Pornotopia is characterized by its freedom from the normal social restraints of place and time - as Marcus put it, "It is always summertime in pornotopia". External reality is either split off entirely, or its problems dissolved under a tide of sex.
Narrative flow will hang on a tenuous line - a picaresque adventure allowing for multiple encounters, or perhaps a Sadean multiplication of all possible combinations of persons/orifices.
Beginnings will be sketchy, but, as Marcus argues, "it is an end, a conclusion of any kind, that pornography most resists": one reason Susan Sontag singled out the novel The Image as transcending its genre, was precisely its finely structured conclusion, retrospectively illuminating all that had gone before.
Characters in Pornotopia are typically ithyphallic, ever ready for sex, and with an almost omnipotent capacity for renewal and further action.
They are also largely invulnerable. Thus in the Story of O, just as the chains never rust in her fairytale-style château, so too the inhabitants are never damaged by their ordeals, and never lose an iota of their allure in a triumph of the imaginary over the reality principle.
Historian Brian Harrison criticized Marcus's concept of pornotopia for being based exclusively on a small number of mid-Victorian texts drawn solely from Britain, from which Marcus drew far-reaching conceptual conclusions about the comprehensive genre of pornography. More recently, Thomas Joudrey, drawing on the same archive that Marcus had examined at the Kinsey Institute, challenged the concept of pornotopia by calling attention to the pervasive presence of bodily decay, suffering, and death in Victorian pornographic novels, manifested in such phenomena as impotence, castration, torn foreskins, slack vaginas, incontinence, and syphilitic outbreaks. Joudrey further challenged the concept of pornotopia by drawing attention to extensive political commentary in pornographic magazines such as The Pearl, including references to the Reform Bills and Contagious Diseases Acts, in addition to many controversial public figures, including Annie Besant, Charles Spurgeon, Wilfrid Lawson, Newman Hall, Edmund Burke, William Gladstone, and Robert Peel.
Cole, Kristen L. (July 2014). "Pornography, censorship, and public sex: exploring feminist and queer perspectives of (public) pornography through the case of Pornotopia". Porn Studies. 1 (3): 227–241. doi:10.1080/23268743.2014.927708.
Ellis, Bruce J.; Symons, Donald (November 1990). "Sex differences in sexual fantasy: an evolutionary psychological approach". Journal of Sex Research. 27 (4): 527–555.
Mertner, Edgar; Mainusch, Herbert (1970). Pornotopia: das Obszöne und die Pornographie in der literarischen Landschaft [Pornotopia: obscenity and pornography in the literary landscape] (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum Verlag. OCLC250958139.
Meyer, Adolf-Ernst (3 August 1970). "Staatsform: Orgasmokratie" [Form of government: orgasmocracy]. Kultur [Culture]. Der Spiegel. Review of: Pornotopia: das Obszöne und die Pornographie in der literarischen Landschaft [Pornotopia: obscenity and pornography in the literary landscape] (Mertner and Meinusch 1970) (in German). 32: 102–104. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2017.