I had a huge debate with my friend the other day on whether erotica was the same as pornography. As the post will tell you, I most definitely think that it’s not.
Even though both have to do with human sexuality, they are on different planes altogether. Whenever erotica is spoken about, to the mind comes various forms of art – sculpture, painting, literature, movies, photography etc. It is about the way that the body of a human or the act of making love is described with a certain degree of beauty. Erotica is more aesthetic and creative because it depicts and artist’s perception of what he considers to be attractive or sensual.
Often, when it comes to erotica, the creation might not even be completely accurate. For example, some of the sculptures at the Khajuraho temples border on fantastic. However, it is assumed to be beautiful because of the way it celebrates and glorifies the mundane. Erotica takes the normal to a different level.
Yes, erotica, like pornography, will arouse us as well. But it evokes feelings which is so much more than that. For example, it tries to depict sexual union not only as a need but also adds a dimension of divinity and spirituality to it. Like art is interpretative based on ones own impression, so too is erotica. More than evoking a sense of desire, it evokes appreciation of the art.
The aim of the person who is creating pornography is hardly to have any dimension other than sexual pleasure. Pornography doesn’t celebrate the body or the beauty of physical intimacy. It’s only objective is to titillate the viewer or the reader and arouse his genitals directly.
The monetary gains that’s associated with pornography can’t be completely avoided either. Pornographers produce that which will reap maximum profit for them. Pure erotica, on the other hand, has no money involved. It’s meant for appreciation. But, much to my dislike, something that can be termed as ‘commercial erotica’ is emerging now. Maybe, if the artists who are associated with creating erotica, as it means in the traditional sense, kept commercial gains as the tertiary criteria for judging the success of the creation, then the differentiation between the two would remain. Else, slowly, I predict, the two would start to overlap with each other to an uncomfortable degree.
Pornography turns humans into objects. Almost to a level of disrespect. Human beings are portrayed as things who will satisfy the viewer’s hormonal urges. There is no affection that is shown. It dehumanizes and promotes that which is animalistic. It is thus probably no wonder that while we shy away from viewing pornography in public, we applaud erotic creation. While the former is crude and illicit, the latter is sensual and classic.
Pornography aims directly at the libido – unapologetically displaying feelingless penetrative sex. It is viewed in private and caters more to our darker senses. It is, what is called, politically incorrect. But erotica hides behind art, maintaining distance and discretion. Behind this veil, the latter has managed to attain legitimacy and acceptability while the former is regarded as crass.
This is what my end note to this piece has to say – erotica is timeless because it’s beauty. Pornography isn’t. While one won’t forget (or leer at!) the painting of ‘The Bather’ or Michelangello’s David or Mapplethorpe’s ‘Nude’; the pornography that he viewed an hour ago will be forgotten once the orgasm is reached.
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