RibaldryRibaldry is the third and somewhat neglected genre of sexual entertainments, something different from either pornography or erotica, yet is often confused with them.
Unlike either pornography or erotica, which play sex or sexual fetishes "straight," ribaldry aims at humor. Sexual situations and titillation are presented in ribald material more for the purpose of poking fun at the human foibles and weaknesses that manifest themselves in human sexuality, rather than to present sexual stimulation either simply or artistically. Also, ribaldry may use sex as a metaphor to illustrate some non-sexual concern, in which case ribaldry may verge on the territory of satire.
Like any humor, ribaldry may be read as conventional or subversive. Ribaldry typically depends on a shared background of sexual conventions and values, and its comedy generally depends on seeing those conventions broken. Depending on your attitude, viewers can perceive this either as poking fun on the poor souls who suffer the consequences of breaking the taboos, or as flouting the taboos themselves.
The ritual taboo-breaking that is a usual counterpart of ribaldry underlies its controversial nature, and why ribaldry is frequently a subject of censorship. Ribaldry, whose usual aim is not "merely" to be sexually stimulating, often does address larger concerns than mere sexual appetite. However, being presented in the form of comedy, these larger concerns seem to censors to be un-serious. Moreover, the presence of satirical content in ribaldry tends to rouse the wrath of authorities, who may overlook more explicit sexual entertainments in order to prosecute comedians whom they perceive as attacking conventions they wish to maintain.
Ribaldry has likely been around for the whole history of the human race, and is present to some degree in every culture. Ancient authors like Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the Cena Trimalchionis by Petronius, and the Metamorphoses or Golden Ass of Apuleius are ribald classics from ancient Europe. Francois Rabelais showed himself to be a master of ribaldry in his Gargantua. More recent works like Candy by Terry Southern, films like Barbarella by Roger Vadim, or the comedic works of Russ Meyer are probably better classified as ribaldry than as either pornography or erotica.