What's the Point?

by | October 24, 2014 | General | 6 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

Being a creative type, as you probably know, means having a particularly active brain. Which is all find and dandy when you find yourself stuck in traffic or in a doctor’s waiting room and you have to self-amuse (in a publicly acceptable manner) for a while. That’s the time to unleash the imagination and set it free. When it isn’t such a great thing is when its two in the morning and you still can’t fall asleep because your brain decides to run endless iterations of  a bad scene you’re dreading rather than shut off.

By three a.m, you realize why Morpheus was a god.

Family drama may be keeping me awake, but in those wee hours of the morning I do my usual ‘thinking too much about things.’  And what I mused too much about recently– other than family drama– is a question.

What’s the point of erotica?

Saying “Well, to arouse readers, of course,” seems too simplistic and possibly wrong. Possibly. Horror seems like a genre intended to scare people, but it often, especially in movies, is used to reflect upon and comment on our culture. What’s the purpose of the mystery genre? Probably to reassure readers that there is order in life and there’s such a thing as closure. That’s a huge lie, of course, but– to quote The Sun Also Rises– “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Maybe the point of a mystery is to entertain  the type of reader who likes a puzzle.

So maybe the point of erotica is to arouse, but I think it’s more complex than that in the hands of some writers and some readers. Could it be that the genre uses sex and sexuality to explore the human condition, and that titillation is just a byproduct? Is it erotica if it only shows sex but it isn’t arousing? (or is that simply literary fiction?) And does the author’s intent matter? what if it was supposed to turn you on but didn’t? Or what if it wasn’t ever supposed to arouse but one reader got a tingle and some fevered dreams out of a scene?

You can see why such thoughts turn into little hamsters on unbalanced exercise wheels in need of lubrication. The squeaking alone is enough to stop a brain from turning off. Eventually it does, but not before a subtler thief sneaks at the edges of my thoughts. And here’s the point where it turns slightly awkward, because the quote that came to me was from a children’s movie. In Willie Wonka (the Johnny Depp version, not the Gene Wilder one), Charlie Bucket sagely comments that “Candy doesn’t have to have a point.”  Maybe erotica doesn’t need to have one either. But let me know what you think.

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at: KathleenBradean.Blogspot.com www.JayLygonWrites.com


  1. meganmorganauthor.com

    I think the point of erotica lies in refuting that quote: candy does have a point. It tastes good, it makes you happy, and even though not everyone likes it, those of us who do are glad it exists and that there's so many varieties to choose from.

  2. Fiona McGier

    I agree more with your other point, that erotica has a point. It explores the way that people relate to each other on a very personal level. What can be more unique to each of us, yet shared by all of us, than how you relate your body to another person's? When bodies touch, it's not just all about skin and nerve endings. There are feelings involved also, even in hook-ups. I don't think there is any subject more interesting than how people relate to one another sexually.

    But then I've always thought about sex all of the time. When I read that men thought about it more than women, I was seriously perplexed. How can someone else think about it more than "all of the time"?

  3. Jean Roberta

    Intriguing question, Kathleen. Maybe erotica in general is less goal-oriented than other genres, or more flexible.

  4. Kathleen Bradean

    I agree that erotica often has a point. I just don't think it has to have one. There's nothing wrong with simply being fun. Or arousing. Or just a story someone wanted to tell. But that isn't to say it's useless or shouldn't exist.

  5. Reuben

    I think Kathleen's point is very true – nothing wrong with it just being fun or arousing.

    For me personally, erotica is also often about exploring facets of human experience, and I tend to look for some degree of commentary on the human condition or on spheres of social and private experiences and expectations.

  6. Lisabet Sarai

    I see some difficulty in trying to throw all fiction labeled as erotica into one big tub in order to figure out what it's "for". Different authors are trying to achieve different things. Heck, that's even true of different stories by the same author (speaking from personal experience).

    I write erotica because that is what intrigues me, what compels me. It's a genre I can push in lots of different directions. Sometimes the point is a good orgasm. Sometimes it's about spiritual revelation.

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