Romantic-Erotic-Pornographic – Is there a line?

I think once society or an individual stops thinking about sex acts or their depiction as shameful, there is no line. The absolute corollary of course is that to a society or individual that regards all sex as shameful, there is also no line.

Consent is the key. Not love, not what acts or body parts are displayed or hidden, detailed or euphemized, degraded or exalted, nor the medium but only consent and intent. Rather than talking about why we look or what we see, we should be talking about why we feel compelled to look away and why we feel compelled to force other consenting adults to look away.

So here we are in the 21st century, still wandering lost in the gray areas between artificial lines. Between these lines it gets so gray that I wonder if it will ever be possible to draw any line society as a whole can agree on.

Susana, at the ELS, you used to share explicit emails between yourself and your lover. In one you wrote that “The line between erotica and pornography is personal, temporal and culturally inscribed.” I’d add that yesterday’s taboo is today’s pornography. Yesterday’s pornography is today’s erotica. Yesterday’s erotica is today’s coffee table book.

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows … anything goes.” And yes, the beat goes on.

I think what you shared with us, explicit as it was, is an exchange of romantic love, pure and simple. Another pair of lovers could well have the same pulse-quickening reaction to Emily Dickenson’s or Andrew Marvel’s poetry or a tame description of candles lit and a bubble bath taken with the missing lover’s sweet face and voice.

Now say, you were to publish your lover’s courtly depictions of your love without his consent, with intent of causing him pain and humiliation. Some might construe that as pornographic. However if he gets off on humiliation, your act of exposing, of catering to his particular tastes could be an act of Eros.

Let’s look at an extreme case. Take a camera into an establishment of forced prostitution and film the sodomizing of a trafficked 14 year old girl and we’d all have a hard time seeing that as anything but sick and beyond pornographic. But the lover who shows his or her lover the same acts, convincingly staged, depicted by consenting adults, say as a way to fire a moribund marriage, well, that is still over the line for most of us, but is it truly pornographic?

Let’s add another twist or two. What if the two people sharing these taboo images aren’t yet lovers yet, but just friends? What about the lonely guy or woman who downloads a clip like that from the internet for the purpose of some relaxing self-love before bed? He or she doesn’t know if the video they masturbated to was staged or real. Many people would call such a person a pervert or pedophile, especially if he/she fantasizes about being the aggressor in such a video. But we don’t know that person’s heart. This individual might be just as capable of calling the police if confronted with the real tragedy of human trafficking. Being aroused by representations of sexual cruelty that do not sit easily on one side of a line or the other is not the same as knowing right from wrong.

When I read erotica, my standards may be a bit different than most people’s. I realize that many people, particularly women, use erotic writing as a journaling, journeying sort of activity toward healing and enhanced sexual wellness and to that I say BRAVO. I would never look at any man or woman’s account of their life experience and say oh, your life is trite or your accounting of it is anything but your gift to share with the rest of us. And thank you for doing so.

Here are some of my standards:

Does it (the writing or imaging) get me in the language/speech/emotional centers? Is the language fresh, original and vibrant? Does it evoke emotions, dark or light? Does it go down a different path, stir old associations or make new ones? Is it not just well-constructed, but playful and evocative?

Then there’s always the sex? Slightly south of language and speech centers, but not so far. Three chords might work in rock and roll, but are tiresome when it comes to erotica. I crave novelty. I want to see fresh and original ways of describing the act. If the “same three words” are overused, I quickly become bored. On the other side of the spectrum, if the writer is too timid, academic, euphemistic and abstracted in their descriptions, I also become bored.

Beyond that, what’s the emotional connection between the characters? Are they longtime lovers or brand new? Is the sex playful, angry, heated, languid, brutal, gentle, spice or vanilla? Do I smell, taste, hear and feel what’s going on?

Does the feel and the pace of the writing echo the pace and progression of lovemaking? Is this just an exercise, or is it evident that the writer is hot and bothered too? I know when something I write is working if it stirs me “down yonder.”

I think it’s an amazing, intimate compact to turn people on with words.

What about the story? Are there conflicts, plot twists, character arcs, resolution, (and yes, climax? ;-)

In short, I apply the same standards to erotica that I apply to any other form of art. Sex is powerful stuff. It makes for great stories, great art. It’s time our society lost its false modesty, false virginity and begin to appreciate the depiction of sex (lovemaking or fucking) in art. It is art. An aesthetic experience. In the end, that’s all that counts.

In admiration,
Ricc Berra, author of Apostrophe—Tales of Longing and Consent (

This essay was added recently as a response to my call for definitions. Written by one of the regular attendees of the Erotic Literary Salon – Live.  Has me thinking I should start sharing some of my emails again, I always receive interesting reactions to the exchange of words.

First Sexual Experience – reminder – Erotic Literary Salon, August 16, next Tuesday

These words were recited by Frances, our resident nonagenarian, at one of the first Salons. She was recalling her first sexual experience.



Frances‚ Resident nonagenarian


I was five ‚ playing on the sidewalk of my parent’s grocery store. An old man, bent over and holding a cane said he’d give me a penny if I kissed him. I kissed him quickly and he gave me a copper penny ‚that matched the man. It was green with age.


I don‚t remember if I said, “Thank you,” but I remember running into the store and buying a piece of candy.


Now, years later, I still kiss old men ‚ only now its for free.

Thumbnail image:

Maine Penny 
Minted in Norway between A.D. 1065 and 1080, this small silver coin was excavated at the Goddard site, a large prehistoric Indian trade village in Penobscot Bay, Maine. It is thought to be evidence of an extensive northern native trade network rather than direct contact between Vikings and late prehistoric Indians.
Maine State Museum 30.42.01.
Photo courtesy Maine State Museum

< p=”">



Saturn on Mercury, First Part Series – August 16th Erotic Literary Salon Live

The first sensexual piece to be listed in the new navigation bar heading for erotica. Sebastian has presented this series at the Erotic Literary Salon live for the past two month, and there are two more installments scheduled to be read. The Salon is so very privileged to have him along with many other gifted writers sharing their words monthly. Reminder, Jeremy Edwards and Helia will be featured presenters at this most special of events.

Saturn on Mercury, by Sebastian

The desert knows what you need. It reaches into the recesses of that crowded room, that hoarder’s delight you call your mind and extracts the raw necessities of life from your psyche. You thought what you needed was to get laid.
The night before your excursion into the heat baked wasteland you wander the casinos bent on starting out what you are certain will be a week wallowing in sweat and cum with a proverbial bang. Bar after bar you are met with couples drowning their sorrows, frat boys sowing their oats and geriatric dreams unsung. Your hotel key burning a whole in your pocket you make eye contact with a few prospective beauties, even dance hip to hip with a gaggle of women sharing a night on the town. But no one feels right, no one has that look of hunger in their eyes and you’re starting to feel like a wolf among sheep, a pariah circling the pack waiting for a pass to get closer and join the social circle once more.
A few words at a piano bar and a girl invites you to dance with her. Your hips close, in sync, you gyrate to whatever melody the piano’s keys can hammer out to a crowd plied with rum and Coronas. The two of you wander about, spending your waking hours dive to dive, song to song, taking a moment to whisper those introductory aphorisms you use to wine and dine the ladies at home and the occasional long deep kiss. Ah, those kisses, kisses you get lost in; hungry wanting moments of open mouths pressed longingly, darting tongues tasting one another in anticipation of what is to come. Occasionally you’re self-conscious over the public display, catching a coy giggle over the din of stolen lives and not caring.
In the wee hours you look with her friends for an open bar or diner. There’s a small joint you spot after wandering the cold desert night. A jukebox and an inviting dark corner beckon you all if only for another hour, but another hour until what? A moment where they realize she’s not going home with them? An awkward grin disappearing into the night as they wonder if she’ll be alright – disapproving, some broken hearted, a setup for rumor-mongering in the coming year – whatever they think you imagine movie romances, kissing in the elevators, clothes cast aside en-route, barely conscious of your efforts to not just take her in the hall bound to wake up in a corner, feet away from your door with a table cloth draped about your bare bodies – assuming someone doesn’t call the police.
Realizing you’ve let your mind meander you look over as they order drinks. You make a mental note that getting to the hotel before sex is a good priority. She saunters toward you swinging her long brown hair and sporting a wry smile – you cannot wait to see her sans her shirt, feel her breasts under your hands and hear that satisfied involuntary moan rise from deep within as you slide your hand between her legs – you shake your head to clear it of the anticipatory hallucinations and smile back at her.
“I’m having a really great time tonight,” she puts her hands on your chest.
“Me to,” punctuating your assent with a soft kiss.
She looks down shyly, “I just have to tell you, I sorta have this rule, I mean I thought you should know, I’m not going to have sex with you tonight, not after our first… date.”
You’re heart sinks, with it your fantasies wash down an equally imaginary drain, your chest tightens, and you try desperately to not let it show on your face. You sport a roguish grin and nod that you understand. “I just didn’t want you to be waiting around if that’s what you were hoping for and I’d release you, before it gets too late, to find greener pastures.”
You take a deep breath and look out into the night from the barstool, “I’m having a lot of fun and unless you want me to take off I’d love to stick around with you guys.”
She smiles, “I’d like that.”
“Just tell me one thing,” and you pull her close, “you want to, right?”
She bites her lip, looks up with wanton eyes and nods, “in the worst way.”

The desert knows what you need. It see through your mental facade, your confident veneer, the face you put on for those you wish to share your bed or believe you to be worth hiring. You thought what you needed was to feel a body close at night.
Flesh is all around you. All other colors are washed out, driven from the social palate by the proliferation of sun-washed sand and bodies in constant motion. You are adrift amid a sea of art, metal and plaster and paint baking under a yellow sky. Plumage on tanned bodies undulating to a stark, unforgiving rhythm.
Your first night in the desert wandering the playa campsites you aren’t so much looking at fifty foot sculptures and interpreting artistic commentary on the evils of urbanization. You feast your eyes on the bodies that lay before you and they look back. You feel like you are part of the display and you move with them. The energy is one of potential, unbridled hope, uncertain expectations. You wander to see what you can see. Feel what you can feel.
Dancing is the language you all speak here.  You’re inundated with an undulating spectrum of colors, scents and sounds, all to the relentless thrum.  Most of the time you remain anonymous, just part of the wave of flesh, fire and pheromones.
Glancing to your right you see her. Your heart races. Day one in this celebration of hedonistic expression and she looks at you like no one has ever looked at you before. Her hair cascades down her back, her hips sway her perfect bare breasts a signpost to remind you of the civilization you left behind. And those eyes. Those eyes that express a slow sultry moan that says “fuck me, please.” You can’t help but grin. Your eyes meet and you nod. Her hand beckons you. You look about at first then saunter her way. The music is maddeningly loud, allowing you leave to get close to her. You move in near her ear, her hair brushing against your face “HI! YOU LOOK AMAZING! WHAT’S YOUR NAME?!” you shout into her ear. She cringes and whimpers, “Too loud.” Your confidence drains, a friend of hers wanders over and scampers off with her with nary a wave.
Days pass like this. Barely clothed, sun-drenched goddesses splayed out, wanting, willing. A misstep here. A mishap there. A mixture of missed opportunities sending you into a frenzy of wanton desire. It’s not because you’re inexperienced or even because it’s been a while. It’s because you’re surrounded by it. It’s because the sexual tension fills the air in a palpable current, tendrils of lust billowing through a city bent on fulfilling your every fantasy.
Out dancing with some friends you come across an acquaintance. She’s decked out in the bacchanal uniform, a bikini and sunglasses to make Elton John proud, knee high boots and a pink synthetic boa. She collapses in a chair beside you and says “My, aren’t you cute.” Pleasantries are traded and you spend the evening parading about adult playgrounds. At one point you’re helping her onto a platform made of telephone poles and chains with a dub-step throbbing all around you. Fire gouts to the music from a twenty foot metal sphere above. So entrenched in it’s opulence you pull her close and kiss her. She smiles. With a bit of hesitation she looks at you and says, “Back home I have a boyfriend.” Keeping hormones in check you take a deep breath, a practiced pleasantness you’ve come to embrace and you bow to respect for her distant paramour.
After long she, like so many others disappears into the beat laden night leaving you longing for release.

Sex on the brain: What turns women on, mapped out

Women have known this for years, but we have also doubted it for years. The media presented a different picture, many sexologists viewed pleasure centers differently, and now finally a map. It will be interesting to see how these findings affect erotic writings.
Man locates clitoris at last (Image: International Society for Sexual Medicine)

“Man locates clitoris at last (Image: International Society for Sexual Medicine)

It’s what women have been telling men for decades: stimulating the vagina is not the same as stimulating the clitoris. Now brain scan data has added weight to their argument.

The precise locations that correspond to the vagina, cervix and female nipples on the brain’s sensory cortex have been mapped for the first time, proving that vaginal stimulation activates different brain regions to stimulation of the clitoris. The study also found a direct link between the nipples and the genitals, which may explain why some women can orgasm through nipple stimulation alone. The discoveries could ultimately help women who have suffered nerve damage in childbirth or disease.

The sensory cortex is a strip of brain tissue positioned roughly under where the band between a pair of headphones sits. Across it, neurons linked to different body parts exchange information about the sensory information feeding into them. This is often depicted as the “sensory homunculus”, a distorted image of a man stretched across the brain, with his genitals lying next to his feet (click here). The size of the body’s parts show how much of the brain is dedicated to processing the sensory information from each body part.

The diagram was first published in 1951 after experiments conducted during brain surgery performed while the patients were conscious: the surgeon electrically stimulated different regions of the patients’ brains and the patients reported the parts of their bodies in which they felt sensation as a result. But all the subjects were men. Until recently, the position of female genitalia on the homunculus had only been guessed at.

This changed last year when a team led by Lars Michels at University Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to confirm that the position of the clitoris on the homunculus was in approximately the same position as the penis in men. Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, and his colleagues have now used the same method to map the position of the clitoris, vagina and cervix on the sensory cortex as women stimulated themselves.

There, there and there

“This is hard proof that there is a big difference between stimulating those different regions,” says Stuart Brody of the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley, UK, one of the researchers in the study.

Some have argued that women who derive pleasure from vaginal stimulation do so because their clitoris is being indirectly stimulated, but the current findings contradict this. “They support the reports of women that they experience orgasm from various forms of stimulation,” says Beverly Whipple, also of Rutgers University, who was not involved in the current study.

It’s the nipples, stupid

Komisaruk also checked what happened when women’s nipples were stimulated, and was surprised to find that in addition to the chest area of the cortex lighting up, the genital area was also activated. “When I tell my male neuroscientist colleagues about this, they say: ‘Wow, that’s an exception to the classical homunculus,’” he says. “But when I tell the women they say: ‘Well, yeah?’” It may help explain why a lot of women claim that nipple stimulation is erotic, he adds.

The next step is to map what other areas of the brain light up in response to clitoral and vaginal stimulation. Komisaruk would also like to see what happens when the area that supposedly contains the G-spot is stimulated, as women in the current study just stimulated the front wall of the vagina generally.

The findings could also help women who have suffered nerve damage in childbirth or because of diseases like diabetes. Michels has preliminary evidence that stimulating the clitoral nerve can improve symptoms of urinary incontinence, but says a proper understanding of how the nerve maps to the brain is needed to translate this into effective treatment.

Meanwhile, Komisaruk says that nipple stimulation could enhance genital sensation in women with nerve damage. “It could be a supplement for experiencing orgasm,” he says.”

by Linda Geddes

Women’s Clitoris, Vagina, and Cervix Mapped on the Sensory Cortex: fMRI Evidence


Introduction. The projection of vagina, uterine cervix, and nipple to the sensory cortex in humans has not been reported.

Aims. The aim of this study was to map the sensory cortical fields of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and nipple, toward an elucidation of the neural systems underlying sexual response.

Methods. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we mapped sensory cortical responses to clitoral, vaginal, cervical, and nipple self-stimulation. For points of reference on the homunculus, we also mapped responses to the thumb and great toe (hallux) stimulation.

Main Outcome Measures. The main outcome measures used for this study were the fMRI of brain regions activated by the various sensory stimuli.

Results. Clitoral, vaginal, and cervical self-stimulation activated differentiable sensory cortical regions, all clustered in the medial cortex (medial paracentral lobule). Nipple self-stimulation activated the genital sensory cortex (as well as the thoracic) region of the homuncular map.

Conclusion. The genital sensory cortex, identified in the classical Penfield homunculus based on electrical stimulation of the brain only in men, was confirmed for the first time in the literature by the present study in women applying clitoral, vaginal, and cervical self-stimulation, and observing their regional brain responses using fMRI. Vaginal, clitoral, and cervical regions of activation were differentiable, consistent with innervation by different afferent nerves and different behavioral correlates. Activation of the genital sensory cortex by nipple self-stimulation was unexpected, but suggests a neurological basis for women’s reports of its erotogenic quality. Komisaruk BR, Wise N, Frangos E, Liu W-C, Allen K, and Brody S. Women’s clitoris, vagina and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. J Sex Med **;**:**–**.