Many of our opponents suggest that because the boundary between porn and erotica cannot be perfectly defined, that it’s hopeless to try. Many pornographers would like to fudge the issue to make their products seem more acceptable. Nevertheless, useful distinctions can be made. Writer’s Digest explores the issues in “On The Edge: The Power of Titillation”:
“There’s now more confusion about what erotica is,” says Vastiana Belfon, managing director of London-based Brown Skin Books. “On one hand, there are attempts by those selling pornography to hijack the term, and on the other, you find romance marketed as erotica…”
“I think that some publishers rushed out material that was just writing about sex rather than erotic,” Belfon says. “There’s a huge difference. Many writers submitting material to us believe that just because they know how sex works, they can put it down on paper and, somehow, that will be erotic. They’re so wrong. It takes a great deal of hard work, thought, intelligence and creativity, as well as an understanding of the writer’s craft to make sex erotic.”
Today’s erotica market is quite different from the 1940s when Anais Nin wrote the stories in Delta of Venus for $1 a page… Today more erotica is being released, and the term is more freely used. But the spirit of the work—sexual journeys ripe with character development—is largely the same…
…[A]ll these writers see a clear distinction between erotica and pornography. “To me, pornography’s chief purpose is masturbatory,” Campion says. “I’m not judging it. I’m simply arguing that this is its sole function. It’s graphic for the immediate payoff. There’s no art to it because there’s no need. Erotica can end at arousal but doesn’t have to, and because it tries to speak to us on multiple levels, recognizing that arousal can be mental as much as physical; it can aspire to art.”
Many erotica writers spend little time crafting sex scenes. “I have to start with the premise,” Campion says of her writing process. “It has to be one that can stand up on its own without erotic content.” Then she figures out what drives the sex scenes. “The characters can’t simply fall into bed every 20 pages,” she says. “You still need motivation for them to come together.” Whenever Zane comes to a sex scene, she simply types: “insert sex scene here” in a big, bold font. She writes dialogue first and continues developing her characters and plots. Her sex scenes are always written last…
See also this discussion from Porn vs. Erotica, in our left-hand sidebar:
We distinguish porn, which is generally harmful, from erotica, which
can be harmless or even beneficial. The distinction is not absolute,
but we suggest that erotica is that which supports love (examples), and porn is that which destroys love (examples). An article in The Guardian suggests that porn is much more about power and domination than erotica is…
A complex work of art may have characteristics from both groups. It
might be hard to apply a simple label to it. However, most porn is not
that complex. You will not find much Henry Miller or Anais Nin in your
typical porn shop.
While erotica may empower women, porn disempowers them. This is easy to see in the workplace, where porn has been used to harass and intimidate female coworkers.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between porn and erotica has to do with the long-term effect on the viewer, as well as the conditions
under which the entertainment was made. By educating people as to the
potential harms of adult materials, we hope they can look inside
themselves to judge the healthiness of their media diet.