fits in with the story line, it can be a VERY good thing! *giggle*

    Te same could be said of the word "sexy". It seems to have become such a catchphrase, that the true meaning no longer seems to be valid.

    12:20 PM  
    Blogger Stella said...

    Pornography=visual male turn on.
    Erotica=female brain food.

    Interesting concept. If we continue with this thread don't we get to a place where we're saying: Pornography--male mental and physical turn on (after all, the visual touches the brain at some point--even if with the most glancing blow)and erotica--female mental and visual turn on (are there no visual images created by the written word in this case?)

    I shall ponder these things.

    But I'm still most concerned with the conceptual disparity created by labels. I think the writer producing erotica is as legitimate as the one writing pornography--that was my point. That and the ambiguity of critics who judge one better than, more important, than the other.

    Then we go to the outright theft of the lovely word, "sexy," by people who already had plenty of words and terms of their own--like, "big oil company ripoff." Who do they think they are to say, "We're discussing gas prices every minute of the day because gas prices are sexy right now?"


    They can have "hot topic," but give us back, "sexy."

    1:35 PM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Stella, you are right. The problem lies in part with classification - muddled classification always leads to muddled thinking, but accurate classification can be challenging. And because standards of what is acceptable have changed fairly drastically over the last 50 years, definitions have changed, too.

    I might post a longer piece I have written on this subject here, but I'll let other people comment again first - and I am having major computer problems, so I may disappear completely.

    2:45 PM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Incidentally, I do not agree with Elizabeth's definitions of erotica and pornography at all. I think the distinction is completely unhelpful, and also inaccurate.

    2:53 PM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Let's go back to first principles: pornography = 'writings about whores'; erotica = 'matters pertaining to eros' - that is, human sexual love, as opposed to other forms of love, such as agape.

    Pornography is simply about sexual congress. It does not require a plot or characterisation, only a great deal of action. It may be visual, of course. It cannot include emotional elements, because the performers of the sexual acts are merely ciphers, usually recognisable, if at all, by the size, shape and capabilities of their genitalia. It is not about love, nor about human relationships, but simply about different kinds of congress. Good 18th-19th century pornography is often very well-written. Like any other writing, there is good pornography and bad: it doesn't become something else, e.g. erotica, because it is well-written, any more than a charcoal drawing mutates into an oil-painting simply because it is well executed; the genres are different. Pornography may be very successful in arousing sexual responses in both male and female readers. It is absolutely false to claim that only males are attracted to pornography.

    Erotica are works, verbal or visual, that document human relationships, but which concentrate to a major degree on the sexual aspects of those relationships, and the individuals performing the sexual acts are fully realised characters, not ciphers, and their emotions as well as their physical sensations are depicted and described. Naturally, both male and female readers also enjoy well-written erotica.

    It is worth remembering that, because we all have different tastes, what is sexually arousing to one person may not have that effect on another. To use a fairly obvious example, to a fetishist, items that carry no sexual overtones for most people may be highly erotic, and arouse feelings of sexual lust.

    I could say a great deal more about the vital importance of historical context, in particular about Lady Chatterley's Lover and the changes wrought by the 1960 Obscene Publications Act in the UK, but this is more than enough for now. Incidentally, one of the most famous works usually described as pornography is Cleland's 1749 Memoirs of a Lady of Pleasure (=Fanny Hill). This is completely incorrect. Fanny Hill is a romance novel with a very high content of sexual activity, that is, an erotic romance novel.

    3:48 PM  
    Blogger KathyK said...

    As that great French philosopher, Brigitte Bardot said, "The most important sexual organ is the one between your ears."

    There is some truth to Ms. Ann's assertion about aiming for the crotch of men, but both sexes process the stimuli in the brain. Men and women are hard-wired differently and years of experience/survival make different things attractive to people at different times.

    To me, the difference between pornography and erotica is the focus of the work. As Catherine rightly pointed out, pornography is all about the juxtaposition of flesh, not about personality and character. Erotica tells the story of people who having a relationship, of which sex is a part, even an important part.

    Tastes differ. At times I enjoy the English country house murder with limited character development because the plot is so intricate. Other times, I like to read something like blunt trauma on page one followed by 300 pages of character development explaining what got the murderer into that place.

    Somthing similar can be said about pornography. I thought that Ann Rice's Exit and Cinderella series were lacking in plot (other than what who does to whom with what) but they were eye-openers about variety in sexual practice.

    4:25 PM  
    Blogger talpianna said...

    There have been a few discussions of the distinctions between (among?) pornography, erotica, romantica, and romance on the Lunatic Cafe for Romance Readers for those who wish to go there (delphiforums).

    Stella's anecdote reminds me of an old NEW YORKER cartoon which depicts an editor looking across his desk at a typical cartoon old maid (long-sleeved, floor-length black dress, boned net choker collar, gray hair in a bun, spectacles) holding a manuscript, telling her "We feel the New Orleans bordello scenes lack authenticity."

    I strongly recommend The Secret Museum : Pornography in Modern Culture by Walter Kendrick for a scholarly treatment of the subject. According to Kendrick, pornography was considered completely ephemeral and disposable until the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum turned up objects of erotic art. Because they were unique, they were classified as art despite the subject, and displayed in the Secret Museum there. (When we visited Pompeii 50 years ago, my mother and I were not allowed to go in; when we asked my father about it, he said "ladies' night in a Turkish bath.")

    So the classification of pornography as anything at all artistic is fairly recent, although privately published editions and translations of books like the Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden, often illustrated by quite accomplished artists, have been around for centuries. (Ever see Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations for Lysistrata?)

    I myself tend to be turned off by very explicit pornography, especially with explicit language; it always reminds me of the instructions for changing the float in the toilet tank ("Insert flange A into slot B, while holding back C with other hand....").

    Andy Rooney once did one of his little diatribes on romance novels, as usual for such things reading only from one of the sex scenes. He described it as not so much explicit sex as "explicit mush." Works for me. It's the sensory and emotional descriptions that appeal to me, not the gymnastics and gyrations.

    loarc -- Lend out all review copies.

    4:44 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    After posting earlier I admit to wondering where this discussion would go during the day. The distinction of pornography being visual and erotica being, I hesitate to say it, mental, is certainly one way to look at it. I am not sure I agree with pornography being a 'guy thing.'

    I checked online this evening with good ole Merriam for some clarification. Here are definitions they list for Pornography and Erotic.

    Interesting that the etymology of porn is Greek for writing about prostitutes and the definition does not distinguish specifically between visual and verbal. But the definition for erotic/erotica specifies love and desire as opposed to only sexual excitement.

    Does that bring us back full circle with erotica = romance, not pornography?

    If Hustler and Playboy are loosely termed pornography, what would Playgirl be? The articles are not literary in Playgirl, but if memory serves they do detail emotion along with otherworldly sexual escapades.

    6:08 PM  
    Anonymous Julie Rowe said...

    You're right sexy is overused. I would use erotic or risque instead.

    In regards to: pornography or not pornography...well, porn tells a story via pictures, and is illegal in many places.

    Erotica, while also illegal in many places, is all words. It's up to the individual reader with the dirty minds. :-)

    6:42 PM  
    Anonymous Tammy said...

    I have to agree with Elizabeth.

    I've read enough to know what I like and what I don't, at the same time my tastes dont' always agree with my SO's. He's more into visual I'm more into "creating" the visual myself with imagination and words. If that makes sense.

    6:57 PM  
    Blogger DFender said...

    Pornography is legitimate as is Erotica, they're separate entities but due the same amount of respect for their genre.

    Sexy is as sexy does... if it seems sexy to one, it's not necessarily sexy to another. The media should limit their use of the word as it's completely subjective. Interesting, intense, hypnotic, anticlimatic, geez... there are oh so many words, they can pick another.


    7:27 PM  
    Anonymous Ranurgis said...

    A "provocative debate on global warming" can be *sexy*? Who would have "thunk"? Why do people have a tendency to overwork totally inappropriate words? All it does is show a lack of vocabulary. I know mine sometimes does too when I'm too stressed, aching too much, or for a number of other reasons.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is that absolutely meaningless word: "arguably". To my way of thinking, you can argue about anything. So what does it mean if you say, "He is arguably the best horse in the field." The possibilies are endless: probably, possibly, hardly, not even close to, definitely... The list is limitless.

    But that is off the topic. I'll try to get back on it. I know that a literary novel is supposed to have more unintelligible prose with a turn most mortals are apparently unable to achieve or truly find exhilerating. It also does not always have an HEA: the main characters or those close to them are more likely to die or come to some other unsettling end.

    But literary "erotica"? Well, I admit to reading parts of "The Story of O" by Pauline Réage and it was quite different from the sex-manual type of "erotica" we are now getting. However, I have no idea why it was especially "literary" except that it did explore eroticism beyond what is usually found in popular books.

    Nonetheless, it ultimately made me cringe just as much as erotica-pornography, the little I've managed to read before I became tired of it. Neither of these make me feel good or happy for anyone. There is feeling there but not of love or any other positive emotion. I don't want to read about sadism, masochism, or sexual slavery. They are definitely not "feel-good" things. O was really only a sex object and that is what I found most demeaning. Do some women really enjoy that?

    As to pornography and erotica: I guess my feeling has always been pornography is more interested in people who have experiences with multiple partners, not necessarily at the same time but possibly and described it great detail as to the mechanics of the sex act.

    True erotica I've always thought of as exploring eroticism and what sex means in a deeper, more visceral, essential way that does not necessarily include intercourse. Now this is judging by a very limited scope and experience. So I may be totally wrong.

    I haven't read the other entries, except for a little bit of the comment above mine by D. as I'm writing. I agree that words tend to lose their precise meaning when they are overused. I've mentioned "arguably" above and would include "transpire" as "happen" or "occur" which are two perfectly good words and there are probably more expressions like "to take place", the more outmoded "come to pass" that could easily be used. Another word is "balance" which should be used mainly in accounting for "remainder", "rest".

    This is one of my hobby-horses so I'd better quit while I feel like it or I'll go on for hours.

    A very interesting and timely topic, Stella. Are you back from your holiday, blogging from overseas or had you prepared this topic before you left.

    10:34 PM  
    Blogger talpianna said...

    kathyk: Brigitte Bardot, Jean-Paul Sartre--I never can tell them apart.

    Incidently, people, the Anne Rice erotica series is about Sleeping Beauty, not Cinderella. I tried it but was bored. Seemed to be more about humiliation than titillation.

    DFender said: Pornography is legitimate as is Erotica, they're separate entities but due the same amount of respect for their genre.

    I have to disagree. Too much pornography depicts not only the humiliation of women, but violence against them. It's not just the reduction of people to objects, which is bad enough; it's taking pleasure in hurting those "objects." Not all readers of violent pornography become serial killers, of course; but I believe all serial killers, or most, have been found to have an addiction to it.

    I would practically say that if it doesn't have these factors, it's not pornography but erotica; but I'm sure all you experts on the subject would give me an argument.

    Anyway, what do I know about pornography? I don't even have a pornograph....

    bwyien -- But why yell "I enjoy novels!"?

    11:29 PM  
    Blogger DFender said...

    Not all pornography is about humiliation and degredation. There are books touting humilation and degredation, too. Maybe those have graced the bookshelves of serial killers, too?

    You are correct it is the Sleeping Beauty Series by Anne Rice. How could I have mixed up my fairy tales? Humiliation and it's counterparts are certainly in the books and it's up to the author and their readers whether the topic is worthy of several hundred words, wouldn't you think?


    qberzzx... I give up on this one... lol... it's too early in the morning.

    3:30 AM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    "Too much pornography depicts not only the humiliation of women, but violence against them."


    Yes indeed, but let us not forget that there are many people of both sexes who actually get off on being hurt and humiliated. The whole area of what I have defined elsewhere as 'fascist sex' - extreme bondage, flagellation, sado-masochism generally - is alive and well and even being regarded in some circles as almost mainstream.

    There have been very great changes in what is considered acceptable in public writing and art over the last 50 years, and as standards have changed, so have definitions. There is now even a definite tendency in some quarters to label as 'erotic' only the description of practices other than conventional sexual intercourse between lovers with an emotional bond to each other - to regard 'vanilla sex' as non-erotic, in other words, because it is no longer shocking to describe it in graphic detail, as it was until around 40 years ago. This is a misuse of language based on ignorance.

    Erotic writing does not necessarily need to describe physical acts at all; it needs to evoke, in the reader, the sensations of sensual love and desire. Pure physical arousal is not enough; there has to be a focus on a specific partner.

    If we keep the basic etymology of the words in mind, the classifications remain clear, whether we are considering written or visual material: pornography is solely about acts of sexual congress, while erotica is (or more strictly, are) about the sexual dimension of human love. Both may be well executed and may achieve their intended aims, and many, probably most, people of both sexes respond to them. Differences in response to a given stimulus is individual rather than conditioned primarily by the person's sex.

    We all have different trigger points for sensual excitement, and we all think, and read, and observe, differently. Most of us also have varying standards and definitions for the things that we find sensually arousing in theory, and those that work in practice, a dichotomy between fantasy and reality. For example, many people are turned on by the thought of engaging in a sexual act in public, but would actually be turned off by any attempt to enact that fantasy in reality.

    It used to be a basic tenet of belief amongst psychologists that males were more responsive to pictures of sexual activity and women to verbal descriptions: it is not so. It depends on which woman and which man is being studied. There are visual thinkers and verbal thinkers across the board, and these differences of mental processes are not sex-linked.

    3:47 AM  
    Blogger Desiree Erotique said...

    For me, pornography (in the literary sense) is that which arouses the physical without arousing the intellect.
    As far as the medias collapsing or not on the sex issue, they faired pretty well in the age when sex was white-washed in Hollywood, so I think they're always capable of finding some theme to capitalize on.

    5:42 AM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    Julie Rowe: "...well, porn tells a story via pictures".


    Sorry, Julie, I must reiterate this. Pornography does NOT refer only, or even primarily, to pictorial representation. Both pornography and erotica may be communicated in all the principal media, including two-dimensional pictures, sculpture, the written word and stage performance.

    'Telling a story' is something that is not part of pornographic writing; any plot is usually minimal, and the sequence of events consists of a series of vignettes of sexual acts, which could be rearranged in any order without making much difference. Indeed, if there is a clear and meaningful plot that creates a proper story-line with a beginning, a middle and an end, and a cast of characters, each of whom is clearly differentiated and fully realised, then, even if there is wall-to-wall sex, the work is not, strictly, pornography. If one can follow who is doing what to whom and why, it is at the very least high-quality pornography: if one cares, it is not pornography at all.

    I have read far more 18th/19th century pornography and erotica than more recent material, but my main interest is in the evolution of sexual themes in the visual arts. As Tal remarked, the discoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the late 18th century constituted a watershed, but there were several other developments in the period, roughly, from about 1760-1850 that had an equally strong influence on perceptions. The Enlightenment, and the contrary force of the growth of romanticism, together with the increasing power and wealth of the middle classes were all pivotal factors. The existence of overt sexual representation in Graeco-Roman art, decorative arts and literature was very well-known long before the 18th century. The Vesuvian sites forced more people to confront that fact than had previously been the case, but the information was not, by any means, a revelation in itself. The growth of museums at the same period (themselves artefacts of the Enlightenment) made it necessary to confront the issue of 'obscenity' in a new way, because collections of antiquities were no longer always private collections, and this lies behind the evolution of the 'Museum Secretum' concept.

    Oh heck, I wrote a whole book on this in 1982, and it is still in print - I don't know why I am going over it all again here!


    6:19 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Wow… what an interesting post with many, many varying opinions. There are many that we can remark on, but I’m going to take a stab at replying to this one…

    “Then one day, someone (read lonely virgin here) decided that sex was bad and no one was allowed to enjoy it in any form.”

    Speaking as a lonely adult virgin, let me say that most virgins I know (there are more of us out there than you realize… careful, or we might take over the world! Bwahh…Haaa… Haaa) don’t all believe sex to be bad at all, and we typically hate being considered an outcast for whatever reason that we have chosen not to indulge in the sexual act.

    Here is my point: I cannot determine what is pornographic or erotic any more than someone can determine my celibacy is odd or strange. I have been exposed to both genres as they are classified and have walked away unscathed. I have viewed beautiful nude art while standing next to someone who found it shameful, tacky and pornographic. I have witnessed firsthand that an obsession with pornography can lead to a person’s mental downfall… then again, I have witnessed what an obsession with alcohol, drugs, food, (fill in the blank_____) can do as well.

    I believe the human body to be a beautiful landscape… each one possessing different qualities and traits. Each landscape sculpted and to be held in the highest esteem. I believe (and I don’t think I just read this somewhere) that the sexual act is an incredible experience and I hope to one day experience it myself and perhaps to even be “bad, bad, bad!” (oops… perhaps I digressed a bit)

    As far as erotica equaling relationship, again I’ll balk at that (or maybe the erotica I’ve read is just pornography given a different name). The erotica I read had little to do with relationship. It was just a steamier version of a couple’s sexual appetite… and perhaps I just haven’t been exposed to enough erotica to know the difference between what is good and what is bad. Big words don’t necessarily impress me.

    I enjoy reading. I love the authors who are part of this post. I want strong characters with wit and intelligence and drive. I expect those strong characters to have a strong sexual appetite. If they did not, they would not be consistent. Do I need to read big words that will inflame my passions all the more? Not necessarily. I have read authors whose focus and characters are inconsistent, and that is more of a headache/frustration than what I would imagine the best erotica could be. Give me a great story with wonderful characters and hot, sweaty sex anytime over a wham, bam, thank-you-ma’m story any day.

    I guess I believe this is just in the mind of the beholder, and I really just want to live in a happy, peaceful place… maybe with those still-unattached Donovan men. Elizabeth, can you hook me up?

    7:59 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Me,(the other anonymous)- guess I'll have to log in ...

    They can have "hot topic," but give us back, "sexy."

    There you go! Because sex sells we see it attached to everything from cars to hot topics. Haven't both pornography and erotica changed significantly in direct proportion to how much of either we "see" on a daily basis?

    For instance, what we see on tv has to some extent desensitized us. We've come a long way from those black and white Dick Van Dyke show separate beds (love tvland). Aren't these genres evolving to keep up with the Joneses? No pun intended.

    As a result, do we expect pornography to be violent and visual? Erotica more sexy and stimulating?

    9:40 AM  
    Blogger Lauren Dane said...

    Elizabeth - Lovely and I would love to quote this the next time this disucssion comes up.

    I write erotica - specifically, erotic romance. I don't write porn. And I don't mind pornography in general (although a great deal of it is low quality misogynistic drek).

    For me, the difference is that the focus of erotica is on the sensual experience of connection between the parties. In erotic romance, certainly about their romantic connection.

    Pornography is about the physical connection - be it written or visual. It's about the titilation of Tab A/Slot B and the connection emotionally is not very often shown or cared about.

    The value of pornography is specific to titilaton. Although there are mavericks out there like Comstock Films which aim to create "romantic" porn and IMO, do a pretty darned good job.

    The value of literary erotica is about the story and the sex. Often the characters learn from the sexual encounter. Titilation is sure to happen but it's not the end all and be all.

    Erotic romance is about the characters connecting and coming together (no pun intended). Certainly, I hope my readers are titilated. If they are, I've done my job. But titilation is not my sole ain. I'm trying to tell a story about the people involved. I want them to learn and grow.

    That's just my particular perspective. YMMV.

    9:46 AM  
    Blogger Denise Misencik said...

    Hmmm. Stella, do they sell this particular 'can of worms' at some local store? *grin*

    I think you'll find as many different opinions on this topic as you will on subjects such as religion and politics. Everyone has their own thoughts and beliefs most of which were probably instilled in us as children... at some level.

    Any group of highly competent (or incompentent, for that matter) people can sit down and watch the same movie or read the same book/article and have completely differing opinions on whether or not it was good. "Good" in itself is subjective. What's good to some (being turned on physically by what they watch/read) may not be good to others (who prefer being mentally stimulated by a twisty-turny plot with no sex at all). And there are those who want to have BOTH the mental and physcial stimulation when they are engrossed in a book or movie.

    Yes, I've read both Exit and the Sleeping Beauty series by Anne Rice/Roquelaure and I enjoyed them. Let's face it, how is the underlying plot through the Beauty series really any different from any other romance based novel, other then that there are a lot more partners, mind boggling contraptions, and fruits being placed where no fruit should have to go... But basically the heroine is kidnapped, meets her soul mate somewhere along the line, gets separated from him, finds her own inner strength, finds the hero again, and they live happily ever after while pouring hot candle wax on one another. I mean really, isn't that - sans the candle wax and fruit - the basis for a lot of romance driven novels?

    A wise woman once said "there are no new plots, just new twists on the old ones"... or something to that effect.

    My point is this, (I knew I had a point somewhere) it all comes down to opinion. I would much rather read a well written piece of "literary pornography" or "erotica" or whatever nomenclature "they" choose to give it than a poorly written mainstream novel any day of the week. To say one is better than the other by virtue of what category it falls into is, in my opinion, very un-sexy . *grin*
    Lord knows it takes talent to write a good toe-curling love/sex scene. It's hard to do that without suffocating in a cloud of purple prose... my critique partners will tell you they've had to give me literary CPR on more than one occasion when I've tried to heat up the sheets (or the coach seat as the case may be.)

    I think the writers who produce literary pornography or erotica are every bit as legitimate as the ones who write mainstream romance, mystery romance, contemporary romance, whatever genre you choose. There is talent and non-talent in every genre and sub-genre. Personally, I think if you can sit down and write a piece of fiction that stimulates even one person (other than yourself), you've accomplished SOMEthing.

    I'm done now.

    10:08 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    To me, pornography is visual, and aimed at a man's crotch.

    Erotica is verbal, and aimed at a woman's brain.

    Well that pretty much says how I feel Ms. Lowell! As with everything you do - well said ;)

    And I love how Ms. Cameron wrapped it up:
    Pornography=visual male turn on.
    Erotica=female brain food.

    Cute :)

    6:54 PM  
    Anonymous AgTigress said...

    "To me, pornography is visual, and aimed at a man's crotch.
    Erotica is verbal, and aimed at a woman's brain."


    Yes, an enviably witty and elegant turn of phrase. Only problem is, the definition is, quite simply, incorrect.


    2:54 AM  
    Blogger Kimberly said...

    There is seemingly, always, this need to validate the expression of female sensuality. Not necessarily a problem with the expression of her sexuality. They’re two sides of the same coin. Excuse me while I wax ;)

    Women have been subjugated throughout the history of the world, regardless of race, class, socio-economic status. As a therapist (before my writing days) I worked with women, particularly had an interest in abuse victims. No matter the race or class and no matter what her status, there were underlying themes, issues, that bound them, us, together. What was one major theme? The sexual domination of males over females. Physically, spiritually, mentally…any of the major lly’s. Mind you, I’m writing about abused women, however this theme of subjugation, particularly sexually, is amazing. It is prevalent even when there is no abuse. It is layered so thickly, yet subtly, throughout our culture, that it is at times difficult to “see” we have become so used to it being a part of our lives as women. We no longer question things that perhaps we should.

    So what happens when a few chicks start saying, thinking…hmmm. How about I write a romantic book, great plot, wonderful story line…and when it comes to the love scenes, I go all out. I mean, I let ‘em go buck wild, and write it real. How about I don’t call it his manrod, don’t call it her velvet sheath…naw…

    How about I call it his cock, his dick…his magic stick (okay, so I think magic stick is funny) and hers is her pussy, vagina, snatch (I am the ONLY female reader I know who finds this word, somehow appealing, so forgive that one) And then I leave the bedroom door open and allow the reader to enjoy the ride along with the couple (forgive that nasty bit about the whole “enjoying the ride” what can I say, I write it hot with NO shame in my game)

    Why keep trying to validate? When a male author puts a sex scene, graphic at that, in a novel, I don’t see the constant need to try and label it from the publisher or public. It is what it is. A novel (whatever genre) and when it comes to sex scenes, just like a good murder scene, I like it real! Give it to me! I can take it; I’m a big girl. Well. Maybe a bit too big if I keep eating these little Debbie oatmeal crème pies I can’t seem to give up. In the end, the labeling is just another way to subjugate women and it’s too bad that many women not only allow this to happen in an industry where WE should be in control, but many are the main ones leading the march, dogging other women writers for expressing sensuality in the way that is real. There is room at the table. Just as there are various, wonderfully eclectic taste in readers, from those who like it sweet in a romance, to those who like it get down dirty don’t make me hurt you if you don’t give up the goodies, romance. Giggle. I’m in the latter category. I freely, without shame, once again, admit this.

    I like this:

    “To me, pornography is visual, and aimed at a man's crotch.

    Erotica is verbal, and aimed at a woman's brain.”

    But I would say that an expression of sensuality is pornographic at times and very visual and that’s okay! Erotica is verbal and very mental and sensual and that’s cool. The combination? Rocks my world as a reader and ultimately as a writer, it’s how I flow…

    4:53 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    To me, pornography is about the mechanics - put tab A into slot B. Erotica is about the emotional context; about the caresses and time to savor scents and the various levels of connections between 2 lovers (who can be any combination of genders).

    Put another way - porn is the release, erotica is the pleasure.

    5:17 AM  
    Blogger Tony Comstock said...

    "Pornography" is rapidly on its way to becoming as meaningless a word as "erotica" or "literary".

    However, "good", "bad", "entertaining", and "dull" are still useful descriptors.


    2:28 PM  
    Blogger Chez said...

    An ass is an ass, but an arse is no donkey *g*

    1:48 AM  
    Blogger Irishpixie said...

    EL wrote:

    "To me, pornography is visual, and aimed at a man's crotch.

    Erotica is verbal, and aimed at a woman's brain."


    agtigress wrote:

    Yes, an enviably witty and elegant turn of phrase. Only problem is, the definition is, quite simply, incorrect.


    Pixie writes:

    In my thought process and the world I grew up in, I tend to agree more with EL's statement. Which by the way is brilliantly witty and eloquent.

    Pornography seems to be the visual concept while erotica teases the brain with nuances.

    I don't think it can be called incorrect out-of-hand.

    Quite simply it comes down to what one person's perception of pornography/erotica demands. Webster's declares pornography/erotica as one definition, experience declares them as another.

    There is no right or wrong here, only perception.

    1:21 AM  
    Blogger Cara North said...

    I just wanted to share this comment on the word "sexy". My husband is a US Marine and two days ago he was talking baout promotions and deployments and he made the comment, "We all want to do something sexy." I laughed and asked if he would do the dishes, that seemed sexy to me. He clarified that "Sexy" meant really beefing up the service record book SRB, with schools, deployments, really doing something or going somewhere. I knew what he meant, but the term just tickled me. So not only does it include global warming it includes the military.

    2:51 PM  
    Blogger DelorumRex said...

    Hey nice.. I have been working on a story. part funny, part erotic. If you get a chance cum by and take a look.
    Duke Lacrosse Private Eye

    1:58 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I love Elizabeth's definition! Though, in today's world...with gender equality making sex a topic for both male and female...I'd alter it slightly to say that 'pornography is aimed at the crotch and erotic literature is aimed at the brain.'

    Either definition would probably pass legal muster in US courts from what I can tell from my research.

    10:43 AM  

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