One of my favorite books about food and eroticism is Isabel Allende's Aphrodite - A Memoir of the Senses, an unpretentious, witty, and earthy collection of stories, lore and recipes taken from history, art, literature, and life experience itself. I've snipped from this book in two or three previous posts but I lack the energy and time right now to link you to them, though you can, if you wish, do a search on the blog.
Below is an excerpt from Aphrodite about the perceived difference between eroticism and pornography, in the form of a letter written by Anaïs Nin to a consumer of pornography, with an introduction by Isabel Allende.
“Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken"
~ Isabel Allende
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In the forties, Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller survived for a while by writing erotic stories for a man who paid them by the page. This client, known to them only as the Collector, remained anonymous, piquing the indignant curiosity of the two great authors who lent their talents and their pens to satisfy his caprices. This collector of pornography did not appreciate style and repeatedly asked them to "cut the poetry" and concentrate on the sex, because that was all he was interested in. Nin wrote him a letter in which she masterfully defines the essence of eroticism:
We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic obsession.
It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices, personal ties, deeper relationships that change its color, flavor, rhythms, intensities.
You do not know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex is surprising textures, its subtle transformation, its aphrodisiac elements. you are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.
If you nourished your sexual life with all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity, passion. You are watching its little flame die of asphyxiation. Sex does not thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, mood, there are no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all of the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.
How much do you lose by this periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words on a description of hair; no two odors, but if we expand on this you cry: Cut the poetry! No two skins with the same texture, and never the same light, temperature, shadows, never the same gestures; for a lover; when he is aroused by true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, Perversity and art.
We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have closed your senses upon silk, light, color, odor, character, temperament, you must by now be completely shriveled up. There are so many minor senses, all running like tributaries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.
"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware."
~ Henry Miller