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Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by UniversalAlien » April 13th, 2015, 11:15 pm

Now are we sure we know what we are talking about? What is pornography?

Form the: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
1. What is Pornography? “I can't define pornography,” one judge once famously said, “but I know it when I see it.” (Justice Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 US 184 (1964).) Can we do better?

The word “pornography” comes from the Greek for writing about prostitutes. However, the etymology of the term is not much of a guide to its current usage, since many of the things commonly called “pornography” nowadays are neither literally written nor literally about prostitutes.

Here is a first, simple definition. Pornography is any material (either pictures or words) that is sexually explicit. This definition of pornography may pick out different types of material in different contexts, since what is viewed as sexually explicit can vary from culture to culture and over time. “Sexually explicit” functions as a kind of indexical term, picking out different features depending on what has certain effects or breaks certain taboos in different contexts and cultures. Displays of women's uncovered ankles count as sexually explicit in some cultures, but not in most western cultures nowadays (although they once did: the display of a female ankle in Victorian times was regarded as most risqué). There may be borderline cases too: do displays of bared breasts still count as sexually explicit in various contemporary western cultures? However, some material seems clearly to count as sexually explicit in many contexts today: in particular, audio, written or visual representations of sexual acts (e.g., sexual intercourse, oral sex) and exposed body parts (e.g., the vagina, anus and penis-especially the erect penis).

Within the general class of sexually explicit material, there is great variety in content. For example, some sexually explicit material depicts women, and sometimes men, in postures of sexual display (e.g., Playboy centrefolds). Some depicts non-violent sexual acts (both homosexual and heterosexual) between adults who are portrayed as equal and consenting participants. Other sexually explicit representations depict acts of violent coercion: people being whipped, beaten, bound, tortured, mutilated, raped and even killed. Some sexually explicit material may be degrading, without necessarily being overtly violent. This material depicts people (most often women) in positions of servility and subordination in their sexual relations with others, or engaged in sexual acts that many people would regard as humiliating. Some sexually explicit material involves or depicts children. Some portrays bestiality and necrophilia; and so on.

On the first definition of pornography as sexually explicit material, all such material would count as pornography, insofar as it is sexually explicit. But this simple definition is not quite right. Anatomy textbooks for medical students are sexually explicit-they depict exposed genitalia, for example-but are rarely, if ever, viewed as pornography. Sexual explicitness may be a necessary condition for material to count as pornographic, but it does not seem to be sufficient. So something needs to be added to the simple definition. What else might be required?

Here is a second definition. Pornography is sexually explicit material (verbal or pictorial) that is primarily designed to produce sexual arousal in viewers. This definition is better: it deals with the problem of anatomy textbooks and the like. Indeed, this definition is one that is frequently employed (or presupposed) in discussions of pornography and censorship. (See e.g., Williams 1981.) Of course, it is important to distinguish here between sexually explicit material that is wholly or primarily designed to produce sexual arousal (i.e., whose only or overriding aim is to produce sexual arousal) and material whose aim is to do this in order to make some other artistic or political point. The film, Last Tango in Paris arguably aims to arouse audiences, but this is not its primary aim. It does so in order to make a broader political point.......
See whole article here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/porno ... ip/#WhaPor

Now you see how complex the question 'Does Pornography Qualify as Art?' can be. And how exactly do you define art? They used to say it was obscene {pornography} with no redeeming social virtues and therefor subject to censorship - The US courts gave up on this and therefor unless prohibited by specific laws, such as those against kiddy porn, almost anything goes and the criterion of whether it is art or not is not even relevant. So one man's art may be another's obscenity - and can even obscenity be an art?- How many artists create works not sexual in nature but that are still meant to be gross, outlandish, and even obscene? And how do you define art? Medicine is sometimes called an art. They just broke into the the most secure vault in London - could you call this the art of crime? Almost anything can be considered art so why wouldn't pornography also qualify? Fact is some pornography may also still be a crime {not only kiddy porn but acts of violence depicted as erotica may so qualify} but who is to be the judge and jury? And like i say to some crime too is an art :!:

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Philosophyphilosophy » April 14th, 2015, 11:07 pm

I am new here . I have chosen to try to answer the initial question. Not for the moment addressing the long subsequent discussions.

To postulate that pornography qualifies as art is to say it is art , which is incorrect because by not stating -some pornography is art- it implies -all pornography is art.

This from the oxford dictionary is interesting. DefInition of pornography : Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings. . This particular definition does tend to imply that pornography cannot be art since aesthetics is required in art and is excluded from pornography. .

According to this definition Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic feelings is pornography but printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate aesthetic or emotional feelings is not pornography.

I disagree with this definition because although it is to great extent accurate it does not contemplate the possibility of pornographic art or artistic pornography.

Origin of the word pornography : Mid 19th century: from Greek pornographos 'writing about prostitutes', from pornē 'prostitute' + graphein 'write' The origin of the word tells us how much the term has broadened.

The same dictionary defines art thus: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. This definition is much in tune with their definition of pornography .

It surprises me that the Oxford Dictionary has not placed Music and literature on the same level as visual arts. Quite absurd to postulate that art is typically visual, but that is a different topic.

I much prefer a definition of art the concise oxford dictionary had in 1972 when I was studying art , very seriously , full time , at the Byam Shaw School of Painting and Drawing in London. I do not recall the exact words of the definition but I liked it so much that I dare say I remember it well. -Art is doing something extremely well. - short and simple. A very broad definition , implying anything can be art, shoelace tying, tea drinking which is an official art in Japan, motorcycle maintenance, orthography, cartography and all the ographies including of course pornography can be art.

Although in my opinion most of the time these and most activities ,very much including traditional oil painting and sculpture are not art since very few activities are executed extremely well .

Thus the artist being the individual who has the talent and capacity to execute his work extremely well and does so frequently. This in turn implies according to this definition of art, a pornographer that is extremely good at his work even if this has no clear aesthetic or emotional content is an artist and his work is art.

It is in my opinion , for the sake of clarity best to diferentiate between pornograpgh and art by their purpose, their reason for being, the need they fill in society. This way the matter becomes clear. Art being appreciated because of it's excellence of execution and resulting excellent produce which fills us with admiration and faith in the higher aims and possibilities of mankind.

Pornography being a substitute for sex, sex a basic instinct. The drive for reproduction, that is in most of us the greatest simple pleasure that we can experience.

It is no wonder that sex in a society that until recently was dominated by sexual taboos was and is traditionally substituted by masturbation often with the aid of pornography. Nor is it any wonder that many people are confused in their judgement and feelings towards pornography and masturbation.

Marriage between homosexuals and between lesbians is widely understood and accepted, pornography and masturbstion not yet so. This lack of acceptance and confusion for pornography and masturbation being clearly the cause of this debate and many opinions expressed here show this confusion.

My concise answer to the question would be that generally a graphic sex related work whether intended as art or as pornography has manifestations of both in very varied proportions.

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Belinda » April 20th, 2015, 3:06 am

Firstly, I define art as structural. That is to say that art is always and anywhere an indispensable part of the fabric of all societies. Art is abstractions from reality. The function of art in society is to enable people to be more conscious of what they feel matters to them, or sometimes, what some clever person thinks ought to matter to them.

There is no difference between posh erotica and pornography except that posh erotica is more expensive and usually a little less explicit than pornography.

The popularity of commercial pornography is directly caused by the sexualisation of people's awareness. Sexualisation is a manifestation of the present trend towards the liberty of the individual.

Libertarianism was needed by the bourgeoisie , a social class that emerged from the new urban populations that had severed roots in agriculture, and the old feudalism, and now needed to earn its living by investing in money itself or servicing those who did, and still very much still do.

Pornography should not be available to children because it skews their ideas of real sexuality: commercial pornography's popularity depends entirely on its ability to titillate. The producers of commercial pornography will stop at no lies about reality in order to sell it. The commercially valid lies necessitate ratchetting up the titillation with violent scenarios as commercialised titillation is self-defeating and potentially addictive.
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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Platos stepchild » April 27th, 2015, 6:53 pm

It seems that, if a certain nude form excites our prurient desires, then it must be pornography; whereas, if another nude form inspires only "lofty" sentiments, then it's clearly art. But why do we, as a society hold this paradigm to be sacrosanct; exactly what social needs are thereby being met?

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Greta » April 27th, 2015, 7:41 pm

The key to determining the difference between art and products is whether the participants are putting their heart and soul onto the works. Occasionally you will come across articles about work that straddles art and porn, done with passion and artistic values. However, from the little porn I've seen, I would describe it as akin to cheap goods made in an Asian sweatshop where the workers are desperate and sometimes become suicidal.

In terms of nature, the audience of porn could be seen as roughly akin to young predators at play, practising for the real hunt. In those terms modern pornography is a failure because it no longer depicts normal sex but stylised, impersonal, aggressive and extreme sex; this type of "practice" is obviously counterproductive in relating with real women.

In that sense, the pornographers are acting as parasites on their audience. They act like bugs that control their host by manipulating their brains sploid.gizmodo.com/these-horrible-minds ... 1663823298. The "host" gradually finds that normal sex and relationships don't provide enough stimulation to turn him on and in the worst cases will become sexually dysfunctional and thus incapable of sexual intimacy. This leaves his only outlet as purchasing more porn. The "porn parasite" of the modern age is effectively feeding on mens' wellbeing. It's not doing women any favours either.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated—Gandhi.

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Belinda » April 28th, 2015, 3:53 am

Greta's post should be read by everybody. I wonder why the pornography industry has no viable competition from anti-pornography publications. I can think only that the road to perdition is broad and easy while the road to good is narrow and stony but this is hand-wringing not a remedy.
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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Lambert » April 28th, 2015, 2:43 pm

Belinda wrote:Greta's post should be read by everybody. I wonder why the pornography industry has no viable competition from anti-pornography publications. I can think only that the road to perdition is broad and easy while the road to good is narrow and stony but this is hand-wringing not a remedy.
I think it is called business where selling is legal but possession is not in the same way that sin is good but sinning is not. So lets just say that the government is pimping it just like the church is pimping sin, while the government is after money and the church is after souls.

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Henry Case » May 15th, 2015, 7:02 pm

Platos stepchild wrote:It seems that, if a certain nude form excites our prurient desires, then it must be pornography; whereas, if another nude form inspires only "lofty" sentiments, then it's clearly art. But why do we, as a society hold this paradigm to be sacrosanct; exactly what social needs are thereby being met?
The problem with this, is then pornography and/or art are entirely dictated by our perceptions. Some people have shoe fetishes and could have their prurient desires excited by Van Gogh's shoes. According to your logic, that would make that painting pornography.

So, whether or not something is pornography or art has to depend more on the art/pornography object itself, not on the particular fetishes or desires of the viewer.

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by LuckyR » May 18th, 2015, 2:09 am

Henry Case wrote:
Platos stepchild wrote:It seems that, if a certain nude form excites our prurient desires, then it must be pornography; whereas, if another nude form inspires only "lofty" sentiments, then it's clearly art. But why do we, as a society hold this paradigm to be sacrosanct; exactly what social needs are thereby being met?
The problem with this, is then pornography and/or art are entirely dictated by our perceptions. Some people have shoe fetishes and could have their prurient desires excited by Van Gogh's shoes. According to your logic, that would make that painting pornography.

So, whether or not something is pornography or art has to depend more on the art/pornography object itself, not on the particular fetishes or desires of the viewer.
A couple of things:

Art and pornography are not two ends of a spectrum such that a piece is either one or the other and never both.

I would take your last sentance in reverse order, such that a particular piece could be art to the vast majority and erotica (pornography would be an incorrect use of that word in most cases) for a few, yet the piece would not itself change, only it's percerption. This leads me to the conclusion that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and not an inherant property of the piece.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Henry Case » May 18th, 2015, 1:09 pm

Henry Case wrote:The problem with this, is then pornography and/or art are entirely dictated by our perceptions. Some people have shoe fetishes and could have their prurient desires excited by Van Gogh's shoes. According to your logic, that would make that painting pornography.

So, whether or not something is pornography or art has to depend more on the art/pornography object itself, not on the particular fetishes or desires of the viewer.
Art and pornography are not two ends of a spectrum such that a piece is either one or the other and never both.
I never said they were on two ends of a spectrum, so your statement is a straw man. Also, my stating an object can be art or pornography is, by no means, a denial an object can be both. That's just your mistaken inference.
I would take your last sentance in reverse order, such that a particular piece could be art to the vast majority and erotica (pornography would be an incorrect use of that word in most cases) for a few, yet the piece would not itself change, only it's percerption. This leads me to the conclusion that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and not an inherant property of the piece.
Firstly, your statement doesn't take my sentence in a "reverse order;" you just pointlessly rephrase it. And the fact perceptions change does not make art entirely dependent on the eye of the beholder. That conclusion from that premise is syllogistically flawed. Perceptions changed on rape, racism, and slavery, too; that doesn't make the wrongness of those actions dependent on the "eye of the beholder" either. Your stance completely and mistakenly eliminates the input of the object itself, which is both aesthetically and phenomenologically flawed.

According to your erroneous logic, pedophilia and snuff films could be art, too, if the beholder thought so. So, you should re-think your aesthetic stance.

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by LuckyR » May 20th, 2015, 7:51 pm

Henry Case wrote:Firstly, your statement doesn't take my sentence in a "reverse order;" you just pointlessly rephrase it. And the fact perceptions change does not make art entirely dependent on the eye of the beholder. That conclusion from that premise is syllogistically flawed. Perceptions changed on rape, racism, and slavery, too; that doesn't make the wrongness of those actions dependent on the "eye of the beholder" either. Your stance completely and mistakenly eliminates the input of the object itself, which is both aesthetically and phenomenologically flawed.

According to your erroneous logic, pedophilia and snuff films could be art, too, if the beholder thought so. So, you should re-think your aesthetic stance.
Well, what is the definition of "wrongness" if not a statistical quorum within a society? That's how laws and rules are made (the codified definition of wrongness). Thus as abhorent as you or I think slavery is/was, from the perspective of 1850s Mississippi, slavery is not wrong. Topics like right and wrong, and for the purposes of this thread: art and erotica, have as part of their label, context. And a large part of context is perception.

You did demonstrate one thing very eloquently though, namely that ethnocentrism is a real and potent bias.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by UniversalAlien » May 24th, 2015, 4:41 am

And When is Pornography a Crime :?:

Indeed, the definition of art is in the eye of the beholder. We watch mainstream filmography all the time and see murder, mayhem and rape - And in some such films the critics will declare the film a great work of film art and may even give it an Academy Award. But we know that no matter what is shown it is faked - No one is really getting hurt - no one is actually being killed. There is a difference with pornography - IT IS REALLY HAPPENING - The acts you see performed are really taking place - for the most part they are not faked - Sex is happening and sexual acts are being performed. The religions moral purist might see most, if not all, of this as a crime as it violates his or her morality. Years ago they ruled the paradigm and society accepted their morality - For the most part and for much of the population those days are gone - People like sex and many like to watch it being performed - At first I see nothing wrong with this - But if any of you have watched what is being broadcast over the internet today - Often available for free, you might pause and say, and even liberal me, has said should that be legal? No, I'm not trying to say I don't like this or that sex act and therefor it should be censored - I'm trying to say that people {Humans} may be physically and emotionally scared and damaged by the capricious whims of pimps and pornographers who might stop at nothing to make a buck - not caring about the people they are willing to abuse to satisfy their greed and and/or perverted desires {remember I'm not talking about any particular form of sex - but rather its callous abuse}.

I will now illustrate what I'm talking about by admitting that now that I've reached a certain age watching sex {pornography} though still somewhat exciting, is not nearly as exciting as when I was younger - still I find it, like science fiction, interesting - And being that it is often free, find myself watching it literally for hours - seeking the the truly erotic views of Human life - sometimes the erotic art can be seen - at least a few {admittedly very few} erotic films can pass as works of art - BUT occasionally I stumble upon films that are very disturbing, even to my liberal mind. I will give an example; On a site that hosts maybe thousands of links {most free} I noticed a film with the somewhat catchy title something like 'Shy Girl Given Lessons' - The women is then coerced {at first voluntarily} into getting involved with a group of women {lesbians} - nothing too shocking here yet - But in this 'art film' she is raped and in such a way that I actually thought they might be damaging her both physically and mentally. - Now of course some might say this is faked - she is a voluntary participant and knew what she was getting into - And yes in some of this so called kinky art the participants will appear at the end smiling and telling the audience all is well in their strange world - But is this always the case? - Are some people being physically and mentally hurt for the sake of art and profit? - Should even a liberal society have limits on what is art :?: We at least say that snuff films {which could be faked} and kiddy porn are illegal - Should we also have limits on hurting people {seriously} and damaging people psychologically for the sake of art :?:

-- Updated May 24th, 2015, 1:02 am to add the following --

“One man's pornography is another man's theology.”
― Clive Barker

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Belinda » May 24th, 2015, 8:48 am

The art of titillation is used also to titillate peoples' appetites for food. An advertisement for a sugary 'food' might be a work of art as far as technical and artistic skill is concerned. Skills and technical cleverness can hurt people goes without saying. Pornography harms people in several ways and the sooner pornography is stopped by the websites the better.
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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by UniversalAlien » May 24th, 2015, 4:38 pm

Belinda wrote:
and the sooner pornography is stopped by the websites the better. Socialist
And yes pornography, like everything else, can sometimes be a front for criminal activities. BUT pornography is also not only often an art form - but even more important it is a political statement - It says Humans have the right to own their own bodies - to express themselves freely - It is the ultimate expression of freedom in a world where religious fundamentalists and political socialists continue to try to take this basic Human right {of owning their own bodies} away from people and impose their morality and/or philosophy upon them - It makes the direct and unequivocal statement to religious fundamentalists and political socialists: XXX :!: And to the church that burned and tortured witches and the Nazis that exterminated not only Jews but any other person or group that opposed their socialist agenda - NEVER AGAIN :!:

"Old lady judges watch people in pairs Limited in sex, they dare To push fake morals, insult and stare While money doesn't talk, it swears Obscenity, who really cares propaganda, all is phony"
{From Bob Dylan's ""It's Alright, Ma" written by Bob Dylan}. See complete lyrics here: http://www.metrolyrics.com/its-alright- ... dylan.html

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Re: Does Pornography Qualify as Art?

Post by Belinda » May 24th, 2015, 5:08 pm

UniversalAlien wrote:
BUT pornography is also not only often an art form - but even more important it is a political statement - It says Humans have the right to own their own bodies - to express themselves freely - It is the ultimate expression of freedom in a world where religious fundamentalists and political socialists continue to try to take this basic Human right {of owning their own bodies} away from people

Actually, you are your brother's keeper. All the more so when your brother needs your protection from lies, semi-lies, and sexism. Lies , semi-lies and sexism are purveyed by commercial pornographers.
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