I know it when I see it

milesian's picture
Submitted by milesian on Tue, 2005-12-13 13:16

... but what is pornography? And is it bad?

To understand this, we have start from the Law of Identity -- which I am not going to do. Maybe someone else would care to invest the labor. Suffice it to say that if you try to understand "Art vs. Pornography" you have to abandon all previous discussions. Mysticism, altruism, and collectivism prevent clear thinking about sex, sexuality, sexual art and sexual artifacts, art in sex, and sex in art -- to say nothing of doing it well. That would be the art, science, technology, and technique of sexual pleasure.

"Taboo" is a touchstone word. Some societies allow eating in public. Others do not. Some allow you to marry your first cousin. Others do not. I believe that all societies honor their ancestors, but some do so by never using the same name twice, whereas others rename descendents. The funny thing about "taboo" is that it is not an Indo-European word. To me, that is a clue. In order to understand and create rational sexuality, we have to begin with clear, appropriate concepts.

This is critical. Allow me to offer an analogy. In November 2004, I spoke at a conference, "Coinage and Identities in the Ancient World" in Calgary, Alberta. As one of the last features of the proceedings, the conferees -- especially the speakers -- were invited to a roundtable discussion on the topic. In dicussing ancient numismatics, we conveniently refer to "propaganda." I had said that the Herakles images of Alexander were Macedonian propaganda and others presenting Roman subjects -- Livia, for instance -- used the word more often. One of the speakers said that this might be inappropriate since the word "propaganda" was 1500 years in the future for these people. Therefore, in order to understand the intent of the issuers, we need to perceive the objects in the correct cultural context.

My point is that to understand pornography, we must first establish a rational cultural context for it. "Taboo" is an inappropriate word because it was imported from more primitive (mysticist, collectivist) cultures. "Pornography" is also a misnomer. Considering the roots and definitions of "photograph" and "telegraph" and "autograph" then "pornograph" means "pictures or writing about prostitutes." Then you have to define "prostitute." As the Bard would have it, "therein lies the rub."

From the "Venus of Lespugue" and the "Venus of Willendorf" forward, there has never been a clear distinction between physicality and sexuality. Art of the Christian Middle Ages was the worst example of the mind-body dichotomy. On the other hand, Renaissance painters clothed the bodies in rich colors to make the faces stand out. "The School at Athens" "The Last Supper" (or its secular instantiation, "The Death of Socrates") and "Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Plato" are perfect examples of the best possible elevations of the immortal mind over the transient body. Anyone who looks at the boys and women of Greek statues or the naked ladies of Renaissance paintings or the nymphs of the English 19th century and does not see sex is missing the message.

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Pornography is nothing but

Robert Malcom's picture

demonization of human sexuality.Worse, the hypocracy is that there is the claim this is acting like an animal, with 'sex for procreational purposes' as being human - when in fact it is the opposite...

Michael-This is an

Jody Gomez's picture

This is an excellent post, and I hope to chew it over and return to it with something of substance. Thank you for your participation here on SOLO Thrust.

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