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Fernande (1910-1917) French postcard by Jean Agelou Fernande (vintage nude photo).jpg
Fernande (1910–1917) French postcard by Jean Agélou

Erotica is literature or art that deals substantively with subject matter that is erotic, sexually stimulating or sexually arousing. Some critics regard pornography as a type of erotica, but many consider it to be different. Erotic art may use any artistic form to depict erotic content, including painting, sculpture, drama, film or music. Erotic literature and erotic photography have become genres in their own right. Erotica also exists in a number of subgenres including gay erotica, lesbian erotica, women's erotica, bondage erotica, monster erotica and tentacle erotica.


Curiosa are curiosities or rarities, especially unusual or erotic books. [1] In the antiquarian book trade, pornographic works are often listed under "curiosa", "erotica" or "facetiae".[ citation needed ]

Ancient erotic sculpture from Ptolomeic Egypt. Sculpture of Erotic Group, 305-30 B.C.E..jpg
Ancient erotic sculpture from Ptolomeic Egypt.

Erotica and pornography

A distinction is often made between erotica and pornography (and the lesser-known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry), although some viewers may not distinguish between them. A key distinction, some have argued, is that pornography's objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes. At the same time, erotica "seeks to tell a story that involves sexual themes" that include a more plausible depiction of human sexuality than in pornography. [2] Additionally, works considered degrading or exploitative tend to be classified by those who see them as such, as "porn" rather than as "erotica" and consequently, pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading. [2] [3] Many countries have laws banning or at least regulating what is considered pornographic material, a situation that generally does not apply to erotica.[ citation needed ]

For the anti-pornography activist Andrea Dworkin, "Erotica is simply high-class pornography; better produced, better conceived, better executed, better packaged, designed for a better class of consumer." [4] Feminist writer Gloria Steinem distinguishes erotica from pornography, writing: "Erotica is as different from pornography as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain." Steinem's argument hinges on the distinction between reciprocity versus domination, as she writes: "Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating the other." [5] [6] [7]

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eroticism</span> Quality that causes sexual feelings

Eroticism is a quality that causes sexual feelings, as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality, and romantic love. That quality may be found in any form of artwork, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music, or literature. It may also be found in advertising. The term may also refer to a state of sexual arousal or anticipation of such – an insistent sexual impulse, desire, or pattern of thoughts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hardcore pornography</span> Explicit graphical depictions of sexual acts

Hardcore pornography, or hardcore porn, is pornography that features detailed depictions of sexual organs or sexual acts such as vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, fingering, anilingus, ejaculation, and fetish play. The term is in contrast with less-explicit softcore pornography. Hardcore pornography usually takes the form of photographs, films, and cartoons. Since the mid-1990s, hardcore pornography has become widely available on the internet, making it more accessible than ever before.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography in Japan</span> Overview of pornography in Japan

Pornography in Japan has unique characteristics that readily distinguish it from western pornography. Pornographic films are known as "adult videos" (AV) in Japan, so Japanese adult videos are "JAV", referring to the Japanese pornographic film industry. Animated films are referred to as hentai in English, but in Japan the terms "adult anime" and "erotic animation" are used. In addition to pornographic videos and magazines featuring live actors, there are now categories of pornographic manga and anime, and pornographic computer games.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Erotic art</span> Visual art created for incite sexual arousal and activity

Erotic art is a broad field of the visual arts that includes any artistic work intended to evoke erotic arousal. It usually depicts human nudity or sexual activity, and has included works in various visual mediums, including drawings, engravings, films, paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Some of the earliest known works of art include erotic themes, which have recurred with varying prominence in different societies throughout history. However, it has also been widely considered taboo, with either social norms or laws restricting its creation, distribution, and possession. This is particularly the case when it is deemed pornographic, immoral, or obscene.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Erotic literature</span> Literary genre

Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of eros intended to arouse similar feelings in readers. This contrasts erotica, which focuses more specifically on sexual feelings. Other common elements are satire and social criticism. Much erotic literature features erotic art, illustrating the text.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tentacle erotica</span> Sensual art genre involving tentacles or pseudopods

Tentacle erotica or tentacle rape is a type of pornography most commonly found in Japan which integrates traditional pornography with elements of bestiality and a fantasy, horror, or science-fiction theme. It is found in some horror or hentai titles, with tentacled creatures having sexual intercourse, predominantly with females, or to lesser extent, males. Tentacle erotica can be consensual but mostly contains elements of rape.

Sex-positive feminism, also known as pro-sex feminism, sex-radical feminism, or sexually liberal feminism, is a feminist movement centering on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women's freedom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Opposition to pornography</span> Overview of opposing views to pornography

Reasons for opposition to pornography include religious objections and feminist concerns, as well as alleged harmful effects, such as pornography addiction. Pornography addiction is not a condition recognized by the DSM-5, or the ICD-11. Anti-pornography movements have allied disparate social activists in opposition to pornography, from social conservatives to harm reduction advocates. The definition of "pornography" varies between countries and movements, and many make distinctions between pornography, which they oppose, and erotica, which they consider acceptable. Sometimes opposition will deem certain forms of pornography more or less harmful, while others draw no such distinctions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lesbian erotica</span> Visual art depiction of female-to-female sexuality

Lesbian erotica deals with depictions in the visual arts of lesbianism, which is the expression of female-on-female sexuality. Lesbianism has been a theme in erotic art since at least the time of ancient Rome, and many regard depictions of lesbianism to be erotic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethnic pornography</span> Genre of pornography that depicts a specific ethnic group of performers

Ethnic pornography is a genre of pornography featuring performers of specific ethnic groups, or depictions of interracial sexual activity. Though productions can feature any type of ethnic group, the most common emphasis in Western countries is on relationships between white- and black-skinned individuals.

Cartoon pornography, or animated pornography, is the portrayal of illustrated or animated fictional cartoon characters in erotic or sexual situations. Animated cartoon pornography or erotic animation, is a subset of the larger field of adult animation, not all of which is sexually explicit.

<i>Intercourse</i> (book) 1987 book by Andrea Dworkin

Intercourse is the fifth nonfiction book by American radical feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin. It was first published in 1987 by Free Press. In Intercourse, Dworkin presents a radical feminist analysis of sexual intercourse in literature and society.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pornography</span> Portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual arousal

Pornography is the portrayal of sexual subject matter for the exclusive purpose of sexual arousal. Primarily intended for adults, pornography is presented in a variety of media, including magazines, art, literature, photography, audio, film, animation, and video games. A distinction is often made as to whether to classify adult content as pornography or erotica.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of erotic depictions</span> Aspect of history

The history of erotic depictions includes paintings, sculpture, photographs, dramatic arts, music and writings that show scenes of a sexual nature throughout time. They have been created by nearly every civilization, ancient and modern. Early cultures often associated the sexual act with supernatural forces and thus their religion is intertwined with such depictions. In Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan and China, representations of sex and erotic art have specific spiritual meanings within native religions. The ancient Greeks and Romans produced much art and decoration of an erotic nature, much of it integrated with their religious beliefs and cultural practices.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bisexual pornography</span> Pornography depicting bisexuality

Bisexual pornography is a genre of pornography that most typically depicts men and at least one woman who all perform sex acts on each other. A sex scene involving women and one man who all perform sex acts on each other is generally not identified or labeled as bisexual.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andrea Dworkin</span> American feminist writer and activist (1946–2005)

Andrea Rita Dworkin was an American radical feminist writer and activist best known for her analysis of pornography. Her feminist writings, beginning in 1974, span 30 years. They are found in a dozen solo works: nine books of non-fiction, two novels, and a collection of short stories. Another three volumes were co-written or co-edited with US Constitutional law professor and feminist activist, Catharine A. MacKinnon.

Feminist views on pornography range from total condemnation of the medium as an inherent form of violence against women to an embracing of some forms as a medium of feminist expression. This debate reflects larger concerns surrounding feminist views on sexuality, and is closely related to those on prostitution, BDSM, and other issues. Pornography has been one of the most divisive issues in feminism, particularly in Anglophone (English-speaking) countries. This division was exemplified in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s, which pitted anti-pornography activists against pro-pornography ones.

Feminism has affected culture in many ways, and has famously been theorized in relation to culture by Angela McRobbie, Laura Mulvey and others. Timothy Laurie and Jessica Kean have argued that "one of [feminism's] most important innovations has been to seriously examine the ways women receive popular culture, given that so much pop culture is made by and for men." This is reflected in a variety of forms, including literature, music, film and other screen cultures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sex in film</span> Sex in mainstream film

Sex in film, the presentation of aspects of sexuality in film, specially human sexuality, has been controversial since the development of the medium. Films which display or suggest sexual behavior have been criticized by religious groups or have been banned or censored by governments, although attitudes have changed much along the years and a more permissive social environment has developed in certain parts of the world, notably in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. In countries with a film rating system, films which contain explicit sex scenes typically receive a restricted classification. Nudity in film may be regarded as sexual or as non-sexual.

Feminist pornography is a genre of film developed by or for those within the Sex-positive feminist movement. It was created for the purpose of promoting gender equality by portraying more bodily movements and sexual fantasies of women and members of the LGBT Community.


  1. "Curiosa (plural noun)". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 1 December 2022.
  2. 1 2 "Erotica Is Not Pornography". William J. Gehrke. The Tech. December 10, 1996.
  3. "Don't confuse erotica with porn". Jug Suraiya. The Times of India . August 15, 2004.
  4. Dworkin, Andrea (1981). Pornography: Men Possessing Women. p. 39. ISBN   978-0-399-12619-2.
  5. Steinem, Gloria (1984). Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1 ed.). New York: Henry Holt & Co. p. 219.
  6. "Erotica and Pornography: A Clear and Present Difference". Ms. November 1978. p. 53.
  7. "Pornography—Not Sex but the Obscene Use of Power". Ms. August 1977. p. 43.

Further reading