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THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EROTICA & PORNOGRAPHY?

By Association Member Carrie White.

Sex, of course, is the seed of our existence. Without it no living thing would survive. In the world today there are two main industries of this natural act: Erotica and Pornography. There are many sub categories within these two sections which cover Literature, Art, Photography, Film, Theatre and the Media. Sex is everywhere and you cannot turn on your T.V, read the latest Bestseller or read the Daily Newspaper without reading or hearing about the latest scandal which invariably involves sex. I recently consulted a few of the common dictionaries that can be found on the market and was amazed to see the definition of both erotica and pornography had changed remarkably over the last ten years or so. For example: In my own edition of The Collins Pocket Dictionary, erotica is defined as explicitly sexual literature and art whereas pornography is writings etc designed to be sexually exciting. I think it's about time I got a new dictionary!

It's not hard to see that these definitions of the two words are so similar that it would be easy for some people to be confused between the two. This listing was in 1989 but the understanding of the sex industry has dramatically changed. So what are the differences between erotica and pornography? Below is just a few points that I believe help to differentiate between them:

The main distinctions:

1. Erotica refers to literature or photography that depicts sex in a subtle or socially redeeming manner, to be associated with suggestive or symbolic images of desire and sexual arousal and pleasure.; Pornography originally referred to writing about prostitutes and later came to include any text that is specifically designed to elicit sexual desire, the explicit description of exhibition of sexual activity in literature, films and photography intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.

2. Erotica involves emotions, love, passion and tender sensations; Pornography involves lust, carnal desires and sexual excitement with no emotional ties.

3. Erotica allows for the possibility of women and men engaging as 'equals'; Pornography usually dishonours women, men, children or even animals. The degrading and demeaning portrayal of the role and status of the human female as a mere sexual object to be exploited and manipulated sexually.

Despite the points above, the difference between erotica and pornography can also be dependant on a few other factors. One experience of mine that happened to me recently struck me with horror. An acquaintance of mine asked me which genre I specialised in. I was proud, of course, to tell her that I wrote Erotica. Although this was accepted at the time, I soon found out that someone else overhearing the conversation decided that I was unfit for her friendship as I was 'into' pornography. At that time I was quite naive of different perceptions. As far as I was concerned there was a definite line between the two. As it proves it can all depend on your religious beliefs and upbringing and also your own view of what you find offensive or erotic.

Porn provides information about women's bodies and techniques for facilitating female sexual pleasure. Pornography enhances women's ability to attain sexual pleasure on their own, as well with men. 'Many women have come to appreciate their bodies through porn...' says Heather Findlay, editor of the lesbian erotic magazine, On Our Backs. Thinking back to my childhood, my first view of a woman's body was in my brother's pornographic magazine! Though I am unsure as to the exact time when I first masturbated. So this fact is very true. I wonder how many other women had the same or similar experience.

I am sure at some point in their lives, they have had a 'brush' with porn, albeit very small, but unless you know someone very well, it may be hard for anyone to admit to it. Sex shops in London are numerous and I know they can be found in other major cities too, but they are still very secretive. The windows are always white-washed or blacked-out to prevent their content offending passers by. Why should sex offend us? It is the most natural act there is and should not offend, or make us feel uncomfortable, but until there is acceptance, we will always have the sleazy and the private side of sex.

Over the years I have come (no pun intended!) to realise that maybe porno is not so 'dirty' after all. As long as the participants are willing partners then where is the harm? Perhaps then what should only be classed as 'degrading' and 'dirty' is the videos or books which involve the weak and the vulnerable i.e. children, animals and those who are forced into participating.

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