Pornography Again (I am so sorry)

I thought I was done with this drivel but voices inside my head said “No way little buckeroo!” So back to pornography, a subject I begin to find tres boring. The voices leave me no choice. Think of them as Demons who kidnapped my Muse and threaten to sell her to Arthur Fuddssen if I do not meet their demands.

Pornography and Society

Some People do not approve of pornography. Shocking but true. Ironically, the people responsible for pornography are the very people who do not approve of pornography.


Pornography, by definition, refers to media found obscene or otherwise offensive to the senses. Look it up. People who do not approve of pornography do not approve of pornography because they find pornography obscene and offensive. Okay, taking some poetic license here. Eliminate the people who do not approve of pornography because they find pornography immorally obscene and pornography disappears. At least that’s my theory.

The media of pornography, erotic art, does not disappear, only the label, pornography. Erotic art thrived before Victorians decided factory workers would produce more if they spent less time thinking about sex. Erotic art will thrive after our current age of neurotic, sexual suppression.The misguided label for popular erotic art, especially erotic art embraced not for form and substance but for genital arousal: pornography will disappear. This does not mean exhibitionists and voyeurs will discontinue their eternal symbiotic relationships.

Dig friends.

Though unprovable, historical evidence suggests human nature would not seek out mediocre erotic art except for the sexual suppression and resulting social neurosis of our intentionally unnatural society. Eliminate the suppression and the all-too-human attraction to taboo disappears. Without the attraction of taboo, erotic art must provide value beyond something naughty. Taboo, as much as any other factor, provides an audience for bad erotic art.

Arguments Against Pornography

People who do not approve of pornography attempt to find practical, in contrast to moral, arguments against pornography. For example:

  • Pornography tears at the fabric of society
  • The pornography industry exploits workers, especially women
  • Pornography corrupts youth

The voices interject. Not enough to compose one, longish, globose, reeking pile of linguistic dung introducing and addressing the above, unsubstantiated arguments. They insist I scrape together a series addressing each of the above Arguments Against Pornography. To retrieve Muse and return to poetry I shall, over the next three or seven days, do as they demand – deliver three to the point albeit lackluster posts. I recognize additional arguments against pornography are made by opponents of pornography but the voices demand but the three listed here. Enuf for me.

The Incremental Hierarchy of Pornography

Having determined neither court nor dictionary provide clear definitions of pornography, I took the task to hand.

“What if,” I asked my humble self, “we change our position from made for to consumed for?”

Rather than define pornography as media created to evoke sexual response, invert the beast and consider pornography as media consumed to mentally pet the pubis?

Make the consumer responsible for defining what is and what is not pornography.

Make the consumer responsible, now there’s a thought.

If we consider all media capable of turning someone on qualifies as pornography, all media becomes pornography because, let’s face it kids, everything turns on someone. So now we know what is and what is not pornography. Everything is pornography and nothing is not. 

For the sake of compartmentalizing and finding a place to take a stand, I offer further divisions within the whole:  An Incremental Hierarchy of Pornography, grading the intensity of presentation from soup to nuts. So to speak.

The Incremental Hierarchy of Pornography.

We begin where consumers who cannot admit to libido go for groinal thawing. To provide context, consider this layer soft, soft, soft, soft soft-porn or S4 soft-porn. S4 covers same general ground as G-ratings in theaters and on TV. People do not restrain children from S4 soft-porn because to do so would admit to goings-on in the nether regions adults refuse to acknowledge. Most people would deny the pornographic effect of S4, but in doing so they lie to themselves and the rest of us.

S4 covers several acres of dirt. The I-Feel-Nothing crowd secretly squirm at the sight of beach volleyball and skin tight, strategically padded American football uniforms. Some sports offer more flights of pornographic fancy than others. How else can we explain the disproportionate Winter Olympic coverage dedicated to skating performances? And, of course, for those who like athletes in non-sport settings, let us not forget the ballet.

Advertisers saturate society with S4, using our reptilian response to sell us stuff we neither need nor really want.

S4 is the stuff of prime-time broadcast TV. Characters enjoy explicit sex lives, wake as lovers, but in a pattern that baffles, climb from between the sheets wearing clothes.

S4 pops up everywhere; advertising, news shows and the cubicle next door offer a quick fix.

In S4, the act is implied only. Or in the case of the cubicle, imagined only.

With S4 we lay a foundation for all that follows. Good because I already weary of writing this. On to incremental land. Each tier adds but a little. We are almost finished.

After S4 we have, you guessed it, S3. S3 roughly relates to PG-13 ratings. 

PG-13 deserves a bit of notice. Here we have a category of sexuality that should bore adults who have been there, done that. It is a category defined for and of most interest to hormone charged, masturbation obsessed adolescents. So good of us to let them know where to find it.

S3 adds nudity, sort of. Sort of because S3 limits nudity. S3 exposes skin but from the “Waist up only buster.”, and no female frontals. Breasts make an appearance, but arc from rib-cage to before the enhancement of aureole begins. Actresses move with adhesive skill, perpetually maintaing a barrier of linens, clothing and props between camera and flesh of intensified chroma. In S3, breasts have only beginnings, no ends.

S3 depicts the act but only under cover, cover usually in the form of sheet or counterpane.

In the pale between S3 and S2 lives a sub sub-genre of butt-no-nipple media. Obvious when encountered but to what purpose I fail to grok. Call it S2.5.

S2, roughly R-rated uncovers the nipple. That’s it. An entire category for thimbles of flesh displaying higher density of pigment. Woo hoo hey.

S2 depicts the act under cover, like S3, but with a bit less cover.

S1, or X-rated, exposes consumers to full frontal females and occasional penises. Not much more. S4 through S2 pretty much cover everything else.

S1 depicts the act but from a distance, partially covered or selectively off-camera.

Finally we arrive at soft-porn proper, a version of hard-core, XXX that avoids penetration and close ups of genitalia. Soft-porn is a rare beast found only on hotel movie channels. Soft-porn includes full-body, sexual activity with all traces of penetration removed in post-production.

Soft-porn depicts the act in naked  hilarity.

And then we have XXX. I assume most people refer to XXX when they use the label pornography. XXX shows everything soft-porn depicts plus explicit penetration at varied apertures and genitalia closeups.

Voi la, the Incremental Hierarchy of Pornography. Perhaps you may find it utile as you decide at what tiers you allow yourself to engage excitable media; to determine what tier marks the border which you refuse to cross.

The hierarchy does not, as the aficionado knows, cover all aspects of media consumed to stir linga and yoni. Sub-genres travel at the speed of thought to the far reaches of human imagination, going, indeed, where no man or woman have gone before. Most people remain unaware to what horizons this expanding universe reaches, and they should, in my humble opinion, be thankful to remain unaware. Without diving into the deep waters of the off-color pool, I give you three absurd, meretricious and imprudent words (so perhaps you may avoid them): Brazilian Fart Porn. It’s out there. It’s real. Someone, somewhere knows why. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

First Peson Singular: A Confession

I dislike writing first-person singular. When my pen initiates a page, paragraph or phrase with that monolithic, icicle character I, I cringe. Yet, for a confession, first-person singular feels appropriate.

This is a confession.

When writing, I seek playfulness, beauty and interest. In my poetry, I try to share the awe and wonder Universe inspires in my small Mind. Up or down, joy or despair, attraction or threat matters little. All tones and timbre reflect complexity, mystery and evoke reverence. Intuition and intellect wrap experience with mysterious ribbons of interpretation. All my relations to all the nouns dance like moonlit gossamer yarns lightly tugged by breezes. In prose, I attempt to catch more elusive but equally beautiful efforts of human spirit; patterns we create with symbols, logic and critical thought.

I must walk with the words written but not dominate. They are the stars and I am small, the universe huge. When I see first-person singular crop up, I know I’ve wandered from the path. I walk into the small room of IMeMine.

As I write the irritating series on pornography featured in my previous few posts, I feel lost in the IMe of Mine. Not just lost, but off the path, over the cliff into the raging torrent. Jammed against fallen trees of triviality, my foot wedged in river rock ambiguity, I flounder. I read no beauty, complexity or wonder in my pornography posts. 

In my defense, before writing, reviewing paragraphs in my head, the words fit together, make me laugh and give pleasure. On paper, not so much. They lose all charm.

I cannot blame the topic. Some pornography treats subjects beautifully. If we adhere to the dictionary definition, one could argue the pornography I find beautiful is not pornography but art. I cannot be certain. What level of artistic merit does a photograph of labia enveloping a penis require before it can cross-over to art?

Therein lies my obsession. When does explicit depiction become art? It never stops being explicit depiction. 

Who decides when it becomes art? 

Where do they go to decide?

When will they tell us what they have decided?

Making pornography more artistic, in my experience, fails to reduce the level of excitement felt by the audience. The opposite, in fact. Sexual works created without talent and care, created to display sex with no concern for lighting, composition, form, color or poetry, are less likely to excite. Harsh ugliness acts as a cold shower to the imagination. The more artistic the pornography, the more exciting. (except, I suspect, for fetishists who live for the harsh in art and pornography)

My sample audience was quite small but I did record a 100% agreement. Beautiful is more sexy.

I could go on for pages. Oops. Done that already. 

I apologize. I feel pressured against my better judgement, by some hidden neurosis, to continue writing the smut pages. At publication of each post I feel relief. I sigh “Now that is over I can get on with with nice writing.”

Next morning, I wake with pornography blocking the poetry. A wall that threatens to remain until I satisfactorily explain to myself where the line is drawn between pornography and art. I bore myself, and you too, until I know where pornography stops and art begins.

I cannot see this coming to a success ending.

Ah. Good. Now that is over I can get on with my own writing.

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)

Pornography Part .5: Victorians Invented Pornography

When I wrote, yesterday, that Victorians invented pornography, I wrote a sideways truth.

Art and literature we call pornography today, existed long before Victoria, Albert and the Empire upon which the sun never set. Artistic treatments of explicit acts have been found among ancient cave paintings. Writers wrote erotica on clay tablets before the Egyptians painted hieroglyphics on tombs. Artistic interpretations of the human form and activity antedate Victorians but the Victorians made it dirty. They took a greek literary term meaning writings about harlots to label subject matter they deemed obscene and invented modern pornography.

Prior to condemning erotica, Victorian aristocrats and and nouveau-riche industrialists filled galleries and libraries with the stuff. To protect investments, pornography priced beyond the reach of the man on the street retained its status as art and being art, remained and remains social acceptable.

You can check my facts at Wikipedia tomorrow. Today Wikipedia are blacked out in protest of SOPA and PITA, bills that threaten to bring Victorian censorship to the Internet.

Pornography Prologue: Take 7

Several years ago, looking for an excuse, perchance, to surf some Internet pornography, the idea came to write an article or series concerning the dysfunctional relationship between society and pornography.

It seemed a good idea at the time.

Pornography permeates our media. Has done since the Victorians invented pornography.

Controversy surrounds pornography. Some consider it a destroyer of youth. Others a bulwark of free press.

Not one person can define, clearly, where pornography begins and art ends. Facing that question, the highest court in the land retreated behind nonsense.

“I shall not … attempt … to define … [pornography] … perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it …” 

Thanks Potter. “I know it when I see it.” No ambiguity there. Helps a lot.

Ignoring the explicit intent of libidinous arousal, pornography becomes a genre that, weighed intellectually or as literature, evokes every emotion.

Certainly those who hate sex in general, same sex sex and nudity feel outrage and anger to see what they hate plainly depicted in print and on the screen.

Tragedy must fill those who love sex when, as they consistently do, pornographers overtly weld sex to violence.

When, again common, pornography depicts women in poses and roles suggesting they are no more than receptacles for the desires of men, advocates of sexual equality must feel sadness that the neurosis continues.

Yet those easily moved to laughter see that, beneath the arousal and passion, sexual activity in pornography, as in life, amuses with comedy akin to slapstick: How does she, from that position, manage to look into the camera?

Given the richness of the topic, why have years passed, empty waters flowing beneath an incomplete bridge, since the idea for an article or seven emerged? Fear and loathing. Fear that writing about pornography exposes the hidden attitudes, at once outside social nicety and conservative. Loathing the topic deserves more words and cognition than a lazy writer feels comfortable committing to. 

Finally, the research. Unwritten, the articles justify seeking, studying and annotating pornographic works. All in the name of good journalism. To publish cancels the reason, transforms what was yesterday a noble pursuit of knowledge into just another old perv staring at delicious body parts.

Enjoy the sacrifice. The research shall be missed.

(to be continued – maybe)

© 2008-2012 Chromia Poetics