Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Art of Pornography

If you've paid attention to the book market at all recently then you should know that erotica, erotic romance, romantica (whatever you wish to call it) is the hottest (yes, I know that's a pun) genre going. As an agent I feel very lucky to represent a number of amazing writers in this area. The stories are wonderfully written, passionate, exciting, and yes, they are hot. So here's my beef. Over the past few months I've heard this genre and these books repeatedly referred to as pornography, and I have to tell you, this really peaves me off.

I'm sure most of my authors, many who have been writing for years, have been dealing with this for a lot longer than I have, but I feel I need to say something and explain something. My first step in understanding where this is coming from (although I think I already have a pretty good idea) and having solid facts to back up my argument is to go to the dictionary.

pornography

1. Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.
2. The presentation or production of this material.
3. Lurid or sensational material


erotica
Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.


And therein lies my problem. Pornography is simply described as writing whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal, whereas erotica is literature or art intended to cause desire. Even the words used in the definitions make erotica sound lovely, sophisticated, and acceptable, while pornography sounds dirty and cheap. As an agent I like to think that what my authors are writing is lovely and sophisticated. They work hard to create strong stories, passionate characters, and to develop a readership who wants to come back for more. Pornographers, on the other hand (and this is my interpretation of the definition), aren't as concerned about plot or characterization. Their primary purpose is to titillate and sensationalize.

So, what I have determined (like I needed a study to figure this out) is that those who refer to this wonderful new genre as pornography are clearly offended by the work these terrific authors and artists are doing. By describing these books as pornography they make them sound dirty and sinful and are (in my mind) making an attempt to cheapen the work these authors have done.

Offended or not, I think that as writers, artists, authors, and publishing professionals we need to give everyone the respect they deserve for the hard work they do and the hard road they've climbed to get where they are. I don't agree with calling romance novels (of which erotica is considered a sub-genre) trash, and I don't agree with calling erotica pornography. Ironically, the genres that receive the most criticism and snobbery are those that are the most successful. Hmmm, could this be the cause?

Say what you will about someone else's book or the genre in which someone else writes, but the truth is that we are all in this business of publishing together, and whether or not we like what someone else has done we all should like the fact that there are still readers and book buyers out there.

Variety is the spice of life. If you don't like something, don't read it. But don't criticize what you don't know.

—Jessica

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