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Erotic art

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M019-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 02, 2023, from

Article Summary

Erotic art is art with a sexual content, which may be more or less overt. The presence of sexual content, however, is not sufficient for a work of art to be considered erotic. Although there is more than one sense in which a work can be said to be erotic, an erotic work of art must aim at and to some extent succeed in evoking sexual thoughts, feeling or desires in the spectator, in virtue of the nature of the sexual scene it represents and the manner in which it represents it. This aim, definitive of erotic art, may be a work’s principal aim, but need not be. Erotic art often tends to express the artist’s interest in and attitude towards sexuality; and whether or not it does, seeing it as expressing the artist’s sexuality is likely to contribute towards the spectator’s sexual arousal. An erotic work of art has an intended audience of a more or less specific kind, most frequently men. Erotic art is distinguished from pornography in at least two ways. First, pornography lacks any artistic intent. Second, its main aim is not only to stimulate the spectator sexually but to degrade, dominate and depersonalize its subject, usually women. This article is restricted in scope in at least two ways. First, it concerns exclusively the visual arts. Second, its focus is Western art, and primarily art from the Renaissance onwards.

Citing this article:
Levinson, Jerrold. Erotic art, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M019-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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