Pop Culture dictionary


or erotic fanfic [ih-rot-i-kuh]

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 fanfiction.

Related words

Destiel, fanfiction, literotica, rules of the internet

Where does 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, been made with the goal of artistic expression and not just financial gains, and 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 fanfiction 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. Steamy.

1843 Magazine

One famous example of erotic fanfic turned into mainstream erotica (romance novels, but kinkier) is E.L. James’ 2010s 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?

Bigfoot, King of the Forest

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

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
Little known Black lesbian sex magazine, four issues published 1991-92 out of L.A. Edited by Alycee J. Lane, the magazine was a mix of erotica, photography, and editorials exploring Black lesbians' desires and political concerns.
@desembree, August, 2018

Who uses 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, you filthy-minded heathen) has been stirring 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 bitalthough we suppose these folks can just make due with all the kinky stuff in the Bible if they need some inspiration.

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. So, go ahead and click on that juicy Yoda/Chewbacca story. Hey, whatever floats your bloat, young Jedi.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of erotica like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of erotica that will help our users expand their word mastery.