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What is the difference between erotic movies and p*rn?

American film producer Lucy Fisher, who is considered a pioneer for women and working mothers in the entertainment industry, once remarked, "Erotica is brunettes in silk, pornography is blondes in nylon. Erotica is for nice middle-class literate people like us, pornography is for the lonely, unattractive, and uneducated."

For those of us who have never pondered upon the fact that porn and erotica are different, Fisher's comment comes as a surprise. Though the statement has subtle undertones of class consciousness on her part, it does arouse our curiosity. Very few of us have ever thought about erotica and porn as separate entities - they have always been overlapping each other in our minds.

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.

On the other hand, pornography can be described as a creative activity (writing, pictures, films, etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.

Erotic movies play with and stimulate fantasy, emotions and feelings. It is erotic by showing sexual activity, but not in all detail: Aroused genitals, copulating sex organs, penetration and ejaculation are not shown and merely insinuated. The details are left to the fantasy of the viewer.

In erotic movies, setting and atmosphere are very important. Romanticism, fondness, caressing are important parts of the story. Lighting, music and soft-focus filming are techniques to create an erotic atmosphere.

Plot, storyline and the characters are important and the personality is an important part of the characters.

That’s an erotic movie. It relates to a porn film like a scary movie to a splatter movie.

In a porn film, sexual activity is animalic and raw. It is shown in all detail, with the intent to sexually arouse the viewer.

Nothing or very little is left to the fantasy of the viewer, which is achieved by depicting aroused private parts (mostly the penis, but also swollen labiae or clitoris), copulating genitals, penetration and orgasms.

Ejaculation of the male performer and copulating genitals aren’t just shown, but they are playing a central role and are explicitly shown. They often are even shown in closeup, sometimes the closeup showing nothing else aside of the copulating genitals. In summary, one could say the only reason why people are participating in porn movies is that genitals need to be attached to a person to make sense.

The characters in porn movies are shallow, have little depth and usually are mere sketches of a human personality. Erotic setting, story, lighting and music may play a role, but are less important. They usually don’t play a central, but merely a supporting role, e.g. lighting is a mere means to ensure that intercourse, penetration and ejaculation are clearly visible, making sure that few or no details remain hidden from the viewer.

Finally, we as a society are not good at discussing sex, and yet the argument over what counts as porn and what is erotica very relevant. At least the act of differentiating these genres opens conversations and helps to sort out what some of the problems are with writing, and reading, about sex.

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