The Erotic


©Jacky Gerritsen

The Erotic

The Project
The human need to express and experience the erotic in a number of ways coincides with an equally powerful drive to shroud it in mystery as an element of the exotic or the unknown. Tension between what is revealed and what remains hidden, what is allowed and what is prohibited, remains a central theme in exploring the erotic. Not only does this tension inform individual experiences with desire, sexuality and sensuality, it also informs the way legal and other types of social structures regulate the erotic across different cultures and historical periods. Moving between historical and contemporary considerations of the erotic in both conceptual and concrete terms, the Erotic Project seeks to promote a truly inter-disciplinary understanding of the erotic as a physical, cultural, social, emotional, political, ideological and aesthetic force that shapes and is shaped by human experiences. Whilst charting historical and contemporary manifestations of the erotic and eroticism, the project will grapple with the challenging and often paradoxical nature the erotic and explore the reasons behind its resurgence in the public and private interest. The project will use inter-disciplinary methods to map the boundaries and parameters that define these concepts, paying particular attention to the challenges and complications associated with acknowledging the erotic at all, let alone subjecting it to closer study. Crucially, the project will evaluate the practical implications of such holistic understandings of the erotic, particularly in regard to law and public policy that defines and regulations appropriate manifestations of the erotic.

The erotic is a multi-faceted, inter-disciplinary concept whose complexities are often masked by the boundaries that have emerged to limit the ways in which we experience, understand and talk about the erotic. As something that is experienced emotionally and physically, the erotic has implications for medical, clinical and scientific understandings of sexuality and desire. Visual arts, music, literature and all other creative streams have served as an outlet for expressing the artist’s or author’s desires and awakening erotic desire in others. The fields of anthropology, history, sociology and cultural studies provide insights and critical tools for exploring the mechanisms that help to define the erotic, condition attitudes toward it and police it on both a personal and communal level. The legal and political spheres provide the setting for regulating practices associated with the erotic, from prescribing (in)appropriate types of erotic desire to prosecuting transgressors who break those rules. Similarly, principles of business and economics can help to shed light on how the erotic has also been commercialised via a thriving sex industry that operates across mainstream, underground and black markets. The taboo associated with erotic also creates a space in which activists and NGOs operate to serve the individuals and groups who are exploited, marginalised or left vulnerable as a result of factors such as their relationship to the erotic or their position in the sex industry. By creating a space in which the erotic may be discussed from the full range of relevant perspectives in a welcoming, ‘no holds barred’ atmosphere, this project exemplifies ID.Net’s egalitarian ethos and commitment to pushing the intellectual boundaries that impose artificial restrictions on dialogue.

The Issues
While it is anticipated that the discussions that develop over the life of the project will help to shape its direction and progress, the key issues the project intends to explore include:

  • what constitutes the erotic and eroticism
  • the erotic and the eroticised or de-eroticised bodythe erotic and disability
  • the erotic and gender the erotic and its relationship to pornography and exploitation
  • the erotic and sexual representation
  • the erotic in traditional media – tv, film, theatre, print
  • the erotic in social media, internet, live streaming
  • literature and the erotic the erotic: absence, control and excess
  • erotic and censorship
  • the erotic and crime
  • the erotic and education
  • the erotic in popular culture
  • erotic, eroticism, the exotic etc.
  • the erotic in law and public policy (including the stakeholders involved in those regulatory activities)
  • historical and cultural forces that change attitudes toward the erotic

Who Should Get Involved?
This project is designed to create a space for engagement between individuals who grapple with aspects of the erotic in their personal and professional lives. As outlined in section B, the dialogue is expected to include medical and clinical professionals, scientists, legal practitioners, civil servants, representatives of NGOs and charities, those involved in industries of the erotic, creative professionals whose work engages with erotic themes, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, cultural critics, philosophers, trades-persons, journalists, and anyone else with an interest in the topic. In attempting to shift the discussion of the erotic into practical/applied contexts, rather than concentrating exclusively on the implications of how the erotic is discussed and conceptualised in intellectual terms, this project seeks to create genuine, meaningful inter-disciplinary engagement.

The Outcomes
This inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary project seeks to examine and explore issues surrounding erotic and the way people experience it. In discovering the erotic we are confronted with a multi-layered phenomenon which invites people from all disciplines, professions and vocations to come together in dialogue. Underlying these efforts there is the sense that in mapping the erotic we are in fact mapping questions and issues of our own human experience. We expect to make room for a more expansive, and more depth-oriented, understanding of what has come to be known as erotic identity formation.