Is indulging in erotic content good or bad for your sex life?
- Erotica is defined as any type of art that is meant to cause sexual ideation or arousal. The main difference between erotica and pornography is that the former is seen as "art that has a sexual aspect."
- While there are many different misconceptions about the consumption of erotic or pornographic content, many studies on this topic prove it may not be as harmful as you think.
- Erotic literature can allow you to become more comfortable in your sexuality, communicate easier with your partner and may even impact your ability to orgasm.
Erotica is defined as any type of art that is meant to cause sexual ideation or arousal. The main difference between erotica and pornography is that the former is seen as "art that has a sexual aspect", whereas the latter is seen as something that exists solely to create sexual excitement with not much else to offer.
The two most common forms of erotica include:
- Written erotica (short stories, novellas, etc)
- Audio erotica (audio content with sexual themes)
Common misconceptions about written erotica
There are many myths and misconceptions about erotic content...what are the facts?
Photo by Dean Drobot on Shutterstock
MYTH: Women like erotica more than men.
While it's a generalization that women prefer erotica and men prefer visual porn, this is not always the case. This 2016 study examined the effects on both men and women who read BDSM themed erotica. The findings of this study proved that there was no difference in the extent to which the erotic stories aroused men and women.
MYTH: Erotica (and pornography in general) are toxic to relationships.
This is a widely spread myth about all things pornography. Some people are wary of erotic content because they assume it will hurt the intimacy and sexual desire felt in their relationship. However, according to Regain, a popular couples counseling service, reading erotic literature can help get couples into the mood.
This 2018 study suggests whether porn hurts your relationship depends on how your partner feels about you consuming pornographic/erotic content.
"For men who are more accepting of pornography, more pornography use is associated with more relationship satisfaction; however, for men who are less accepting of pornography, more pornography use is associated with less relationship satisfaction."
MYTH: Erotica is vulgar and crude.
There is a large stereotype about erotic content being vulgar and crude, however, this is not always the case. There are many different kinds of written erotica available - the stories can range from romantic and subtle to aggressive and outrageous. Not all erotica is created to stun and surprise - some erotica is created to help the reader explore parts of their sexuality they've never experienced before.
MYTH: Enjoying erotica is bad.
There are some studies that prove this to be quite false. This 1998 study examined the effects of bibliotherapy (reading therapy) on patients with orgasm disorders (sexual dysfunctions), and found that "the available evidence warrants the recommended use of self-help books for sexual dysfunction, but only after proper assessment."
While erotica may not quality as "self-help" to some, for others, reading and exploring sexuality through the written word is in fact a form of self-help.
How reading erotic literature can improve your sex life
Reading erotica can be relaxing and boost your confidence, allowing you to communicate better with your partner about your sexual needs.
Photo by Dmytro Zinkevych on Shutterstock
Reading relaxes you. Relaxation makes sex easier and more enjoyable.
Stress can impact your health in numerous ways, including lowering your sex drive. One of the best ways to relieve daily stress and overcome anxiety is to lose yourself in a good book.
According to the World Literacy Foundation, reading has been found to decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress. In fact, as little as 6 minutes of reading can slow down your heart rate and improve your overall health.
Reading erotica can rid society of stigmas around sexual satisfaction.
According to ABC Life, reading erotica may just be a key to unlocking your sex drive. Kate Cuthbert, a program manager at Writers Victoria, explained that, "erotica reflects our sexuality in a positive way, unlike in mainstream society where a lot of it can be repressed."
Erotic literature can help you discover your sexuality and feel more comfortable.
Not only does it relieve stress and anxiety (which can often be barriers to an active and enjoyable sex life), but it can also help you navigate your own sexuality and express yourself in a healthier way.
"Romance novels are as much about a woman falling in love with herself—in addition to the adventures, true love, and fantastic sex," says romance novelist Maya Rodale.
Much erotic literature highlights consent and safe sex.
While there are some erotic stories that don't discuss things like birth control, safewords, and consent, these themes are becoming more and more popular among up-and-coming erotica authors.
Erotica can be a safe place to express sexuality and explore curiosities and it can also promote communication and conversations between partners around safe, healthy, vibrant sex that all parties involved are happy with.
Will Storr has written a masterful guide to writing with "The Science of Storytelling."
- In "The Science of Storytelling," journalist Will Storr investigates the science behind great storytelling.
- While good plots are important, Storr writes that great stories revolve around complex characters.
- As in life, readers are drawn to flawed characters, yet many writers become too attached to their protagonists.
We are all hallucinating. No one dropped LSD into the water supply—they didn't have to. "Reality," an ambiguous term coined to denote a common set of shared facts, is a construction we've created in an attempt to comfort us that a master plan exists. It does not.
In his latest book, "The Science of Storytelling," journalist and novelist Will Storr opens with a simple yet disconcerting message: "Humans might be in unique possession of the knowledge that our existence is essentially meaningless, but we carry on as if in ignorance of it."
This is why we're all hallucinating. We're not living reality as much as constructing one based on personal history and environment. Over 7 billion human animals walking around, telling ourselves stories about ourselves, using them as emotional shields to guard against the ravages of an indifferent universe.
That's how powerful stories are.
Pouring over his notes from years of teaching creative writing, as well as research from his previous works (including "The Unpersuadables" about science deniers, and "Selfie" about our obsession with ourselves), Storr has written a masterful guide to storytelling. Compact and illuminating, the book combines the last century of neuroscience with 4,000 years of written storytelling to pinpoint what makes stories effective, and what does not.
Becoming better at writing stories "is simply a matter of peering inwards, at the mind itself, and asking how it does it." At its best, a story mirrors the complexity of the human condition without the fear of danger that occurs in real life.
"It's a rollercoaster, but not one made from ramps, rails and steel wheels, but from love, hope, dread, curiosity, status play, constriction, release, unexpected change and moral outrage. Story is a thrill-ride of control."
There is also, it should be noted, the development of empathy. Storr notes that the invention of the novel may have helped kick off the idea of human rights. Understanding the plight and experiences of others would have been impossible on any meaningful scale before this format was introduced. With the novel, other worlds were exposed. Even in our visual realm of tweet-sized stories, such an ability to communicate across borders still matters.
While no summation can perfectly capture the totality of this exceptional book, below are five techniques for becoming a better storyteller. As with any good read, Storr takes the advice he's spent years studying and teaching. He's an excellent writer. Reading "The Science of Storytelling" is in itself a pleasure.
As neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás points out, all life is based on prediction. Even unicellular organisms detect changes in the environment and either embrace them (food; sex) or flee (predators). Humans are no different. We depend on and react to environmental changes all the time: the deer bounding across the street breaking up the monotony of a long drive; the distracted ambivalence of a scorned lover; the anxiety-creating noise of your phone's alerts. We are primed for change.
Good stories require that a character changes. The best require that the protagonist faces an ultimate challenge, forcing them to confront life-altering change. As mentioned, we are all hallucinating reality all the time, so what happens when the illusion is exposed? Are we willing to explore our trauma and heal the scar tissue, or will we allow that pain to fester until death? Characters must be offered an opportunity for change or else the story never gets off the ground.
Cause and Effect
When a story is incomplete, writes literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall, our brain automatically fills in the gaps. This is part of the hallucination: we need everything to mean something. Religion is based on this neurological quirk: there must be a reason we're here. So too is our view on medicine and healing: for some, vaccines must cause autism because teasing apart the myriad other causes, from diet and genetics to environmental changes and toxic social structures, is too overwhelming to consider. We demand meaning, yet our brains are lazy, which is why we tend to believe the simplest explanations.
Storr writes that plots "that play too loose with cause and effect risk becoming confusing, because they're not speaking in the brain's language." Good stories are filled with cause and effect. As a writer, show the cause, don't tell it. If you refuse the reader will grow uninterested.
While this is a debate I'll likely have with fans until the end of time, season four of "Lost" lost me. There were way too many variables introduced that were dropped in the last two seasons. Too many effects, not enough causes.
Expose the Flaws
We are all flawed. You, me, Will Storr, every religious figure ever. Storr cites Joseph Campbell throughout his book, yet he doesn't include one of my favorites: "It is the imperfections of life that are lovable…it's Christ on the cross that becomes lovable." It's not the Son of God but the infallible man that makes him meaningful to followers.
Just as we crave meaning, we like to believe we're in control. Flaws often derive from the fact that control is also an illusion.
"We're all fictional characters. We're the partial, biased, stubborn creations of our own minds."
A character's "terrible power" comes from their belief that they're right; in that rightness they feel superior to others. All stories are ultimately about character. Plots are important but without convincing characters, they fall flat. The key to creating memorable characters is by exposing their flaws.
Will Storr, author of 'The Heretics', appears at a photocall prior to an event at the 30th Edinburgh International Book Festival, on August 13, 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images
The Many Us
Many writers fail because they become too emotionally invested in their protagonist, which is often constructed from pieces of the writer. Another way to phrase it: the writer must be willing to expose their own flaws.
The Buddhist concept of no-self derives from the idea that none of us are ever one single thing. We're influenced by the environment we're in and the people we're around and the amount of caffeine we drink. We have much less willpower at night than in the morning. Our goals and desires shift by the hour. We are many people throughout the day.
"The difference," Storr writes, "is that in life, unlike in story, the dramatic question of who we are never has a final and truly satisfying answer." Humans are complex animals. We love stories that make us the hero. To be heroic requires recognizing the many conflicting desires and thoughts that make us what we are.
The Hero's Journey
Which is really what all of this is about: championing the hero. "Stories are tribal propaganda," Storr concludes. The modern storyteller is working with a different landscape than those past. "A unique quality of humans is that we've evolved the ability to think our way into many tribes simultaneously." We're no longer bound by the traditional tribal structure that dominated for hundreds of thousands of years, nor the caste system that commenced with the development of Harappan civilization. Today's hero transcends prior boundaries.
Though we cannot write off tribalism completely. We're still biologically Stone Age. Just because we have an opportunity to grow does not mean everyone chooses to. "A tribal challenge is existentially disturbing."
We all believe in stories, and all stories are inventions. If we lose our own hero narrative, depression and anxiety are certain to follow, so invested in our stories have we become. The best storytellers carry their hero through to the end. Their flaws result in transformation. It's what we all crave in a story because it's what we all desire, regardless of how illusive notions of control and closure actually are.
For the time being, while we're here, we're storytelling animals. Will Storr has contributed a wonderful guide of how to master the craft of invention. To pull a random quote from the formative years of my childhood, as Axl Rose sang, use your illusion.
"You get to this age, you realize that there are people who will not like what you do no matter what you do," says Booker Prize-winner Salman Rushdie.
- Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie recounts his evolution as a writer who has grown more aware of the reader and less aware of the critic.
- Literary reviews, famously the Times Literary Supplement, were once anonymous—and brutal. Once the Times started publishing bylines with reviews, critics suddenly got much nicer.
- Anonymity, especially online, is a double-edged sword. In authoritarian societies, it gives people great freedom. However anonymity is also the reason people say things online they would never say if they were in a room with you. That may be a degrading force in a highly digital society.
The famed German filmmaker offers his thoughts on reading during Eric Weinstein's podcast.
- During Eric Weinstein's podcast, The Portal, Werner Herzog said that reading is essential for any creative endeavor.
- In the past, Herzog has stated that you can't be a filmmaker without a regular reading habit.
- Herzog's reading list includes classics by Virgil and J.A. Baker, and even the report on JFK's assassination.
During the latest episode of Eric Weinstein's podcast, The Portal, an audience member asks German filmmaker Werner Herzog to recommend one or two books that this generation needs to read. His response is brilliant:
"I would not want to give you two books because you would sit down and read them and think that you've done it. You should not read two books, but 2,000 books."
This isn't the first time that Herzog has offered such advice. An outspoken advocate for reading, in 2014 he really drove the point home:
"Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read. If you don't read, you will never be a filmmaker."
It's not that Herzog doesn't prefer certain books over others. In fact, he created a reading list containing six books — three required, three suggested — for his film school. During his chat with Weinstein, he offered two of these classics, along with sagely advice to "read the Russians; read the Germans."
After mentioning two of those six titles during The Portal, Herzog makes it clear that they alone will not transform the reader. It's not what you read but reading itself that truly matters.
"Don't believe this would make you into a different person. It's the permanence of reading, the insistence of reading."
Below are Herzog's six books from his film school.
Werner Herzog on "The Portal", Episode #003: "The Outlaw as Revelator"
Virgil's second major work, written around 29 BCE, is a lengthy group of poems about agriculture. More importantly, the collection is focused on the growth of man and society. Agriculture, it must be remembered, was not always factory farms churning out supermarket aisle produce and livestock. The struggle for existence depends on sustenance; politics grew out of the control of food. It's impossible to rule a population if you are not controlling the supply chain. Virgil pays homage to deities and vines while exploring the role of labor and man's existential struggle against a hostile and unforgiving nature.
During The Portal, Herzog mentions Ernest Hemingway, though he does not cite a title. This masterful short story from 1936 eventually found its way onto the silver screen as "The Macomber Affair" eleven years later. The coming of age story harkens back to a time when men had to hunt for pride and privilege. Thanks to Hemingway's acute sense of social mores, this tale occurs during an African safari. A lion and a married woman become trophies for the protagonist. Whiskey appears — this is Hemingway, after all — as well as buffalo, the spirit animal that sets up the real struggle of this tale: men in conflict with other men. Death naturally ensues. It's also available for free here.
The one required book Herzog mentions is this timeless tale centered on falcon-watching during a time when they were almost extinct. J.A. Baker provides "prose we have not seen since Joseph Conrad." It is the one book Herzog requires of any filmmaker. Baker writes with unmatched precision about a small segment of the natural world with a passion rarely witnessed in literature. (Robert McFarlane, who writes the introduction to the most recent reprinting of Baker's book, also dedicates an entire chapter of his book, Landmarks, to The Peregrine.) Herzog claims that creators and thinkers of any discipline—music, computers, mathematics—will be taken by Baker's "very deep, relentless passion for what you are doing."
American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) works at his typewriter while sitting outdoors, Idaho. Lloyd Arnold/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
If you're a fan of Herzog's films, you'll know he finds inspiration in places that few dare to look. Thus, the 888-page report on the assassination of JFK commissioned by President Lyndon Johnson in 1963. This report remains controversial in the minds of those who swear neither Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby acted alone. You can read it for free via this link above, but as with The Mueller Report, buying a physical copy will certainly be easier on your eyes.
The Greeks and Romans get the lion's share of credit when it comes to mythology. Indian myths follow in global popularity, but you don't have to watch "Vikings" to know that Norse mythology is as epic as they come. This collection of minstrel poems has influenced everyone from Tolkien to Pound to Borges, detailing the trials, tribulations, and battles of Scandinavia's greatest warriors.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo was a "footman of Cortes," according to Herzog. The conquistador served on three Mexican expeditions for his native Spain, taking copious notes along the way, which resulted in this 1576 book (which you can read free here). Castillo wrote this travel tale when he was 84 years old, near the end of his life. Herzog says that Castillo writes an incredibly rich story that details the heart of men. The adventurous work is summated by its author in one simple and timeless sentiment: "We went there to serve God, and also to get rich."
Looking up big, fancy words won't make your writing better. But a thesaurus can help – if you use it like this.
- Using a thesaurus to find larger or more impressive words is misguided, says Martin Amis. Instead, use a thesaurus to find words with the perfect rhythm for your sentence.
- For example, the Nabokov novel "Invitation to a Beheading" was originally called – not for very long – "Invitation to an Execution". Nabokov nixed the repetitive suffix.
- A dictionary is also a writer's best friend; looking up words has a rejuvenating effect on your mind, says Amis. "When you look up a word in the dictionary you own it in a way you didn't before. You know what it comes from and you know its exact meaning."