Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Defining Pornography

How would you define pornography? One way to look at pornography (pun intended) is to see it as essentially the same as racism, sexism, and other attempts to demean people by reducing them solely to a trait, characteristic, or concept.

In the case of pornography, the reduction is to no more than a sex object. In the case of racism, the reduction is to no more than a race or ethnic group. In the case of sexism, the reduction is to no more than a gender. And so forth. But in every case, what's at work here is the reduction of someone to no more than a trait, characteristic or concept.

Pornography demeans because it says in effect, "This person is only a sex object". The "only" is crucial here. There is nothing inherently wrong in representing someone's sexuality in art. What's wrong is art that reduces someone to their sexuality alone.

That's like reducing someone to their race alone. It's like reducing someone to their gender alone. Ms. Greene is a thousand things, but the racist sees her as merely Black, the sexist sees her as merely a woman, and the pornographer sees her as merely a sex object.

8 comments:

decrepitoldfool said...

Yes, pornography is that which reduces its object to only sexual - if we know the intent of the person who created it. There are clear cases, of course, but a lot of borderline where it isn't so clear and then we're back into ambiguity again.

Are the photos by David Mapplethorpe pornography? Many critics thought so, but he didn't seem to be trying to arouse prurient interest in his viewers. Nor is prurience a bad thing anyway. It is part of our humanity, and we share it with all living animals.

Webs said...

To me it seems pornography is a word made up by some person who wanted a "moral majority", to give a bad name to art. And those with certain sexual appetites.

Last time I checked no one ever died from seeing a naked person... well at least under the age of 50 ;)

Schwinn said...

How do you view someone as "merely" a certain race? What does it mean to be "merely Black" as opposed to being "Black and wealthy" or "Black and poor". Both people are African-American, are they not?

Is it so much that someone is reduced to a particular trait as opposed to what that particular trait entails? Reducing a human being to one trait, to me, seems not wrong, but instead, stupid. Albeit, racism is stupid but logically, reducing a complex organism, including any animal to one trait would be objectively wrong.

To webs:
Pornography may not immediately cause death by merely looking at it, but one could argue for the negative effects on society as a whole. For example, one may argue that pornography asserts the "goodness" of one type of woman, by defining the personality traits and physical traits of the "ideal woman" that many may try to imitate in order to be "good" or "beautiful", "attractive", etc.

Mystic Wing said...

I rather like this definition. Yes, I think all these things objectify people, reducing them from full-featured individuals to isolated traits.

But as my wife once said, the only thing worse than being considered a sex object is to not be considered a sex object.

Elton said...

Pornography is an emotional, pre-conditioned arrousal response to nudity and sex. Whether the "porn" is made to arrouse you or not; because you have been preconditioned to think it's bad; you will have an emotional arrousal.

You can divorce yourself from such arrousal actually, and celebrate with the participant(s) in the porn, as long as it doesn't depict rape or ugliness.

This is because legitimate porn is erotic in nature and either celebrates the body or celebrates the joining of two beings. However, pictures of rape and ugliness can exist. This type of "hard core" porn depict the body as a useful object or cheapens sex.

Schwinn said...

How do you cheapen sex? Is sex inherently valuable? Sex is just an action used to bring about a particular action - how is it inherently valuable or not?

Patty said...

Good post. You've clarified it well.

Webs said...

schwinn: "Pornography may not immediately cause death by merely looking at it, but one could argue for the negative effects on society as a whole. For example, one may argue that pornography asserts the "goodness" of one type of woman, by defining the personality traits and physical traits of the "ideal woman" that many may try to imitate in order to be "good" or "beautiful", "attractive", etc."

schwinn, if that is the case you need to ban all Television from children under the age of 18 as well. TV does more to define the "ideal" woman than any pornography ever has. To prove this all you have to do is take a look at what type of clothing the stars are wearing, or look at their accessories. Then survey stores and find out what sold the most. I think I can guess at what your going to find...