From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Erotica (from the Greek language Eros - "love") — refers to works of art, including literature, photography, film, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or arousing descriptions. Erotica is a modern word used to describe the portrayal of the human anatomy and sexuality with high-art aspirations, differentiating such work from commercial pornography.
However, there is a substantial overlap between erotica and pornography. The difference between the two is artistic merit and the author's intent. A work solely intended for masturbatory purposes, is generally not regarded as erotic art. Erotica is pornography with high art aspirations, whereas pornography is produced for monetary gain. Both the term erotica and pornography were first attested in the mid-19th century; erotica was used in the context of book collecting and pornography in the context of debates on prostitution, obscenity trials and legal prosecutions.
Since pornography and erotica are genres that provoke physical reactions, what are called in narratology "body genres", they are generally held to be "low" cultural manifestations. However, nobrow writers, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers and publishers prove that works of high quality can be found in these maligned "low" genres.
Study of new media
- new media studies
- "Sex, as we know, is a heat-seeking missile that forever seeks out the newest medium for its transmission." --(Gerard Van Der Leun, 1993)
Erotica and pornography are excellent tools to study the rise of new media and new technologies. Printing technology gave rise to erotic fiction and erotic engravings; photography begot erotic photography; film begot erotic film; home video liberated the pornographic film from seedy theatres and the internet thrives on erotic imagery and dating services. Examples abound. Colin Wilson, for example, traces the history of the novel in relation to the human imagination and erotic fiction in his The Misfits: A Study of Sexual Outsiders.
Erotica and pornography
Distinction is often made between erotica and pornography (the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction) (as well as the lesser known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry), although depending on the viewer they may seem one and the same. Pornography's objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes. Pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading. One person's pornography is another's erotica, and vice-versa. In December 2007 one of the world's largest collections of pornography and erotica, the L'Enfer collection housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France, was opened for the public. Marie-Françoise Quignard, one of the collection's curators, tried to distinguish between the different elements in the collection:
"There is a photograph ["Automne"] of an act of oral sex by the artist Man Ray.... For some reason, I find that this goes just too far. Perhaps because it is a photograph and so real, while engravings or lithographs, give you a certain distance and idealisation. Man Ray confronts you point-blank here with something which should, perhaps, better remain intimate."
The Canadian Supreme Court wrestled with the line between pornography and erotica going back to 1962's case Brodie v. the Queen, which involved D. H. Lawrence's erotic classic Lady Chatterley's Lover. In its decision on whether Lawrence's book was obscene, the court noted that it "has none of the characteristics that are often described in judgments dealing with obscenity --dirt for dirt's sake, the leer of the sensualist, depravity in the mind of an author with an obsession for dirt, pornography, an appeal to a prurient interest, etc." In 1992, the Canadian high court changed its 'dirt for dirt's sake' test until it ruled in the case of sex shop operator R. v. Butler that a work is pornographic if it is "degrading and dehumanizing." This remains the central test in Canadian courts.
Erotic art covers any artistic work including paintings, sculptures, photographs, music and writings that is intended to evoke erotic arousal or that depicts scenes of love-making. Most recently, there were two exhibitions dedicated to erotic art: Seduced, Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now in London and Diana und Actaeon - Diana und Actaeon - Der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit in Dusseldorf. Check our ongoing series of Icons of erotic art.
Erotic print and illustration
From the dawn of printmaking, prints have depicted erotic scenes and these prints are often the only surviving renditions of lost artworks. Beginning in Italy, there were I Modi (1520s) by Marcantonio Raimondi and the Lascivie (1590s) depicting the loves of classical gods by Agostino Carracci, work by Parmigianino, Giulio Bonasone, Jacopo Caraglio Rosso Fiorentino, Perino (del Vaga), Cristofano Robetta, Giulio Campagnola and Giovanni Battista Palumba. In the 17th century, there was the work of Rembrandt.
History of erotic photography refers to the history of the art and process of taking pictures of unclothed subjects. In the United States, all portraits from prior to January 1, 1923, have passed into the public domain. Most are in black-and-white, since they predate the 1935 invention of Kodachrome.
Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts which sexually arouse the reader, whether written with that intention or not. Such erotica takes the form of novels, short stories, poetry, true-life memoirs, and sex manuals. Erotic literature has often been subject to censorship and legal restraints on publication.
Many erotic poems have survived from ancient Greece and Rome, the authors including Sappho of Lesbos (lyrics), Catullus, Ovid, Martial and Juvenal and the anonymous Priapeia. Some later Latin authors also wrote erotic verse, e.g Joannes Secundus. In the Renaissance period many poems were not written for publication and merely circulated in manuscript among a relatively limited readership. Many of the authors were anonymous but John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-80) was notorious for obscene verses, many of which were published posthumously in compendiums of poetry by him and other Restoration rakes. Though many of the poems attributed to him were actually by other authors, Rochester's reputation as a libertine was such that his name was used as a selling point by publishers of collections of erotic verse for centuries after. One poem which definitely was by him was "A Ramble in St. James's Park" in which the protagonist's quest for healthy exercise in the park uncovers instead "Bugg'ries, Rapes and Incest" on ground polluted by debauchery from the time when "Ancient Pict began to Whore". This poem was being censored from collections of Rochester's poetry as late as 1953, though, in line with a general change in attitudes to sexuality, it was recently dramatised as a scene in the film The Libertine about his life.
An early genre were comic books known as Tijuana bibles that began appearing in the U.S. in the 1920s and lasted until the publishing of glossy colour men's magazines commenced. These were crude hand drawn scenes often using popular characters from cartoons and culture.
Erotic comics that were sold more or less above the counter started to appear towards the middle of the 1960s in Europe with series such as the fumetti neri in Italy and authors such as Guido Crepax (Valentina), Paul Cuvelier (Epoxy), Jean-Claude Forest (Barbarella) and Guy Peellaert (Les aventures de Jodelle) in France and Belgium.
Erotic fiction is the name given to fiction that deals with sex or sexual themes, generally in a more literary or serious way than the fiction seen in pornographic magazines and sometimes including elements of satire or social criticism. Such works have frequently been banned by the government or religious authorities. It should be noted, however, that apparently non-fictional works dealing with sex or sexual themes may contain fictional elements; calling an erotic book 'a memoir' is a literary device that is common in this genre. For reasons similar to those that make pseudonyms both commonplace and often deviously set up, the boundary between fiction and non-fiction is often very diffuse.
The use of sex in film has been controversial since the earliest use of cinematography and the first portrayals of love scenes and nude scenes. Ever since the silent era of film there have been actors and actresses who have shown parts of their bodies or undergarments, or dressed and behaved in ways considered sexually provocative by contemporary standards. Some films have been criticized and/or banned by various religious groups and governments because of this. The difference with pornographic films is that erotic films are simulated.
- see erotic, music, erotic dancing, heavy breathing in music, the bawdy origins of rock and roll, Erotic Music Law
- American erotica
- British erotica
- European erotica
- Japanese erotica
- Prehistoric erotica
- Ancient erotica
- Medieval erotica
- Renaissance erotica
- 17th century erotica
- 18th century erotica
- 19th century erotica
- 20th century erotica
arousal - bawdy - burlesque - BDSM - censorship - clothing - eros - eroticism - erotic horror - fantasy - fetish erotica - genitalia - libertine - nude - lust - film star - nudity - paraphilia - perversion - peep show - pin-up - Pompeii - pornography - ribaldry - sadomasochism - sensuality - sex - sex film - sex manual - softcore - striptease - vaudeville - vintage erotica - voyeurism
- Erotic Art of the Masters the 18th, 19th, 20th Centuries Art & Artists (1974) van Bradley Smith, met een voorwoord van Henry Miller.
- The Erotic History of France (1933) by Henry L. Marchand, an adaptation of Geschichte der erotischen Literatur (1927) by Paul Englisch, based on its chapters treating French erotica. The book deals with French erotica and French erotic literature in general. The title is misleading in that it hardly treats the visual arts.
- Sex in History (1954) by Gordon Rattray Taylor
- The Nude (1956) by Kenneth Clark
- Eine Weltgeschichte der Sexualität (1956) by Richard Lewinsohn, pseudonym Thomas Morus. Version used is the Dutch translation Het Rijk van Venus
- Pornography and the law: The psychology of erotic realism and pornography (1959) by the Kronhausens, translated in Dutch as Wat is pornografie?
- Eros Denied (1964) by Wayland Young
- Eroticism in Western Art (1972) revised as Sexuality in Western Art, 1991 by Edward Lucie-Smith
- The Erotic Arts (1975) by Peter Webb
- A History of Erotic Literature (1982)
- The Secret Museum (1987) by Walter Kendrick, paperback edition with new afterword in 1996
- Sex: An Intimate Companion (2001), edited by Stephen Bayley, esp. the section by Catherine Johns
- Wikipedia, Engelstalige en Nederlandstalige versies.
- History of erotic depictions
- Human sexuality
- Sexual fantasy
- Vocabularies of eroticism
- Etymologies of erotica and pornography