My Thoughts on the Erotica Genre

As far as personal tastes go, I understand that everyone is different. Most people are into sports and that is something I couldn’t care less about.  There are people who feel the same way about my books and the fantasy genre as a whole. I respect there are different hobbies and different points of view.  That is what makes us human.  However, there is one thing in the literary world that particularly bothers me, the attempt to claim that erotica is not pornography.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph undoubtedly raised the ire of a few.  Questions such as “how can you claim to be respectful of other people’s interests and make that claim?” For me it’s simple. I am a logical person.  As the old saying goes if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. On twitter especially I have seen erotica authors (which seem to be a dime a dozen on there) make various impassioned arguments that erotica isn’t porn at all.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines porn as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” That sounds a lot like erotica.  After all, what is the point of a story that primarily centers around sex if not for the soul purpose of arousal?  Sex by itself is not a plot, other plot elements may be intertwined with the story, but if that was the focus it would cease to be erotica.

I bring this up because all other genres may not be enjoyed by all people.  I don’t particularly fancy romance, but at the end of the day it is still art.  That is what sets erotica apart from all other genres.  Strictly speaking, erotica isn’t art, it’s porn.  A quick search into the definitions of the two clearly makes a distinction.  This isn’t about me pushing my morality onto others or to insult those who read erotica, but I want us to drop the pretense that it is some sort of extreme romance and not functionally a literary version of late night Pay-Per-View.

I believe this is an important topic to discuss.  Especially considering the popularity of the genre and recent scientific findings of what porn does to the human brain.  As always though, anyone reading this is welcome to disagree.  I encourage everyone to research it themselves.  Especially the effects of porn and the differences between porn and art.  From my point of view the evidence is undeniable, but of course there are those who feel passionately that I’m wrong.

Faith and Fantasy

When Harry Potter became popular, there was debate amongst Christian circles whether it was healthy for children to be exposed to or not.  After all, Scripture condemns sorcery, and that in Harry Potter, children go to school to learn magic.  As a Christian who enjoys fantasy of all kinds, this was a struggle for me growing up.

As a young man who attended an extremely conservative Christian college, my hobby of writing and reading fantasy became a point of contention in some conversations.  Later, in my college career, something happened to me which caused an existential crisis of faith.  For a few years I questioned everything, researched everything, learned varying perspectives on all matters in order to find out what I believe and why.  Ultimately, I learned that obsessively researching online only leads to confusion and depression, but I digress.

In the end my faith remained intact, and I came to a few conclusions on important matters, one of which is that being a Christian doesn’t mean I have to be against it, but the opposite.  Deciding to condemn fantasy and avoid it is a personal conviction, not a Biblical truth.  For me, the genre is not mere fun, but a part of me, it reflects important timeless truths.  If you are one who believes reading or watching fantasy is wrong, that is your choice and conviction.  However, it is far from Scriptural to condemn stories simply because they have magic.  The words of Jesus seem aptly appropriate for this, “Beware the yolk of the Pharisees.”  I know, that doesn’t give us a pass to do whatever we want, but Paul makes it clear that some people have more sensitive consciences than other.  That is okay, however do you like Football?  The argument could be made that its evil if Scripture is twisted to say that due to scantily clad cheerleaders that football is evil.  I know that sounds silly.  So are most arguments against enjoying fantasy.

In the end a walk with Christ is more important than fiction choices, and those who enjoy stories different than what you like do not deserve condemnation.  So much more could be said on this topic, which is why I will continue this in my next post.

Hope in Fiction

Note: This is a companion article to Cynical Fiction.

Why do people read or watch fiction?  Entertainment is the short and easy answer, but there is undoubtedly more.  After all, we can be entertained by non-fiction as well.  Fiction, particularly speculative fiction is a window into the possible.

Fiction shows us what happens if we allow evil to take control, it also offers shows the potential of the human spirit and hope.  Hope for what we can be, what our would and culture can become is the importance of fiction.  Ideally, fiction and stories will show us what we need to learn so that we do not fall into tragedy and oppression ourselves.  However, that is not always how it works.  For it is no secret that humanity has a great capacity for evil.  That doesn’t mean that some people do not pay attention.  After all, how many fictional stories written in the past are becoming increasingly plausible every day?

Through stories we teach and learn, ponder what it means to be good, evil, and human.  This is the point of fiction.  Therefore, hope is necessary in stories, even those that lack a particularly “good” ending, there must be meaning.  Otherwise, what is the point? Anything can accomplish the simple task of “entertaining” an audience, but meaning, hope, and truth is where true art is found in stories.  That is my goal as an author.  That is the sort of fiction that becomes timeless, yet these are the stories that are becoming less common and less popular.  We shouldn’t let cynicism and hopeless fiction become the new normal.

Tribalism and the effects on fiction

It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically.  Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics.  While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview.  However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.”  This is seeping into fiction.  Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.

I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats.  I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons.  I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet.  Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil.  Yes, evil.  Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil.  The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics.  Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.

This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for.  It often overflows into media.  Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works.  Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.

In my next post I will continue this topic.  For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.