“Pornography” or “Erotica”?

I write stories about masochistic women who seek painful or degrading experiences. In my typical story, a woman, for some reason, arranges to have herself bound, beaten, and humiliated, specifying the details of her ordeal in written instructions to a man.

In all my stories, the woman consents to her ordeal at the outset and strives to ensure that she will not suffer more than she wishes to tolerate. With only a couple of exceptions, this consent is on-going; that is, the woman is certain that she can be released from her ordeal simply by telling her partner that she wishes to be released.

My stories differ from the typical BDSM fare in a number of ways.

First, the men who assist my heroines are not sadists. They do not get off on hurting women and do not strive to dominate them. For the most part, they are living props who are used by women to orchestrate the action. They tend to be rather two-dimensional in many of my stories. And that is the most frequent criticism that I receive.

Second, the scenarios almost never go wrong. My heroines never get blackmailed into a life of involuntary slavery; never get killed or injured; never accidentally get raped by strangers.

Third, my heroines are always mature adults; more often than not, married; and are always faithful to their husbands.

Fourth, I strive to create plots and situations that are different from the standard fare found in BDSM stories. Sadly, most BDSM stories fit into one of a half-dozen scenarios: student is bullied by teachers and peers; professional woman is surreptitiously photographed and blackmailed into slavery; woman taken to S&M club; woman is involved with on-line master; or, the old standby, woman is simply kidnapped, raped, and killed; etc. Like old jokes, these may be interesting once but become tedious when they are told over and over again.

So, the question is: Are my stories pornography?

I say, “Yes!” And I don’t apologize for it because I think that pornography is not inherently bad. I like sex. Always have and always will. I like stories, whether presented as books, movies, or stage plays. So why would I not like stories about sex? It simply gives me the best of both worlds.

The problem with pornography is not that it is intrinsically bad, it’s that it is so often badly done. The absence of an interesting plot, or any plot at all; cartoonish stereotyped characters cavorting around with even fewer genuine emotions than clothes; pages of trite, cliched descriptions of slick body parts colliding and spurting. The more a person likes stories, they more difficulty they have finding anything to like in most pornography.

Yet I am disturbed by the term, “erotica”, because it strikes me as a mealy-mouthed attempt to keep some stories from being thrown on the pornography trashheap. People look at a story about sex and, if they find some kind of plot, some depth to the characters, or simply good writing style, conclude that the story should be classed as erotica rather than pornography.

I say, “Balderdash!” Let’s call it what it is: good pornography. I’d rather try to improve the quality of pornography overall than to pretend that my stories are too good for the label and should be called something else.

Yours, Ashley

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About Ashley Zacharias

I'm a post-modern woman who lives a vanilla life and dreams about kinky adventure. I write BDSM pornography but have no interest in acting out my fantasies in real life. Find my work on SmashWords.com and Amazon.com
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6 Responses to “Pornography” or “Erotica”?

  1. meloha says:

    Hi Ashley. In the end the labels don’t matter. I agree. The writing has to be good, that’s all.
    Melody x

  2. Curtis says:

    When I was growing up, in the 70s and 80s, the distinction was that pornography was written for a male audience and erotica was for women.

    • Interesting observation because it sounds right. I find contemporary romance novels interesting because they are often as explicit as pornography, but much less erotic. I characterize them as a female protagonist spending three-hundred pages deciding whether she will or won’t bed the right man, getting laid once, and then feels that she’s done enough to have a happy life. No wonder so many women have such strange ideas about what men will be willing to put up with.

  3. Valdez says:

    I think there is a difference. Pornography is about the sex act, and nothing more. Any story plotting is simply an excuse and little time is spent on it. Erotica, on the other hand, can exist even if the sex never happens. It is about celebrating the process of arousal and it requires a greater commitment from the person enjoying it.
    A photograph of a smiling naked woman is sexy, but it’s all about the image. The appreciative audience imagines all the things he (or she) would like to do to the subject of the photograph, but there is no give and take.
    A photograph of a naked woman smiling as she fucks herself with a dildo is pornographic. No imagination required and it’s still all about the image.
    A photograph of a smiling, naked woman, taken by the woman herself as she stands in front of a mirror is erotic. It is no longer just the image, you are seeing into the woman’s mind. She is no longer just some anonymous model you know nothing about, she is a person who wants this image out there.

    • Valdez says:

      Sorry, hit Post accidentally before I was finished.

      My point is that pornography is about the simple mechanics of sex while erotica is about the humanity.
      In the movie, The Addams Family, Morticia says, “Gomez, you were an animal last night. You were unhinged. You frightened me. Do it again.” That’s erotic without ever getting to the actual sex. In the Aerosmith video, Crazy, Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone go into a photo booth and when they come back out, they’ve traded clothes. The photo strip is handed to the store clerk. The scene contains no nudity and no sex, but is erotic nonetheless.
      Erotica requires some imagination from the audience and engages more than just the libido. Erotic literature is the same. It is not just about the moment of sex, when the penis enters the vagina. It is
      about the people, and about the anticipation or the surprise.
      A woman enters a crowded room, knowing that somone here is going to take her virginity, but she has no idea who that might be. A man wakes from a drugged sleep to find himself bound and blindfolded, with someone’s mouth surrounding his penis. A woman in need of money offers herself as the prize in a lottery.
      The distinction between pornography and erotica, in my opinion, is subtle, yet significant. As with so many things, the little distinctions make all the difference.
      Science is about gaining knowledge. Technology is about applying knowledge.
      Attending school is about a name on the roll sheet and one’s presence in class. Getting an education is about committing oneself to a personal betterment.
      Pornography is about sex. Erotica is about the people having sex.

      • You certainly make good points. The meta message here is that pornography is really hard to define. No matter how you do it, you end up with a subjective judgment. Which is reason enough to discard obscenity laws and every person decide for him or herself what he or she considers pornographic.

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