Authored by: Catherine M. Roach

The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138777217
eBook ISBN: 9781315168302
Adobe ISBN:


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Let’s start with definition, since that’s where the controversy begins. Erotica is a form of media representation that involves literature or visual art focused on sexuality. Often, and in a usage that I will follow, the term ‘erotica’ is used for forms of writing – novels, novellas, short stories – that take sexual activity as a central subject of their narratives. Here, then, is our simplest description: in the genre of erotica, writers tell stories about sex. Although erotica is in this sense very focused – offering explicit and detailed representations of sexuality that may leave room for little else in the narrative – it is at the same time very broad, offering the widest imaginable representation of sexual activity and desire (adult breast-feeding scenarios, werewolf shape-shifter ménage romance, etc.) In erotica, sexuality and sexual activity are presented in stories that range from the mildly suggestive, through the sexually explicit, all the way to the kinkiest of hardcore; from amateur online short stories to professionally published bestselling novels; from the mainstream to the alternative; and from the heterosexual to minority positions of sexual and gender expression across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. In this chapter, I focus on sexual narratives written in the Anglosphere in order to allow for a transnational approach while providing delimitation to a vast topic.

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