In , Madonna was as astronomically popular as a boundary-bulldozing, unapologetically bacchanalian performance artist could get. The tour showcasing it, Blond Ambition, mixed spectacle with social commentary so sharply that it reinvented the pop concert and yielded the smash documentary Truth or Dare. But for her vast audience, she was nothing less than liberating, and her uninterrupted string of hits defined pop for a decade.
Nearly everything changed two years later with Erotica and Sex. It remains one of the most in-demand out-of-print publications of all time. Popular on Rolling Stone. But both record and book, despite a few positive reviews , inspired widespread vitriol. Why did projects Madonna intended to open minds shut so many down?
It also killed and would go on to kill her cohorts, including Blond Ambition dancer Gabriel Trupin. Unlike Erotica , which contrasts moods and tempos but maintains a deep and yearning sonic continuity, Sex is varied in style and content. Some shots are straightforward, such as the introductory snaps of Madonna cavorting with two tattooed and pierced lesbian skinheads. The authenticity of her playmates accentuates the fastidiousness of her makeup and the newness of her fetish-wear, which makes Madonna look like a tourist.
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Other photos are open to interpretation: One features four masculine figures standing at urinals with Madonna superimposed in pink. Penned by Madonna, the text also varies in tone. As her charities and donations have attested for decades, she also aims to make the world a better place: She just opened a pediatric hospital in Malawi. Back then, she taught soft-core sex ed. At a time when the straight media essentially characterized all sex as dangerous, Madonna tried to illustrate that it could be safe and stimulating, particularly if we open our minds, free our bodies, and try something besides standard intercourse.
Accordingly, Sex was never about pretty pictures. And yet I recognize her intentions. I lost my dad to cancer when I was young just as she lost her mom at age five, and so I know all too well how grieving reactivates that original deprivation, like when my very first lover died of AIDS 30 years ago. But until then, if you lived in a major city and were gay or an intravenous drug user, sex worker or among their intimates, you were an endangered species.
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There was no cure, and our government was indifferent. Another trend in the twentieth century was the rise of the lesbian pulp fiction. Many of the authors were women themselves, such as Gale Wilhelm and Ann Bannon. Many male homosexuals also enjoyed gay pulp fiction , which borrowed the same sexploitation format as the lesbian books.
Chinese literature has a tradition of erotic fiction dating back to at least the 16th century. The critic Charles Stone has argued that pornographic technique is the "union of banality, obscenity, and repetition," and contains just the "rudiments" of plot, style, and characterization, while anything that is not sexually stimulating is avoided. If this is the case, he concluded, then The Lord of Perfect Satisfaction is the "fountainhead of Chinese erotica," but not pornography.
The most famous sexually explicit novel is the Jin Ping Mei written by an author who used only a pseudonym his real name is unknown. There is also a tradition of erotic fiction in Japan. Some portion of this is doujinshi , or independent comics, which are often fan fiction.
Plots revolved around humor and entertainment at the pleasure quarters. It is a subgenre of gesaku. In Indonesia, a mysterious erotic writer known only as Enny Arrow  wrote countless novels from the late s until the early s which were secretly circulated through magazine sellers. Most of the novels are known for their vulgar and hyperbolic, sometimes comical language. They are now regarded as classics by some Indonesians and have been scanned for historical purposes.
In the 21st century, a number of female authors have risen to prominence, including Alison Tyler , Rachel Kramer Bussel and Carol Queen. Janine Ashbless, Kristina Lloyd, and Portia da Costa are well known for their erotic novels and short stories. Kristina Wright  is well known for her bestselling genre themed anthologies through Cleis Press , including steampunk erotica,  paranormal erotic romance,  and fairy tale erotica,   exemplified by authors such as Shanna Germain  and Michelle Augello-Page.
Other authors celebrate the term 'erotica' but also question why literature 'with the sex left in' should be considered outside literary fiction. The debate has been rekindled by the release, in , of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy written by E. The phenomenal success of her erotica for every woman, dubbed 'mommyporn', has given rise to satires like Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by 'Fanny Merkin' real name Andrew Shaffer , a book of essays called Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades ed. Lori Perkins , a parody called Fifty Sheds of Grey  and editors of erotic imprints re-evaluating the content and presentation of the genre.
A development in contemporary erotica has been that, contrary to some previous views that it was mainly a male interest, many women readers are aroused by it, whether it be traditional pornography or tailor-made women's erotica. Romantic novels are sometimes marketed as erotica—or vice versa—as "mainstream" romance in recent decades has begun to exhibit blatant if poetic descriptions of sex. Erotic romance is a relatively new genre of romance with an erotic theme and very explicit love scenes, but with a romance at the heart of the story.
Erotic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy fiction and utilizes erotica in a fantasy setting. These stories can essentially cover any of the other subgenres of fantasy, such as high fantasy , contemporary fantasy , or even historical fantasy. The extents of the genre to break existing conventions and limits in subject matter have managed to shock popular audiences, with genres such as monster erotica emerging with the ease of digital publishing. Erotic fantasy fiction has similarities to romantic fantasy but is more explicit. Erotic fantasy can also be found in fan fiction , which uses plot elements and characters from popular fiction such as television series, movies or novels.
Erotic fan fiction may use characters from existing works in relationships undreamed of by their creators, such as " slash " homoerotic fan fiction.
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Fan fiction and its Japanese counterpart, doujinshi , account for an enormous proportion of all erotica written today. The Internet and digital revolution in erotic depiction has changed the forms of representing scenes of a sexual nature. One researcher  concluded that erotic literature was available among the poor and performed at public readings in 18th-century Britain. Erotica was present on the Internet from the earliest days, as seen from rec.
The Writing Cooperative
This news group was a moderated forum for the exchange of erotic stories that predated the creation of the World Wide Web. Most of this migrated to the alt. The vast majority of Internet erotica is of an amateur nature, written for the enjoyment of the author and readers instead of for profit. Increased interactivity and anonymity allows casual or hobby writers the opportunity not only to author their own stories but also to share them with a world-wide audience.
Many authors adopt colorful pseudonyms and can develop cult followings within their genre, though a small number use or claim to use their real names.
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Among transgender or genderqueer authors it is a common practice to adopt a feminine or masculine alter-ego, although it is not unheard of for a writer to use his or her own given name. Prostitution was the focus of much of the earliest erotic works. The very term " pornography " is derived from the Greek pornographos meaning "writer about prostitutes", originally denoting descriptions of the lives and manners of prostitutes and their customers in Ancient Greece. According to Athenaeus in The Deipnosophists these constituted a considerable genre, with many lubricious treatises, stories and dramas on the subject.
Accounts of prostitution have continued as a major part of the genre of erotic literature. In the 18th century directories of prostitutes and their services, such as Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies — , provided both entertainment and instruction. In the 19th century, the sensational journalism of W.
Stead 's The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon about the procuring of underage girls into the brothels of Victorian London provided a stimulus for the erotic imagination. Stead's account was widely translated and the revelation of "padded rooms for the purpose of stifling the cries of the tortured victims of lust and brutality" and the symbolic figure of "The Minotaur of London" confirmed European observers worst imaginings about "Le Sadisme anglais" and inspired erotic writers to write of similar scenes set in London or involving sadistic English gentlemen.
Erotic memoirs include Casanova 's Histoire de ma vie , from the 18th century. Edward Sellon was a writer, translator and illustrator of erotic literature who wrote erotica for the pornographic publisher William Dugdale, including such works as The New Epicurean Various discrepancies with known facts of the singer's life, however, have led many to doubt the veracity of this book and the erotic adventures contained in the second volume, at least, appear to be very implausible.
These include the author indulging in lesbian sadomasochism, group sex, sodomy, bestiality, scatology , necrophilia , prostitution and vampirism : all before she had reached the age of Sex manuals are among the oldest forms of erotic literature. Three brief fragments of a sex manual written in the fourth century BC that is attributed to Philaenis of Samos have survived, though modern scholars generally regard it as a work of parody probably written by a man, most likely the Athenian sophist Polycrates.
The Indian Kama Sutra is one of the world's best-known works of this type.