Lines between art, erotic art, and pornography

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by acearle, Dec 11, 2004.

  1. I've been giving this quite a bit of thought recently, the lines
    between art, erotic art, and porn. Photo.net seems to be very much
    anti-erotic art and anti-porn. How the lines are drawn is a very
    personal decision, I've had a couple of shots labled "disgusting" and
    seen male nudes removed as "pornographic" while an equivelant shot of
    a woman is praised. I'm curious about other people's opinions and
    ideas of where these lines are and MORE IMPORTANTLY, any ideas you
    might have on how you drew them.

    In all honesty, I'm in the process of intentionally crossing and
    blurring the lines in my personal, private work. What I am doing now
    will not be posted to photo.net. I'm getting comments and feedback
    from some friends who are artists, not photographers...its interesting
    that these lines seem less rigid in the art world, and one particular
    shot that would have been masacred on photo.net has gotten some very
    interesting critiques from non-photograper artists.
     
  2. America was settled by "pilgrims",not a boat load of artists.We love to see heads explode on the TV/movie screens,but write letters when a woman breast feeds a baby in a shopping mall!

    Last year at Stewart Intl Airport,here in upstate NY.An art exhibit had an image of a mother breast feeding.All of these insane, puritanical women wrote letters about how offended they were!Their big worry:what if the children see this? The same children that sit for hours killing people on video screens, might be offended.Meanwhile the painting didnt even show the woman's actual breast!The baby's head was covering this! If this were in the mid-western US, this might be understandable.Stewart airport is 60 miles from mid town Manhattan!
     
  3. IMHO - it's a big grey area. There's absolutely no black and white to this issue. There's one shot I've recently seen on p.net that many would regard as pornographic - and it could well be. It's of a woman who has a couple of fingers inside, shall we say. But to me, it's just a good photo. It just happens to have a sexual context to it. I personally would say it's an erotic photo, others would (and have) said that it's porn.

    I think that are viewpoints on what's porn, and what's art may well be formed in our early years. By our parents, our religion etc. Thankfully, I'm not (and never have been) religious - so I don't have that monkey on my back. Perhaps the way I look at an image is different from the way someone who went to Sunday school as a child, and still attends church (mosque,temple whathaveyou) as an adult looks at the same image. And, neither my, nor their, interpreation is more correct - it just is.

    My favorite artists, whether they're photogs, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians whatever are the ones that cross lines. They are the ones that challenge our everyday conceptions. That, to me, is what an artist is. Marilyn Manson is as much an artist as the Beatles were. Dosteyevski is more of an artist than Tom Clancy. Ok, I'm getting off track.

    I don't know why male nudes are removed, while female nudes stay. If I were a voyeur, I'd only look at the female nudes, but I tend to find that the few male nudes often have more artistic value than the females. A shot of an erect penis should have the same artistic value as a shot of erect nipples. But we live in an increasingly conservative world. Men basically run the world. And we prefer to look at an erect nipple than an erect penis.

    Perhaps, p.net is just a microcosm of the world.

    If all of that makes no sense, blame the makers of Tsingtao.
     
  4. Any society dominated by puritanical "family values," will view sex solely as a means for procreation. The medieval liaison of church and state gave the church a responsibility to keep the peasants in line and encourage the growth of populations to swell the ranks of farm workers and the military. Although church and state are supposedly separated in this country, there's no shyness about the close links forged between politicians and organized religion.

    So, when any depiction of sexuality or sensuality suggests that sex might also be fun or satisfying any urge other than to create more children, our society casts a grim eye and too often proclaims it to be pornographic.

    Further, because photography tends to be more literal in its imagery, as compared to other art forms that are viewed as interpretive, there's the suspicion that the motive of the artist might be an appeal to our prurient interests rather than our artisitic sensibilities.
     
  5. Can it be left the coffee table when your neighbor; relatives; mother are visting?
     
  6. alton, it seems photo.net is used by both photographer/artists and photographers who dont consider themselves artists as well as computer geeks who marvel at the lastest digital whatever, so it seems a cross section of people are participating at this site. As far as the lines between art/pornography/erotic art/blah/blah/blahhh, these lines, to a true artist/creative, should be someone elses problem.
     
  7. Can it be left the coffee table when your neighbor; relatives; mother are visting?
    And the answer to that question supposedly determines what, exactly?
     
  8. Can it be left on the coffee table...
    I actually thought that was a fairly practical test, because it was very relative to the person and local social mores (which in the end define what is porn or not porn). It is interesting that the context can affect your judgement on such questions - what one may find acceptable displayed in an art museum in context of an exhibit may seem pornographic sitting in your living room. Also, it is one of expectations - perhaps a neighbor may feel the ability to make an informed choice on whether to view certain images in an art gallery and may feel otherwise if unexpectedly running into similar material while obtaining a cup of sugar (well, at least the first time).
    Questions of whether something is pornography or not is debatable in too many cases - which is why the question often ends up in court. When it is presented in the context of art (in a controversial exhibit) I get the impression that the question of whether an image is pornographic or not becomes further confused?
    Going back to the original post. Alton, why are you surprised seemingly that you would see some comments like "Disgusting"? This is like "Why did someone rate an image 1/1?" It's personal - as you mention in the previous clause.
    That said, in the greater scheme of things photo.net seems to me to tend towards conservatism - but a leavening of context within the overall portofilo of a member seems to affect judgement? (One image of fingers in vagina may be challenging while the image in a portfolio showing some context might emerge as commentary?)
    Man, do I need a cup of coffee to put on that coffee table. My mom's eyesight is not what it used to be - but she seems to see well enough to begin lecturing me on my photographic choices:) (Which is my way of saying to the caffeine deprived that the coffee table test is not only whether your neighbors or relatives will be offended, but whether you care if they are).
     
  9. when god gave us eyes, we all became voyuers, and yes womens bodies are more beautiful than mens, i think thats the natural way of things, moral values change with the latest invaders, what is the beef.
     
  10. ...and yes womens bodies are more beautiful than mens
    You (and certainly I) may be more attracted to womens' bodies than mens', but the absurdness of that as a objective statement of fact is pretty apparent.
     
  11. Which is my way of saying to the caffeine deprived that the coffee table test is not only whether your neighbors or relatives will be offended, but whether you care if they are.
    It's a meaningless, idiotic test. What the philistines next door think couldn't possibly be of less importance in a discussion about what is art.
     
  12. Mark thinks it absurd to say that womens' bodies are more beautiful than mens'.

    But Mark, we know men like to look at womens' bodies. And what do women look at? Cosmo and Mamoiselle aren't filled with pictures of men.

    And for every David there are entire walls at the National Gallery filled with paintings of women.

    Seems like the voters have spoken.
     
  13. In real world, true lines do not exist. Only in theory, in geometry and in the algebra where you can define lines with a set of numbers and relationships. If you draw a line, it will immediately get a finite thickness and blurry edges.

    For me, the line you ask about is really really thick and blurry. :)

    I don't think PN is anti-erotic. There are plenty of photos posted that are...well, VERY erotic. They are not removed by anobody else than the poster. True though, that there are plenty of folks feeling obliged to protest against these - but that does not make the whole site anti-erotic.

    Artists are quite ignorant regarding many "lines" drawn by the society, not only in this field. If *they* give you interesting critiques and/or appreciate a work of you, it does not mean that it will be accepted by the non-artist masses. Actually, in my oppinion, it could mean exactly the opposite.

    Depends what you want to achieve. Fame and respect within the art world with the risk of being considered weird, pervert, whatever by your neighbor OR a good and appreciating ($$$ included) relationship with the non-artist society while having a bitter taste of mediocrity in your mouth. You can also live a schizophrenic (sp?) life and have both of the two completely separated.

    I'm sure there are ways in between too. I let somebody else evaluate those.
     
  14. James - lots of women do look and enjoy to look at male bodies. Might be unbelievable for you, but i can't offer any proof; you believe me or test it yourself :)

    Kelly - in this rare case i have to disagree with you (unless i/we misunderstood you). The test means nothing. There are plenty of things you don't show to your neighbors/relatives. I, for one, do not have sex in front of my neighbors or my relatives. I also like to close the door of the toilet. Still, nobody condemns me for having sex or urinating. Also, there are things that i do share with some people but i don't share with others, even if those "others" are closer to me, like relatives.
     
  15. Let's dumb it down to an executive summary:

    It's "art" if it's non-arousing and incomprehensible.

    It's "erotic" if it arouses you or anyone you like.

    It's "porn" if it arouses anyone you don't approve of.
     
  16. The USA is a mixed bag of folks.<BR><BR> Some folks I have worked with could not be around any source of merriment. If a tiny birthday cake was brought to work for an old worker; the anti-merriment chaps would have to leave and go home. The merriment was considered totally revolting to them. <BR><BR>Some folks are offended by folks using a lawnmower; screwdriver; any tool on a Sunday. I have lived in places that no tools could be sold on a Sunday. Buying a drill-bit was illegal on a Sunday then. Only one chap in town would sell them illegally on a Sunday; it was like buying booze before one was an adult.<BR><BR> Some folks are offended by the cosmo magazines at the grocery store checkouts; they show too much skin. Some stores have a one checkout where "this porno" is not visible.<BR><BR> Here in the USA it is ok for kids to see a zillion killings on TV in the movies; in video games; and TV soap-operas with loosers that are always running around after marriage. BUT a boob shown on TV will cause the entire boob-police to go nuts.<BR><BR> In doing print work for the public; most all customers consider their own work to be art. When working in Japan; it was interesting to see what the Japanese Playboys showed; radically less than the USA, But it was weird to see the subways were men were viewing graphic artwork of sexual stuff. When in Singapore the movies there were edited so much that some lost their plots; the censoring stuff thrown away. The Singapore chaps were always buying the unedited versions; when visting our SoCalifornia factories; to bring back home. <BR><BR>What is considered "offensive" varies where you live. Usually folks that have not traveled have a much narrower tolerance; and think "their little world" is the only way. <BR><BR>
     
  17. It is interesting to learn what is offensive to others. On my first business trip to Japan decades ago ; I wrote some small micro notes on a Japanese chaps card given to me; after the meeting. I wrote how to pronouce his name; and what is job skills were on the front of the card. I was told after the meeting that this was very offensive. I had been doing this for decades in the US; as a way to learn more. The Japanese business had no wastebaskets in site. There was beer and cold coffee in vending machines on the street by the hotel.
     
  18. 1. I don't find photo.net to be anti-erotic art. In fact the site allows some lattitude to porn with some artistic merit. I've done some male nudes recently and got possitive comments here (though I feel they would have scored better if they had been female).
    2. There are two tacks to tack on is it art or is it porn. Either "Do I react to it sexually or aesthetically" (the eye of the beholder argument) or "Does the maker want me to respond sexually or aesthetically" There is a third tack taken by the puritanical "Might anyone react sexually".
    With my own work I have a rule which says if I feel the need to keep it to myself it is probably a vice, otherwise it might be art.
    Alton I'm interested that you talk about "bluring the lines", and that suggests to me that for some people you're crossing them. I'm interested in Ambiguity and the role of the viewer's interpretation ... I've got a picture named Stroke Now if I'd called it "Foreplay" it would have carried one meaning (and said something about my intent) but I could equally have named it "Comfort" that would have said something entirely different. Playing with those boundaries, it's kind of interesting.
     
  19. for every David there are entire walls at the National Gallery filled with paintings of women.
    Seems like the voters have spoken.

    I guess I'd be more impressed with this line of argument if I knew the ratio of male to female artists whose works are represented on the walls of the National Gallery, and if I knew the ratio of male to female exhibit curators who decided which works were hung on the gallery walls rather than placed in storage, and the ratio of males to females who influence the Gallery's funding, and so on. Your point is taken, and I personally think it has merit, but things aren't so simple as a mere reduction to ratios of exhibited subject matter.
    There are two tacks.... Either "Do I react to it sexually or aesthetically" (the eye of the beholder argument) or "Does the maker want me to respond sexually or aesthetically" There is a third tack taken by the puritanical "Might anyone react sexually".
    I'm not sure I fully follow what you are saying here. I guess my question would be: Can an artist create a work with the intention that part of the audience's reaction would be sexual, and succeed in that intention, and still be creating art? I would answer the question yes. When Picasso painted Guernica the intent was overtly manipulative, but I don't think there is any consensus that the painting was not art because the artist deliberately intended to provoke a visceral reaction in the painting's viewers. The artist making a work that provokes a sexual response is just substituting one visceral reaction (arousal) for another (fight-flight response in the case of Guernica).
    With my own work I have a rule which says if I feel the need to keep it to myself it is probably a vice, otherwise it might be art.
    Speaking of Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon fits into this category, doesn't it? So it would seem to be not so much a matter of eroticism or porn potential or whatever, but of how shy the artist is about that particular work. After all, it wasn't the nudity that motivated him, but probably something like Braque's alleged remark about kerosene.
    I think Will Perlis gives by far the best description of the lines between art, erotic art, and pornography that have been offered here. I like his executive summary because it is a functional defintition. I think that, outside of workers in the sex industry, such lines are not drawn by artist, subject, or society; but by the audience. It is porn, or not, depending on what use the viewer puts the work to. In this the viewer has the potential to be as manipulative as the artist, and many audiences are eager to be as manipulative as possible.
     
  20. It's a meaningless, idiotic test. What the philistines next door think couldn't possibly be of less importance in a discussion about what is art.
    Mark - you need to move:)
     
  21. Assorted thoughts on the above-
    "Art" implies that the attractiveness of the work is more than just the attractiveness of the subject.
    "Erotic Art" implies that it is "Art", but also appeals to us (or to somebody) in a sensual way.
    "Pornography" implies that the its appeal is only in a sensual way.

    An example that may illustrate- suppose you have a nude lady sitting there, and you take a picture. Does that picture have any more attractiveness than if you were there in the flesh looking at the nude lady? In the case of porn- no. In some nude photos, yes, the photo is more attractive than the original scene was. In others, no.

    Another example- Mr. Mapplethorpe. I'm not a big fan of his. But if I recall right, he did some very erotic-looking pictures of flowers. It was obviously his lighting and craftsmanship that made his pictures worthwhile, not just the fact that he had a nude person sitting in front of the camera, and he could do this whether the subject was male or female, human or vegetable.

    The idea of beauty- it is assumed by some above that women are not inherently any more attractive than men. But it seems we have some biases built into us from the start, and others perhaps culturally ingrained. One of those biases is that women ought to be beautiful, while with men, it is just not considered so important. Look at the malls- 75% women's clothing and shoes. Look at the cosmetics industry- 100% women. Sean Connery can be a leading man in his 60's, would that work with a woman? You might notice that there are tons of flower pictures out there....but not many dirt pictures. Flowers and dirt are right together, they coexist, yet we view one as beautiful and desirable, and the other is just there to support the flower.

    Some above have mentioned the role of religion (or lack of it) in the modern views, and I think they have missed the point. For example, in the case of the woman nursing a baby- this was a common public site up until relatively recent times. And in fact, public nursing has become less acceptable while religion in general has declined. This seems to be more of a social issue than a religious one. If you go look at any museum of art over the centuries, there has always been a good bit of nudity in it, even when the Catholic Church was in control of it.

    Sexual attitudes among different groups of religious people have varied considerably, even among Christians. Many of the attitudes that you'll find are not inherent in Christianity. For example, you'll find from the Song of Solomon and a couple of comments of Paul's in the NT, that the idea of sex as recreation is very much there. The emphasis of the writers tends to be on who one has sex with, rather than why or how.

    I think one thing that tends to be overlooked is how we deal with privacy. Did you ever wonder why a restroom in a house is a private little room, used by one person at a time? We'll build houses with 3 restrooms, but have you ever seen a modern house with 3 toilets in one restroom? The reason is that we expect and desire privacy about certain issues. It's not because taking a crap is wrong or naughty or sinful. It's just something most of us would rather not share with the world. And this transfers into the world of photography also. Most of us wouldn't take a photo of someone taking a crap, regardless of how wonderful the light might be.

    The thinking about sexuality is similar in many ways. The nude body is natural and is good, and sex is natural and good. But that doesn't mean it is something that should be shared among the public. Some people want to make sex into a spectator sport, while others think it should remain something very personal.

    By the way, I remember reading, several years back, a book on the Arapaho of the 1800's. According to the book, they just didn't normally discuss sex, period, even with their kids. They weren't Christians, and as far as I know, had no religious grounds for this. Rather it was just a cultural thing, that they felt certain things should be private, and not publically discussed.
     
  22. Jeff There are two tacks.... Either "Do I react to it sexually or aesthetically" (the eye of the beholder argument) or "Does the maker want me to respond sexually or aesthetically" There is a third tack taken by the puritanical "Might anyone react sexually".
    I'm not sure I fully follow what you are saying here. I guess my question would be: Can an artist create a work with the intention that part of the audience's reaction would be sexual, and succeed in that intention, and still be creating art?

    Try it the other way. If you don't react sexually, and the creator didn't intend you to react sexually it isn't porn.
    I guess one COULD make an argument that says Guernica is propaganda not art. Or even that some pictures which have no more to them than "pretiness" are something other than art.
    I'm generally happier saying what something is than what it isn't. You can certainly have art which is erotic and erotica which is artistic. But generally we use "Porn" for stuff which is erotic, but without any pretention to be art...
     
  23. I wish I had more time to wade through the replies (I'm not sure why I attempt browsing this section while I'm in the middle of work - grr), but I don't. So I'll just throw in my itsy bit of perspective:

    In my humble opinion, as someone who's spent far too many years in art schools (but is quite wary of the term "artist" when applied to myself) and is fairly new to photography (18 months or so), photographers in general tend to be a rather uptight bunch compared to artists in general. Yeah yeah, I'm generalizing - crucify me.
    Of course, I have nothing to back this up other than my own naive perspective (the same perspective that's discovered that many artists in general can be quite pretentious), but if the attitude of a lot of folks here on photo.net alone is any indication for the rest of the world's photographers, I think you'd all agree. ;)

    I'd (honestly) love to hear what some of you folks think of the work of someone like Barbara Nitke.
     
  24. I agree with James; any image (even images that contain no nudity) can be used for pornographic purposes, but it is easy to see when a photographer's intent is contemplation (of form, light, texture etc.) instead of masturbation. Perhaps that is why most artistic nudes are eerily unerotic; if they were, then it would be difficult to focus on what the photographer wants you to focus on.

    However, I think the difference between erotic art and pornography is harder to describe than the difference between pornography and an unerotic still life photographs of the human body. For me, erotic art manages to be honest about sex (full-frontal/assertive nudity, sexual instead of aesthetic subject matter etc.) without encouraging you to go and relieve yourself. That is somewhat paradoxical, but it makes sense to me. It's not as erotic as honest, unpretentious pornography (which shouldn't be used a derogatory/dismissive term), but it isn't as sanitized as an artistic nude/human still life.
     
  25. I think the line between eroticism and pornography has less to do with what or how much
    is shown, and more to do with how the photograph handles tension. Pornography seeks to
    release tension while eroticism seeks to create it. The dynamic photograph is erotic. The
    static one tends to pornography.

    An extreme example of this is the series of photographs that the artist Jeff Koons did of
    himself having sex with his porn star wife. While the images contain all the hallmarks of
    pornography--they are very, very explicit--they are not pornography because of what the
    photographs do. Koons sets the photographs up as a critique of art market and pop
    culture consumerism. In a magazine called Screw, the photographs would be simple porn.
    In a gallery, editioned and carrying heavy prices that collectors are paying, the photos
    become a critique of the market that is buying them. That is where the tension lies. I
    wouldn't call them erotic. Perhaps ironic would be better.

    In the early nineties I saw a photo essay in which a number of photographers had been
    asked to submit an erotic photo. One of the pictures struck me as very effective and quite
    unusual. It was a picture of a telephone handset at a public payphone hanging down by
    the cord. It was very erotic in that context. Suddenly the handset hinted at phone
    conversations and a hurried roundezvous.

    It's all about the tension and what happens to it.
     
  26. in the end we are left staring into our mirrors at our nude bodies and wondering am I pornographic, erotic, or am i art.
     
  27. Random thoughts:
    1) Lots of talk, haven't gotten any 'aha' insights
    2) Interesting in that some new names of artists appeared that I will check out to see what they have to say
    3) Most agree this forum commenters and raters are not represent of the broader community. And certainly not of mores in Lilian,Alabama
    4) Sex is easier to talk about in the abstract here than death,dying,dealing with your sick parents,your insecurities about retirement,your marriage,and your end of year tax avoidance strategies
    5) Sex and Porno talk has given a little burp to the POP forum which goes through stagnation and I don't help much either.
    Be well,eat prunes regularly and smile at the coworkers,drive em nuts. Grandpa Gerry
     
  28. VERY interesting thoughts to ponder, and I agree that there are no clear answers. I'll respond in more detail later tonight, but just some things that have occurred to me reading the responses are: Why are sex and aesthetics mutually exclusive? Why CAN'T sexually arousing (erotic) photos be aesthetically pleasing (I actually despise most porn, not for the content, but for the lousy photography). I just saw the directors cut of a movie, In The Cut. It had at least one scene of blatant oral sex very explicitly shown. I strongly suspect that this cut was never released in the U.S., and the SAD thing is that the scene and a couple of others that I mentioned were critical in making the movie work as a whole.

    Just observations, I'll have more as soon as I finish the work day.

    Oh, I am more than just blurring the lines, I am crossing them completely (and, in all honesty, am not entirely happy with the results, it seems that cropping out the explicit portions of the image results in a much more erotic image, for my taste at least). They aren't great photographs (and the few people that have seen them agree, and also agree that the crops are better), its just me exploring to see what is possible with the medium...

    ...again, why can't sex be aesthetic? I think the comment about puritain influence may be the answer to that one.
     
  29. I guess this question has been asked every since man first figured out how to draw on a cave wall. For me, erotic art is abut the representation of DESIRE - the object of desire being a recognisable human individual and the desire being largely but not completely sexual. The desire is for that subject, that person in the photograph. On the other hand, pornography is only concerned with the SEX act and the sex act alone - the object of the photograph is the promise of sex. The person in the photograph is merely a object of sexual release - hence the reason why pornography is correctly accused of the crime of objectifying Women. And it explains why the best pornography leaves little to the imagination (what you see is what you get), whereas the best erotic art leaves as much as possible (ratchet up the feelings of desire with a mere taste of beauty and sexual promise).
     
  30. Well put, Dan. To take your argument a step further, eroticism enhances or creates desire,
    while pornography seeks to relieve it. By increasing desire, an erotic photograph creates
    further interest and perhaps mystery regarding sex. Pornography seeks to release desire,
    which is why the photographs are so often just terrible photographs. The actual amount of
    genitalia or nudity or exposure in the photograph is irrelevant to how the photograph
    works.

    Many photographic greats have pointed out that good photographs are not easily
    resolved, that they have a sense of mystery, they are hard to categorize, and they are
    complex. If the goal of pornograpy is to relieve desire and resolve mystery, then it's goals
    are opposite from the goals of art.
     
  31. "... hence the reason why pornography is correctly accused of the crime of objectifying Women."

    Yeah, that's a real shame as opposed to the wonderfulness of being (along with men) interchangeable and replaceable objects in any industrialized society on the planet regardless of political system.
     
  32. Not to belabor the point, but a minor history lesson is in order.

    Regarding the comment that the U.S. was settled by "puritans", it should be noted that where I reside in the southwestern U.S., Santa Fe, NM was already an established town when the "puritans" landed at Plymouth Rock.

    While one can't argue the impact that the New England puritan experience had on our founding documents, Spain's interest in the New World was not, shall we say, puritanical. Slavery, power and the conquest for silver and gold is much closer to the truth.

    France and Spain both played a large role in our early history, not only puritans fleeing the English crown. And the culture they imported represent values that are decidedly non-puritanical, as an honest appraisal of our history reveals.
     
  33. Mark: ... [art is] when a photographer's intent is contemplation (of form, light, texture etc.) instead of masturbation.
    Aric: ... eroticism enhances or creates desire, while pornography seeks to relieve it.
    You gentlemen appear to be defining pornography primarily by how useful it is in the bathroom. Alton raises an important question, if it gets you hot, can it nevertheless be art? Of course!
    Let's review what pornography contains: sexual content that a particular community generally finds offensive.
    The sexual-content factor: Some things are highly offensive without being pornographic: road kill, graphic violence, etc. Even road kill with a nude in the background is not necessarily pornographic because it is not the sexual content that is offensive.
    The offensive-content factor: If the sexual content is generally offensive, then the pornographic label may be applied no matter how technically artistic a photo is.
    Offensiveness is in the eye of the beholder, not the artist -- the artist's intentions do not determine what is pornographic or non-pornographic (although knowledge of the artist's intentions may influence the beholder's opinions).
    Here is a partial list of factors that play a role in making a photo offensive:
    Offensiveness depends on the venue: the threshold is a lot lower in an airport terminal where children pass than in a theater with restricted access.
    Offensiveness depends on the community's tastes: San Francisco vs. Birmingham, Amsterdam vs. Kabul, etc.
    Offensiveness correlates with how sexually arousing the image is. This is the point that much of the above discussion has already focused on. It's just not the whole picture.
    Offensiveness generally correlates to sexual explicitness: in-your-face detail vs. veiled sexuality. Veiled sexuality can be more arousing and yet less offensive that explicit sexuality.
    Offensiveness correlates with how deviant is the sexual content from accepted norms.
    Offensiveness correlates to apparent exploitation, especially involving minors.
    Offensiveness is mitigated by a socially responsible purpose (for example, graphic images that document and expose sexual exploitation.)
    Offensiveness is mitigated by artistic quality: why Mapplethorpe got away with what he did.​
    I don't know, but I imagine that the moderators don't have some fixed definition of pornography that they use to screen photos. Rather, they probably consider if the image might be so offensive to many p.net (the venue at issue) users that it undermines the objectives of the site.
    --Joe
     
  34. Joe,

    The porn industry here in the US and elsewhere has refined pornography to what it is. You
    correctly point out that one of the definitions of pornography is how useful it is in the
    bedroom or the bathroom, where ever you prefer. Here in the US, the porn industry makes
    as much or more than the entire Hollywood industry. For those who are paying attention,
    that means that there is as much energy spent consuming porn as there is spent on
    Hollywood
    entertainment.

    Your definition of pornography is limited by the fact that it only focuses on the reaction to
    porn by those who are offended by it. What about the population of people who consume,
    pay for and support it? They clearly do not find it offensive. There must be a more
    sophisticated method for determining how porn works and how to define it than by
    identifying who finds it offensive.

    If you go to the porn industry itself, you find that they are clear that porn is intended to be
    used in a certain way, for the release of desire. In fact, it is not the sexual excitement that
    is important, but the release that is important. Eroticism clearly has a sexual component to
    it. But it does not resolve or remove the subject of the eroticism from a relationship with
    the viewer. The viewer is forced to experience the human aspects of the image. These
    aspects are
    complex. With porn, those qualities are expressly removed because they clearly interfere
    with the release of desire.

    Defining pornography by how offensive it is to a community is an inexact business
    because that definition will always be a shifting one, depending on social mores and
    beliefs. Why not look to how the produce works and is consumed to see how to define it?
     
  35. " I just saw the directors cut of a movie, In The Cut. It had at least one scene of blatant oral sex very explicitly shown. I strongly suspect that this cut was never released in the U.S., and the SAD thing is that the scene and a couple of others that I mentioned were critical in making the movie work as a whole."<p> I don't know what version on DVD I saw. To my taste, the whole movie was sad. Grotesque, serial killing with bloody severed head. Sado-masochistic heroine (who dies in the book,after being tortured),is mistreated in the film. Oral sex plentiful,nothing much left to imagine,a staple of pornography that is treated mainly as female abuse. <p> I imagine that Meg Ryan will survive this one,poor lady. I thought Mark Ruffalo did an amazing piece of acting,way out of his normal range. This movie,and the book,is not to my taste. It goes beyond pornography. It goes to shock for shock's sake. Suspense,sex,pornography if you like is most engaging when not in your face.... Now don't all go out and rent it today...Apropos of the history of settlement. Spanish settlers who trekked West, like Coronada brought religion and the Inquisition and the sword and yen to plunder. My New England home's founders came with their own brand of religious gender and ethnic bias,but also introduced "bundling."So it gets complicated. See the film. Is it porno,ersatz porn, or the antithesis of porn. Not all lines need to be crossed,even if we have the passport. GS
     
  36. Thanks for giving me a different perspective. You are right. The sex industry unapologetically embraces the term pornography to mean sexual content used for sexual arousal without conceding that there is anything offensive about it.
    My problem is that the term pornography used in this way is identical to the term erotica -- "Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire." I am accustomed to using the term erotica for sexual material when no offensiveness is implied, and pornography for sexual material with the negative connotation. I guess the sex industry would disagree.
    In any case, I assume that Alton's question has to do with material that crosses some threshold of offensiveness generally and for this site in particular, and gives the recent censoring of male nudes on this site as an example.
    I still assert that offensiveness is in the eye of the beholder. Alton has said that his new work "crosses the line". He is conceding that many viewers here would find it offensive, and he will not show it here. But he does not intend for it to offend, and his friends are not offended by it.
    Perhaps he can say that it is not pornography because he does not intend for it to sexually arouse, but his intentions are no defense against viewers being offended.
    --Joe
     
  37. Wouldn't the only true difference be the intention of the artist?
     
  38. Nude photography and painting does not particularly bother me, nor am I easily impressed by it. With some subjects it is easy to hide a photos shortcomings by using an eyecatching subject, like a hot girl! :-D

    I have seen some gross photos, and generaly avoid them; life is dark enough to start with, why make it darker?

    Now I believe there are some things that SHOULD not be displayed, but my moral views will not be posted because frankly, most people get agitated when they read them.
     
  39. Wouldn't the only true difference be the intention of the artist?
    I don't think so. That is to say, some porn may correctly be considered porn due to the intention of its creator(s) and/or its association with the sex industry. However, outside of that very special case, I think that whether something is "pornography or art" is really decided by the audience, and not by the artist.
    The number of cases in which we know the intentions of the artist are fairly low. Consider the many Renaissance paintings with Venus in the title. Most of them are sexually suggestive. We know absolutely nothing about the artist's intentions in painting most of these - and sometimes nothing about the artist at all except the name and some vague dates. Yet the art world has declared several of these to be masterpieces. It seems that the audience is willing to judge even in a vacuum of knowledge about artistic intention.
    Conversely, many of the artworks for which we do know the artist's intentions provide a powerful argument for the notion that the audience will decide what the art "is," independent of any influence by the artist. I point to Duchamp and his L.H.O.O.Q. as one example. Most of the people who have seen this work consider it to be defacement, not art. Yet the intentions of its creator are known and contradict many of the assumptions and opinions of the audience.
    So it doesn't seem to matter - the audience will judge the work, without consulting the artist's intention. It is therefore possible for an audience to consider something pornographic that the artist did not intend as such (some of Mapplethorpe's work is a great example), and vice versa.
    Now this is easy for me to say because, as I alluded to above, I don't see why a sexual depiction or an arousing affect on the viewer disqualifies a work from being art, or qualifies it to be pornographic. I also find the "state" theories (e.g., about how porn is a release of tension and art a building up of tension or vice versa, and so on) to be poppycock. Such definitions tend to rely either on arguments about the intention of the artist (which I don't accept for the reasons above), or an appeal to the inner state of the artist or the viewer. The problem with the latter is that sexual feelings are treated differently in these definitions from the rest of humanity's instinctive drives.
    For example, art based on cheeseburgers is never subjected to some silly test about whether or not the art makes the audience or artist hungrier, or less hungry, or whatever. People who advance such definitions arbitrarily choose to treat sexual feeling differently from other human feelings - even when those other feelings are closely related to moral questions. (Anyone who doesn't believe hunger is a moral issue might consider the matter of apportioning food, or fighting over it, during a famine.)
    When all is said and done, and all arguments that I'm familiar with are considered, I simply fail to see any difference between art and pornography except the function to which it is put by the individual viewer. Under this theory, porn is only porn if the viewer uses it as a sexual proxy or thinks it could be used as a sexual proxy.
    Of course there will be no widespread acceptance of my definition anytime soon, since it strikes too close to home. A virtually inescapable conclusion from it is that the person who cries "porn" is a porn consumer or at least a porn shopper. And I admit that is precisely how I see such people, though I rather suspect that would be more scandalous to many of them than it is to me.
     
  40. So, in short, you belive that society as a whole decides what is porn and what is art; whether right or wrong the social "norm" is the factor which certain types of art are decided upon.

    Then, possibly, in a few decades that definition would be redefined by society and possibly become "acceptable"?

    Perhaps in 40 years my "High Sociey" collection will become valuable? ;)
     
  41. So, in short, you belive that society as a whole decides what is porn and what is art;
    I don't know for sure if you are addressing me, but if you are, the answer is no. I do not believe that society as a whole decides what is porn and what is art. I believe that whether something is pornography or not is decided by the function it fulfills for the individual. There doesn't even need to be a conscious determination made of whether they think something is or is not porn - the work merely has to fulfill the role of porn, for them (not necessarily for others), to actually be porn.
    It follows that the question of "porn or art" is a false dichotomy - something can be both at the same time, possibly even to the same person.
    whether right or wrong the social "norm" is the factor which certain types of art are decided upon.
    I don't think that my functional argument presupposes a moral conclusion, just a moral question. I recognise that the instinctive impulses of humans are morally significant, but my definition doesn't pass judgement on whether individual impulses or their resulting feelings are "good" or "bad" or "right" or "wrong" for purposes of making a determination of the status of artwork.
    Then, possibly, in a few decades that definition would be redefined by society and possibly become "acceptable"?
    Certainly, something which fulfills a pornographic role in one period could come to fulfill a non-pornographic role in another, even for the same person, thus altering its status - even altering its status broadly and for many individuals. That said, I question whether there is ever really a consensus on these kinds of issues, so I stop short of saying that this is a case of redefinition by society in which something becomes socially acceptable.
    An excellent example are the "pornographic" comic books that were investigated in the "Kefauver Hearings" of the U.S. Senate in the mid-1950's. Some of those comic books without any question fulfilled a pornographic role for many of their consumers, and for many of their critics. But I would guess it is vanishingly rare today to find someone suggesting that Superman should be sold next to Playboy or whatever. And many individuals now consider these books to be early exemplars of an important new style of art.
    The simultaneous existence of these comic books and the hearings condemning them tends to support my theory of lack of consensus; it is an obvious sign that "society" can't get its act together and is in conflict with itself. The same goes for the existence of any kind of protest on any issue, of which there are many in the porn debates. Whether my functional definition has merit or not, without such a consensus, how can it be said that society has decided?
    Perhaps in 40 years my "High Sociey" collection will become valuable? ;)
    I looked for this collection in your community profile, eager to view it, but I didn't find it there. A shame. ;-)
     
  42. Society cannot define pornography. What it can define is what it finds offensive to its
    standards of taste. As I have been saying, the definition of pornography and its distinction
    between erotic imagery is that pornography has a definite function and that function can
    be measured by how it effects the viewer.

    Let me respond to Joe to illustrate my point.

    Joe says "My problem is that the term pornography used in this way is identical to the term
    erotica -- "Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire."

    Erotic literature and art is indeed intended to arouse sexual desire. But, if we go back to
    the root of the word erotic, we find it comes out of the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche.
    Eros and Psyche were twins who were under a special spell that kept them together. They
    could only grow if they were with each other. The moment that they separated, they began
    to revert to childhood and back to infancy. Eros, or erotic desire, only works when it is
    balanced by its counterpart, Psyche, or will/psychological content/etc. Without the tension
    that lies between them, they both revert back to infantile creatures. Good erotic art and
    literature is good because it keeps this balance. That is seen in complexity of plot, depth
    of character, complexity of image, relationship to viewer etc.

    Pornography seeks to remove all of that confusing and complicated stuff and get right to
    the business of extinguishing desire. Because pornography is meant to be consumed, and
    to be consumed sexually, it is not about stimulating desire. It's intent is to stimulate and
    then relieve desire. Plain and simple. Therefore, elements that would enhance the erotic
    content of the image or story must be removed because they would interfer with the
    release of desire. Psyche, or symbol, must be removed from the picture to get to that
    release.

    As far as the grey area in the middle, well I suppose there is a lot of work out there that is
    neither good erotic imagery nor successful pornography, but is simply poorly done.
     
  43. Alton Why CAN'T sexually arousing (erotic) photos be aesthetically pleasing
    It can. If it's arousing it is erotic. If it is aesthetically pleasing "erotic art" is probably the right label for it. If it doesn't care if it is or not, then "Porn".
    I actually despise most porn, not for the content, but for the lousy photography For reasons that I don't entirely understand the fetishists (especially the PVC, Leather and high heels ones) seem to demand higher standards in their porn.
    it seems that cropping out the explicit portions of the image results in a much more erotic image, for my taste at least There is one picture here that I have tried to copy a couple of times. The model is lifting her top at an angle to show just one breast, but that breast is out of shot. What's hinted at and left to the imagination is far more Interesting. These days I find erotic writing more interesting than erotic photography - because in my head the pictures are always better.
    Joe (S) If the sexual content is generally offensive, then the pornographic label may be applied I've got to disagree with the offensiveness test. 90% plus of what I call porn doesn't offend me. You can't just label anything with an attractive body in it "Porn" if you happen not to like it. Erotic is not the same as pornographic - pornography is a subset of erotica - that part which doesn't try interesting in any way EXCEPT sexually. Of course if it is not interesting photographically it has no place on photo.net. Something can be art and offensive - for example art that attacks religion. So neither "offensive = Porn" nor "offensive <> art" hold true. Things that are gratuitiously offensive (e.g. Road Kill) have no place here either. Offense IS, as you say, in the eye of the beholder... but that creates more problems. There are people who find nudity vulgar; and are offended by it. Nudity is not the same as eroticism (a naked corpse on a mortuary slab is unpleasant, offensive and possibly vulgar but not erotic ... for most people), which is not the same as pornography, which is not the same as obscenity. I guess my point is you can't equate, these terms, but people do mix them up.
     
  44. Pornography: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it. ;-)
     
  45. If it's arousing it is erotic. If it is aesthetically pleasing "erotic art" is probably the right label for it.
    That implies that only aesthetically pleasing things can be art, doesn't it? That would make it very difficult to create an artistic representation of an unattractive subject, or an artistic and unattractive representation of any subject (Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon again becomes a problem). Now we've slammed the door on a significant percentage of 20th century art.
    If it doesn't care if it is or not, then "Porn".
    Does artwork really care about anything?
    Erotic is not the same as pornographic - pornography is a subset of erotica - that part which doesn't try [to be] interesting in any way EXCEPT sexually.
    So an uninteresting photo depicting sexual content is pornography, and an interesting photo depicting sexual content isn't; meanwhile I'm guessing an uninteresting but mouth-watering photo of a cheeseburger isn't pornography nor considered to be in any similar category. There is a category for works that are only "interesting sexually" but not for works that are only "interesting to the appetite for food." I wish anyone who believes in this double standard could explain why it is valid to apply.
    Of course if it is not interesting photographically it has no place on photo.net.
    There's a lot to be said about this sentiment. One might mention that "interesting" is in the eye of the beholder, and that what is of keen interest to me may not be of any interest to you. Yet I'd regret very much being told that it has no place on photo.net because it holds no interest for you or others similarly unenlightened (according to my selfish judgement in this hypothetical case - I'm not meaning to take a shot at you).
    I'm also a little uneasy about what this means to photo critiquing. Granted, I tend to view critiques as a bunch of conformist aethetes running around talking each other up. Or down, if the photographer doesn't happen to fit in to the prevailing atmosphere of conformity. Nevertheless, I'd hate for a beginner to be told that their nascent photographic and compositional talents should not be exhibited here because the results are uninteresting. Heck, I find some of Philip's photography uninteresting, but I'd certainly not seek to banish it from the site.
    And finally, I don't think that "interesting" is the only valid end to which photography can be legitimately put. I'm happy to see photographs that appeal to or manipulate all sorts of human emotions, even when the photographs hold no interesting element whatever for the viewer. For example, Alfred Stieglitz' equivalents were not interesting to me, but I've seen a few that were quite uplifting and inspiring nonetheless.
    Things that are gratuitiously offensive (e.g. Road Kill) have no place here either.
    Again I'd disagree. Road kill is a significant ecological and economic issue. If a photojournalist shot a story on road kill and its effect on the racoon and deer populations, and its consequences to the insurance industry and to property damage in general, and these photographs included photographs of road kill, I would have a hard time seeing why that was offensive in any way. (Let alone gratuitously so.) And since photojournalism of other types is represented here, I'd say excluding road kill photojournalism from the site would be rather arbitrary.
    I'd also seriously question whether it is really true that non-photojournalistic representations of road kill could not possibly be artistic and/or are inherently "gratuitously offensive." To some, maybe. To others, who knows?
    I guess my point is that I find it hard to accept boundaries drawn between art, erotic art, and pornography, if the best definition that can be had for these boundaries rest on a series of questionable examples.
     
  46. Jeff, I wish to commend you on your well thought out and expertly conveyed arguments. Contributors like you are a credit to this forum. However, I feel that your Cheeseburger Photo/Pornogrophy analogy is flawed. And I feel this way because, as Aric has stated, good pornography is unambiguous. It's impossible to mistake it for erotic art. Bad pornography - and by 'bad' I mean pornography which is limited or isn't fully realised due to social or other contraints on the part of the photographer - may indeed resemble 'erotic art' and this is where the grey area lies. However, in the modern age, no pornographer who knows his craft creates an image that is ambiguously erotic when his intention is to create something pornographic.

    Anyway to get back to the Cheesburger thing.

    Pornography = Cheeseburger photos
    Sexual arousal/desire = hunger
    Sex = Eating
    Masturbation = ???

    or to put it another way, how can we have Cheesburger Porn when hunger pangs can easily be addressed by a trip to the refrigerator, and if one fancies something new and exciting to eat they can take a trip to the nearest delicatessen or exotic restaurant? And if you're living in a bunker and there's no food available, why torture yourself with cheeseburger photos when there's no way of relieving your hunger pangs?
     
  47. I feel that your Cheeseburger Photo/Pornogrophy analogy is flawed.
    Well, thank God someone is willing to take me on. ;-)
    as Aric has stated, good pornography is unambiguous. It's impossible to mistake it for erotic art. Bad pornography ... may indeed resemble 'erotic art' and this is where the grey area lies.
    I would agree with you if we were speaking of only that pornography which originates from the sex industry. This is indeed unmistakable. No argument there. I also agree with your conception of not fully realized pornography being potentially ambiguous because of the inability of its creator to fulfill their total vision. That is an especially elegant way of expressing that issue.
    However, as soon as you get outside of the "special case" of sex industry pornographic works, I believe clarity has a disturbing tendency to evaporate. I've already brought up comic books, which were at one time considered to be fully-realized, blatant, and unambiguous propaganda by people who were neither stupid nor ignorant of the issues. But they aren't considered to be pornography by me, today.
    Now this case is of interest to me precisely because it is ambiguous. If we want to find the line dividing pornography from erotic art, and erotic art from art, we don't need to investigate works that are obviously one or the other - these are works that lie at great distance from the boundary lines. It is the gray area which has to be understood if we are to actually find that boundary.
    So if it seems as if I am dismissing obvious cases, I am, and for the above reason.
    Pornography = Cheeseburger photos
    Sexual arousal/desire = hunger
    Sex = Eating
    Masturbation = ???

    Masturbation = eating in the above litany.
    Here is why: Since eating has the effect of relieving hunger, it forms an analogue to having sexual intercourse, which has the effect of relieving sexual arousal and desire. Therefore, since masturbation has the effect of relieving sexual arousal and desire, it also forms an analogue to eating. No analogy need be pressed too hard: I would concede that sexual intercourse and masturbation are qualitatively different; but so is eating a cheeseburger and eating a salad.
    Some would say your formulation above is flawed - that the terms sex and masturbation in your formulae are in fact substitutes for the word orgasm or something similar. I'll have to consider this but I'm not convinced that is so.
    or to put it another way, how can we have Cheesburger Porn when hunger pangs can easily be addressed by a trip to the refrigerator ... And if you're living in a bunker and there's no food available, why torture yourself with cheeseburger photos when there's no way of relieving your hunger pangs?
    We can have Cheeseburger Porn because:
    • the ability to fulfill one's appetite for food does not prevent one from having that appetite
    • the ability to fulfill one's appetite for food does not prevent one's appetite being stimulated by imagery of food
    • the ability to fulfill one's appetite for food does not prevent one's appetite being so strongly stimulated by imagery of food that stimulation is followed by eating, or at least by the intense desire to eat
    • people eat food for reasons other than hunger, just as people use porn, have sex, or masturbate for reasons other than sexual arousal and desire
    • Most of us have had the experience of watching a TV ad for a cheeseburger (or pizza, steak, whatever) and saying, 'gosh, that made me hungry.' Well, if that has happened to you, you have traveled some (so far indeterminate) distance down the road to a Cheeseburger Porn destination - just as if you had seen an erotic picture and been aroused by it. Now if either of these experiences was followed by eating a cheeseburger or having sex with your wife (respectively), then I'd say you've found some pornography - that is, you have found something that fulfills the function of pornography for you (and that is how I'm proposing that we find the boundary).
      Concerning the bunker, you might as well ask why a man stuck in a bunker (or a prison, etc) with no women available would torture himself with a picture of a beautiful woman. Because people do irrational things, I guess. I don't know why, but I know it happens.
      Excellent objections and illustrative questions. I've still not fully thought this through, and I'm not utterly convinced I am right, but I don't think the Cheeseburger Porn wall has been torn down.
     
  48. Jeff, unless I'm mistaken, I think your argument was, once we define pornography as that work which has as it's purpose the stimulation of sexual desire - then it is logical (given an assumption of equality of all human desires) to extend that definition to all media or art works which are employed to stimulate desires of any kind - i.e. advertising etc. Hence, since it's patently ridiculous to label all advertising and most of art as pornography, our definition of pornography is incorrect...and given the falsehood of this definition one can only conclude that pornography like art is in the eye of the beholder - i.e. it's entirely subjective.

    However, the existence of non-grey area porn (unambiguously pornographic photography) implies that there is an objective element to where we position the boundary line between erotic art and pornography - and this gives us an indication that your argument is a tad off target. While I accept that what most people (the 'man in the street' if you like) label as pornographic is entirely subjective, I would argue that one can come to a objective definition of what is truely pornographic. Whether that definition is valuable or not is a matter for the individual.

    So, to get back to your argument, one immediately apparent flaw is the assumption that all human desires are equal. I won't elaborate on that point except to state that it seems obvious to me that the expression of sexual desire carries with it political, social, ethical, pscyhological and physical dimensions not associated with the expression of other desires.

    The other flaw is that an argument for the definition of pornography based on a stimulation of sexual desire should not assume that it lies at one end of a continuum starting with portraits at one end and passing through photography of nudes and 'erotic art' and glamour etc. I believe true Pornography exists within a mental 'space' that is identifiable by the its complete focus on the sex act (the promise and gaurantee of released sexual desire) and the objectification of the person(s) within the photograph. All other elements which distract from the object of the photo are irrelevant - ie. technical quality of the photography.

    Again, this definition may be pointless because the area of interest is that erotic art which isn't pornographic but which some people find offensive, but so be it.
     
  49. Words, words, words...
    00ASMN-20930184.jpg
     
  50. It is an adorable family picture as it is passed among your family and friends, and it will be child porn if it is copied from here and passed among pedophiles.
     
  51. This thread has had a good discussion about the definition of pornography, but I believe that it is largely a red herring. (The only thing that would have been worse is a debate about the definition of art.) In spite of the title of this thread, I believe that the issue that Alton initially raised was primarily that of censorship. Unfortunately, Alton chose to characterize the censorship as that of pornography rather than offensive material. The implication is that if an erotic work is removed from this site, then it must simply have been porn (at least in the judgment of the moderators). The inverse of this argument is that if the erotic work is not censored, then it must have some redeeming artistic quality that saves it from the dreaded porn stigma.

    I don't buy it. I think the initial premise of the question is flawed. I have seen enough porn to know that some can be very artistic. And I believe that some of the nudes with artistic poses, lighting, and composition are also too sexually explicit for an unrestricted site like this one. I don't believe that there will be any definition of pornography that will define what should be censored from this site.

    A censorship debate should focus on what sexual content is too offensive for this site (or other particular sites because offensiveness depends of the venue). Pornography would be only one of the factors in the equation to quantify offensiveness.

    --Joe
     
  52. Jeff. You're taking me too literally when you quote If it's arousing it is erotic. If it is aesthetically pleasing "erotic art" is probably the right label for it. and If it doesn't care if it is or not, then "Porn". Let me put it another way.
    My definition of Porn is erotic work where the erotic content is the sole consideration. Porn doesn't much care if it is good or bad photography, or pleasing to the eye.
    Defining art is harder than defining porn, it doesn't depend on being pleasing to the eye, but to be specific a nude which is shot to show the body as a fascinating beautiful thing can go in the pile marked art and a shot intended assist someone jerking off belongs in the pile marked porn. "Not Porn" isn't the same as "Is art", just as "Not Art" = "Is porn" there's a large slice of "Glamour" photography which is too dull and lacking in creativity to be called art , and doesn't meet the erotic bar to qualify as porn.
    You ask if art really cares about anything - Yes, it does. Take Guernica for example; Picasso certainly cared about something. Generally non-abstract artists want to show us something and show it in a particular way. They're not always concerned with being pretty.
    Again if it is not interesting photographically it has no place on photo.net. is something you have taken too literally. If someone uploads pictures which are of no interest to even a small minority of the user base here (and that includes students who've used this as a free site for posting party photos) then they shouldn't be here. It's not the taste of one person that determines what stays or goes. you say I don't think that "interesting" is the only valid end to which photography can be legitimately put. I'm happy to see photographs that appeal to or manipulate all sorts of human emotions I would have said that appealing to or manipulating emotions was a dimension of "interesting" perhaps "Engaging" would be a better term. Porn only engages you on a sexual level. Art engages you on other levels (Aesthetic being only one).
     
  53. This is exactly where I disagree. I cannot imagine any situation whatsoever, where this image could serve as a pornographic material for anyone (no to mention the fact that pedophiles won?t bother with browsing photo.net when they can freely share their child porn via P2P and ICQ networks), but I am quite positive that a nipple of a two-year old girl has the potential to raise furore among all the hypocritical guardians of the so-called middle class morals who use the pedophile alert argument to mask their own prejudices and the fear of the slightest demonstration of nudity as well as the dirty minds of their own.
     
  54. Of course, I was referring to Joe and Kathy Sandford's coment. BTW, this portfolio is an excellent example of pictures, which are very explicit sexually, and yet an outstanding piece of fine-art photography. Still, I know many people, who would not hesitate to rank the photos among pornography regardless of their artistic qualities.
     
  55. Dan wrote:
    Jeff, unless I'm mistaken, I think your argument was, once we define pornography as that work which has as it's purpose the stimulation of sexual desire - then it is logical ... to extend that definition to all ... works which ... stimulate desires of any kind.
    No, I'm not really arguing that. I wouldn't say 'desires of any kind,' I am referring only to human instinctive desires. The sort of desire or feeling that every human being in all of history has experienced because they are inherent to being a human (supposing normal fetal development, etc).
    I would argue that one can come to a objective definition of what is truely pornographic.
    I'm inclined to agree with you.
    one immediately apparent flaw is the assumption that all human desires are equal. I won't elaborate on that point except to state that it seems obvious to me that the expression of sexual desire carries with it political, social, ethical, pscyhological and physical dimensions not associated with the expression of other desires.
    Desire for food has resulted in interpersonal hostility (a social dimension), killing and maiming (ethical and physical), alliances and genocide (political), eating disorders (psychological and physical), and so forth. So I guess it is not as obvious to me that expression of sexual desire carries with it implications that are entirely absent from the expression of other human instinctive desires. I would say there is a qualitative difference between how those implications are expressed: being raped is different from having your skull crushed so that someone can steal your food. I would strongly deny that either of those situations was anything other than a very serious moral issue, though.
    One of my reasons for stressing this is to point out the difficulty of using a moral argument to define pornography. (Arguments in which a work is said to be "good," "bad," or to "have no aesthetic appeal" or "no interest other than sexual," etc, are all moralistic arguments, because they make or express a judgement about the merit of a work.)
    Such arguments from sex can be applied to cheeseburgers and, in a time and place where hunger is a big problem, their moral significance is as great as the moral significance of sex is to us. But when those arguments are applied to cheesburgers in the here and now, those arguments appear patently ridiculous - my evidence for this is your protesting against them!
    But I think such arguments really are patently ridiculous, as applied to pornography and sex, in the here and now; we just tend not to see that because of our presuppositions and biases.
    The other flaw is that an argument for the definition of pornography based on a stimulation of sexual desire should not assume that it lies at one end of a continuum starting with portraits at one end and passing through photography of nudes and 'erotic art' and glamour etc.
    I'm in total agreement with you here. Perhaps I've been unclear if I've given you the opposite impression. In any case, I'm proposing defining pornography in a functional way based on how the audience uses the work. Granting Freud some points, I suppose it is possible that someone out there finds pictures of Greek columns in ruins to be pornographic, because of their phallic appearance. If so, this certainly destroys the continuum, as you point out.
    James wrote:
    Porn doesn't much care if it is good or bad photography, or pleasing to the eye.
    I guess where I get into difficulties there is that I have a hard time thinking of an art work as "caring" about anything. (I grant an exception for of Gilbert and George, I guess.) I don't actually understand what you mean when you say that something inanimate can have a feeling, so it is hard for me to respond. For example:
    You ask if art really cares about anything - Yes, it does. Take Guernica for example; Picasso certainly cared about something.
    Yeah, Picasso cared about something. But Guernica? That's just paint and canvas (or whatever medium it is); can it really feel? If, a million years from now, Guernica is uncovered in an archaeological expedition, and Picasso is unremembered, does Guernica care about anything?
    In other respects, I appreciate your further comments - I think you bring a lot of value to the discussion.
     
  56. hlp

    hlp

    Well...i think that we could discust this issues till kingdom come...one participant incapsuladed the complete inchilada...mr.Perris...."art is not arousing and incomprehensible by most ...erotic art is when it arouses you and people you like and it's porn when it's arousing for people you disaprove of ....this is very profound and close to the "verite" stop for a second and think of this...the body is the unique envelope of our soul ... so let's be kind and respectful of it...men came to this world with nothing over his skin and there is beauty to every creation of this world...my eyes, your eyes only see our many reflections,we all have the power to be good of evil it is a choice we all must take ...when we abandon respect we abandon our self to our dark side/our destructive side ....capturing the reflection of the human body on a piece of cellulose or sampling it's form and many shadows with ones and zeros or simply enjoying what our eyes transmit to our brain is all based on one thing, perception,but man has evolved therefore we carry the responsibility of receiving this information within our singular and unique soul....and then carry the weight of our thoughts....it's a matter of choosing to live weigthed down by darkness of enjoying life......cheers
     
  57. ...except that you are dodging a genuine issue that has real world implications.

    How one defines pornography and where it it differs from art has a real impact on how
    organizations and governments define obscenity laws and what is showable and what is
    not. Newt Gingrich orchestrated the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives
    in the 1980's by villifying Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano and the National
    Endowment for the Arts. Their images were instrumental to the reactionary Republican
    campaign. As a result, the NEA support for individual artists was dismantled and the
    Republicans have such a majority hold in the House that it is unlikely that they will be
    shaken for many years. All of it was orchestrated around the issues being bandied about in
    this thread, pornography, eroticism, art, and censorship.

    If that isn't worth wrestling with, I don't know what is. Currently, the inability to
    distinguish between porn and art has resulted in a wholesale abandonment of government
    arts programs. As of a few years ago, the city of Berlin had a larger budget for supporting
    the arts than the entire country of the United States. That seems pretty real to me.
     
  58. Very well said. In fact, it is so well said that I should not detract from it by nitpicking. But, alas, I can't help it, so please forgive me.
    Defining pornography has nothing to do with how governments define obscenity laws. They know it would be an impossible quagmire. Obscenity laws are about what sexual content is offensive -- pornography is never mentioned. Similarly, censorship is about sexual content that is offensive, and not what is pornography vs. art. For example, it doesn't matter how many Oscars a great film is destined to win -- if it has one little bitty peek of something that is deemed too offensive, then it is toast till the scene is removed.
    Pornography is an important social issue, especially in this era of the internet. And the distinction between erotic art and pornography is an important issue with artists. And this has been an interesting thread. But I now believe that in any debate about censorship or obscenity laws, focusing on a definition of pornography is a red herring.
    My apologies again for nitpicking.
    --Joe
     
  59. Porn is art, too.
     
  60. Joe,

    The words obscenity and pornography in
    popular parlance are often used almost interchangeably when discussing images that have
    graphic sexual content. Arguing for a definition of one is really
    arguing for an expanded understanding of both.

    Lacking that, the system is ripe for abuse along the lines that I described above. You may
    find it a red herring here, but the debate is real and necessary if you want to be able to
    meaningfully address freedom of expression issues, particularly surrounding sex.
     
  61. I have a favorite quote that I try to keep in mind when photographing nudes. I can't recall who said it: "To suggest is to create; To define is to destroy". I guess this can be summed up at least in part (and a bit over-simplistically) by comparing a Playboy magazine to Hustler. The latter is a bit too gynecologically oriented for my tastes. Best wishes . . .
     
  62. But I now believe that in any debate about censorship or obscenity laws, focusing on a definition of pornography is a red herring.
    I tend to agree with you, Joe & Kathy, that defining pornography is a red herring in a debate about censorship. I believe we can come up with such a definition, and I have great faith that the censors will studiously ignore it when deciding what to censor.
    I think it was the late Chuck Jones, of Warner Brothers cartoon fame (Bugs Bunny and the like), who referred to censors as being too stupid to fight and too fat to run away. His further comments made it more clear that he thought that censors simply censored whatever they didn't like, without any particular understanding of audience or art, and I agree. Few show any signs of understanding their behaviour or the material they pass judgment upon. In this respect censors are barely sentient.
    So of course defining pornography probably won't alter anything a censor does. But that doesn't mean that it is improper for philosophers to make the attempt. Heck, trying is justified simply on the basis of the intellectual enjoyment one gets from the process, in my opinion. Carefully thinking a topic through may not be considered good recreation by everyone, but I kind of enjoy it sometimes, and this thread has been really challenging and thought-provoking. I've enjoyed it immensely, even though I've been advancing some highly arguable and probably incorrect positions.
    And to those who deride the whole process as nothing more than meaningless words having no significance - well, those monkeys can grunt, hoot, and scratch their underarms all they want.
    Beau writes: I have a favorite quote that I try to keep in mind when photographing nudes. I can't recall who said it: "To suggest is to create; To define is to destroy".
    What the heck does that mean?
    The question is serious. I've done some medical photography - very representational with no artistic intentions whatever - but I don't think those pictures destroyed anything. As to whether those shots could be anything other than simple representations, some of those pictures have been really inspiring to some of the people who saw them, even ones that were just straight images of a piece of textbook anantomy.
    The way I read your post, it sounds like you are saing that "straight photography" and anything done by the likes of Group f/64 is destructive, as a result of its tendency to depict its subject in a clinical manner (to extend your gynecological metaphor). But can St. Ansel, Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and the rest really be said to have created destructive depictions of their subjects? (Are Cunningham's nudes really destructive? If so, in what way?) Probably I've missed the whole point of the statement.
    I am genuinely interested to learn what the meaning of the quotation is, if it has any.
     
  63. Beau writes: I have a favorite quote that I try to keep in mind when photographing nudes. I can't recall who said it: "To suggest is to create; To define is to destroy".

    "What the heck does that mean?"

    I think it relates to fostering creativity in general. I.e. suggesting that something interesting might be obtained by employing small apertures and great DOF is one thing, insisting that using f/64 is the only way to get a good picture is quite another.

    With respect to defining pornography and differentiating it from erotica, where's the utility in a serious attempt? Unless one is a D.A. or Congresscritter up for election and can then demonstate one is against it or one's opponent is favoring it, there's not much to be gained.
     
  64. With respect to defining pornography and differentiating it from erotica, where's the utility in a serious attempt?
    The utility of it is identical to the utility of taking an artistic nude photograph.
     
  65. "The utility of it is identical to the utility of taking an artistic nude photograph."

    You mean, just because it's fun? Having survived any number of late-night solve-the-problems-of-the universe sessions, some while chemically enhanced and some sober, I'll buy that.
     
  66. Jeff you're being to litteral again I said "Porn doesn't much care ...", you replied "I guess where I get into difficulties there is that I have a hard time thinking of an art work as "caring" about anything"
    I said "You ask if art really cares about anything - Yes, it does. Take Guernica for example; Picasso certainly cared about something." you replied " Yeah, Picasso cared about something. But Guernica? That's just paint and canvas (or whatever medium it is); can it really feel?"
    Obviously a print isn't sentient. When we talk about feeling and caring, we're talking about the process of creating art and creating porn and what regard they have for anything else. If a picture sets out to turn people on and NOTHING else ... it's porn. Something might have greater erotic content but if it sets out to do more than sexually arouse then I don't put it in the pile marked "Porn" - which doesn't mean it is art.
     
  67. When we talk about feeling and caring, we're talking about the process of creating art and creating porn and what regard they have for anything else.
    I don't agree at all that I was being "too literal" in reading your statements. Saying "art cares" is not a less literal way of saying the above, it is merely a nonsensical and obfuscatory way of saying it.
    In any case, this assertion that "art cares" boils down to the old argument presented quite some time ago above, that the intention of the artist defines whether something is porn or not. I've already rejected that line of argument, and given several reasons for doing so. You yourself say that porn engages a person on exclusively a sexual level, while art engages a person in other ways, which suggests that you agree the intention of the artist is at least not the only consideration, while the manner of consumption of the work is at least partially to the point. If that is so, I think you are right.
     
  68. What the heck does that mean?
    I'm a little surprised that it would have to be spelled out for you, but here goes - I believe the author intended something like this: The suggestion of eroticism (for example) is preferable to actually defining it in a photograph and a photographer who can fire up the viewer's imagination is doing better than one who feels compelled to show what amounts to a gynecology lesson in medical school. Think Playboy versus Hustler. Another example from an entirely different genre - horror films. Think about Alfred Hitchcock's "shower scene" in the movie "Psycho". We don't see anyone actually get stabbed. We hear those screaching violins, see shadows, and then blood going down the drain. Hitchcock successfully suggested the murder. Would the scene have been more effective for you if he'd actually shown the victim being hacked to death? Your imagination can do far more with it than even Hitchcock could have. Capiche?
     
  69. Bull, Bull, Bull,
    Porn is a multiBillon dollor business. Titilation for pay. Some fun, some creative, some garbage.
    I like it but do not create it.
    Erotica to me is some of the 19th century media. Porn of a different era.
    Its about money.....
    Dress it up in Hustler, purify it in Playboy, call it art, some of it definatly is. Take the high road, take the low road. Whatever!
    We are driven by survival.. Procreate or die, find food or die, our main drives control our output.
     
  70. Bull, Bull, Bull, Porn is a multiBillon dollor business.
    I'm not arguing with you - although I certainly don't agree! LoL... What's porn being a billion dollar business have to do with the price of tea in China or the lines between art erotic art and pornography?
    Look, I'm just defining it for me not you. I was asked "What the heck does that mean?" with regards to a quote I used so I replied, that's all.
    Erotica to me is some of the 19th century media.
    Fine, whatever floats your boat.
    Its about money..... Dress it up in Hustler, purify it in Playboy
    On a small tangent - I was talking about this topic the other day with my dad. I recall back in the '70s when magazines like Hustler, Penthouse and High Society came about. It seemed to me much about shock value - my god! They're showing pubic hair! (Playboy swore it never would... that didn't last long!)
    Now look at what's happened to Bob Guccione (Talking about money) He's broke and quite possibly destitute for all I know. He can't give away a Penthouse magazine. Now look at the "Laddy Mags" like Maxim - which doesn't even show nudity at all - it's going gangbusters. People got tired of the shock value. I think most people would rather use their imaginations a bit than having what's "supposed" to turn them on spelled out for them.
    Take the high road, take the low road. Whatever!
    I'm not taking any road at all. I just defined it for me just as you did for yourself, above. I could just as easily shout "Bull, Bull, Bull" about your opinion(s) too, but I won't. I don't care what your opinion is about porn, erotica or anything else to be honest, and I'm sure the feeling is mutual.
    As everyone's finding out (big surprise) it's impossible to define these things across the board for everyone. Show "Debbie Does Dallas" to most men and they'll yawn. Show it to Jerry Falwell and he'll freak out. It's a personal thing.
    We are driven by survival.. Procreate or die, find food or die, our main drives control our output.
    Yes, but do our "main drives" as you so eloquently put it necessarily have to control our art? Instead of playing music, why not listen to primitive people grunting?
    Another quick aside: We had a rather large photograph of The Statue of David hanging in our living room when I was a kid. I recall once a plumber or some workman coming over to fix something and asking my mother "Why in the WORLD would you have something like THAT hanging in your LIVING ROOM?" He thought it was "porn".
    My father taught college English for 40 years and even got away with an Erotic Lit course at a fairly conservative southern college. He often liked to point out that even the Bible has The Song of Solomon.
    This can and will be debated until everyone's blue in the face. The best you can do is simply define it for you and that's all.
     
  71. Beau, I think I understand you now - you are saying that a hint or suggestion of eroticism is better than a straight depiction of something erotic, I think.
    I think that is a fine sentiment and probably the only one that is likely to lead to anything like originality in figure studies, so I hate to quibble with it. But I think it is an easthetic judgement call, and not one that is very useful for distinguishing porn from erotic art and non-erotic art.
    Would the [Psycho] scene have been more effective for you if he'd actually shown the victim being hacked to death?
    Effective in what way? Frankly, that famous scene left me wondering why it was so famous to begin with. Many say it was a very frightening scene. As I watched it my main reaction was "oh, this must be that really famous scene." I doubt it could have been more effective at commanding my forensic and critical attention - a result of its fame. It could undoubtedly have been far more effective at being frightening for me. I consider it a basically neutral question whether it could have been more effective at telling the viewer of the film that Marion Crane had been murdered.
    My personal reaction to this film was probably heavily colored by two things. The first would have been the innumerable caricatures and parodies of the scene elsewhere in the culture. The second would be the fact that I first saw the movie not long after military service during which I saw many things which were both much more frightening and emotionally engaging than anything in the movie Psycho.
    Which just goes to illustrate that any definition of porn which depends upon things like aesthetic judgements or artist intentions is likely to run aground promptly. Just as the shower scene in Psycho was fairly ineffective to me, avowed and intended pornography that utilizes schoolgirl uniforms is ineffective to me (except possibly as the best response to the label on a poisonous product which advises the accidental ingester to "induce vomiting"). These things are perhaps too dependent upon a person's preferred aesthetics and personal tastes to be reliable indicators of the presence or absence of porn generally.
    It still seems to me that pornography is best defined by the role it plays for the consumer. You support my opinion most eloquently when you say:
    Show "Debbie Does Dallas" to most men and they'll yawn. Show it to Jerry Falwell and he'll freak out. It's a personal thing.
     
  72. If Jerry Falwell's actual track record regarding illicit sex is taken into account, I think he'll
    yawn too.
     
  73. Ooops, sorry.

    I confused Falwell with Jim Bakker, his predecessor. Or was it Jimmy Swaggert? It's hard to
    keep them all straight, they are so crooked. What ever happened to Tinky Winky anyway?

    Cheers.
     
  74. I'm always curious (erotic-not) if Jerry Fallwell has ever really had sex and why none of the talk-show hosts have the courage to simply ask him "Jerry, do you know how the birds and bees actually do it?".......and how much grits he eats every day. Whenever I see him I always feel like I need to change my clothing and take a shower right away. He looks like the type that shouldn't be left alone with children....As for the original posting, why is he telling us this?
     
  75. So it seems the dispute is over. I agree with most of You. For myself i cannot say i see a difference between erotic art and porn, actually i`m not sure if pornography really exists, as with art which i guess doesn`t exist anymore or is everywhere - u choose.

    What do u all think of this?

    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=221623
     
  76. 'What are the lines between art, erotic art, and pornography'
    As courts have held for many decades (centuries?): The answer to that question lies in the eyes of the beholder. The definition then is determined by the 'eye' of the culture, or society at a specific time.
    Any discussion must of necessity reflect those current mores. Therefor any discussion unless in a legal, or quasi-legal arena are mere intellectual exercises for the sole purpose of exposing ones opinions...fun maybe, but of little import.
     
  77. Jake, if only what was legal mattered, it would be a sad world indeed. Our opinions are of great import. Determination of what we each deem erotic, pornographic, artistic seems quite important. "Intellectual exercises" can come in the form of important dialogues among peers, which can sometimes help to tease out our own ethics and our own approaches to photographing and looking.
    __________________________________________________
    In so many of these types of discussions, women's voices are not being heard, appreciators of male bodies are assumed to be heterosexual women, and the beauty of the female form over the male is presupposed at least by many. This may thwart well-rounded insight.
     
  78. A British comedy programme summed this up a few years ago. Black and white is art, colour is porn!
     

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