erotica

[ ih-rot-i-kuh ]
/ ɪˈrɒt ɪ kə /

noun (used with a singular or plural verb)

written works, usually fiction, dealing with sexual love.
sexually explicit art, photographs, sculptures, or the like, depicting human sexuality.

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Origin of erotica

1850–55; <Greek, neuter plural of erōtikóserotic
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does erotica mean?

Erotica is visual art or writing created to sexually arouse the viewer or reader. It is commonly associated with novels and internet fan fiction.

Content warning: the following content includes references to sexual activity.

Where did the term erotica come from?

Erotica comes from the ancient Greek word eros, a word for “passionate or sexual love” and personified as a god. The Roman counterpart is Cupid.

Erotica, though, is even more ancient: prehistoric cave paintings from places as far flung as France, Australia, and China have long immortalized sexy times.

Erotic literature is also very old. The Song of Solomon is a sensual book of the Old Testament, but erotic poems go all the way back to a birthplace of the written word, ancient Sumer, where poetic erotica served as a how-to manual for young lovers.

While the content is old, the word erotica is younger, recorded in the 1810s. This wasn’t long before another sexy Greek-based word emerged, pornography (literally, “writing concerning prostitutes”), by the 1840s.

People have been arguing about the difference between erotica and pornography ever since. The consensus is that pornography is commercial, has no aesthetic value other than to stimulate the viewer sexually, and objectifies the subject(s).

Erotica is considered to have artistic merit besides being sexy, being made with the goal of artistic expression and not just financial gains. It humanizes the subject(s).

Now, even though museums and libraries are full of millennia of erotica, from sexy petroglyphs to giant paintings of orchids that look like lady parts, we’re pretty sure you want to know about the internet phenomenon of fan fiction erotica. Fanfic has been around since the 1880s, when Sherlock Holmes fans started clubs to write it, and erotic fanfic has been popular since people started shipping Kirk and Spock in 1970s Star Trek fan zines.

One famous example of erotic fanfic turned mainstream erotica (romance novels, but kinkier) is E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy-turned-movies, which began as Twilight fanfiction.

There are enough websites devoted to Harry Potter erotica that the topic is a black card in Cards Against Humanity. And, it’s a pretty safe bet that any media you’ve ever enjoyed has some fanfic erotica just waiting to ruin your childhood with the click of a mouse. Where there’s a fandom, there’s erotica. Isn’t that one of those rules of the internet?

In 2018, a Virginia Democratic candidate for Congress accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being into Bigfoot erotica. Erotica truly covers all things.

Who uses the term erotica?

Feminists in the 1970s and on have advocated for feminist erotica (sometimes called feminist porn or cliterature), which emphasizes women’s autonomy and pleasure over more male-centric, objectifying pornography.

Madonna’s 1992 album Erotica included such classics as “Justify My Love” and ushered in the pointy-bra era for the Queen of Pop.

Christian erotica (erotica about married, Christian couples having hot, steamy, church-sanctioned sexy times, not erotica about Jesus) stirred up controversy in the 2010s. Some believers feel that erotica is a God-friendly way to spice up the old marital duties, while others don’t approve one bit.

If you’re feeling guilty about your consumption of erotica, don’t! Some experts say that erotica is good for mental health and can help with depression, anxiety, and recovering from trauma.

More examples of erotica:

“After all, “erotica” is rooted in “eros” or passionate love, and thus in the idea of positive choice, free will, the yearning for a particular person.”
—Gloria Steinem, Ms., November 1978

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for erotica

British Dictionary definitions for erotica

erotica
/ (ɪˈrɒtɪkə) /

pl n

explicitly sexual literature or art

Word Origin for erotica

C19: from Greek erōtika, neuter plural of erōtikos erotic
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012