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Title: Eroticism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Ruxandra Cesereanu, Love, Philosophy of love, Undergarment, Courtly love
Collection: Concepts in Aesthetics, Human Sexuality
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Eroticism (from the Greek ἔρως, eros—"desire") is a quality that causes sexual feelings,[1] as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality and romantic love. That quality may be found in any form of art, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music or literature. It may also be found in advertising. The term may also refer to a state of sexual arousal[1] or anticipation of such – an insistent sexual impulse, desire, or pattern of thoughts.

As French novelist Honoré de Balzac stated, eroticism is dependent not just upon an individual's sexual morality, but also the culture and time in which an individual resides.[2][3][4]


  • Definitions 1
  • Psychoanalytical approach 2
  • French philosophy 3
  • Non-heterosexual 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


Because the nature of what is erotic is fluid,[5] early definitions of the term attempted to conceive eroticism as some form of sensual or romantic love or as the human sex drive (libido); for example, the Encyclopédie of 1755 states that the erotic "is an epithet ork: 1972) critics have often confused eroticism with pornography, going so far as to say: "[Eroticism] is simply high-class pornography; better produced, better conceived, better executed, better packaged, designed for a better class of consumer."[6] However, because eroticism is wholly dependent on the viewer's culture and personal tastes pertaining to what, exactly, defines the erotic,[7][8] This confusion, as Lynn Hunt writes, "demonstrate the difficulty of drawing...a clear generic demarcation between the erotic and the pornographic": indeed arguably "the history of the separation of pornography from eroticism...remains to be written".[9]

Psychoanalytical approach

For a psychoanalytical definition, as early as Freud[10] psychotherapists have turned to the ancient Greek philosophy's "overturning of mythology" as a definition to understanding of the heightened aesthetic.[11] For Plato, Eros takes an almost transcendent manifestation when the subject seeks to go beyond itself and form a communion with the objectival other: "the true order of the things of love, is to use the beauties of earth as all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty".[12]

French philosophy

Eroticism in photography by French photographer Jean-Christophe Destailleur

Modern French conceptions of eroticism can be traced to

  1. ^ a b "Eroticism". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Balzac, "The Physiology of Marriage" (1826), trans. Sharon Marcus (1997), Aphorism XXVI, 65
  3. ^ Grande, L., "Laws and Attitudes towards Homosexuality from Antiquity to the Modern Era", Ponte 43:4-5 (1987), pp. 122-129
  4. ^ Gauthier, Albert, "La sodomie dans le droit canonique medieval" in L'Erotisme au Moyen Age: Etudes presentees au IIe Colloque de l'Institut d'Etudes Medievales, 3-4 Avril 1976, ed. Roy, Bruno (Montreal: Ed. Aurore, 1977), pp. 109-122
  5. ^ Evans, David T., Sexual Citizenship: The Material Construction of Sexualities, (New York: Routledge, 1993)
  6. ^ Andrea Dworkin. (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2011, from
  7. ^ Foster. Jeannette H., Sex Variant Women in Literature: A Historical and Quantitative Survey 2nd ed., (New York: Vantage Press, 1956) (repr. Baltimore: Diana Press, 1975)
  8. ^ Weinberg, M., & A. Bell, Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography, (New
  9. ^ Hunt, "Introduction", in Hunt ed., Eroticism p. 4
  10. ^ Dollmore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Ausgutine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991)
  11. ^ Hunt, "Introduction", in Hunt ed., Eroticism p. 13
  12. ^ "The Symposium", in Benjamin Jowett trans, The Essential Plato (1999) p. 746
  13. ^ Coward, D.A., "Attitudes to Homosexuality in Eighteenth Century France", Journal of European Studies 10, pp. 236 ff.
  14. ^ Hunt, "Introduction", in Hunt ed., Eroticism p. 3 and p. 5
  15. ^ L'érotisme, by Georges Bataille, Paris (1957: UK publication 1962) ISBN 978-2-7073-0253-3
  16. ^ George Bataille, Eroticism (Penguin 2001) p. 256
  17. ^ Bataille, Eroticism p. 11
  18. ^ Morton, Donald, ed., The Material Queer: A LesBiGay Cultural Studies Reader, (Boulder CO: Westview, 1996)
  19. ^ Cohen, Ed, Talk on the Wilde Side: Towards a Genealogy of a Discourse on Male Sexualities, (New York: Routledge, 1999)
  20. ^ Flannigan-Saint-Aubin, Arthur. "'Black Gay Male' Discourse: Reading Race and Sexuality Between the Lines". Journal of the History of Sexuality 3:3 (1993): 468-90.
  21. ^ Aries, Philippe & Andre Bejin, eds., Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985; orig. pub. as Sexualities Occidentales, Paris: Editions du Seuil/Communications, 1982)
  22. ^ Bullough, Vern L., "Homosexuality and the Medical Model", Journal of Homosexuality 1:6 (1975), pp. 99-110
  23. ^ from Abelove, Henry, Michele Aina Barale, and David Halperin, eds., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, (New York: Routledge: 1993) Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick: Epistemology of the closet, 45
  24. ^ from Abelove, Henry, Michele Aina Barale, and David Halperin, eds., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, (New York: Routledge: 1993) Gayle S. Rubin: Notes for a radical theory of the politics of sexuality, 3
  25. ^ from Abelove, Henry, Michele Aina Barale, and David Halperin, eds., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, (New York: Routledge: 1993) Marilyn Frye: Some reflections on separatism and power, 91
  26. ^ Marshall, John, "Pansies, Perverts and Macho Men: Changing Conceptions of Male Homosexuality", in Kenneth Plummer, ed., The Making of the Modern Homosexual, (London: Hutchinson, 1981), 133-54
  27. ^ Fone, Byrne R.S., "Some Notes Toward a History of Gay People", The Advocate no. 259 (Jan 25, 1979), pp. 17-19 & no. 260 (Feb 28, 1979), pp. 11-13
  28. ^ Mangan, J. A. "Men, Masculinity, and Sexuality: Some Recent Literature". Journal of the History of Sexuality 3:2 (1992): 303-13


See also

Theorists like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick,[23] Gayle S. Rubin[24] and Marilyn Frye[25] all write extensively about eroticism from a heterosexual, lesbian and separatist point of view, respectively, seeing Eroticism as both a political force[26] and cultural critique[27] for marginalized groups, or as Mario Vargas Llosa summarized: "Eroticism has its own moral justification because it says that pleasure is enough for me; it is a statement of the individual's sovereignty".[28]

Queer theory and LGBT studies consider the concept from a non-heterosexual perspective, viewing psychoanalytical and modernist views of eroticism as both archaic[18] and heterosexist,[19] written primarily by and for a "handful of elite, heterosexual, bourgeois men"[20] who "mistook their own repressed sexual proclivities"[21] as the norm.[22]


[17] For Bataille, as well as many French theorists, "Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest...eroticism is assenting to life even in death".[16] as well as that, "Desire in eroticism is the desire that triumphs over the taboo. It presupposes man in conflict with himself".[15]

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