Erotica vs. pornography debate
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The distinction between erotica and pornography (as well as the lesser known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry) is difficult to identify, if not completely impossible. Proponents of erotic art argue that such work is intended to arouse aesthetic rather than erotic feelings, and is therefore not pornographic. Opponents see this as a pretentious stand, as they believe that erotic art shares the same purposes as pornography.
Stephen Gilbert once remarked "The difference between erotica and pornography is simple. Erotica is what I like. Pornography is what you like, you pervert!" One common joke is that "the only difference between art and pornography is a government grant." Another amusing maxim by Isabel Allende is: "Erotica is when you use a feather. Pornography is when you use the whole chicken."
The issue of whether a distinction can be made between erotica and pornography raises multiple complicated questions. These questions include whether aesthetic and erotic feelings are mutually exclusive, how the level of commercialism and tastefulness in an artwork can be objectively measured, and at what point they make the work pornographic.
In general, "erotica" refers to portrayals of sexually arousing material that hold or aspire to artistic or scientific merit, whereas "pornography" often connotes the prurient depiction of sexual acts, with little or no artistic value.
Anti-pornography campaigners usually define the genre as meeting the following three criteria:
- The work is explicit (in literature: the use of dysphemisms; in the visual arts: in the photography of the beaver shot, the depiction of a particular instance rather than an ideal).
- The work addresses only the base instincts of its audience, ofen denoting the masturbatory use of the product, see body genre
- The work is only made for monetary gain, see authorial intentionality
- The term pornographic is usually reserved for works within the reproducible arts, works of high art are seldomly called pornographic
- I know it when I see it
- Author's intent
- Purpose of art
- Etymologies of erotica and pornography
- Eroticism is where you use a feather and pornography is where you use the whole chicken
- Debating Pornography: Categories and Metaphors