Erotic literature: what is it, how it was born, what are its characteristics and authors


What is erotic literature?

Erotic literature is understood as the set of texts that are directly or indirectly related to themes related to sex and eroticism. However, it is necessary to make an important distinction between the limits of eroticism and pornography, since when the scenes are written explicitly, it is no longer called eroticism and becomes pornography.

What is erotic literature

In the development of this type of texts, the authors use varied resources for their works, such as the use of metaphors that facilitate references of a sexual nature without necessarily falling into the explicit. In this way, it has managed to transit and reconcile a great variety of themes among which we find provocation, sensuality, the body, among others.

How was erotic literature born?

Throughout history, both eroticism and sex have been themes associated with culture, which is why artistic manifestations such as literature have not ignored them. In different historical moments, as well as social contexts, eroticism has been one of the most frequent objects of censorship within the literary world, as it has been considered a sinful subject. However, this has not stopped its evolution and presence in literature.

It is believed that erotic literature begins to take place in Ancient Egypt where treatises related to sex began to be recorded, in particular, sexual postures such as the Turin papyrus. Later on, signs of this type of literature will be seen before the union of the earthly and the divine with references to fertility and the phallus related to the gods and that will begin to take other formats in poetry and plays.

This is how a great variety of themes linked to eroticism began to be found, in which themes such as lesbianism, heterosexuality and homosexuality began to be dealt with, giving rise to the first texts with the works of the playwright Aristophanes. These would be the beginnings of a literature that continues its development and exploration until today, passing through different periods and moments in the history of mankind and finding, without fail, obstacles and contexts that have tried to limit its expansion but have not stopped it.

Development of eroticism in literature

It is very important to keep in mind that this type of literature, a genre essentially guided by the theme it uses, has several possible formats of development. That is to say, we can find erotic literature in literary genres such as narrative with novels, stories or tales, but also in others such as poetry and in dramaturgy or the dramatic genre. In addition to this, there is also this type of literature in other formats such as sex manuals, memoirs, among others.

Characteristics of erotic literature

After having reviewed the above information, it is time to look at the most important features of this type of literature that have been maintained, transformed or evolved throughout history and that lay the foundations for its development. Among them we find the following:

Use of language

Undoubtedly, erotic literature is developed on a very careful and detailed language that is determined to shape the presentation of the facts. This type of literature uses a refined language and sometimes distanced from the physical, which allows it to be considered eroticism and not pornography, since it is not explicit but its resources allow it to make references, in many cases, poetic.

Clash against the religious

One of the reasons why erotic literature was and in many cases continues to be singled out has to do with the religious view, since talking about the body, desire and carnal pleasure is a sinful act that should not be mentioned. That is why throughout history erotic literature has often faced religious puritanism, but also the gaze of society that has tried to hide it.

Activation of the imagination

The use of resources and literary figures that are used in the development of an erotic text, manage to activate the imagination of the readers, allowing them a space to fantasize and create within their own mind the images they are reading within the descriptions, metaphors and so on.


We know that sexuality is a very broad set of elements, but it is precisely this element that allows us to identify an erotic book or an erotic work, from one that is not. A work of eroticism is considered when aspects related to sexual pleasure, the exploration of the body from desire, forms of sexuality, among others, converge in a predominant way.

Most important authors of erotic literature

Most important authors of erotic literature

We can find a great variety of works on erotic literature, from its beginnings with works such as Lancelot by Chrétien de Troyes, Tristan and Isolde by Gottfried von Strassburg, the Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris, Jean de Meun and Vita nuova, the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, also Facetiae or Facecias by Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini, the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, Novellae by Girolamo Morlini, Le Petit Jehan by Antoine de la Salle.

It is also possible to observe more recent works such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, Story of O by Dominique Aury, Emmanuelle by Emmanuelle Arsan, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Mischief of the Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Ages of Lulu by Almudena Grandes, One Hundred Brushes Before Bed by Melissa Panarello and Diary of a Nymphomaniac by Valérie Tasso.

And it is also possible to identify representative authors of this type of literature such as: El caballero audaz pseudonym of José Martía Cerretero Novillo, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Genet, Louis Aragon, Pierre Louys, Joyce Mansour, Una Chi pseudonym of Bruna Bianchi, Marguerite Duras, Almudena Grandes, Georges Bataille, Dennis Cooper, Marquis de Sade, Henry Miller, among others.

If you want to know much more about the literary world, remember that you can find much more information about this artistic expression in our section dedicated to this field.