Friday, August 31, 2012

Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Erotica

"Sex is only dirty when it's done right." ~ Woody Allen

We have a basic understanding of what is it that makes a love scene and in this post, we are going to explore literary intimacy as portrayed through erotica.  We'll explore the purpose of such writing as well as what it is about it that takes it to the next level and sets erotica apart from it's PG13 predecessor: the romance novel.  

First up, I would like to illustrate that there is a difference between erotica and something being erotic.  Many novels, short stories, poems and the like have erotic scenes and themes and are not what one would call erotica.  In Bret Easton Ellis' novel, American Psycho, there are gratuitous and explicit sex scenes as well as grisly depictions of violence, but even amid the gore and pornographic images, there are various erotic elements meant to bring about some sort of visceral response from the reader.  Also, Oscar Wilde's, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is indisputable a highly erotic novel but it is in no way considered erotica.

To be considered erotica, a novel must feature Eros (the Greek word and ideal which indicates physical intimacy).  Whereas a romance novel focuses on the love between characters and is at liberty to downplay or completely omit sexual intercourse, an erotica piece, ideally, focuses heavily on the sex and all things surrounding the sex.  This isn't to say that the sex scenes in such a piece lack meaning.  In fact, in most erotica pieces the sex is not only a key ingredient to character interaction but also an essential part of the plot.  Common themes in erotica include seduction, entrapment, submission, dominance, self-discovery, sexual liberation, sexual deprivation, and the breaking of taboos.  When a reader sits down to read an erotic piece, they should expect to be turned on.  Subtle euphemisms are replaced with harsher, bolder language meant to arouse and viscerally stimulate the reader.  One could argue that pornography does the same thing, however there is a distinction between pornographic material and erotic material.   Former pornographic actress, Gloria Leonard, asserts that, "The difference between pornography and erotica is the lighting."  Nothing could be truer in my opinion.  There is a very fine line between these two art forms and it all comes down to presentation and delivery.  Literary pornography is sex sans plot that stymies the imagination through a decided lack of the essentials of refined writing; erotica is sex as part of plot or as the goal of the plot and, whether the scene be raunchy or tasteful, it encourages the reader's imagination through use of vivid and exciting vocabulary and literary elements.

Something to keep in mind is that sex has a very broad definition and in erotica we often find this definition taken to new places.  It is possible to have an erotica story that lacks traditional penetration (though this is not typically the case).  The story might involve BDSM elements such as impact play, fire play, or other various sexual and erotic practices that never actually graduate to intercourse.  Other erotic tales, particularly of the vampire sort, might embrace sexuality in the from of gore or through exploration of the idea of feeding and being fed.  Love in Vein, a collection of vampire erotica brought together and edited by Poppy Z. Brite, delves into the multiple facets of eroticism through sex, parasitic existence, horror, violence, music and other elements, and through all of this the main goal is to entertain and arouse.  That is what fundamentally sets erotica apart from love scenes: love scenes make your tummy warm, erotica makes your blood hot.  There are love scenes that accomplish arousal and there is erotica that deals with love, but at their core, one appeals to the reader's emotional side, while the other appeals to the reader's physical side.


Part one and part three of this article are listed below:

Love Scenes VS. Erotica: The Love Scene
Love Scenes VS. Erotica: Pillow Talk


American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1991, can be purchased at

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, published in 1890, can be purchased at and can be downloaded as a free audio book here.

Love in Vein, edited by Poppy Z. Brite, published in 1995, can be purchased at

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012

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