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Erotica and Pornography  
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Erotic and pornographic works have been written in many cultures since ancient times and recently have flourished with the relaxation of censorship.


As a literary genre, pornography is writing that has sexual arousal as its primary objective. Erotica is such material with artistic pretensions. Thus, the descriptive term pornography implies a statement about intentionality and instrumentality without reference to merit, whereas the term erotica is evaluative and laudatory. In Flesh and the Word, John Preston more baldly says, "The only difference is that erotica is the stuff bought by rich people."

Since current literary theory makes writing of every sort available to analysis, it has in effect done away with the distinction. To discuss the aesthetic effect of pornographic material is to accord it the status of erotica.

The Site(s) of Gay Pornography

George Steiner has described as "fundamental to De Sade and much [heterosexual] pornographic art" the erroneous notion that "one can double one's ecstasy by engaging in coitus while being at the same time deftly ." It is even more specifically the aim of gay pornography to perpetuate this myth since the interested reader will to some extent identify with all participants in a sexual encounter.

The theme of the simultaneous orgasm is, in fact, the chief desideratum of much of the fantasy of modern gay fiction. To give pleasure while getting it, to have an orgasm while causing one, is taken as the great proof of the genuineness of the experience.

But, as Steiner notes, it is really the sign of fantasy since real sex tends to fall somewhat short in intensity of the experiences chronicled in pornography. Of course, the ultimate simultaneity occurs when the reader participates along with the characters.

On the other hand, as Philip Slater has noted, the ecstatic moment in the description of a sexual encounter is the entry, not the climax, and accordingly the most arousing pornography gives major attention to entry. On this point, the conventions of written pornography differ from those of video pornography, which tends to focus on orgasm.

Historical Differences

Historically, has tended to emphasize some modes of sexuality out of proportion to their occurrence in life: in earlier times, sadomasochism in more modern. This is perhaps because pornography is about control of sex not simply about its occurrence.

In an arena in which biological realities do not demarcate sexual roles, such themes empower the reader to experience the writer's mastery of the fantasy in a way that the flux of life often does not. The power dynamics of pornography allows readers to recognize and define the parameters of relationships.

A Historical Survey of Gay Male Pornography

The history of pornography in general is obscured by fashions in censorship; the history of gay pornography, being doubly offensive to censors in many periods, has an even more obscure history. Five loosely defined periods may, nevertheless, be charted: classical, neoclassical, Victorian, modern, and post-Stonewall.

Since pornography is defined by intentionality, until recently lesbian pornography has been difficult to distinguish from female-with-female material for a straight male audience and is dealt with separately.

Classical Literatures

Although classical Greek culture virtually institutionalizes pederasty or more precisely rather than homosexuality in general or relationships between equal male partners, the culture certainly attached no stigma to homosexuality, and in evaluating literature made distinctions of form and style, not subject matter. As a result of these factors, a good deal of surviving Greek literature accepts or even celebrates homosexual relations of one kind or another, at least in passing.

Unfortunately, the custodians of the surviving Greek texts in later ages had decided views on the appropriateness of various subject matters; a large amount of material that has disappeared was probably even more laudatory of ephebophilia and homosexuality and perhaps more explicit as well. The most explicit of overtly celebratory surviving works are lyrics in The Greek Anthology.

Since many more classical Latin manuscripts survive from antiquity and since these represent a more random selection of the material originally produced, it is not surprising to find a larger number of explicit works in Latin than in Greek.

Although his more famous lyrics celebrate his mistress Lesbia, Catullus (87-54 B.C.) is one of several major Roman poets who write forthrightly of sexual encounters with boys. Martial (ca 40-ca 102) is another. And the surviving portion of The Satyricon of Petronius (d. 66) describes similar activities.

Indeed, forthrightness is a hallmark of Roman literature, and a historian like Suetonius (ca 69-ca 122) in The Twelve Caesars is pornographically explicit about the details of the homoerotic sadism practiced by a number of the early emperors.

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, the love of youths like those depicted on this ancient Greek bowl, was a prominent feature of pre-modern erotica and pornography.
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