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

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Sat Nov 26 00:20:22 EST 2005

Do you really think Picasso's intent was the same as the director's of 
Debbie Does Dallas?  Really?  Pure sexual arousal...that the only goal? 
  Or is it commentary on sexaul arousal as well, or perhaps the 
demonstration of a different way of seeing?

Honestly, I've never been aroused by a Picasso.  Perhaps I've been 
missing the point all along.  Mapplethorpe's work, by contrast, is 
actually worse than pornography, at least some of the more disturbing 
sexual photographs.  He's very effective with line and light and 
proportion and his works have a great deal of formal beauty, yet this 
formal beauty is associated in some of his works with perverse sexual 
content, so as to say, "this is beautiful too."  I can't accept that.

I think there's an entire semiotics behind the consumption of 
pornography that's very different from the consumption of any other 
media, at least currently.  The magazines are usually kept either within 
stores dedicated to the sale of "adult" material or, if sold at, say, a 
convenience store, they are kept behind counters, so that the purchaser 
must provide proof of age before he/she can make the purchase. 
Furthermore, the covers are usually hidden behind some kind of barrier 
so that any passers-by cannot view them.  And from what I understand if 
you receive them in the mail by subscription, they are wrapped so that 
the covers aren't visible.

This is all context, context that associates the consumption of 
pornography with "hiddeness" and "shame" and "restriction."  There's an 
inescapable air of the forbidden surrounding it all.  Internet sites are 
supposed to be similarly "packaged" -- warnings of adult content up 
front.  This is actually part of the appeal.

I'm not sure in what sense this line of argument is "hopeless."  If you 
know it when you see it, then you should be able to articulate why X is 
pornography and Y is not.  These are some of the ways we know.

No nice parts of town want the live sex shows, because they want to 
remain nice, to retain their property values, etc.  When the sex shows 
move in those parts of town are no longer "nice."  Zoning laws are 
usually designed to prevent this from happening.

Jim R.

Richard Strier wrote:

> Jesus-- "prurient intent"!  Picasso had lots of this in lots of his 
> art.  As did, perhaps, Michelangelo, as did Titian, and did Degas, etc, 
> etc.  So?  Is Balthus a pornographer, a child pornographer?  Maybe.  But 
> also a great artist-- and simultaneously.
> I think the legal attempts at censorship are all misguided.
> Where you purchase the thing is the point?  What if I buy Hustler at a 
> nice bookstore?  What if the live sex shows moved to a nice part of 
> town?  I'm afraid that I think this is a totally hopeless line of argument.
> -- 
> Richard Strier

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