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.

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 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)

Confusion of a Probably Atheist

An experiment in rambling conversational monologue.

I wrote weak drafts of this post four times in weeks past and again today; a fifth attempt to stay on topic while my pen meanders off target like an over-eager hunting dog chasing stale idea-scent that when written, like dreams chronicled before coffee, bore writer and reader alike.

And here I go again, pen fluttering like milkweed seed wafting in Morning’s siren song breezes. Unless I rein this stream of semi-consciousness in, I shall find myself, tomorrow, scribbling draft number six.

Awhile ago a man approached, introduced himself and within five short minutes of inquiring small talk asked me if I was an atheist. I hesitated for a nano and responded, calmly, “Probably.” As I heard my answer, my jaw dropped. I take pride in knowing myself. I take pride in candid honesty. “Probably?” did not sound like either.

Why I responded “Probably.” put a seed of disconcert in my head.

I like to know why I think and say what I think and say. When I do not, I look in to turn mystery out. I think about what I think to discover why I think what I think and how I came to think what. It’s like getting high. Inhaling iterative introspection safe behind the covered windows in my room; achieving altered consciousness; blocking tire on pavement hissing din of reality; ignoring time and stacking material concerns on a corner shelf to collect dust.

Within me dissolves without me.

Eventually, I grow hungry, re-emerge, grab a snack and review things about me I know after but did not before my trip through pensive shadows.

I employ two vehicles to traverse the Inside: writing and contemplation. or writing and meditation for those of you less Nordic and more Zen. In this case I employed, for the most part, the soothing act of writing with fine-nibbed pen on foolscap. Results below.

I admit I felt unprepared to respond to a request to label myself and enter undesired theological discourse but to ignore the question was not an alternative. Although any answer threatened to open doors I preferred left locked, he did ask and deserved an answer. Conscious Thought, flat-footed and caught in the beam of approaching headlights, froze. Grabbing the controls, Sub-conscious Mind flipped a coin to decide between fight or flight.



The softish answer to the question “Are you an Atheist?” emerged in less time than it takes to read this. Foregoing delays required to include Conscious Thought, Mind chaired a panel of inner stakeholders to discuss possibilities, omit obviously unimportant elements and shelf minor influences. The executive action took less time than it took for Conscious Thought to register one gold-finch flight from feeder to tree.

Mind and enpaneled experts devised a plan; sought safety in non-committment, prepared an appropriately evasive response and simultaneously suppressed emotion chemically evoked by glandular reaction to an ever-so-slight whiff of resentment that a stranger would be so bold as to request self-labeling of atheist or non-atheist.

During the blink of wordless panic in the real-time world the expert panel and Sub-conscious Mind set aside chocolate eclairs and double-double lattes long enough to decide that anyone who could ask, “Are you an atheist?”, would label me Atheist, but in an act of selfish, cowardly consensus deemed it best not to answer “Yes.” The distinguished panel of experts produced and delivered to Mouth and conscious Mind, in that order, four opinions and a decision to blurt, “Probably.”

I shy from labels as a rule.

People live complex lives. We can know little of people’s Minds and how they work. Labeling someone, or ourselves, we substitute label for unseen complexity. If we mistake the map for the territory, begin substituting labels for reality, we eliminate motivation to explore the character of people. Sociologists say we stereotype. I think we build barriers to knowledge.

Yet, we are people and people label things. Labeling seems as much our nature as hunting seems the nature of felines.

The labels, Atheist and Theist, occupy a sphere of subjectification I do not. Atheist and Theist fail to interest me because, to dredge up a Groucho Marxism, “I never wanted to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”

I suspect both labels limit. Atheists limit themselves from the awe, wonder and mystery of God. Theists limit themselves from the awe, wonder and mysteries of Nature and Universe.

Each of us develop unique realities molded from cognitive potential and personal history. We create versions of the universe from intersections of singular sapience and sui generis experience.

In my little world, Gods, Nature, and Universe require direct, personal contact; contact achieved though cautiously fashioned Weltanschuung incongruous with prevailing authorized editions and involving rites and rituals that, unlike mainstream institutions, I keep private.

I assumed, likely my first mistake, that the-man-who-asked would inquire to my choice of sect if I answered, “No.”

I feared he would evangelize, likely my second mistake, if I answered “Yes.”

I also did not want to respond “Yes, I am an atheist.” because it was Thursday and on Thursdays “Yes. I am an Atheist.” tells a lie.

I do not like to lie.

This mess of messiness messing up conscious reason left no option except to answer as directed by Sub-conscious Mind and stakeholders, “Probably.”

There you have it. The babbling innerlogue of a Probably Atheist.

Or not.

Story, Reality, Life.

Story shapes our lives.

Stories are everywhere At the office we are story-tellers when we share last night’s adventures and tell sly little jokes. When we react to situations, data, information and proposals we are story-tellers.

We embrace stories that validate our life stories but we tread cautiously when faced with stories that rewrite parts of the stories we hold dear.

To keep main characters of our stories consistent with reality, we accept or refuse personal responsibility for day to day events.

Leaders tell stories to inspire. Experts tell stories to inform. Advertisers tell stories to sell shoes, food and plastic crap. People tell stories to amuse, warn, attract and repel.

As I write this, I am telling a story.

Most people recognize stories told with words but we do not limit stories to words. Our clever, tale-weaving species convey stories with every tool at our disposal. We share stories with movement, music and pictures. When we wince, smirk, sneer, shrug or smile, we expose bits of story and, intentionally or not, influence people who see us wince, smirk, sneer, shrug or smile. The clothes we wear, the cut of our hair – every gesture make and every pause we take tells a story. Parts of our story enter the plot lines of the people we meet.

Story creates reality.

From the moment of our first breath, parents, teachers, preachers and other authority figures begin programming our minds with stories. Stories expand tiny infantile worlds into mature Universes. Unavoidable stories fed to us during our impressionable years form cornerstones of our reality.

Ninety percent of what we think we know we think we know because we saw, read or heard a story. Of the far-reaching, ever-expanding reality our minds embrace, we can only touch fragments. Most reality comes to us not through experience but second-hand, wrapped in stories. When our paths cross concrete bits of reality, we process the concrete against the abstract contexts of our life stories. We display great skill at fitting experience to our stories; rarely do we feel a need to alter our life stories to fit the requirements of experience.

We tell each other the story that Reality creates Story but Story creates Reality.

We are Story.

Our universe is Story.

That’s my Story and I’m sticking to it.

© 2008-2012 Chromia Poetics