AUSTRALIA—According to Australian novelist Tracey O'Hara, the difference is simple: porn is for men, erotica is for women (and men). The award-winning erotic fiction writer has laid out her philosophy in order to encourage young women writers to get into the erotica fiction game.
“Erotica is not porn. It gives both men and women the opportunity to explore their own sexuality,” she said. “They are stories which contain graphic sex scenes but narratives also center as much around the mental and emotional journey of the characters as they do about the physical side of things.”
Ah, so erotica also has mental and emotional elements lacking in porn. Anything else? Glad you asked. The key to successful erotic writing, adds O’Hara, who is currently preparing to host a second “how to write erotic fiction” workshop at the ACT Writer's Center, lies in the avoidance of “flowery euphemisms.” No more "manhood" standing in for the original "penis" or some other literal derivation?
“There needs to be balance, so use actual words to describe actual things otherwise it just makes the work sound crass," she advises. "Balance is the key. It shouldn't be crude but it's about getting the right emotional response from the characters. Ask yourself, 'how does the sex make a person feel?’”
The goal for aspiring writers, however, is not to emulate “vanilla” erotica like 50 Shades of Grey, despite its international success.
“Fifty Shades of Grey is not the best example of erotica,” warns O’Hara. “It's just the one that managed to break through here. Erotica is only a new publishing phenomenon here in Australia. In the U.S., it's been a best-selling and profit spinning genre since 2000.”
Of course, most people don’t actually write “porn” novels per se, so while the O'Hara's opinion needs to be respected, the advice seems to be a tad irrelevant to her profession, given that sexually explicit novels are always marketed as “erotica,” no matter how flowery or literal the language happens to be. Publishing houses as a general rule don’t do porn.
To add another unfortunate layer of reality, anti-porners out in the world—including in Australia—don’t really care about O’Hara’s finely honed distinctions between the two genres. To them, whether O’Hara or her students use the word “penis” or “manhood,” it’s all the same. No matter how mentally or emotionally riveting the writing may be, as long as manhood is entering womanhood for the purposes of non-procreative pleasure, it’s porn.