photo blog_head_zpsfscr4tie.jpg
More adventurous than the average bear

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eroticism vs Pornography in Literature

"Wisdom is what's left after we've run out of personal opinions." - Cullen Hightower


"‘I authorize the publication and sale of all libertine books and immoral works; for I esteem them most essential to human felicity and welfare, instrumental to the progress of philosophy, indispensable to the eradication of prejudices, and in every sense conducive to the increase of human knowledge and understanding.’ (Marquis de Sade, Juliette)

... if there are a larger number of entries relating to literature in French, it is because French and Francophone writers have contributed more than any other linguistic culture to the development of the erotic genre. The eminent author and publisher, Jean-Jacques Pauvert has called this phenomenon ‘l’exception française’, the French exception...

The psychoanalytical concept of ‘perversion’ tends to construct a sexual norm from the standpoint of which there are deviations. Freud defined ‘perversion’ as any sexual activity that is not intercourse: hence oral sex is ‘perverted’, so is masturbation, and so forth. In this view most human sexual habits and erotic inclinations turn out to be ‘perverted’. However, the notion of ‘perversion’ has been revisited by modern anthropologists and historians who have demonstrated the temporal and cultural relativity of the concept. When Pierre Klossowski in twentieth century France writes of a husband who enjoys giving his wife to other men, some may consider this gesture ‘perverted’. For the Inuit, on the other hand, such behavior is simply the expression of conventions of hospitality.

The sociological perspective defines eroticism as the pornography of the dominant social class. In this view, eroticism has aristocratic associations, while pornography is a lower-class activity. Thus, pornography but not eroticism may represent a threat to the status quo. Yet, as numerous entries demonstrate, the eroticism of ‘high literature’ is just as capable of subversion as more popular forms of writing about sex. Erotic works by philosophers during the French Enlightenment, for example, arguably helped to pave the way for the French Revolution. Throughout history, in fact, erotic writings generally can be said to have had a socially leveling influence.

The gender of the author is another spurious yardstick, by which the pornography/eroticism distinction is sometimes measured. In this perspective, men produce pornography while women ‘write the erotic’. This argument falters when confronted with anonymity, or the extensive use of pseudonyms. Moreover, some authors employ strategies to make believe that the narrator is male or female, creating confusion as to the author’s sex or gender. And what are we to think of the many novels by women in contemporary France that are as explicit or as sexually violent as anything authored by a man? Pro-censorship feminists regard any depiction of sexual behavior which degrades and abuses women as pornographic. Such views are highly subjective, and beg the question of what constitutes degradation or abuse, but if the author of the text or image is male, his gender is itself grounds to condemn him in their eyes. Andrea Dworkin, for example, suggests that ‘Male power is the raison d’être of pornography: the degradation of the female is the means of achieving this power.’ A recent ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court, masterminded by Dworkin and her fellow anti-pornographer campaigner, Catherine MacKinnon, defines the related concept of obscenity according to the harm it does to women’s pursuit of equality. Yet, much extreme sexual material, such as gay male ‘porn’, does not represent women at all...

It was thought that to define any work containing sexual scenes as erotic would be to invite entries on practically the whole of World literature...

As for the familiar charge that this is a literature aimed only at the male voyeur, erotic texts frequently appeal to all of the senses, from the evocation of the sensation of bodily touch, taste and smells to the screams, whispers and silences that can accompany the sex-act. Such descriptions speak as much to women as to men. This is a literature that is more likely to undermine than to reinforce conventional thinking and social stereotypes. The traditional unity of the person and the body that our western culture has constructed over the centuries is, for example, repeatedly put into question by a writing that foregrounds bodily pleasure. Erotic writing constantly renews itself, finding new ways of staging and figuring desire. Differences of race or ethnicity tend to be effaced in pursuit of the solitary goal of sexual satisfaction.

Erotic works do sometimes project a utopian vision of the world, which they picture as liberated from all its current limitations. But in doing so, they point to the difficulties associated with such idealism, and raise important philosophical questions in relation to concepts of freedom and the other.

It will have become clear by now that the aims of erotic literature cannot be reduced to sexual arousal alone...

It is true that the recent rise of ‘Sexuality and Gender Studies’ in universities has given academics permission to read and teach erotic works, but only within the politically correct context of feminism or queer theory. The two volumes of this encyclopedia represent a much wider critical interest"

--- Introduction in Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature / Gaëtan Brulotte, John Phillips (ed.)
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes