The Difference between Erotica and Pornography

by Ambre Nobengo


The omnipresence of pornography nowadays and of its violent characteristics focuses all the attention on the pornographic industry. But if pornography is about sex, it is not the only area that deals with this topic. Erotism is about sex too but there is a lot of differences between these two themes. The main difference is that erotism involves feelings, while pornogaphy does not. As a result, erotic and pornographic images do not have the same impact on the society and especially on women. In pornography women are opressed and violently treated like objects, while in erotic images there is not this kind of oppression and violence and it is more a demonstration of the pleasure felt by the two partners rather than a demonstration of violence.

In her text Feminism, Moralism, and Pornography Ellen Willis illustrates the difference between pornography and erotica. She asserts that “erotica (whose etymological root is “eros,” or sexual love) expresses an integrated sexuality based on mutual affection and desire between equals” (222) and that “pornography (which comes from another Greek root – “porne,” meaning prostitute) reflects a deshumanized sexuality based on male domination and of exploitation of women” (222). Her point of view is very pertinent because it describes very well the difference between erotica and pornography. Indeed, in erotic films or images, there is a sexual demonstration but men and women seem to feel both the same pleasure. This is why the terms “mutual” and “between equals” are particularly explicit because it means that there is no difference between men and women. Men do not demonstrate their power over women. On the contrary, there is a notion of sharing between the two partners. Furthermore, she points the feelings expressed by the partners when she talks about “affection and desire”. These are positive feelings experienced by every couple in love. As a result, erotica shows the normal intimate relationship of a couple.

On the other hand, she rightly emphasizes that pornographic films or images show men’s power and women’s opression. She insists on the absence of feelings in pornography unlike erotica, by using the adjective “deshumanized” (222), which insists on the fact that pornography is not about love between two people but about the technical demonstration of two bodies. In addition, her insertion of the etymology of each words supports her statement, showing that the etymological root of erotica involves the most important feeling for a couple which is love, while the etymological root of pornography demontrates the opression of women meaning “prostitute”.

Furthermore, Ellen Willis insists on the difference between the two themes when she says that “love making should be beautiful, romantic, soft, nice and devoid of messiness, vulgarity, impulses to power or indeed agression of any sort… this goody-goody concept of eroticm is not feminist but feminine” (224). This is why pornography is rightly so chocking for women. Indeed, the respect of feelings is very important for women and most of them are driven by their feelings while most of men are driven by their pulsions. For example, it is not common and especially difficult for women to make love without feelings while it is common for men. Which is why seeing the sexual act performed without feelings as it can be in pornographic movies is not as chocking for men as it can be for women.

In conclusion, the fight against pornography is very important because it shows violence and places women as objects. While erotica is more centered on feelings. It describes better the reality in a couple and the feelings felt by the two partner.