Exploring Feminism through the word Erotic

Audre Lorde, a black lesbian feminist poet, became an ultimate symbol of liberation and radical social change for women across America. Throughout her childhood, she explored poetry as a form of communication.  Lorde’s poetry focused on many controversial topics related to disability, race, lesbian feminism, and exploration of identity. In her 1978 essay “The Erotic as a Power,” Audre Lorde exhibits a message of empowerment through promoting the power of the word erotic and its many other meanings that exist yet lack existence in our society. 

In her essay, Lorde explores how societal norms are shaped through patriarchal views in our society.  As a lesbian feminist, eroticism can be unpacked to explore how the power the word holds is shaped by society but how it can be used in non-sexual ways.  As Lorde takes away the sexual power of the word erotic, she allows women to feel empowered to fight against the sexist ideologies in America for ages. 

Women have been sexualized for generations, whether for what they wear, how they are portrayed in media, or how men believe they should behave. The strength of the male gaze has influenced the power of the word erotic to be more often used or thought of with sexual connotations. Lorde defines erotic as “an assertion of the life force of woman; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our lives.”  In defining the word like this, Audre Lorde gives power back to women and empowers them to believe that it is more than okay to go against social norms. 

The essay not only gives power to women but lesbian women as well.  Speaking to feminism, she promotes the idea that women have “non-rational” knowledge that women only believe is “non-rational” due to the social norms that have been curated for them by men.  She writes, “We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibility of it within themselves” (Lorde 54).  This section of the essay explores how men have overpowered women’s beliefs as a means of controlling them to benefit themselves. 


6 thoughts on “Exploring Feminism through the word Erotic”

  1. This served as a very clear deconstruction of Audre Lorde’s redefinition of “erotic”, especially for a reader like me who is completely unfamiliar with the topic. I am most intrigued by your third paragraph in this blog post, where you most directly touch on that redefinition. I think that this moment, spread out, would serve as at the very least a great example of outlining a reclamation of meaning and language for the purpose of power and expression. While I think there was a lot to cover in this blog post, I think that spreading out a lot of what you began to unpack here would serve really well in your thesis.

  2. You did a wonderful and thorough job of sharing Lorde’s points from “The Erotic as a Power”. I have not thought of eroticism in an empowering way because when it’s mentioned it is usually not in a positive light. I really appreciated Audre Lorde’s perspective and totally agree. I liked how she right away pointed out the inequalities during sex for men and women. I think your sentence “the strength of the male gaze has influenced the power of the word erotic to be more often used or thought of with sexual connotations” cuts to the chase very nicely and points out why this needs to change and how.

  3. I’m struck by the moment when you discuss how Audre Lorde describes the erotic as being a staple of everyday life and present in nonsexual ways. As we talked about in class when we discussed this article, I think that this is a really empowering moment for readers, especially women. Life takes on a more powerful and intentional quality if we think about life as a system of choices that could offer us each a satisfaction, even in something as mundane as daily work. Readers, and women, can use the erotic to take back a form of agency.

  4. I really love your analysis of Lorde’s feminism through the erotic, and agree with other’s comments that it was refreshing to view the erotic outside of a sexual lens and instead in terms of empowerment. I feel like still the word is so heavily coded as sexual today and it is a shame that Lorde’s definition is less apparent culturally. Referring to the erotic as “the life force of woman; that creative energy empowered…” and as a means of reclamation is so revolutionary in viewing the kind of power that comes from within and from the self. I wish this meaning/definition was more prevalent, as I think it would inspire a lot of women to embrace all that makes them who they are without appealing to a male gaze or patriarchal society, but instead living an unfiltered existence of authenticity.

  5. I had not encountered the word, “erotic”, having any other connotation than a sexual one, so to perceive it being used in an instance that is casual and normal, was so interesting to read about. As this blog post points, the meaning of the word erotic is simply another instance in which men have exerted patriarchal power, in hopes of controlling and sexualizing women. Eroticism is tied to creativity and spirituality, which relates to one of the articles I have read for my thesis, “Black Power in the Kitchen” by Erica Fretwell, as both authors highlight the desire to creative expression and freedom by women, particularly women of color in the article, in a patriarchal society.

  6. I really enjoyed reading the entirety of Audre Lorde’s article for class last Thursday. The dangers of pornography and the intense stimulation it provides are something that has been on my mind for years. After reading Lorde’s article it was clear that the fear of pornography comes in relation to its potential consequences on relationships. Lorde works to reconnect this very spiritual relationship through the lens of the erotic and explore how the erotic is necessary and natural.

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