In my quest to research and read more about all aspects of sexuality–and also find some good, entertaining erotica to read–I’m happy to have found a site called Adventurotica, which features not only erotic fiction but also essays about various sexual topics. While as a scholar I’ll read darn near anything out of curiosity or to analyze its social relevance, as a sex-positive feminist I am deeply concerned with how the fiction I read presents sexuality: is sex something that just happens to women, something that women actively pursue, or what? I’m pleased with how the authors at Adventurotica represent women’s desire (and men’s, too!) as fluid and something to be explored and enjoyed. Ranging from short stories to serialized novels, from vanilla sex to increasingly kinky scenes, the fiction is overall fun, and well-written too (thank goodness, since I can’t get into a story if it’s poorly written!).
So while the fiction is neat, I also really dig the analytical essays, for instance, this one on the difference between erotica and porn (hint: it’s more subjective than you think!). The author, Amanda Gannon, smartly deconstructs the idea that erotica is somehow more artistic than porn, which is obscene or unappealing or whatever. Rather, people tend to distinguish between the two on a purely personal basis: “Erotica is what turns me on. Porn is what those perverts over there use to get off.” Implied in the mainstream distinction between erotica and porn, then, is a judgment of other people’s fantasies and sexualities, which is rude and uncalled for, assuming that other people are going about things consensually and safely.
Moreover, whether something is counted as erotica or porn has a definite impact on who can access it, where it can be sold, if it’s censored, and so on. Artistic works are more likely to be protected if they can be described as erotic rather than pornographic, which is a problem for the producers and consumers of said works! As the author sums it up:
The presence or lack of artistic significance and quality production does not determine whether something is pornographic or erotic, and it is wrong to assign greater value and greater protection to the palatable things that are labeled “erotica,” and ghettoizing “porn.”
I think it’s more productive to frame these kinds of discussions as being about the various kinds of art about sex, rather than trying to label everything (which, as I said above, can be kinda judgmental). If the stuff you like is “erotica” but everything else is just “porn,” it can be hard to have a conversation about sexual preferences if you’re not even using the same language as someone!
The author also touches on a concept I’m a fan of: the notion that you can find pretty much anything sexy, and not have it represent who you are as a person. She writes: “Some of the things I find it diverting to think about are disgusting and filthy (no, they really, really are), but those tastes aren’t wrong, nor do they reflect badly upon me, because no matter what my fantasies might be like, I would never actually go sexin’ up any living being that had not or could not give consent.” I think it’s wonderful that more and more people are openly discussing how while their sexual fantasies are a part of them, the content of their fantasies has no bearing on whether or not they’re a good or moral person.
At any rate, thought-provoking blog posts like the erotica vs. porn one are free to all readers, while a paid membership ($5/month) is required to read the fiction (roughly 25% of each novel is free), since the authors need to eat.
Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Follow Jeana, the author of this post, @foxyfolklorist.