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

James Rovira jrovira at drew.edu
Tue Nov 29 12:50:44 EST 2005

I think Drew's institutional spam filter seeks keywords within the text. 
There certainly were a few of them to latch onto in both the second poem 
and the prose section.  I'm able to review the list of quarantined email 
and release any individual emails that wind up in quarantine by mistake. 
  I was also able to permanently unblock Carrol's email address, so no 
matter what gets sent from that address will make it through now.

Oddly, a pretty graphic email advertising a bestiality site made it past 
the spam filter at almost exactly the same time.  Egad.

I very much appreciated Carrol's email once I was able to read it, by 
the way.  My first inclination is to say the poems aren't strictly 
pornographic.  Donne's poem is a playful representation of what the poet 
thinks/feels about his mistress's nudity -- but we don't really see the 
nudity itself, we just overhear the poet talking.  We're listening at 
the keyhole but not looking through it, probaby trying to stifle 
laughter occasionally, and when she inevitably gives in (but that's not 
always inevitable with Donne) we can discreetly walk away. There's very 
little obscene, except perhaps a not too graphic reference to the male 
partner's erection.

I plan to read this elegy to my wife next time she's changing clothes in 
the bedroom.

Rochester's poem (nope, I'd never read it, now I'm glad I have) I would 
say is obscene but not necessarily pornographic.  It's even funnier than 
the first one, actually, esp. once the poet starts verbally chastising 
his penis for its unwillingness to cooperate.  Reminds me of a scene in 
Gibson's _What Women Want_.  Gibson's character is cursed with the 
ability to hear what women are thinking while they are thinking it 
(definitely a curse in his case), and when he beds a woman and 
"overhears" her wondering how long she'll let the lovemaking last before 
she fakes her orgasm (or something along these lines) Gibson's character 
feels somewhat deflated.  He excuses himself to the bathroom, sits on 
the toilet, looks into his lap, and says testily, "Come on, this is what 
we -do-."  Mel is successful again once he uses his newfound ability to 
be attentive to his partner.

The moral of the story being that any representation of a man talking to 
his penis is a bit too funny to be focused primarily on sexual stimulation.

Anyway, I -won't- be sharing that second poem with my wife, unless, well 
disaster happens and we need a good laugh.

I couldn't follow the link for the prose, and it's very difficult to 
judge this with so much context missing, but I suspect the whole thing 
doesn't get much deeper than what was posted to the list.  There's 
nothing clever or human about the prose beyond the attempt to sexually 
stimulate, although the prose is very well written.  It doesn't even 
seem particularly humorous.  Sexuality is God's joke on the human race 
in the poems, I get the impression, and designed to keep us from taking 
ourselves too seriously. Donne the seducer as often fails as succeeds, 
and Rochester certainly experienced a lapse in his abilities.

But there's no human vulnerability in the prose.  Just two physically 
perfect bodies, which we are very much watching together, who don't have 
a thought or feeling that isn't related to sexual pleasure, and who are 
able to please one another perfectly.  Worst of all, simple sexual 
intercourse isn't good enough: novelty (the birch) has to be introduced 
in order to keep the reader's interest.  I get the feeling that in 
either Donne's poem or in the Wilmot either male partner would be very 
happy with sexual intercourse.  Furthermore, sex in the poems is a 
relational matter.  It exists in the context of a relationship which, we 
get the feeling, has meaning outside of periodic sexual encounters.  I 
don't get that feeling in the prose.  Sexual intercourse is more like an 
appetizer in the prose; we need to go beyond it to get "interesting," 
and the relationship serves no other purpose than sexual stimulation.

As a result, I would say this prose writer is using his powers for evil 
instead of good and writing porn.  But I know I'm only reading a brief 
selection out of context.

Jim R.

> JMU's filters let it through fine. I wonder what set yours 
> off? Many years ago we had a primative computer message board 
> mail system that had a built-in censor that would question or 
> blaock [it's been a while] dubious words from being posted. I 
> was giving a recipe for something that called for a jigger of 
> bourbon ... and it blocked it.
> C

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