Erotic is a word you’ve seen a lot, but it is easy to be confused about its meaning. Often, it is used as a synonym for sex or sexual behavior. Perhaps you’ve seen sexy or something sexual used to describe intercourse or oral sex, while something like kissing someone with your tongue might be labeled as erotic. This can be very confusing. With heavy usage of the word erotic on the internet as a keyword for search engines, you’ll likely get many of the same search results as if you typed sexy. So, what is the difference between sexuality and eroticism?
In English, we only use one word for love. The Ancient Greeks saw love differently, and different kinds of love were unique and named accordingly. Eros was the word used by the Greeks to describe romantic love, attraction, or sexual love. The god Eros was the god of love, and generally Cupid is referred to as his Roman counterpart.
Over time, the meaning of Eroticism has somewhat changed. Something erotic has come to mean anything that:
• Creates sexual desire
• Is aesthetically pleasing in a way that inspires desire
• Causes feelings of love in a sensual way
• Something with sensual overtones, even if the topic isn’t sexual
Eroticism is often confused with pornography. Books and movies falling in the genre of “Erotica” usually contain very visual and explicit sex scenes, designed to arouse the audience. The interesting distinction is that while some porn may be considered erotic, not everything erotic is pornographic in nature. Watching two (or more) people having sex in a movie can be very erotic. It may cause desire between people watching it together, and be used as foreplay. Keep in mind, however, that eroticism is about individual perception. What you may find to be erotic may not do anything for someone else. Something erotic doesn’t always have to be something perceived as sexual in nature.
For someone with a foot fetish, a photograph of someone’s feet or someone in line next to them in sandals might be very erotic. Someone looking directly into your eyes while engaging in sex or giving you sexual pleasure may be very erotic. The sound of someone’s voice when they first wake up in the morning might inspire true Eros, where love and sensuality collide. Sexuality, then, is the state of having sex, sexual health, gender, or sexual identity. Eroticism is more like the spark or stimulus that creates intense sexual feelings.