Porn vs. Erotica: What Gets Me Off

Porn vs. Erotica: What Gets Me Off

What is the difference between porn and erotica? If there is a distinction, is it generic or moral? Five WWAC staffers explore the question, their own preferences in sex and sexual media. Do you enjoy porn or erotica? Both? Neither? Wendy Browne: My preference is erotica, but porn has its place from time to time. Ginnis Tonik:

What is the difference between porn and erotica? If there is a distinction, is it generic or moral? Five WWAC staffers explore the question, their own preferences in sex and sexual media.

Do you enjoy porn or erotica? Both? Neither?

Wendy Browne: My preference is erotica, but porn has its place from time to time.

Ginnis Tonik: Generally erotica, because contemporary porn is still largely hetero male-centric.

Cathryn Sinjin-Starr: It depends on the mood I’m in, but I do enjoy both, if I can find something that appeals to me.

Sarah Richardson: I like both. Like Cathryn, it largely depends on what mood I’m in.

Al Rosenberg: Definitely both. I go through phases where I like one or the other for months at a time.

What is the difference between porn and erotica?

Wendy: To me, pornography is about the down and dirty. Movies might try to spice it up with great 80s soundtracks and attempts at plot and character development, but the most important creativity is really just the different positions and combinations a director can think up in order to get the viewer off. Erotica, on the other hand, is a more sensual exploration and appreciation of sex, sexuality, the human body, and the pleasure that they can bring.

Ginnis: I agree with Wendy, and I think there is often a greater respect for the body in erotica or even a reverence, which is why when you do find porn that is not hetero male-centric it can be really exciting because sometimes you don’t want the reverence, you want “down and dirty” but there still should be mutual respect in that.

[pullquote]I think erotica, especially in literary form, definitely allows for more fantasies, particularly fantasies that are socially taboo. Often these taboo fantasies are fun and safe outlets, but making it visual makes it “too real,” and then it doesn’t seem like a safe space to explore the taboo. Ginnis[/pullquote]

Cathryn: Mine isn’t too different from Wendy and Ginnis. I view porn as more of a focus on just sexit’s all about the act and just getting down to it. They can try to add a plot, but it’s always just a setup to a particularly sexual scenario. Erotica, on the other hand, has the sexy bits, but sandwich between substance. There’s more to eroticathere’s the build-up, the context, the subtext, and all the mushy or dramatic bits in-between. Sex is only a part of the picture here, though it is still a focal point of it.

Sarah: Somehow, despite owning and enjoying erotic comics, I still associate porn with videos and erotica with text. I mean, I have some “erotica” that is just the down and dirty bits, so I think the divide is largely artificial. It’s just sexy bits, whether with plot or not. I also don’t watch a lot of hetero-centric porn, so my viewpoint may be biased there as well. I watch porn that is every bit as reverent of bodies and female pleasure as any of the dirty vampire books I read that are OMG-so-explicit. It’s not always easy to find, but it’s there. I tend towards more alternative and fetish-y stuff, anyway, so maybe it’s easier to find when you also want tattooed ladies without long fake nails and men wearing eyeliner and nail polish? Was that TMI?

Al: Oh, I like all of your thoughts on this. I definitely have always thought of it the way Cathryn has, porn as mostly just sex, little focus on the storytelling aspect. And I completely sympathize, Sarah, something about “erotica” makes me think of the written word. Maybe because the first erotica I got into was “literotica.”

What do you consider to be “ethical” porn and erotica? What different ethical dilemmas are implied by screen and page?

Wendy: Consent. Above all else, there needs to be obvious agreement between all involved. In the case of film and photography, I want to know that the actors are truly comfortable with what they are doing and aren’t just following the orders of the people behind the camera.

Ginnis: Definitely consent, but goddess, I want the participants to actually look like they feel respected or that they enjoy themselves. There is just so little enjoyment in hetero male-centric porn. Like, no one is having any real fun, especially the woman. That is the O-face so many of us learned early on to make boring sex be done with far sooner.

Cathryn: Consent. (Is there an echo in here?) A big problem is making sure that people who are working in porn actually WANT to be there, and are being properly respected as human beings for it. There’s massive abuse of “starlets” going on. But, on the flip-side of that, there is also a large backlash around fetish porn that IS consensual, but is outside the norm and is therefore stamped out unfairly.

Sarah: Um. So, I don’t watch or read stuff where people don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, unless it’s obviously part of the plot (oh god, I’m so uncomfortable right now). There’s serious consent problems in some mainstream erotica, where the big love interest “takes” the protagonist and it’s presented in this very gender-essentialized way. Some of the stuff I read does this, and I kinda struggle with that.

Al: I don’t know if this is necessarily an ethical consideration, but I only enjoy porn where the actors seem to be actually enjoying the sex they’re having. I think also though it should be put into the power dynamics between the actors/characters; things like race, age, ability should alter the interactions if the porn or erotica is attempting to represent real life. This is why I mostly watch porn on The Crash Pad.

Are porn and erotica a place for you to explore and fantasize? A prop to get off? Is your relationship to/with it complicated or straight-forward?

Wendy: If I’m partaking of visual porn, then it’s generally to satisfy a base need. I much prefer erotica, in which case, I approach it much differently. Erotica can result in arousal, but that’s not the point. I love photography, though I have no skill in the art myself. I am particularly fond of black and white erotica photography and often visit sites like Erotic Lass and The Butterfly Kisses to admire the composition of the images. I’ll also read romance novels that contain sex. I’m more appreciative of and will take more time with graphic sex in written form, but ultimately, I find the hint of sex and nudity to be far more seductive, intriguing, and powerful. There’s something to be said about letting the imagination fill in the blanks.

Ginnis: Since it can be really hard to find decent porn videos, I mainly read erotica. (Is it always called erotica if it is in literary form?) Sex comics can be fun, too. I like reading both erotica and sex comics with my partner.

I think my relationship with erotica is pretty straight-forward because it is generally more open to different viewers and readers, but it is also, like, the socially acceptable form of porn for women in many ways, if that makes any sense. Porn lesser so, and I have a more complicated relationship with porn, because sometimes I want to watch porn, but most of the porn out there like I have said previously feels so like this is for the hetero boys enjoyment (and that includes ladies only porn) and not yours, but also I’m like horny and need to satisfy, to quote Wendy, “a base need.”

I think erotica, especially in literary form, definitely allows for more fantasies, particularly fantasies that are socially taboo. Often these taboo fantasies are fun and safe outlets, but making it visual makes it “too real,” and then it doesn’t seem like a safe space to explore the taboo.

[pullquote]Yeah, porn is the prop, erotica is exploration. I don’t watch porn to enjoy the plot, although I will voraciously devour an erotica novel, because I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS outside of the sexy times. Sarah[/pullquote]

Cathryn: I partake in both for different purposes. I find porn more visually stimulating, for a quick uptake, whereas erotica is my slow-burner. I’ll probably go back and forth between the two in any given “me time.” I tend to stray from actual porn, though. I’ve very picky and the wrong kind of kink or fake look, or god awful moaning, can completely throw me out of it. I’ve been more attracted to h-games, comics, stories, and lurking roleplaying forums.

I actually tend to read erotica when I’m bored and have nothing to do. Not the most productive use of my time, but I outside of the sexy feels I get, I also have an aesthetic appreciation for the sexual. I find it fascinating, titillating (all of the puns intended) and just down-right entertaining to read through the nuances, the dancing of romantic entanglement. It also helps me live vicariously in scenarios I will never be able to experience. There are times when I do feel body dysphoria, and reading certain erotica helps me to at least imagine the “what ifs” that run around my brain. I can say that erotica gives me that little peek inporn isn’t very deep, so it doesn’t really lend itself well to that sort of experience for me.

If I summed them up, porn is my “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” one night stand quick-stop and erotica is my “Let me cook you a nice dinner. How about a walk on the beach? Isn’t the moon lovely? We should totally make some babies right now to this smooth jazz” meaningful relationship.

Sarah: Yeah, porn is the prop, erotica is exploration. I don’t watch porn to enjoy the plot, although I will voraciously devour an erotica novel, because I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS outside of the sexytimes. That may be a difference as well. I’m more likely to read erotic short stories as an, ahem, prop, but will spend night after night reading an erotic novel just as I do any other novel.

Wendy Browne
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