Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I'm talking about when I talk about porn...

My use of the word 'pornography' on this blog and elsewhere is purely descriptive, implying no moral or aesthetic judgment. It describes a genre of art, in literature, cinema, theater, painting, sculpture, etc., that focuses upon human sexuality--just as the word 'romance' denotes a genre that focuses on sentimental love and 'mystery' one that focuses on crimes and their solutions. The genre of pornography is vast and multimedia, and as in any genre, the majority of its products are unimaginative, formulaic, and of low aesthetic value. In porn, due to its connection to masturbation and the natural state of excess that is human sexuality, the ratio of 'crap to cream' is probably higher than in most other genres. But this shouldn't deter us from identifying and evaluating the cream. Indeed, it makes that critical effort even more necessary.

I prefer the word 'pornography' to the more polite 'erotica' because the latter term reminds me of the use of the phrase 'graphic novel' by people who are ashamed to admit they read comic books. (Yes, Maus and Fun Home are great works of art, and part of the shock of their new is the realization that they belong to the same genre universe as the works of Stan Lee.) I also second the sentiment of Samuel R. Delany (author of several pornographic volumes), who said in an interview that use of the word 'erotica' suggested that there was something shameful about writing 'pornography,' and he felt no shame. Also, the word 'erotica' (which I sometimes use as an interchangeable synonym for porn) introduces an unnecessary bifurcation into the form of the genre. Rather than evaluating sexual artworks and then calling the best 'erotica' and the rest 'porn,' why not simply call it all porn and evaluate it for artistic quality just as we evaluate the objects in all other genres? We have no separate category called "good mysteries," and we need none for good pornography.

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