Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Why I read erotica

Erotica is any artistic work that deals substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing subject matter. All forms of art may depict erotic content, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music or literature. Erotica has high-art aspirations, differentiating it from commercial pornography.  (Wikipedia Entry for Erotica)
The first time I came across erotica (or at least something that wasn't badly written fanfiction smut) I think I must have been about 15.  I'd been looking up book lists of 'books you should read before you die' and came across Ana├»s Nin's name.  The experience was all a little bemusing - I found myself intrigued by the situations laid bare, but was never really prompted to go in for what is so often referred to as 'one-handed reading'.

These days, when people mention that they saw someone reading Fifty Shades on the train, there's always that slight undertone of scandal, as if the person in question were about to openly pleasure themselves on the 08:12 from Clapham Junction.


They hardly look as if they're about to explode...
And I admit to being slightly bemused by this point of view.  I've read erotica on the train.  In fact, I used to read it on the train to work every day (back in January when I'd first discovered Tiffany Reisz's marvellous Original Sinners series).  At no point did I feel that compulsion.  Yes, I might have been a little on edge when I got to the sex scenes and someone was standing beside me - thank God for the electronic ink on my kindle - but I was reading them because the characters were well-drawn out and had depth.  Reisz's sex scenes can be a little extreme and to be honest, sometimes I'm more interested in what's happening next than how they're going to do each other.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not trying to make out that erotica is something other than what it is - I've had my fair share of more intense reading sessions - but really good erotica grabs us because of the writing.  It appeals to our basest fantasies, whilst utilising all the different aspects of literary realism and there is no other type of writing that encourages us to empathise with its characters quite as strongly.

I have no qualms about what I read, and nor am I ashamed of it.  Perhaps try some for yourself first...  ;)

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