Erotica or Porn?

couple kissing on kitchen counterDefinitions:

Erotica or Erotic Romance – Romance stories with sex. Must have a HEA (Happily Ever After) or HFN (Happy for Now) ending. Largely romantic fantasy. What some refer to as ‘mommy porn’, which it’s not. Mommy sex perhaps, but not porn. See below.

Pornography – stories about sex, usually without emotion beyond the sex drives of the participants.

(definitions based on consensus of opinions among various romance/erotic writers)

What prompted the question and this post was a discussion on National Public Radio regarding the terrible events in Cleveland OH, and the three girls held captive there. Somehow in the course of the discussion the subject of porn came up and a woman caller referenced 50 Shades of Grey.

Now, I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of 50 Shades for a number of reasons, but most of them are personal. I’m not a big fan of the BDSM lifestyle portrayed in it either – I’m not fond of the idea of calling anyone master – but I do know of those who live it and like it, and that there are rules associated with it regarding safety and trust. What I do know is that 50 Shades isn’t porn.

I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of men writing what they define as erotica – and not m/m (male on male).

Out of curiosity I took the time to read a little of what a few men described as erotica – but wasn’t. The primary difference between erotica and porn is objectivization – treating the woman as a sex object, not a person, with little attention paid to her pleasure. In one particular story the woman almost reluctantly accepts an invitation to sex with multiple partners, and then notices one of them looking at her with pleasure at her ‘shame’. At no time did any of the men involved seem concerned with her satisfaction. The classic definition of porn.

(Disclaimer: Under my pen name I’ve written about multiple sex partners. I have no problem with the idea, I don’t indulge, but I have no problem with it. Everyone has a good time and no ‘shame’  is involved. It’s fantasy.)

Erotica or erotic romance has exploded as a genre, and as more and more women take ownership of their sexuality, even give themselves the right to enjoy it on their own terms.

At the same time several erotica publishers have opened their doors to so-called ‘rape’ fantasies. Most of which are really just domination or surrender fantasies, not uncommon in a society with such mixed messages about sexuality that some women need to surrender their right to make those decisions. It’s not the same thing as rape. As an example of both sides, an editor of mine had an issue with a character in one of my books. The idea that an intelligent woman might be in enough control of her own sexuality to have a possible one-night stand with a sexy, wealthy businessman and his equally sexy cousin didn’t work for her, so she changed it so that he took away her will to say no – the equivalent to giving her a date-rape drug. It was an enormous betrayal. Not the best way to begin a relationship. It was even more egregious because she was a cop.

The comment on NPR is even more interesting when one considers that around the world women are fighting for their basic freedoms, including that of their sexuality. That includes, sadly, the US, where women are trying to gain parity with men over contraception vs. erectile dysfunction drugs, even as some legislatures attempt to redefine rape to NOT include incapacitation. There seems to be almost a backlash against women.

In the US erotic romance is one of the fastest growing genres (now falling slightly behind YA). On the other hand, there was tremendous outcry over the rape of a woman in India at almost the same time that a similar rape occurred in Ohio. At the same time, rape has become the standard around the world  and in the US military.

Now there is a justifiable outcry over the abuse and imprisonment of those girls/young women in Cleveland, and one of the comments made is about the prevalence of porn. Which by the way had been going down, not up – until some discovered that changing the name to erotic or erotica made it more palatable. Not that there is any evidence (yet) that the perpetrator in Cleveland was into porn. And it’s highly unlikely he read 50 Shades of Grey – which was, as is most BDSM, consensual and romantic, being admittedly fan fiction based on Twilight with more sex and bondage.

Personally I hope erotica continues to grow and thrive so that any woman who wants can have her mommy porn, and so can anyone in between.

So, what do erotica and porn have to do with what happened in Cleveland? Absolutely nothing…

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Valerie Douglas is a prolific writer and genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. She reads and writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance. Who knows what will pop up down the road!

Happily married, she’s companion to two dogs, three cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper who delights in tormenting the cats from his tank.

Valerie Douglas is the co-founder and one of the administrators of the 12,000+ member Indie Author Group – supporting writers around the world.
Visit her blog at Valerie Douglas, Author at Large

0 thoughts on “Erotica or Porn?

  1. Interesting article,.I.agreed.with you up till you said there was “seemingly” a backlash against women, and then only disagreed with the modifier. Interesting points about the different responses to rape, as well.

  2. Erotica vs. Porn. All of my books (except the kids’ book about a baby horse) have sex in them. Hopefully, my readers find it pretty hot sex. I recently wrote a book that sort-of qualified a romance, so I joined some FB groups for romance writers. A top romance author said, “Come to my website and read my new novel.” So I did. It wasn’t eroticism, it was perversion; a healthy desire/drive turned to appalling destructive behavior. I recently read an article by another famous romance writer. She said something to the effect of, “Well, if my book is perversion, then I’m a pervert.” Her words had a proud tone. This doesn’t acknowledge reality: Perverts are the guys who locked the women in the cellar. Being a pervert isn’t cool. I don’t feel any ownership or acknowledgment of the damage that real perversion does and how many women and children (and men?) are harmed by it. People who have been sexually abused know that being locked up in a cellar isn’t hot entertainment. Neither is a lot of what’s included in romance or erotica. This stuff hurts and degrades everyone involved. I’d like to see the industry get real about what it’s depicting.

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