Pornography Part 2: Definitions – Survey Says!

Whiteboard diagram chasing the official definition of pornography

This diagram exemplifies why I hated dictionaries in school. Look up one word. Discover two words that feel unclear. Look up the fuzzy words and find definitions with more unclear words. You start to think you don’t know words you thought you knew. Eventually, you end up back at the beginning. Gah! Thirty minutes spent learning nothing except your vocabulary is smaller than you thought.

Essentially, the white board says pornography refers to works with the ambiguous qualities of obscene and no value as art.  As for what is and what is not considered obscene, I refer you to the initial post in this series. A Supreme Court judge fell back on I cannot tell you what it is but I know it when I see it.  This does not give us much to go on. As for artistic merit, no one can suggest what is and what is not art without inspiring heated battles of wit, citation and opinion destined to end in agreeing to not agree.

Dictionaries do not gives us a definition of pornography we can use to explain pornography to someone who has never heard of pornography. If a visitor from outer-space demands “Explain the dividing line between pornography and not-pornography.” we cannot accurately answer. I know it when I see it does not help a Stranger in a Strange Land grok the dysfunctional obsession with nudity and sex we label pornography.

As for artistic merit, what could be more subjective? Why do people consider photographs of women in corsets pornography but label Botticelli’s Birth of Venus art? Do either offend morality? Whose if they do? Are either depraved or indecent? Does a woman in a corset provide more and better masturbation fodder for thirteen year-olds than Venus on the half-shell?

Speaking of thirteen year-olds. Do we consider waking up pornography? If memory serves, it takes little more than waking to excite a thirteen year-old

Dictionaries do not define pornography in a way that allows us to know it when we see it. This leaves me no choice but to define pornography for all of us. I hate it when this happens.

To be continued …. (maybe)


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