Annotation: Audre Lorde

Annotation: Audre Lorde: “The Uses of the Erotic”

In Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of the Erotic,” Lorde sets out to respond to the Second Wave of feminism’s debates on pornography and sexual oppression by redefining erotic as well as explaining misconceptions and how one can practice eroticism in a way that is empowering to the self. Lorde begins by stating that the “erotic is a resource within each of us” highlighting that everyone is capable of embracing true eroticism despite it lying within a “deeply female and spiritual plane” (page 87). From here, Lorde describes how the erotic has been “misnamed by men and used against women” as a way of sexualizing and objectifying bodies through placing them in tangent with the male gaze (page 88). For the true erotic, one must look inward and access it within the “self” and “chaos” as it is “internal” and practically applicable to everything (page 88). This is because what is erotic is found in the “personification of love in all its aspects” and therefore erotic is critically and deeply what we make of it – as long as it doesn’t lead to a “ruling obsession” or oppression (page 89). For this reason, “pornography and eroticism” are “two diametrically opposed uses of the sexual” as pornography designed for the male gaze objectifies, oppresses, and subjects bodies to disposable acts of sex that render the erotic meaningless. Now with Audre Lorde’s idea of the erotic being a “personification of love in all its aspects”, a shared “pursuit with another person”, and a capacity for joy, I as a pro-porn feminist am not ready to count out the idea that porn can’t be erotic under this definition. However, I am curious if the world of ethical porn is capable of taking on this definition of erotic despite often redefining the identities that are in control of the “gaze”? What kind of pornography must exist for this erotic to exist in its content?