So I’ve been wondering (cue flailing and running away) about the boundaries of the definition of the term porn. Because in my experience, in general RL context it refers to videos of people engaged in sexual acts. However, in fandom context I see it consistently used (albeit in casual speech, but that’s fandom) to refer to written fiction that involves graphic depictions of sexual acts, but also usually includes more than that: dialogue, plot (yes, plot! even if it’s mainly interpersonal plot and less action-plot. What is To the Lighthouse about, anyway?), characterization, etc. And then there’s erotica. I’ve not read much called erotica. (I’ve never seen porn, either. Cue shock and disbelief. But that’s kind of what got me thinking, because when people talk about porn I can conveniently play innocent and say “I’ve never seen it!” completely honestly. But can I?) What I have seen indicates that what makes something erotica is a focus on the sex, and graphic depiction thereof. Also, part of why I’ve read so little of it, especially in comparison with fanfic, is that I sense a lack of some of the stuff that seems to make fandom “porn” more than just porn: essentially, I think fanfic is better. Yeah.
Also, though, there’s published fiction that involves graphic descriptions of sex, and it’s not classified as erotica. On one side of the spectrum, there’s what’s considered literature, for whatever reason. It addresses greater themes, it has some undefinable quality to the writing...except that again, some of my issues with these distinctions come into play - there’s a lot of fiction out there, published and unpublished, that I think is better than some “literature,” in quality of writing and in how it handles greater themes. So I find these distinctions dubious. On another side of the spectrum, there’s stuff that’s just considered fiction. The Kushiel series (Jacqueline Carey) comes to mind. It’s generally classified as science-fiction/fantasy, for its elaborate worldbuilding and twisty plot. But it has graphic sexual expression that plays a major part. So is it the plot that makes the difference? Because again, a lot of “porn” has plot, even major plot. (Watch my terminology deteriorate.)
So is fanfictional “porn” technically erotica? There’s “erotic fiction” that consists of little more than a (really badly) written form of videotaped porn. Is erotica just the written form of video porn? Because then, fanfic is something else. It’s more than that. So what is this stuff I read? Am I being any more than technically honest when I say I’ve never watched porn?
Also, there’s another possible explanation: “literature” can contain graphic sex as long as it’s not depicted positively. All the literature I’ve read that addresses sex does it in a way that, it can be assumed, would be off-putting to most readers. There’s usually at least some question as to consensuality, or there are indications of abuse. This is completely different from other fiction, where the approach is much more reflective of a sex-positive philosophy. If this theory has any weight, that’s insidious. How much does society’s stigma and prudishness affect academia? Is this the literary equivalent of abstinence-only education?
-------------------- the sharpest lives are the deadliest to lead Posts: 26 | From: New Mexico | Registered: Dec 2010
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I think you bring up a lot of good questions. To some extent, what "porn" is defined as is up to the individual. For example, paintings of naked women often hang on museum walls and are considered "art" and not "porn", although they certainly could be arousing to some. Lingerie catalogs are not considered "porn" by the lingerie stores, otherwise they would not be openly mailed to people's homes and handed out in stores. However, some would consider them pornographic and I know people who consider such catalogs sexually arousing.
As to whether someone can technically say whether they have looked at porn, I think you should give whatever answer feels true to you. For example, if you read a romance novel and were sexually aroused by it, I think you could answer either way. For example, I personally might not consider that porn, but the priest at my church might.
Posts: 143 | From: USA | Registered: Aug 2009
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This is a bit of a black and white definition, but I consider porn to be visual (pictures, video, etc) and erotica to be more mental, in a way...how to explain that. Like, your mind is providing the pictures. So a written story would be erotica, or a soundfile that you're only listening to. As well, I feel like porn is generally only about getting to the sex scenes, while erotica develops the characters a little more, gives them personalities. Erotica is much more likely to have the character who goes home after a sexual encounter thinking "Oh, my gosh, what did I just do?", while porn will be the character who has no crises about what has just happened and can't wait for it to happen again.
Posts: 183 | From: USA | Registered: Sep 2010
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quote:Originally posted by adiemus: Also, there’s another possible explanation: “literature” can contain graphic sex as long as it’s not depicted positively. All the literature I’ve read that addresses sex does it in a way that, it can be assumed, would be off-putting to most readers. There’s usually at least some question as to consensuality, or there are indications of abuse. This is completely different from other fiction, where the approach is much more reflective of a sex-positive philosophy. If this theory has any weight, that’s insidious. How much does society’s stigma and prudishness affect academia? Is this the literary equivalent of abstinence-only education?
I have noticed this too, and while of course there's tons of fiction in the non-literary category out there that's sex-negative, I think that the idea that, to be true literature, a book must make you feel there's something essentially disturbing about the fact that you are alive and born and capable of feeling pleasure through such activities as eating, masturbation, partnered sex and hugging, is, as you say, insidious. It's the same idea that drives people to get pissed off at someone for wanting to watch happy TV shows or read happy comics instead of the really important ones that have deeply meaningful acts of horrific violence in them, are set in crapsack worlds and have characters that are either A) miserable or B) happy only because they're deluded in some way.
-------------------- Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see. Posts: 840 | From: UK | Registered: Dec 2008
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