Upgrading your sex life through erotica
Erotica is the tag-along friend of art and culture – wherever you look, it’s there, hiding in the background perhaps, but there nonetheless.
Paleolithic cave paintings of men and women show exaggerated genitals; in Mesopotamia, explicit sex scenes were depicted on stone or clay and later, the Romans and Greeks expressed their ideas on sex in murals, statues, pottery and so on.
Before print and TV, we had visual delights like Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (surely the only time erotic art has featured pubic hair and an octopus).
Now, we have porn.
In both erotica and porn there’s nudity, genitalia, depiction of sexual arousal and satisfaction. And yet there are distinct differences besides simply taste.
Pornography is focused on the physical aspect of sex and not much, if at all, about the psychological, emotional, sensual side.
Erotica, on the other hand, raises questions, and gives us pause to reflect. Porn isn’t considered an artform; at best it’s considered harmless fun, at worst it’s abusive and degrading.
Is erotica unethical?
There are, however, many reasons erotica can be seen as just as ethically problematic.
Bestiality is often present in ancient erotica, and Ancient Greek erotica favours scenes of pederasty.
Strictly speaking, being erotica doesn’t make the sex acts they portray OK. Now we have what is arguably erotica from photographers such as Guy Bourdin with his stylised sexual and violent imagery, and Terry Richardson with his fashion photos – is this erotica, art or abuse?
With the #MeToo movement and all that goes with it we’re all more aware of the messages purveyed. And while everyone can agree that there is nothing erotic about real-life sexual assault, there are also people who would describe themselves as having fantasies about being submissive and even ‘raped’.
Books and films such as 50 Shades of Grey haven’t helped, presenting problematic ideas where coercion and power are major factors, to the point where abuse is even presented as love. The way to navigate these muddied waters isn’t clear.
What is clear, however, is that your goals when viewing porn compared to erotica, are different – with porn, you’re looking for excitement and results. You’re unlikely to return to the same porn site or video if it doesn’t get you off. You might even fast forward to the ‘good bit.’
With erotica, it’s different. When you view the art of Gustav Klimt or Egon Schiele in a gallery you’re more likely to be intrigued and curious, wanting to open your mind and eyes to different ways of viewing the human form and sexuality.
And this is where erotica wins. Porn provides a quick fix, while erotica can make your life more sensuous and full.
‘Getting in touch with your creative side is essential for expanding your erotic world,’ says US sex educator IM Jae.
‘It offers new ways to experience touch and sensuality, and also provides a fresh view of yourself and your partner(s). For example, in my classes we delve into sensations of both pleasure and an intensity that can border on pain, as well as incorporating sensory items such as scented oils, hot wax and a variety of tools to help you develop more creativity in your sexual life.’
Upping the erotica in your life
Sensuality and the erotic can also be applied outside of the bedroom. ‘You can bring sensuous moments into your life via cooking in the kitchen, your daily routine in the bathroom or even while taking a stroll in the park,’ says sex therapist Dr Ian Kerner.
So when preparing food, consider the textures, aromas and flavours, as well as how the food looks.
Finger foods packed with flavour that require you to lick and savour each small bite will make eating a more full-body-and-soul experience, as will foods that give you contrasting sensations such as melting chocolate balls with hot caramel sauce and ice cream (there’s a reason people describe this dessert as ‘orgasmic’).
Or when you’re getting yourself clean, give your skin a brush or scrub to get your nerves tingling, then after a shower rub oil over your still-wet body to hold in moisture and to touch yourself all over before you begin the day.
During the day when you’re out, don’t try to stifle your sensuality – bring it to the fore. This could simply be by drawing your own attention to your body – raising your consciousness of how it feels, moves and behaves.
Sexy underwear is an obvious choice and there are also ben-wa balls for women. These are small insertable balls containing a weight that moves as you do.
And if you’ve never tried it, going commando can lead to a heightened self-awareness that’s interesting to explore for both men and women.
This conscious awareness of your ‘sexual being’ is a great way to give yourself stronger and better orgasms, too.
Tantric sex uses this to great effect with deliberate breathing and touch, slow movements, and a kind of meditative focus on each other and the sensations you’re experiencing.
‘The longer the period of sexual excitement prior to satisfaction, the more powerful an orgasm is likely to be,’ says Kerner. So just imagine what it would be like if you spend all day building up to it…
Read more: Are you having conscious sex?