Here we go. Erotica as Art. I'm going to try and keep this as brief as I can, because there's a thousand essays just waiting to be written (and a thousand that probably already have been) on this topic.
So as someone who's spent a great deal of time studying the arts, the relationship between them and erotica is never far from my mind. The tip of the iceberg is: how do you define art?
To some people erotic short stories are no more "art" than a cheap porno shot in someone's college dorm. They exist purely for titillation without any kind of creative depth behind them. They're certainly not the sort of thing to ponder over and critique alongside the Mona Lisa.
But that's a snobbishly academic view of art I've never agreed with. To me art is anything creative that's designed to entertain, provoke or stimulate its audience in some way. Art takes a thousand different forms and works on a thousand different levels, some of them profound, some cheap and cheerful. And erotica most definitely takes a degree of talent on the part of the writer to pull off. Just like any form of fiction it's all about making the reader feel something - in this case, turning them on and exciting them. A good erotic author knows exactly how to do that, from sizzling descriptions and steamy settings to perfect structuring that doesn't skimp on either the sex or the set up. An even better erotic author will be able to inject fun little bits of narrative, and put an interesting new spin on tried and true concepts.
To me it's really the same as any other artistic medium; at it's worst it's bland and boring, at it's best it's creative and engaging. It's very easy to think of erotica as inartistic because of the volume of sex-based media out there that caters to the lowest common denominator. There are thousands upon thousands of porn movies that have zero creative input beyond sticking two pretty people in front of the camera and telling them to fuck. But at the same time I've seen porn (very, very rarely, and that's a great shame) that has fantastic performers who really sell what they're doing, great editing to keep the sexy pacing going, elaborate sets, sultry lighting, sometimes even a soundtrack that gets away without sounding cheesy. It's hard to look at something like that and not call it artistic just because the subject matter it's dealing with is intended to arouse.
Cheap garbage gives cheap thrills, quality erotica will leave you breathless and unable to tear your eyes away from the page.
AN: I am in no way suggesting that my own work falls into that second category. But we can all strive for something. ;)