[Milton-L] Re: porno vs. art?

Richard Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Thu Nov 24 13:38:54 EST 2005

Supposed criteria:

intent-- notoriously difficult to establish and, in many accounts of 
aesthetic value, irrelevant.

context-- this bears (bares?) no scrutiny.  One can read Hustler in 
an elegant setting, and see Debbie Does Dallas in a museum.

appropriateness of erotic response-- involves us in a circle.  Who is 
to say?  I think it's perfectly appropriate to find the Venus de 
Milo, Titian paintings, Michelangelo's David, Mapplethorpe photos, 
etc, etc sexually arousing (among other things).  It takes a bizarre 
theory, I think, to say that such responses are "illegitimate."  And 
once one says this, more problems arise:  1) who is going to police 
them?; 2) does classifying responses negatively make them go away?

Re one part of Carol's remarks:  whatever Eve is before the Fall (I'd 
say a very sexy and intelligent naked woman), she's not a "pedestaled 
virgin" (neither one nor the other), and whatever she is immediately 
after the fall (I'd say a very sexy and intelligent naked woman), she 
is certainly not "a two-bit whore" (though I think this contempt for 
lower class sex-workers needs scrutiny, and, of course, the whole 
"virgin-whore" system is a nonsensical and oppressive one).  I do 
think that Adam casts "lascivious eyes" on Eve before the Fall.  Why 
not?  Of course, she's not a courtesan (though, again, I see no 
reason to have contempt for such-- some were accomplished poets). 
But why not let her be a little bit of a flirt?  Is that a crime or a 
sin or a sign of fallenness?  Milton praises her delicious amorous 
delay.  That she is a femme fatale is part of the plot.

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